Cars of Tintin Series – Plymouth Belvedere 1957

alfa-romeo-giulietta_cA red and cream coloured car number 7 dominates the foreground in the last picture in the book “The Red Sea Sharks”. Its huge and dwarfs the other European cars. Competition is offered only by car number 17, another behemoth from across the Atlantic. A Cadillac Eldorado. The car under discussion is the Plymouth Belvedere. Actually, in 1957, when the Belvedere was launched, General Motors, manufacturer of the Eldorado and Ford had gone into shock. The car was touted as the future presented today. The advertisements from Chrysler Corporation trumpeted – “Suddenly – It’s 1960!” and “1960 — Now, Plymouth is three full years ahead.”, another advert went on to say – “In one flaming moment, Plymouth leaps three full years ahead—the only car that dares to break the time barrier! The car you might have expected in 1960 is at your dealers today!”. What Chrysler had done was scuttling the complete five car line up just two years in production and introduced a planned 1960 model in 1957. While products of GM and Ford were inspired by the aircraft, especially jets, the Belvedere was inspired by the space ship. It was designed by Virgil Exner.

Plymouth Belvedere_3The Belvedere was manufactured by Plymouth from 1954 to 1970. It was the top of the line full sized American car, in effect a small apartment on wheels. The car was lower and wider, though shorter than the outgoing 1956 model car. It was endowed with the “Forward Look of Motion”, in effect a wedge shape comprising low front fenders and bonnet, a gently sloping wind shield, tapered rear windows, and rising fins topped with a razor thin flat roof. Side trim was minimal, enough to allow the dual paint schemes to be implemented effectively where required. These cars were offered in a number of body styles like:-

  • 2-door sedan
  • 4-door sedan
  • 2-door hardtop
  • 4-door hardtop
  • 2-door convertible
  • 2-door station wagon
  • 4-door station wagon

Plymouth Belvedere_5These cars were offered with a number of power train options that included the following:-

  • 3,772 cc (230.2 Cu-inch) inline six cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine producing 132 BHP at 3,600 rpm and 278 N-m (205 ft-lb) at 1,600 rpm.
  • 4,474 cc (273 Cu-inch) naturally aspirated V-8 petrol engine producing 197 BHP at 4,400 rpm and 366 N-m (270 ft-lb) at 2,400 rpm.
  • 4,933 cc (301 Cu-inch) naturally aspirated V-8 petrol engine producing 215 BHP at 4,400 rpm and 278 N-m (386 ft-lb) at 2,800 rpm.
  • 5,211 cc (318 Cu-inch) naturally aspirated V-8 petrol engine producing 290 BHP at 4,400 rpm

Plymouth Belvedere_1All the power and torque generated by these front mounted engines was transmitted to the rear wheels through either a three speed manual transmission or a two or three speed push button operated automatic transmission. The Belvedere was the best handling American car of its time. Its suspension comprised a torsion bar set up with ball joint steeling. This was complemented by the “Torsion Aire Ride”. The leaf springs were re-designed with short, stiff leaves in front of the axle and long, soft leaves at the rear. The arrangement of the springs minimised rear end squatting under acceleration and also lowered the center of gravity thus improving rear end stability. The weight distribution was near perfect approaching theoretical sports car distributions.

Plymouth Belvedere_2Stopping power was provided to the cars through four 11″ drum brakes on all four wheels. Police cars were provided with 12″ drum brakes. As far as luxuries of life are concerned, Air conditioning was offered as an option. As a move towards modern air conditioning, all components of the air conditioner were moved into the engine bay and the system was integrated with the heating system. This move also liberated more space in the boot as earlier some of the air conditioning components were installed there. A Benrus watch was offered in the hub of the steering wheel.

