Citroen DS21 Decapotable

Used by everyone from the humble cabbie to the president himself, the Citroen DS is an icon, and the Decapotable ranks among its most sought-after variants. Designer Flaminio Bertoni planned a convertible when the DS19 was launched in 1955, but teething troubles put the brakes on the idea. Many of the 80,000 buyers who placed orders at the show were still waiting two years later.

The DS19 relied on a complex, integrated hydraulic system to control the suspension, steering, gearshift, and brakes. Critical tolerances were at the limits of available tooling, and mechanics were baffled, especially when workshop manuals were delayed. However, the DS’ rigid box chassis and unstressed skin meant a convertible was an attractive possibility, and coachbuilder Chapron stepped forward. His “La Croisette” cabriolet, named for the promenade in Cannes, appeared in 1958. Citroen refused to sell Chapron separate chassis, so he was reduced to buying complete cars and dismantling them. Even after the firm relented and had Chapron build “Usine,” or factory cabriolets, in 1961, he continued making his own customs.

In all, there were 1,365 factory cabriolets built: 770 DS19s, 483 DS21s, and 112 ID19s. Never common, the popularity of the cabriolet has never waned. Citroen was still receiving orders long after official production ceased in 1971, with the last car completed in 1978. The cabriolets were outfitted in the height of luxury. There were 15 paint choices, 13 shades of leather upholstery, and three carpet colors, allowing more than 76 possible combinations. Engines ranged from 66 horsepower at first, to 141 horsepower. Despite apparent similarities with the sedans, there are critical differences between real DS convertibles and the homemade variety.

139 hp, 2,175 cc OHV four-cylinder engine with Weber two-barrel carburetor, three-speed automatic transmission, front and rear independent, adjustable, and self-leveling suspension by hydraulic pump and nitrogen spheres, and hydraulic front disc and rear drum brakes. Wheelbase: 123 in.

Part of the RM Auctions event in Arizona in January, 2013.

Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Pawel Litwinski

Gallery: Citroen DS21 Decapotable