Timeless French flair. Here's what to look out for when shopping for a Citroën ID19 (1955-1968)...

While the newer DS20 and Pallas are a common sight on our roads, it all started way back in 1955. Because the ID/DS is such an iconic design, we will have too much information for one article, so will split the narrative and cover the ID19 and tackle the DS20 at a later stage.

After the launch of the DS (déesse, French for “goddess”) at the Paris Motor Show in 1955, it is said 12 000 customers signed up on the first day. Since the selling price was considered high, Citroën made a cheaper model available without power steering or assisted brakes and with lower engine outputs. This was the D19, later to become the ID19, both of which have been tested by CAR: the D19 in 1957 and the ID19 in 1960/‘63.

Packaging

To plagiarise our 1960 test team’s opening paragraph: “It is difficult to think of a single, ordinary feature about the whole car. Its spare wheel is in the nose, it has a glass fibre roof, it can vary its ground clearance, jack itself up, has a single spoke steering wheel, a single nut holds each wheel in place and is unfastened by an Allen key and the bonnet is made from aluminium.”

The deep luggage trunk swallows a remarkable 500 litres although storing the spare in front of the engine helps, as does the front-wheel-drive layout eliminating a rear differential.

Powertrain

The engine used was a 1 911 cm3 with compression ratios which were steadily raised from 7,3 to 1 to 8,75 to 1 with commensurate power increases to 67 kW before the engine size was boosted in the later DS20 versions.

A high-mounted camshaft with short pushrods and hemispherical cylinder head fed by a Weber carburettor were part of the design. The four-speed gearbox is in front of the engine. To further add to the complexity of designs, our 1957 D19 test unit featured Citroën’s hydraulically operated gears without a clutch pedal.

Suspension and brakes

This was the first mass-produced car to offer front disc brakes and these were inboard mounted to reduce unsprung mass. Normal ride height was quite low for decent handling. Two higher settings can be selected via a lever with yet two more for wheel changing. After raising the car, axle stands are pushed underneath and the wheels retracted, lifting them off the ground. The drag coefficient of 0,36, which might not sound great today, was impressive in the early 1950s considering the high roof and nearly upright windscreen. Additionally, the underfloor was flat with a recessed, transverse silencer exhaust box.

Which one to get

Any model in decent body shape should be a sound starting point. Find an expert on the hydro-pneumatics to maintain this system or better still, gain the expertise yourself.
 
What to watch out for

Working hydraulics, mainly. Check that you can raise the car with the adjusting lever and that the brakes and steering all work well. Remove the fender panels for a detailed inspection. The engines are reliable but inspect the condition of the oil and perform a compression test. Because the compression ratio was steadily increased, first ascertain which engine you have. Compression pressures should be in the region of 900 to 1 000 kPa up to 1966, and around 1 200 kPa up to 1968.  

Availability and prices

There are usually a few available but these earlier ID models are becoming scarce. A restoration project car we spotted was sold as late as 1968 and was the first of the models to switch from single uncovered to enclosed double-lens headlamps and to use the slightly larger engine. The following year (1969), the designation became DS20.  

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