Plymouth Belvedere_4The Belvedere was an extremely popular car with 762,231 cars being manufactured in the year 1957 itself. This helped the brand to move ahead of Buick and claim third position which it had usually occupied. However, in their hurry to launch a 1960 car in 1957 followed by the breakneck production to meet demand, Chrysler did not test the cars completely and quality was hit. Thus leading to a number of issues later, including leaky bodywork, torn upholstery, flaked paint etc. This image of poor quality cars went ahead to haunt Chrysler till the 1980s when Lee Iacocca turned around the company.




Cars of Tintin Series – Peugeot 403

alfa-romeo-giulietta_cJoylong Wagg has been able to persuade a large number of people to participate in the Vagabond Car Club rally. For the last eight weeks we have been discussing one car at a time from the large congregation of cars in the lawns of Marlinspike. Till now we have discussed about some of the cars which were popular in Europe in the 1950s. The next car is the blue coloured car number “3” parked next to the Mercedes 190SL. As a recap, the cars which we have already discussed are listed below.

Peugeot 403_1The Peugeot 403 was manufactured by the French manufacturer for eleven years between 1955 and 1966. This was a pretty popular model from Peugeot and was manufactured in France, Australia, Argentina and New Zealand. It was offered in a number of body shapes like:-

  • 4-door sedan.
  • 5-door estate.
  • 2-door convertible.
  • 2-door pickup.
  • 3-door van.

peugeot 403_2The car was styled by Pininfarina and made its public debut with the saloon body on 20 April 1955. It had monocoque construction following the ponton three-box styling. Except for the base model, all models had an opening roof panel, a per-cursor to the sunroof. One of the unusual features for the time in Europe was a wide (90 degree) opening rear door. This was a feature that was much appreciated by the customers, making it the first Peugeot to exceed one million mark in production. Another feature that distinguished this car was that the front seats could recline completely flat and flush with the cushions of the rear seat. Thus providing a couchette in the car.

peugeot 403_3The five door estate was called the Peugeot 403 “Familiale” and provided a third row of seats. The car was sold as a 7/8 seater. Very similar to the large number of so called compact  Multi-Utility Vehicles (MUVs) sold in India like the Honda Mobilio, the Maruti Suzuki Ertiga, the Datsun Go+ etc.

Peugeot 403_5The 403 was powered by a 1,468 cc (89.5 Cu-inch) 4 cylinder inline naturally aspirated petrol engine. Each cylinder inhaled air through one inlet valve and exhaled the combustion products through a single exhaust valve. In the process it could generate 53 BHP at 4,900 rpm. The crankshaft also churned out a torque of 101 N-m (74 ft-lb) while rotating at 2,500 rpm. All this power and torque was transferred from the front  mounted engine to the rear wheels through a four speed manual gear box. This power and torque were sufficient to push the 4,470 mm (176″) long, 1,670 mm (65.7″) wide and 1,510 mm (59.4″) tall car weighing 1,095 Kg (2,414 lb) to a top speed of 135 km/h (84 mph). The torque generated was enough to accelerate the car from 0 to 100 km/h in 22 seconds or 0 to 60 mph in 20.6 seconds.

In addition to the petrol engine, Peugeot also offered the 403 with a 1,816 cc (101.82 Cu-inch) four cylinder inline diesel engine.

Peugeot 403_4The Peugeot 403 was offered with a column mounted gear shifter. It was also provided with radial tyres, a rarity for the time. Using the various permutations and combinations of body type, trim level etc, Peugeot offered a total of 51 variants to its customers to choose from.


