Citroën DS23 IE Décapotable 1973
Coachwork by Henri Chapron
Chassis no. DSFG 00FG0041
•The first of a mere three DS23 IE cars built by Chapron for 1973
•One of only four such examples with the top of the range 2.3-litre IE (fuel injected) engine
•Known ownership history from new
•Mechanically overhauled by Olivier Houiller of French Classics Ltd in 2018
Just as it had done 21 years previously with the revolutionary 'Traction Avant', Citroën stunned the world again in 1955 with the launch of the strikingly styled 'DS'. Beneath the shark-like newcomer's aerodynamically efficient, low-drag bodyshell there was all-independent, self-levelling, hydro-pneumatic suspension plus power-operated brakes, clutch, and steering.
The project had been initiated in the 1930s by the company's managing director, Pierre-Jules Boulanger, and would be brought to fruition by designers Andre Lefebvre, previously with Voisin and Renault, and Flaminio Bertoni, who had worked on the styling of the pre-war Traction Avant. Part of Boulanger's brief had been that the proposed 'VGD' (Voiture de Grand Diffusion or Mass Market Car) should be capable of affording a comfortable ride over sub-standard rural roads while remaining stable at sustained high speeds on the Autoroutes. The solution to these seemingly incompatible requirements was the famous hydro-pneumatic suspension, suggested by Citroën engineer Paul Mages. No European car would match the DS's ride quality for several years, the fundamental soundness of Citroën's ahead-of-its-time hydro-pneumatic suspension being demonstrated by its survival in present-day top-of-the-range models.
In September 1965 the DS's original 1,911cc, overhead-valve, long-stroke engine – inherited from the Traction Avant - was replaced by a short-stroke 1,985cc unit, also available in 2,175cc and 2,347cc versions, while other DS developments included swivelling headlights, fuel injection and a five-speed gearbox. Other models offered alongside the original DS were the ID (a simplified, cheaper version), the cavernous Safari estate and the two-door Décapotable (convertible), the latter boasting coachwork by Henri Chapron. Chapron's first convertibles had been produced independently of Citroën but the factory eventually gave the project its blessing. Citroën's own Décapotables were built on the longer, stronger chassis of the ID Break (Estate) but the model was never produced in England, where Citroën's right-hand drive cars were assembled at its Slough factory up to 1966. In total, 1,365 usine (factory) convertibles were made with either the DS19 or DS21 engine between 1960 and 1971, while Chapron built a further 389 of his own, the last in 1973.
The beautiful Citroën convertible offered here is the first of three DS23 IE cars built by the Chapron factory for 1973, and one of only four such examples with the 2.3-litre IE (fuel injected) engine. It was originally ordered by eminent Parisian Raoul d'Iray in October 1972 through the Citroën dealership in Paris 18th, 6 rue d'Oran. Carrying the Chapron build number '9414', this exceedingly rare car was finished in December 1972 and first registered in March 1973 under the Parisian number '3304 ZB 75' to Mr Raoul d'Iray, 148 Avenue Louis Roche, Gennevilliers/Seine, France.
At that time, Henri Chapron's cars were no longer sold through the Citroën dealer network, and every car that Chapron transformed had to be approved by the French licensing authority (the 'Service des Mines') before it could be registered. These papers accompany the car. The DS remained in Raoul d'Iray's ownership for a decade. It then passed to a Mr Van Houten, remaining with him for a further decade before passing to Mr Jaap Knap, a Citroën dealer.
Last publicly offered for sale in 2006 at Rétromobile, this rare Citroën DS23 IE Décapotable was purchased by the car collector and hugely successful fashion entrepreneur, Mr Kevin Stanford, who registered it in the UK with his personal registration plate, '56 KS'.
For the next 12 years the car was enjoyed by Mr Stanford and his family before being purchased by a UK car collector. Since then it has received a detailed mechanical overhaul at the hands of the widely respected UK-based Citroën specialist, Olivier Houiller of French Classics Ltd. Recent receipts totalling over £15,000 accompany the car, as does the extensive Chapron build documentation that was provided by Noëlle-Eleonore Chapron, Henri Chapron's daughter.
This magnificent and very rare piece of French motoring history is 'on the button' and ready to be enjoyed. An eye-catcher at any gathering, it comes with the aforementioned documentation and is currently registered in the UK.
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