Car. Do you know Citroën’s Project L… to replace the DS?

The future CX in the Citroen conservatory. To his left, out of sight, is the first CX. Conservatory project L can be started and rolled. Citroën Photo Conservatory

It’s a complicated time for the Chevron brand. Flaminio Bertoni, chief designer, died in 1964. At the same time, the DS sold well, but Citroën lost money on every car sold, and the 2CV was no better…

The G project, a future mid-range car that will lead to the GS, is mobilizing energies at the same time as the project with Maserati that will give birth to the SM.

Back in 1955, the DS set the bar very high in terms of technical innovation: its replacement must be equally demanding, as it symbolizes the pinnacle of the manufacturer’s range.

Citroen president Pierre Bercot appoints Robert Opro as head of Citroen styling and instructs him to dress up the new DS.

Savings on Citroen

In 1968, Citroën, looking for a mid-range car project to replace the AMI 6 and 8, abandoned the F project, which cost a lot of money.

Major shareholder Michelin wants to save money and rationalize production. Michelin brothers Peugeot (504) and Renault (R 16) are promoting easy solutions by trying to stop production.

Therefore, since the GS, which appeared in 1970, holds the ground well, it continues to work at the top of the series. Pierre Bercot’s desire is not to surprise in terms of style, but in terms of the engine, which the DS lacks, having to make do with the Traction engine.

Required project

At that time, aerodynamics inspired the car and designers were looking for slimmer profiles, hence the final name of the project: CX. Achieving a low line poses a technical challenge due to the height of the 4-cylinder engine and rear apron.

The GS’s 110hp twin rotors will be used, as well as a 160hp Wankel tri-rotor (derived from the Comotor-produced rotary engine fitted to the M 35).

DS seems hard to wear. Robert Opron and the technical team believe that the design of the new car will be more relevant.

Modern interior

For the interior of the future car, Michel Harmand is working with Balme, the engineer responsible for the electrics, on new interior design solutions and producing innovations in terms of ergonomics.

It was he who invented the concept of grouping the controls on both sides of the steering wheel and allowing the driver to operate without taking his hands off the steering wheel.

Evolution of style from plaster models.  We see that the rear window is concave on the right side.  Photo Citroën

Evolution of style from plaster models. We see that the rear window is concave on the right side. Photo Citroën

Two competing projects

Robert Opron leaves it to Michel Harmand and Jacques Charrenton to design the three-volume vehicle. He, in turn, worked on a two-volume body, possibly influenced by Pininfarina’s design, to replace the British Motor Corporation’s Austin 1800.

During the presentation of the model by Michel Harmand and Jacques Charrenton in January 1971, he hid the other model behind a removable partition. Although Pierre Bercot did not seem enthusiastic about the first draft, when he saw the second drawing, he gave the green light saying “this must be produced”.

It’s actually a derivative of the GS design, with the design taking over the front and rear parts as well as the 4-cylinder straight engine.

A project to develop

The profile plays on smooth sides and semi-spoke wheels, and the front part is not narrowed at all: it is flat and slightly aggressive compared to the rest of the car.

As for the rear, the design is almost definitive and takes on what the GS was criticized for: a very low (ideal for loading) boot lid with good boot depth but no tailgate! The rear window is flat and not concave, but the steering wheel is improved.

Inside, the seats are from GS. Gradually, the car will develop.

The oil shock shuffles the cards again

In 1973, the oil shock rotary engine disappeared, but the shape and size of the engine compartment could not be changed. As the SM’s V6 caused maintenance problems on the grid, it is also disappearing, as is the enlarged version of the GS block.

In 1974, Citroen declared bankruptcy. Taken over by Peugeot, the L project was introduced in August 1974 with the old DS 20 and 21 engines. This did not prevent the CX from being European Car of the Year in 1975.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *