For 1956 and 1957 models, American DS's were almost the same as their Euro counterparts. But there were a few differences between these US model cars and French cars. Read on to see what was different.
Also, remember that the first DS's didn't arrive in Canada until the spring of 1958.
HEADLIGHTS. All USA DS's arrived in the USA without headlights installed (see photo below as an example). Once here, sealed-beam lights (that were sourced in the USA) were installed by Citroën personnel. This was called a “port-installed” part.
Note that between 1940 and 1957, the USA required the use of 7-inch sealed-beam headlights for all cars sold in the USA.
The headlight buckets and chrome trim rings on all 1956-1967 DS19’s and ID19’s were made by Cibie, but were designed to accommodate the standard American 7-inch sealed-beam lamps.
ID19’s arriving in the USA (New York) without headlights
Incidentally, I looked into the cargo ship in the above photo (S.S. Avranches) and discovered that it was one of the so-called Liberty Ships, built in 1943, to support the war effort. I found that between 1957 and 1960 it was exclusively used to transport French cars to the USA (mainly Renault Dauphines). After 1960, it was used for a different purpose.
Are the cars in this photo DS’s or ID’s? I think ID’s due to the black B and C-post trim, no B-pillar parking lamps, black windshield gaskets, and suspiciously large diameter steering wheels used with the ID's manual steering. Based on this, and the configuration of the cars, the above photo was most likely taken in 1958.
Cibie headlight buckets and trim rings used on 1956-1967 DS’s in the USA with an American Sealed Beam lamp
One surviving 1956 USA DS (S/N 4086) owned by Greg Long has really strange headlights. You can see that the shape of the trim ring is unusual. This car seems to be astoundingly original in most respects - it sat unused in a California garage since 1960! But for the headlights, I am not so sure. Were they a one-off anomaly? Or perhaps installed after delivery by the car’s first owner?
S/N 4086, USA sealed-beam with unusual trim ring
But wait! Maybe these odd headlight buckets and trim rings on Greg Long's car were not an isolated case! Look carefully at this photo from Citroën's showroom at 300 Park Avenue in New York. This photo is not dated but is probably from mid or late-1956 when the showroom first opened. Do I see the same odd headlight rings? I think so!
A second USA car with the unusual trim ring?
In 1958 when DS's first started showing up in Canada, it is unclear if they were equipped with sealed beam heradlights or with quartz iodine optiques like their European counterparts. But one data point we found suggests that they were equipped with the same sealed beam headlights that USA cars had.
SPEEDOMETERS. Speedometers were unique on all USA DS’s and ID’s since they were calibrated in miles per hour (MPH). Even the very first 1956’s in the USA had speedometers in MPH, including Greg Long’s very early 1956 with serial number 4086 and the ex-Behnfield DS19 with S/N 425.
1956 DS19 S/N 4086, Speedometer in MPH
We think that all Canadian DS's and ID's had their speedometers calibrated in MPH as well. Mark Krahn’s 1960 wagon that was originally sold in BC has a speedometer in MPH (see photo). Also, George Dyke's 1960 Canadian specification ID19 has a speedometer in MPH.
Canadian 1960 wagon has speedometer in MPH
WINDSHIELDS. USA DS’s had a different windshield than Euro cars. “Triplex” windshields of unique part numbers were specified for all USA DS’s from the start. Triplex was a British manufacturer of laminated safety glass. Windshields made with laminated safety glass were required in the USA as far back as the late 1930’s.
It seems that many (or even most) Euro DS’s were originally delivered with windshields made of tempered safety glass, not laminated safety glass.
So far, I have not been able to confirm whether the windshields on Canadian DS19’s were laminated or tempered, but I strongly suspect that Canadian cars received the same windshields as USA cars (i.e. Triplex laminated). Note that the early parts books do not show any parts unique for the Canadian market. (The first DS's were imported into Canada in 1958, almost exactly 2 years after they arrived in the USA.)
REAR WINDOW. According to Dr. Danche (nuancierDS.fr), the very, very early cars in Europe (1955’s) had glass rear windows, 6 mm thick. Then in the middle of 1967, they used 4 mm plexiglass for a few years as a weight savings, only to return to glass a few years later (but now 4 mm glass instead of 6 mm).
In contrast, all USA cars (DS’s and ID’s) were delivered with glass rear windows (no plexiglass). The parts books are too unclear to positively ascertain the thickness of the glass used on the really early USA DS’s, but Greg Long's very early 1956 (S/N 4086), has a 6 mm thick rear window. The parts books suggest that by March of 1957, USA cars switched to 5 mm glass for the rear window while Euro DS’s used 4 mm well into the mid 1960’s. Five-millimeter glass gradually phased-in on Euro cars. Strangely, USA sedan rear windows retained a unique part number all the way from the 1950’s to the 1970’s (DS 961 7e). I don’t know why there is a unique part number after Euro cars started using 5 mm glass.
The glass rear windows in all Euro, USA, and Canadian models were tempered glass.
In an interview from the early 1980’s, Citroën’s head body designer, Mr. Franchiset, said this about the demise of the plexiglass rear window (translated from Roger Brioult's book, L'histoire et les secrets de son bureau d'études):
“…Certainly, with it (the plexiglass rear window), we saved weight, but it was very prone to scratches when wiping it. It should always be washed with plenty of water and treated with a product for the maintenance of plastics having a polishing effect. On the other hand, a regulation was introduced concerning its use on motor vehicles. A part made of plexiglass had to be at a given distance from the occupants' heads (because the plexiglass breaks into relatively sharp shards). On the DS, the "plexi" window was considered too close to the rear passengers and, for its part, Saint-Gobain had succeeded in developing the manufacture of 4 mm thick (rear) glass….”
