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I had a rare treat recently. A friend of mine let me drive his beautifully restored 1967 Citroën.

Never seen one? Not surprising since not many were ever imported to the US. It's that funky looking car from the TV show The Mentalist. I think it looks like a UFO, but I've heard "upside-down bathtub" used as well.

It's so very French!

Now I've driven French cars before. I've had plenty of Renaults and Peugeots as rentals over in France. I'd never so much as ridden in a Citroën, however, and certainly not one from the 1960s. When offered a chance to drive it I jumped at it. He got to drive my 1957 Desoto so it wasn't totally one-sided. I still think I got the better part of the deal.

The Citroën DS was introduced in 1955 and would have been one of the most technically advanced cars of its time. It boasted front wheel drive, fully independent suspension, front disk brakes and a 4-speed semi-automatic transmission. It had a fiberglass roof to reduce weight and lower the center of gravity.

The French call it the "Déesse" (goddess).

The most amazing piece of technology on this car is the hydropneumatic suspension. Instead of conventional springs each wheel is suspended by hydraulics. A lever inside the car allows the driver to adjust the ride height. The car can be raised to go over rough terrain or lowered until the frame rests on the ground.

It's a terribly complex system with over 350 feet of hydraulic lines. I'm told it was very expensive to restore and not many people know how to work on them.

Now my friend's car isn't a true DS. It's actually an ID19. The "Idée" (idea) was a lower cost version of the DS that lacked some of the complexity. Instead of the complicated semi-automatic transmission it has a 4-speed manual transmission. It has manual instead of power steering.

This car actually did serve as a taxi in Paris at one time. I have no idea how or when it was imported. My friend specifically sought out an ID19 to save money on restoration and maintenance. It was a difficult restoration even so. He had most of the work done at a shop down in Kentucky (I think) that specializes in older Citroëns.

I didn't take any interior shots so here's a generic one from the internet.
A word about the funky single-spoke steering wheel. It was actually a safety feature. You see, in a front-end collision in something like a 57 Desoto, the rigid steering column becomes a spear right through the driver's chest. That spoke on the Citroën steering wheel was designed to bend and spare the driver.

Another interesting safety feature, the speedometer (in kilometers of course) shows estimated stopping distances based on your speed.

My friend starts the car and after a few seconds it raises up on its suspension and finds its level. He demonstrates the ride height adjustment lever. The suspension travel is amazing. It's like watching one of those custom "low riders" do its thing.

It would be cooler with tail fins but it's still cool.
After a quick turn around the neighborhood to show me how everything operates it was my turn to drive it.

I remember cars with "three on the tree" manual shifters from my youth, but this is the first 4-speed column shift I've driven. The clutch is, of course, hydraulic and requires very little effort. The manual steering is also very light and I'm thinking that power steering on the DS might have been overkill.

For such an advanced car, the engine is a rather basic little 4-cylinder producing only 83 horsepower. Still the car moves out well enough and I'm told that it will cruise happily in the 80-100 mph range all day.

I'd always heard that the brakes on the DS were extremely sensitive but the ID19's brakes aren't boosted quite as much. I step on them cautiously and they seem to work quite well. Nobody's head hit the dashboard.

The most remarkable experience is the ride. Nothing rides like a hydraulic Citroën, nothing. I don't care what 1960s or 70s luxo-barge you used to have, trust me, I've driven 'em all. Caddies, Lincolns, Buicks, Chryslers even a Packard. Nothing matches this car. The XJ12 Jaguar I used to drive came close but not quite. Even my current Audi A8 doesn't ride like this Citroën.

It's been described as a "magic carpet" and that's as good a description as any. It's like the bumps simply aren't there. I'm told that the approved solution for a rough road is to speed up and let the suspension work its magic.

I don't push the car very hard, since it's 45 years old and not mine. They did fairly well in rallying due to their ability to go fast over rough roads. They didn't have a lot of power but they went fast by never having to slow down.

I'm amazed at how advanced this car is for a 1955 design. It was ahead of its time in many ways. It was many years before things like disk brakes and independent suspensions started finding their way into mainstream American cars.

There's an interesting story about the DS. When assassins targeted Charles de Gaulle's Citroën DS in 1962 the car was able to escape at full speed despite two tires being shot out. De Gaulle actually credited the Citroën with saving his life.

I'd almost be tempted to buy one of these. Good "drivers" can be found in the $15k-$20k range.

I think the mechanical complexity and the difficulty obtaining spare parts would scare me away. My shade-tree mechanic skills are sufficient to keep a Desoto running but I don't think I'd want to tackle 350 feet of hydraulic lines.

I very much enjoyed driving this car. It was quite an experience and I hope my friend gets many years of enjoyment out of it.

Originally posted to Major Kong on Sat Sep 07, 2013 at 03:04 PM PDT.

