It’s no secret that I have a soft spot for Citroën. You all know it. But while I admit that my love for the Parisian carmaker sometimes defies logic, I won’t accept any argument about my beloved GS, which turned 50 this year.
Citroën, for their part, gets it, thankfully. To celebrate their landmark small car, they’ve turned to the Parisian interior design expert Tristan Auer and famed bathhouse-turned-nightclub-turned-hotel Les Bains to do their magic on one very special GS, giving the timeless shape a little interior update for the occasion, showing off the car at Rétromobile last month. But don’t call it a resto-mod, call it a glow-up.
With a nip and tuck inside, the upholstery has been totally redone, bringing elements from Paris’s chic-est hotel to the lowly GS, showing that even a car originally intended for small families could have its moment on the catwalk.
I really love what they did to the car. It’s clean, it’s fresh, it’s classic. We give a lot of attention to how restored cars get painted, how external details like door handles and spoilers get fitted, but we don’t always look inside. This car is the opposite. seats, headliner, dash, and more have all been revamped inside, while the outside looks basically stock, if spotless.
But what exactly is so special about the GS? A lot, really. Our friend Matteo, car designer and weird car evangelist, put together a little film that lays out everything important that Citroën managed to achieve with the GS.
Though Citroën’s designers have long denied it, the car takes an important number of styling cues from a Pininfarina design originally meant for British manufacturers, eschewing the three-box shape for something more streamlined, an assertion that even a mid-sized car, without the constraints faced by a city car or the budget leeway a flagship model has available, could be imaginative and innovative.
When the car finally hit the market, the GS bridged the gap between the old and rather gutless 2CV and the large, expensive DS. And by slottingin between those two legends, it provided a combination of features that European families were looking for.
Hydropneumatic suspension underneath and a slick low drag-coefficient, the car was thoroughly modern if a bit underpowered with its small air-cooled four-cylinder engines, replacements for the planned Wankel rotary engine that was supposed to be fitted.
That’s right. A rotary. Luckily, Matteo has got another video that lays out that story too. After the low-volume M35 built by Heuliez, Citroën was working with NSU to build twin-rotor motors in its Comotor joint venture and those engines were supposed to end up in the GS. Introduced in 1973, the GS Birotor meant to be the top-of-the-line model. But, with the oil crisis raging, the car was only offered for a short while and Citroën actually tried to buy them all back.
They didn’t get them all, though and a few GS Birotors, the coolest GS of them all, are still out there after nearly fifty years on the road. And even then, there are still some piston-engined ones out there too puttering around. They’re special cars and hopefully, they’ll be around for another fifty years.