When Andre Citroen decided to incorporate in 1919, he designed the Citroen badge from an idea that came to him after the purchase of a patent in 1900. Said patent was for a design meshing a chevron shaped gear in a herringbone pattern which was used for milling. This gearing arrangement proved to be more efficient, smoother and much quieter than its predecessors, and a stylized version of this pattern would also later be displayed on his cars. After a 15 year run as President, Citroen’s career at the company he pioneered came to an end due to financial struggles. A serious gambling habit and overreaching innovations put the company in a serious financial situation, which eventually led to Michelin, the French tire manufacturer and Citroen’s majority creditor, taking over the company in 1935 and owning it until 1975.
There are two highly recognized models of Citroen car, the 2CV and the DS. Perhaps the most iconic is the Citroen 2CV or Deux Chevaux (meaning two horses.) Commonly referred to as “An Umbrella on Four Wheels,” the 2CV is an air-cooled, front engine and front wheel drive car that was introduced in Paris in 1948. Literally designed to be used off road, its suspension was engineered for very high travel in order to keep the car level on the rugged french roads. The initial 1948 build was started with a pull cord (rather than our modern key start), the fuel level was monitored with a measuring stick and the speedometer was attached to the windshield. The 2CV was produced up until 1990 with surprisingly few changes. Citroen built a total 5,114,966 of this model.
The DS – pronounced “day ess” – which phonetically is the same sound as the french word déesse, meaning goddess. The first model was introduced in 1955 and had a 20 year run until 1975. In 1999, the DS took third place in “The Car of the Century” (COTC), an award given to the 20th century’s most influential cars, beating the VW Beetle and Porsche 911. This car made dubious movie history as the car rented by the Griswold family in National Lampoon’s 1985 comedy European Vacation, classically getting stuck in a narrow medieval archway after fleeing a street brawl. A slightly more illustrious claim to fame, the DS was also the car that saved President Charles de Gaulle from an attempted assassination, escaping in a high speed chase as the car blocked the gun shots.
Today, Citroen is owned by PSA Groupe. PSA stands for Peugeot Société Anonyme and has owned Citroen since 1976. They are headquartered near Paris, France.
Jason Paynter is a classic car appraiser, collector and unabashed enthusiast. He is the author of the book, Drop, Throttle, Oversteer: Collecting & Investing in Classic Cars, and host of the Classic Car Corner podcast, on iTunes, Spotify and all your other favorite outlets. He lives in Louisville, KY with his beautiful wife and three sons who are (heaven help him) of driving age. Jason is also a certified appraiser and would be more than happy to assist in helping valuate your collection or answer any of your questions about cars. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.