Thursday May 2, 2019
The year is 1960, and the good citizens of Slough are fleeing in terror from what appears to be an alien spacecraft; albeit one that uses four wheels. Could this be a prop from the latest Hammer Production, It Came From Berkshire, starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Michael Gough?
In fact, Paul Stevens, the owner of this utterly stunning ID19, informs us that it actually hailed from Huntworth near Bridgewater ‘where it was a demonstrator for the Citroën dealer Browns Garage’. Not only it is one of the finest examples of the British-assembled DS family on the road today; it has also been with Paul’s family for nearly 60 years.
Citroën was not the only overseas firm to establish a British-based plant to circumvent import duties; for many years UK-market Renaults were assembled in Acton. Between 1923 and 1965, the plant in Slough produced the Type A, the Type C, the Traction Avant, the DS/ID and the 2CV.
There was also the Bijou, a fascinating re-interpretation of the Deux Chevaux with a two-door GRP bodyshell while the standard cars contained a certain amount of local content. According to Malcolm Bobbit’s book Citroën DS: Revised and Updated Edition, some 8,667 examples of the “D” were made in Slough, but their survival rate is as little as 100 worldwide.
The ID’s suspension, body panels and engines were shipped over from France while Paul observes that his car has ‘a 12-volt electrical system, Lucas lighting, reversing lamps and leather upholstery’.
The last-named would, in theory, have given the Citroën greater appeal to any Humber Super Snipe owner contemplating a change of transport and engaging in ‘unique motoring’ for a not unreasonable £1,485 15s 10d. However, the gulf between the ID and a large British saloon of the same era remained vast.
The DS made its bow in 1955, followed in late 1956 by the ID – a cheaper and slightly less sophisticated version that was intended to appeal to former Traction Avant owners. The engine had a lower compression ratio, the steering lacked power assistance and in place of the semi-automatic box was a manual four-on-the-column which Paul ‘found some difficulty acclimatising myself to as it is pretty high geared and there is no synchromesh on first. Sometimes I have to double de-clutch’.
Mr. Stevens Snr traded in a 1954 Morgan Plus 4 for the Citroën – ‘he was a mechanical engineer, and so he really appreciated it’. Paul inherited the “Sherwood Green” ID in 2015 – ‘it was in pretty good condition as it had already undergone a bare-metal restoration in 1999/2000. She is still using the original “red fluid”.
When taking 739 GYA for a glide (as opposed to a “spin”) Paul much appreciates the ride although he does find that ‘when I am on a dual carriageway or a motorway, people tend to slow down to take photos or to work out what it is. Only at car shows is my ID recognised as a “Slough Car”.
Paul also owns a Triumph Herald 12/50 - ‘a restoration project’ – and a 1967 GT6 - ‘which is quite a contrast to the ID!’. But then, as the philosopher Roland Barthes once ’famously Mythologies – ‘It is obvious that the new Citroën has fallen from the sky inasmuch as it appears at first sight as a superlative object’. Who could say more than that?