Cars of Tintin Series – Opel RekordP1

alfa-romeo-giulietta_cJoylong Wagg’s Vagabond Car Club must have been a rather popular destination for automobile enthusiasts. He was able to assemble a decently large group of drivers on the lawns of Marlinspike Hall for the rally organised by him in “The Red Sea Sharks”. The grouping was full of the most popular cars of the era, right from the space ship and rocket inspired behemoths from a World War II enriched America to the tiny people movers of the same World War impoverished Europe. Car number 10, a blue car with a white roof is parked next to the Citroen DS. This is the Opel Rekord P1. We had talked about its predecessor, the Opel Olympia Rekord in an earlier post.

opel-rekord-p1_2The Opel Rekord P1 was manufactured by General Motors at Russelsheim in Germany from 1957 to 1960. It was introduced as an executive car at the Frankfurt Motor Show in Aug 1957. It was a popular car which was second on the sales charts through out, following the Volkswagen Beetle. This car was offered in a number of body styles which included: –

  • 2-door saloon
  • 4-door saloon
  • 3-door station wagon
  • 3-door panel van

opel-rekord-p1_4The Opel Rekord followed the American design theme with  wrap around front and rear wind screens. These windscreens were responsible for the P in the name which meant Panorama, referring to the Panoramic view they provided around the car. The Rekord aimed at the family market in Germany whose economy was growing fast in the post war era. The car was soon dubbed as the Peasant’s Buick because of the American affinity of its design. It was offered in two tone colour schemes both inside and out. The panel van had the same body style as the station wagon but had the windows replaced with metal blanks. The car was branded a the “CarAVan”, as the marketing guys pushed it as a car and van. The name stuck with Opel panel vans, which were branded as “Caravan” for some time thereafter.

opel-rekord-p1_6The car shown in the parking lot of Marlinspike was in all probability assembled at Biel in Switzerland. General motors had set up a small assembly operation behind the train station at Biel where they assembled Rekords. These cars were differentiated from other Rekords in that they came with more chrome and with a dual paint scheme with the roof always being white.

opel-rekord-p1_5The Rekord P1 evolved over its production period and a total of two engine sizes were offered. Initially the car was offered with a 1,488 cc (90.83cu-inch) inline naturally aspirated four cylinder petrol engine. This engine initially produced 45 BHP of power at 3,900 rpm and 98 N-m (72 ft-lb) of torque at 2,300 rpm. A later version of the engine produced 49 BHP at 4,000 rpm and 106 N-m (78 ft-lb) at 2,100 rpm improving the drivability of the car. Both these engines breathed through two OHV per cylinder. The power and torque was transferred from the engine to the rear wheels through a three speed gear box. This engine could push the 4,433mm (175.5″) long, 1,616 mm (63.6″) wide and 1,490 mm (58.7″) tall car weighing 1,250 kg (2,756 lb) to a top speed of 121 km/h (75 mph). It achieved 0 to 100 km/h in 25.7 seconds while 0-60 mph was achieved in 23.4 seconds. The quarter mile was disposed off by the Rekord in 22.5 seconds, reaching a speed of 95 km/h (59 mph) at the finish line. In 1959 Opel introduced the 1,680 cc (102.52 Cu-inch) engine that produced 54 BHP at 4,000 rpm and 120 N-m (89 ft-lb) of torque at 2,100 rpm. This engine could push the Rekord to a top speed of 132 km/h (82 mph).

opel-rekord_1The Opel Rekord incorporated an independent suspension in the front comprising double wishbone with coil springs and hydraulic shock absorbers. The rear beam axle was supported by leaf springs and hydraulic shock absorbers.

Cars of Tintin Series – Messrschmitt Kabinenroller

alfa-romeo-giulietta_cAnother unique car depicted in the parking lot of Joylon Wagg’s Vagabond Car Club rally is seen parked just behind the Mercedes 190SL. Seen as a tiny red speck behind the white Mercedes, car number 11, is an open canopy similar to that of an aircraft from World War II. And yes, why should it not resemble an aircraft when it was manufactured by the famed Messrschmitt, which built some of the best and feared fighter aircraft during World War II. The car I am talking about is the Messerschmitt Kabinenroller or Cabin Scooter.