Also republished by Central Ohio Kossacks and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (117+ / 0-)

    If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

    by Major Kong on Sat Sep 07, 2013 at 03:04:30 PM PDT

  •  Very cool (10+ / 0-)

    A few years ago, Citroen brought back the DS name, with the DS3. They've got a 4 and a 5 now as well. Nowhere near as advanced as the original, but the DS3 is supposed to be like a more comfortable Mini Cooper.

    First they came for the farm workers, and I said nothing.

    by Hannibal on Sat Sep 07, 2013 at 03:32:30 PM PDT

  •  I remember those (9+ / 0-)

    Someone I knew had one. They claimed that if it had a blowout, it could be driven OK on three wheels, Plus that hydraulic suspension would make it hard for anyone to plant a car bomb. Not something I'd worry about, but I suppose it's definitely a security feature.

    Mark Twain: It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.

    by Land of Enchantment on Sat Sep 07, 2013 at 03:33:58 PM PDT

  •  There are a few around town here . (4+ / 0-)

    I know a few sitting , waiting for some one to fix up .

    "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. H.

    by indycam on Sat Sep 07, 2013 at 03:48:17 PM PDT

  •  A Spanish Goddess (4+ / 0-)

    Not a car though -- actress Diana Gomez

    Warren/3-D Print of Warren in 2016!

    by dov12348 on Sat Sep 07, 2013 at 03:52:08 PM PDT

  •  my new Dutch Goddess... (4+ / 0-)


    "Generosity, Ethics, Patience, Effort, Concentration, and Wisdom"

    by Dood Abides on Sat Sep 07, 2013 at 04:10:47 PM PDT

  •  One winter, in the mid seventies... (13+ / 0-)

    I helped a friend strip a totaled 1971 DS21 and put it every bit of it onto a 1969 1D19 frame. Interior included.

    Beautiful cars. That on-the-column stick was coupled with an automatic clutch. Plus, the starter was in the same assembly.

    One of the fun things I remember (and I don't remember a lot about the 1970's!) was stopping to get gas. When you filled the thing up, the added weight of the gas would  make the car sink down, but then, all by itself, it would lift up to the the pre-set height.  It would surprise anyone who was staring at an already strange looking car.

    We did a lot of smooth touring in that car.

    "I was so easy to defeat, I was so easy to control, I didn't even know there was a war." -9.75, -8.41

    by RonV on Sat Sep 07, 2013 at 04:12:49 PM PDT

  •  Ha! I grew up with Citroens! (7+ / 0-)

    My dad loved them.  We had a Ds21 sedan like the one in the diary, and a Ds19 wagon.

    One of them usually worked for a few weeks at a time. You had to order parts and fluids from Canada.

  •  Fantastique! Your "cubic inch" problem solved .. (17+ / 0-)

    Thanks for this. These cars are wonderful to drive. Ownership can be an ordeal.

    L.J.K. Setright (my favorite automotive writer - R.I.P.) saved his utmost respect for two automotive products, the Bentley Continental R series, and the DS Citroens.

    But.. to solve that power issue, you need to cruise with a 3.0 L Maserati V6 (180 bhp) under the hood, as installed in the '73 - '75 SM (Serie Maserati), with a somewhat sleeker body.

    All hydraulic ancillaries are from the DS. A rare classic.., where did I leave my torches and villagers?

    by FrankSpoke on Sat Sep 07, 2013 at 04:42:20 PM PDT

  •  My dad invented a linked hydro-suspension (13+ / 0-)

    would almost guarantee you wouldn't flip over when a tire blew.  He couldn't get it adopted because it would have added $75 to a 1961 model year car.

  •  The suspension... (13+ / 0-)

    It was so good that you had to look out when you changed from a tar covered "départementale"(small roads in the countryside) to an earth and stones one which were quite common in those times around farms and small villages. You didn't feel the difference but it could get costly on the tires !!!

    Those brakes earn their reputation because there wasn't a pedal but a button (as in old Packards for switching headlights), most drivers weren't used to that and on highways, because of the aerodynamics (Cx) of the car and the suspension, they stopped very short, getting all the other models piling behind it !

    Of course there are other "famed" Citroën's model, as the 2 CV or the "Traction avant" not to speak of the "Auto chenille" that went through Africa (La croisière noire) and through the Himalayas (La croisière jaune)!

    In those times the DS was quite a symbol, and won countless African or Australian rallies for years ! A 2CV went from Canada to the Tierra del Fuego and the same two blokes drove from Paris to Pekin later... Quite some epic adventures for those cars !

    "What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night" A.E. Housman

    by Margouillat on Sat Sep 07, 2013 at 04:53:57 PM PDT

  •  I love classic cars...really, I do (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    enhydra lutris, northerntier, ER Doc

    but I have always found Citroens to be butt ugly.  Never liked the lines.  Never, ever.  In fact, I would nominate it as the most poorly engineered car of all time, at least from an aesthetic point of view.  

