50 Years Young: The Citroen GS

Updated: 6 days ago

Family cars. Sold by the millions and often unremarkable by design, as ease of manufacture and service take precedence over style and personality.

Unless it's a Citroen GS.



Launched 50 years ago this year, the GS redefined the standards of comfort, handling, and active safety for the European family car.

Hugely successful, it perhaps came too late to save Citroen from itself, though...

By the mid-1960s, as the average family's disposable income increased, so made the demand for mid-sized cars, as the public could increasingly afford more than just basic transportation.

Work on "Project G" started in 1967, the same year Pininfarina presented this striking aerodynamic saloon concept, based on BMC 1800 running gear.

Yet Citroen had nothing to offer. There was either the 2CV and its derivatives, or the 2 liters, five meters long ID, and DS models.

Work on "Project G" started in 1967, the same year Pininfarina presented this striking aerodynamic saloon concept, based on BMC 1800 running gear. Robert Opron, the man responsible for Citroen's design at the time, has always dismissed any influence from the Pininfarina prototype... But frankly, it's hard to believe him in this case.

What made the GS stand head and shoulders above its period competitors were the Hydropneumatic suspensions and the unparalleled comfort and road-holding that came with them.

While its lines may have been inspired by Pininfarina, the GS's overall design is hardly a ripoff and was rightfully praised at the time. The GS looked like the future, and its low drag coefficient partially made up for the slightly underpowered 1015cc air-cooled flat-four engine.

What made the GS stand head and shoulders above its period competitors were the Hydropneumatic suspensions and the unparalleled comfort and road-holding that came with them.

In 1979, the GS became the GSA, an updated model meant to buy time until the BX could be ready. The GSA lost the outdated stainless steel bumpers in favor of plastic elements, but its most notable feature certainly was the redesigned hatchback rear end. The interior got a quite comprehensive revamp too, with a very space-age looking dashboard. The air-cooled boxer engines available were a 1100cc and 1300cc, the latter paired with a new five-speed gearbox.

The GSA sold remarkably well, so much so, that it stayed in production all the way to 1986, alongside the newer BX.

Sadly, not many of these cars survive today. Still, it's been great to see Citroen giving its little 70s spaceship pride of place at 2020's Retromobile show in Paris. Most may be gone, but they're certainly not forgotten.


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