messerschmitt-kabinenroller_2The Kabinenroller was a micro car manufactured by Messerschmitt from 1953 to 1956. The car was later manufactured by Fahrzeug- und Maschinenbau GmbH, Regensburg (FMR) from 1956 to 1964. The cars were initially manufactured as three wheelers, having two wheels in the front and one at the rear. Later a four wheeled version of the car was also manufactured by FMR. These care were assembled in Germany as well as Italy. The Kabinenroller had a monocoque body with a rear mounted engine which drove the single rear wheel. It had tandem seating with the driver sitting in front and the passenger sitting behind, as in any scooter. However, to provide protection from the elements, it was  usually provided with a bubble canopy.

messerschmitt-kabinenroller_3This car was designed by Fritz Fend, an aeronautical engineer and a technical officer in the Luftwaffe. He had designed a number of powered and unpowered vehicles for the physically challenged. His designs had culminated in the Fend Flitzer, which was a powered vehicle designed for the physically challenged. However, he realised that a number of able bodied people were buying the Flitzer as a personal transport. That is the time it dawned on him that there may be a market for a small two seat runabout. His efforts culminated in the Kabinenroller which Messrschmitt agreed to build. The first car, the KR 175 was launched in 1953. A bigger engined and improved KR 200 was launched in 1955.

messerschmitt-kabinenroller_1The Kabinen roller was a three wheeled vehicle on a monocoque chassis. The rear end of the chassis acted as the firewall and the engine cover was installed here. Beneath the engine cover was a subframe that mounted the engine and the rear suspension. The fuel tank was placed in the top of the engine cover and fed the carburetor under gravity. The engine was started by a pull rope and an electric start was offered as an option till 1954. Thereafter, the electric start was offered as standard equipment. The bubble canopy was riveted to the right side of the monocoque and provided access to the interiors. The Canopy comprised plexiglass top as well as a glass wind screen with a manually operated wiper. Sliding windows were provided on the sides for ventillation. Later a convertible and a an open top sport version were also offered. Front suspension comprised a transverse lower arm sprung by a torsional 3-element rubber spring at the inside end while the rear suspension was by a trailing arm similar to a single-sided motorcycle swingarm. Drive to the rear wheel was provided by  a chain drive. This car did not have a steering wheel but a steering shaft, similar to the handle bar of a scooter. It was connected directly to track rods controlling the front wheels.

messerschmitt-kabinenroller_5The KR 175 was 2,820 mm (111″) long, 1,220 mm (48″) wide and 1,200 mm (47.2″) tall and weighed all of 360 kg (794lbs). It was powered by a 175 cc (10.7 Cu-inch) single cylinder two stroke petrol engine which produced 9 BHP at 5,250 rpm and 12.75 N-m (9ft-lb) of torque at 4,000 rpm. All the power and torque was transferred to the rear wheel through a four speed gear box. This puny engine could push the Kabinenroller to a top speed of 88 km/h (55mph). It could accelerate from 0-80 km/h in 34.8 seconds (0-50mph in 36.3 seconds). The KR 200 on the other hand had same dimensions but weighed 430 kg (948 lbs). It was powered by a 192 cc (11.7Cu-inch) single cylinder two stroke petrol engine which produced 10 BHP at 5,250 rpm and a torque of 15 N-m (11 ft-lb) at 3,800 rpm. It could push the car to a top speed of 90 km/h (56 mph). It accelerated from 0-90km/h in 35.1 seconds and 0-50 mph in  34.1 seconds.

messerschmitt-kabinenroller_4In 1955, a special KR 200 was built. It had a tuned engine, revised gear ratios, redundant control cables, a streamlined body.However, it retained stock brakes, steering, damping and suspension. This modified KR 200 was tested for 24 hours at the Hockenheimring. The result was 22 world records for a three wheeled vehicle with an engine less than 250 cc on a closed circuit. These included a 50 mile record at 107 km/h (66.5 mph) and a 24 hour record at 103 km/h (64 mph). As the German economy grew and Messrschmitt was permitted to build aircraft, they sold the business back to Fritz. Later with the advent and increasing popularity of the VW Beetle and the Mini, the lost business and production was finally stopped in 1964.

