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Last Updated: Sunday, 9 October 2005, 15:40 GMT 16:40 UK
Citroen 'goddess' feted in Paris
By Hugh Schofield
In Paris

Citroen DS cars parade past the Arc de Triomphe in Paris
The DS is regarded as a great French design triumph
France has marked the 50th anniversary of one of the great design icons of the last century - the Citroen DS, or Deesse, saloon car.

Hundreds of DS cars from around Europe drove in procession past the Arc de Triomphe in central Paris.

Known by its nickname, the Goddess - Deesse in French - the car was an instant sensation when it went on display at the Paris car show in 1955.

Nearly one-and-a-half million were made during its 20 years in production.

The parade featured Citroen Deesse cars of varying colours and vintages, but all with the same sleek bodywork, the tapering rear window, the space-age indicator light, and the long bonnet that appears to surge forwards and upwards.


The Déesse was developed for Citroen by the Italian designer Flaminio Bertoni in the austere post-war years, and when it went on display in Paris exactly 50 years ago, it had the crowds goggle-eyed in awe.

A Citroen 1968 DS Pallas convertible in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
Citroen DS owners are proud of their cars

Twelve thousand orders had been placed at the end of the first day.

It wasn't just the aesthetic beauty of the machine, the futuristic dashboard and the extraordinary single-spoked steering wheel that mutated out of the steering column.

The technology was also well ahead of its day, notably the famous hydro-pneumatic suspension, which dispensed with common or garden springs and relied on liquids and valves.

Charles de Gaulle chose it for the presidential fleet - an inspired decision because in 1962, it was the car's ability to stay on the road at speed, despite two shot-out tyres, that saved his life in an assassination bid outside Paris.

Today the car is recognised as one of the great design triumphs of the last century - looked back on by the French with a deal of pride, and not a little nostalgia too, for an era of national self-confidence that seems long gone.

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