Dr. Danche (nuancierDS.fr) has more discussion about rear window glass HERE.
DOOR GLASS. The thickness of the glass used in the doors was different on USA DS’s as compared to Euro cars. In the early years, Euro DS’s had a confusing mix of 4, 5, and 6 mm thick door glass, often thinner on the rear doors as compared to the front doors. USA DS’s however started out with 6 mm glass (front and rear doors) and later changed to 5 mm (front and rear). I read that the designers of the DS were trying to minimize the weight of the glass in hopes of lowering the cars’ center of gravity. However, the thinner glass was more prone to wind leaks, so there was clearly some back-and-forth in the Citroën design office on what was the ideal thickness. Citroën’s body designer during the DS years (Mr. Franchiset) had the following comments about door glass thickness (translated from Roger Brioult's book, L'histoire et les secrets de son bureau d'études):
“…The realization of the doors of the DS was not an easy task! Let us remember that they did not include any frame for the windows; they were designed like convertible doors, so guiding the windows in their high position could only be done by the small part remaining inside the door! The question of the weight and the height of the center of gravity had always obsessed Gabriel Voisin and André Lefèbvre. It is certain that the 'glass belt' represented by all the windows of the car is relatively heavy and, and as an aggravating circumstance, (the glass belt is) located very high in the mass of the body (and the DS had windows of large surface areas for the time). Lefèbvre therefore demanded from Saint-Gobain side windows 4 mm thick (instead of 5 to 6 mm representing the current thickness of the time) ….. However, as soon as the first DS were delivered, their owners noticed that above 125-130 km/h … the windows of the front doors "took off" from the top by a good centimeter, sometimes even more. (Mr. Franchiset) then decided to modify the glass guides housed in the doors, such that just before the windows reached their closing point, the guide curved, forcing the window to push back inwards to press firmly on its gasket. But the windows (still) lifted off at high speed, which gives an idea of the aerodynamic depression prevailing on both sides of a car. We had to resolve to make these windows 5 mm thickness…. From that moment, the windows almost did not lift off the seal. But those of the rear doors have always kept their thickness of 4 mm…”
More detail about window glass thickness on USA cars is contained in the year-to-year changes.
TIRES. All ID19’s and DS19’s sold in the USA had the same tire size, front and rear (165X400 Michelin X). The spare tire was a 165X400 as well.
In Europe, all ID19 and DS19 sedans had 165X400’s in the front and narrower 155’s tires in the rear, except the wagons which had 165X400’s all around.
I found several Canadian brochures and other technical descriptions that indicated that Canadian DS19’s and ID19’s also had 165X400 Michelin tires in all 5 positions. (The first DS's were imported into Canada in 1958, almost exactly 2 years after they arrived in the USA.)
HOOD AND TRUNK BADGES. One of the big mysteries of early DS’s and ID’s in the USA are the myriad of hood and trunk badges that are found on the early cars. It seems that nearly all of the early cars in the USA had some sort of a badge in the years of 1956, 1957, and 1958. By 1959, the badges started becoming a little less prevalent and by about 1962 or 1963, their systematic installation had stopped completely. Euro cars never received these.
Strangely, there was a variety of different badge designs and I can find no pattern to explain what badge designs were used on what cars (we found at least 6 different badge designs). Also, their installation on the car was pretty haphazard as well, indicating that different people were installing them without detailed guidance. Usually, they were installed on the forward, left corner of the hood or the aft, right corner of the trunk lid. Some cars have them on both the hood and the trunk. On occasion, they were installed in other strange locations. As you can probably expect, the parts books are of zero help. Below are photos of some of these badges!
Nearly every photo I can find of an American DS or ID in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s show cars with the badges. I even found an early 1960’s brochure from Citroën Canada that shows a badge (see below), although the photo was probably of a USA model car since I dont think Canadian cars had these badges installed.
Canadian brochure, showing a car with a hood badge
While I have no evidence to explain the story behind these badges, I am guessing that someone involved with Citroën USA thought that the car needed a company name somewhere on the car’s exterior. Perhaps this person was Charles Buchet, the man in charge of Citroën USA at the time?
The only identifiable logo on early DS’s were the chevrons on the trunk lid and these were likely recognizable in Europe. But in a place Wichita, Kansas or South Bend, Indiana, the car would have been very alien. Speaking of Wichita, Kansas, here is a new 1957 DS19 at a dealership in Wichita, and yes, it has a hood badge.
Wichita Times, Nov 1957
A 1957 DS in Wichita, Kansas? Yes.
Who required the badges? Who installed them? Why so many different designs? Lots of questions, not many answers I am afraid. Here is perhaps a small clue about who installed them however. Chuck McConnell was a co-owner of Automobile Internationale, a Citroën dealership in Seattle in the early 1960’s. Many years later, before he passed away, he gave a few of us handfuls of these badges (new-old-stock). Why would Chuck McConnell have handfuls of new badges? Perhaps they were given to the dealers and the dealers were instructed to install them? This may explain the haphazard installation locations, since each dealer would have installed them where they wanted. Also, it is also likely that Citroën Los Angeles and Citroën New York had their own badges made, thus explaining at least some of the badge design variations. As for the rest of the story of the badges? I don’t know. I wish I had asked Chuck McConnell when I had a chance…..