Cars of Tintin Series – Mercedes 190SL

alfa-romeo-giulietta_cTintin’s adventure in “The Red Sea Sharks” has come to a happy end. The villains have been caught; though Rastapopoulos escaped in a shark shaped submarine; feigning his own depth in a boat accident at sea. The last scene depicts Joylon Wagg’s Vagabond Car Club rally and number 11, parked in the lawns of Marlinspike is a white Mercedes 190SL.

The 190SL was a Grand Touring (GT) car manufactured by Mercedes Benz from 1955 to 1963. It was designed by Karl Wilfert and Walter Häcker.mercedes-190sl_4 It was offered in only one body style and that was a roadster. The car was first revealed at the New York Auto Show in 1954 alongside the flamboyant 300SL with gull-wing doors. It was internally  designated as W 121. The production ready cars were displayed for the first time at the Geneva Motor Show in Mar 1955. Though the lesser powerful sibling of the very sexy 300SL, the 190SL went on to become one of the most coveted dream cars of its time. It set standards for a culture of comfortable travel with style and sporty elegance.  Mercedes were able to sell 25,881 of these cars between 1955 and 1963.

mercedes190sl_1These cars were particularly popular with female drivers as they offered sporting styling with an engine which was not intimidating and an open air feeling which was standard with the roof down. It was the first SL from Mercedes which offered complete protection from the weather when required thanks to the easily retractable cloth-top roof or an optional hardtop. These cars represented the good times after the horrors of World War II and the economic misery before that. They became popular due to the strengthening of individual mobility as more and more people could afford to buy their own cars, thanks to the booming economy of the 1950s. The 190SL was shown in a number of light hearted German movies of the time representing the good and fun life.

mercedes190sl_2The 190SL was based on the shortened monocoque floor assembly of the saloon Mercedes 180 with self supporting chassis components. It had fully independent suspension all round which included double wish bones, coil springs and stabilising bars in the front and swing axle and coil springs at the rear. Initially a racing version of the 190SL was also offered. In this version, the fenders could be replaced completely and the doors were made up of lighter Aluminium without wind down windows. This 190SL was offered with a single piece leather covered bucket seat and a small plexi-glass windscreen replaced the panoramic windscreen provided on the original. Only 17 of these were built.

mercedes-190sl_5Mercedes offered the 190SL with a naturally aspirated inline four cylinder petrol engine displacing 1,897 cc (116 Cu-inch). Each of the cylinders breathed through two valves per cylinder, operated by a Single Over Head Cam (SOHC). They were fed petrol through twin carburetors. This engine could produce 103 BHP at 5,700 rpm and could also churn out 155 N-m (114 Ft-lb) of torque at 3,800 rpm. This power and torque produced by the front positioned engine were transferred to the rear wheels using a 4-speed manual transmission. mercedes-190sl_3This engine could push the 4,290 mm (168.9″) long, 1,740 mm (68.5″) wide and 1,280 mm (50.4″) tall car weighing 1,440 Kg (3,175lb) to a top speed of 174 km/h (108 mph). 0 to 100 km/h was achieved in 12.4 seconds while 0 to 60 mph took 11.7 seconds. On a drag strip, it could cover the quarter mile in 18.4 seconds, crossing the finishing line at a speed of 120 km/h (75 mph). Stopping power was provided by four power assisted  230 mm (9.06″)  dia drum brakes.





Cars of Tintin Series – Isetta

alfa-romeo-giulietta_cIn the last scene from “The Red Sea Sharks” Joylon Wagg’s Vagabond Car Club has created a total chaos in the well manicured gardens of the Marlinspike. There is a rally planned on Captain Haddock’s premises with no regards to the Captain’s opinion about the same. A permission for the event was not even sought, Joylong claiming to be such a great friend of the Captain. Just right of the Rally Control and ahead of the yellow Citroen DS is a small white couloured; what is it; an egg? But no, its been shown to be moving, and eggs do not move around on their own. Well this a car, a precursor to our very own Tata Nano. It is the Isetta.

BMW Isetta (1955)The Isetta was an Italian designed micro car. It was manufactured by a number of companies like Iso Autoveicoli, BMW, VELAM and Romi across Spain, Belgium, France, Brazil, Germany and UK. The first car was produced bu Iso Autoveicoli in 1953 and the last one was manufactured by BMW in 1962. Isetta means “The small Iso”, named after the company that designed it. Iso was a manufacturer of refrigerators, scooters and a small three wheeled truck akin to the modern Piaggio Ape. The company decided to build a small car based on a motorcycle engine in 1950 and came up with the Isetta in 1952. It was designed by Ermenegildo Preti and Pierluigi Raggi.

isetta_7The Isetta was unlike anything which the world had seen before. It was tiny, had a front opening single door, bubble shaped windows and was overall shaped as an egg. It was provided with a canvas sunroof which doubled as an emergency exit in case of a frontal accident making the only door inoperable. The steering wheel and the instrument cluster were hinged and mover with the door providing easy access to the single bench seat. This tiny car could seat two people in reasonable comfort and may be a small child too. A small parcel shelf was provided behind the seat underneath which was the engine, accessible from the right side and a spare wheel. This tiny car was provided with a heater and in case you felt claustrophobic, the canvas sunroof could be opened to let in some fresh air.

The car was also sold as the Autocarro which was a commercial vehicle. It was manufactured in Italy and Spain. It had conventional rear wheels and axle with leaf springs and could carry a payload of 500 kg. It was quite popular in Italy. It was offered as a:-

  • Flat Bed Pick up
  • Enclosed truck
  • Tilt Bed Truck
  • Fire Engine

isetta_6Originally the car was offered with a two stroke 236 cc (14.4 Cu-in) single cylinder engine producing 9.5 BHP. Later BMW offered their own naturally aspirated single cylinder 247 cc (15.1 Cu-inch) petrol engine breathing through two valves and generating 12 BHP at 5,800 rpm. It generated 14.2 N-m (10=ft-lb) of torque at 4,500 rpm. All this power and torque was transmitted to the rear wheels via a chain drive through a four speed gear box. The initial car was designed with a single rear wheel. As a result the car was prone to toppling over. To overcome this issue, two rear wheels with a track of only 480 mm (19″) apart. This short track eliminated the requirement of a differential and only a solid rear axle was used.

isetta_3BMW had modified the car so much that none of the parts between the German Isetta and other cars matched or were interchangeable. BMW built and sold 161,728 units of the car. Later BMW upgraded the engine to 300 cc and introduce the Isetta 600 powered by a 582 cc twin cylinder engine from the R 67 motorcycle which allowed the car to achieve a maximum speed of 103 km/h (64 mph). This car was a two door hatchback – one door at the front and one on rear right side – with a rear bench seat, a conventional rear axle and semi-independent trailing arm suspension.

isetta_2The Isetta had diminutive dimensions, it was 2.285 mm (90″) long, 1,380 mm (54.3″) wide and 1,340 mm (52.8″) tall. It weighed in at all of 580 kgs (1,279 lbs). The tiny engine could push the car to a maximum speed of 68 km/h (42 mph) so we have no 0-100 km/h and 0-60 mph figures as it never reached there. However, it could do 0 to 60 km/h in a leisurely 22.6 seconds and a 0-30 mph in 12.7 seconds. No point wasting time on a drag strip trying to find out the quarter mile times. Cycling on the drag strip may be a better option. But in 1955 BMW Isettas were able to achieve fuel efficiency of 3 litres/ 100 km, (33.33kmpl for our Indian friends, try asking “Kitna deti hai?”), 94 mpg (Imperial) or 78 mpg (USA).


Microlino has come up with a modern iteration of the Isetta. It is an electric car which is cheap at between $ 9,000 and $ 13,500  as compared to a Tesla costing $80,000. The idea is that in an urban environment 95% of the commutes are for distance not exceeding 35 km at speeds not exceeding 50 km/h. Microlino has a 15 KW-h motor with a range of 100 km and a max speed of 100 km/h thus meeting these requirements. Design of the car is much inspired by the original Isetta.


Cars of Tintin Series – Citroen DS

alfa-romeo-giulietta_cAnother classic in participant in Joylon Wagg’s Vagabond Car Club rally is a French icon. A yellow car with a black roof parked to left of number 24. This is the Citroen DS.

The DS was an executive car manufactured between 1955 and 1975 by the French company Citroen. It was manufactured in  a number of countries other than France which included, Australia, Portugal, United Kingdom, South Africa and Yugoslavia. It was designed by the Italian sculptor and designer Flaminio Bertoni and the French engineer Andre Lefebvre. It  was offered as a:-

  • 4-door saloon
  • 5-door “Safari”, a station wagon
  • 2-door convertible.

citroen-ds_4This car was unlike any other car that had been built in the 1950s. It was a futuristic looking car with technologies way beyond its time, especially the hydro-pneumatic self leveling suspension. This car was judged third in the 1999 “Car of the Century” poll which recognised  world’s most influential automobile designs. It was also judged as the most beautiful car of all times by “Classic & Sports Car” magazine. The car garnered 743 orders in the first 15 minutes of it being displayed at the Paris Motor Show of 1955. The total number of bookings on day 1 were 12,000.

citroen-ds_1The talking point of the car was its hydro-pneumatic suspension which had self leveling capabilities along with variable ground clearance. This allowed it to glide over rough and broken roads with characterised a France still recovering from World War II and under reconstruction. The DS set new benchmarks in handling and ride quality. To improve handling, the car had fibre glass roof which lowered the center of gravity. It was also provided with hydraulic power steering and a semi-automatic transmission which allowed gears to be changed manually without the use of clutch.

citroen-ds_5The 1957 DS, which is shown in the book “The Red Sea Sharks” was powered by a 1,911 cc (116.7 Cu-inch) inline naturally aspirated four cylinder petrol engine. This engine breathed through two valves per cylinder to put out 74 HP at 4,500 rpm. It also generated 137 N-m (101 ft-lb) at 3,000 rpm. The car was mid-engined, though the engine sat ahead of the driver and not aft as is the normal case with mid-engined cars. This improved the weight distribution and hence handling. All the power and torque were fed to the front wheels through a semi-automatic gearbox with four ratios.

citroen-ds-2A Cd of 0.38 allowed this small engine to push a 4,800 mm (189″) long, 1,790 mm (70.5″) wide and 1,470 mm (57.9″) tall car weighing 1,650 kg (3,638lbs) to a top speed of 148 km/h (92 mph). It could accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 21.1 seconds or 0 to 60 mph in 19.7 seconds. A quarter mile drag took 21.8 seconds with the speedo showing 102 km/h (63 mph) when the brakes were hit at the end of the drag strip. To improve handling, the track at the front wheels was more than the track at the rear wheels.

citroen-ds_3Designed by a sculptor, the DS, pronounced “Deesse” French pun for goddess had many innovative design cues which made its competitors appear as ox carts in space age. One of the highlights was the single spoke steering wheel, a pure piece of art and with full functionality. It also used plastics for the interior trim, something of a rarity at the time.

The DS was the official car of the French President Charles de Gaulle. He survived an attempt on his life in this car in 1962. It was also owned by eminent personalities like cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, Pope John XIII, painter Marc Chagall etc It was extremely popular with the French taxi drivers also because of the comfort it offered to them as well as their passengers.