    They are ugly.

    Through early morning fog I see visions of the things to be the pains that are withheld for me I realize and I can see...

    by Keith930 on Sat Sep 07, 2013 at 05:47:27 PM PDT

  •  there is a legend, amongst the (9+ / 0-)

    mountain hippies of a certain ancient backwoods commune on the High Road to Taos, of a Citroen-Maserati that drovewhooshed up that impossible road with French aplomb on its tippy-toes at great speed.  Story was a couple of the communards met these guys at the bar and invited them up to get high and also give them a ride home.   The "road" in question to the commune is also legendary as a Bad Road.  That was back in the early 7s, and the "road" is still bad.

    The Citroen-Maserati was the solution to the power problem.

    You neglected to mention that a jack is not required to change a tire.

    don't always believe what you think

    by claude on Sat Sep 07, 2013 at 05:52:49 PM PDT

  •  Trying to keep a 200 SAAB happy (3+ / 0-)

    That's already expensive enough. It's always fun to watch people try to figure out where the ignition key goes the first time they ride in it.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sat Sep 07, 2013 at 05:57:47 PM PDT

  •  Beautiful car. I envy you your DeSoto, however. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ER Doc, RiveroftheWest, BlackSheep1

    I had a 1958 Dodge Coronet for years. Daily driver, too (between about 1999 and 2005, after which I had to sell it). I love that late 50's Mopar, but those Citroens are sooo beautiful.

    I resent that. I demand snark, and overly so -- Markos Moulitsas.

    by commonmass on Sat Sep 07, 2013 at 06:13:13 PM PDT

  •  Fine car, with axle half shafts held on by (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ER Doc, RiveroftheWest

    either cotter pins or roll pins depending upon who worked on it last.  

    But - no rock songs about Citroens.

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Sat Sep 07, 2013 at 06:13:27 PM PDT

  •  "I think it looks like a UFO..." Somehow reading (5+ / 0-)

    this statement written by somebody who spends much of his time above FL185 makes me nervous.
    Now tell us just how many Citroën-like objects you really have seen up there, and what they were doing.

    We’re Ready, Wendy’s Ready! WTF Are We Waiting For? Bring ‘em on! The revolution has begun! Come and take it!

    by Bluefin on Sat Sep 07, 2013 at 06:29:46 PM PDT

  •  Magnifique (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ER Doc, Margouillat, Matthew D Jones

    Elle est belle.  

  •  it's a beauty. eom (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bisbonian, ER Doc, peterfallow
  •  I remember lusting after this car as a boy (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bisbonian, ER Doc

    What a beauty. Maybe the people saying that our civilization has begun the downward slide have a point.

    "I understand, Mr. Spock. The glory of creation is in its infinite diversity."

    by brainwave on Sat Sep 07, 2013 at 06:56:01 PM PDT

  •  Heh.. (5+ / 0-)

    I am transported back on the magic carpet of memory to the day when I was hitchhiking across the center of France with 2 other friends. When we saw a DS coming towards us we looked a sharp as we could so that the DS would stop for us.  

    Mon dieu, quel doux souvenir!  

    Thanks for remembering.

    It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

    by Radiowalla on Sat Sep 07, 2013 at 07:08:21 PM PDT

  •  Me again.... (5+ / 0-)

    you are making me think about writing about some of my favorite older cars .... I've owned a bunch American and Foreign. Some oddities were 1966 Saab 96 2 stroke, 3 cylinders, and 3 carbs. Put out an amazing 46hp around 7000 rpm. No torque, also had 4 on the column. Used to have to put it in reverse to get up the steep hills in NY because reverse was a lower gear ratio. 7 Moving parts in the engine - even the fan ran off the crankshaft. Fun to drive though ..... when the snow got deep it would raise off the wheels because it had a full under body pan which turned into a sled. At one point I had 3 of them - 2 for parts.

    Then there was my 3 cylinder DKW -- but that's a different story.

    Politics is the entertainment branch of industry. Frank Zappa

    by Da Rock on Sat Sep 07, 2013 at 07:10:13 PM PDT

  •  I saw a lovingly restored Citoen 2CV just today... (10+ / 0-)

    ... complete with with the fold-up windows, full width roll-top roof and kilos of Gallic charm. It was accessorized with an alligator-skin trunk on the boot with classic wooden fishing rod lashed to one side.

    The perfect ride for a lazy Sunday afternoon in the Dordogne countryside with one's amoureux.

    I wish someone would build replicas of these with a modern battery-electric drive train (... did you hear that, Elon?)

    If the DS is a goddess, then the 2CV is a practical - but charming - french farm girl.

    “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing
    he was never reasoned into” - Jonathan Swift

    by jjohnjj on Sat Sep 07, 2013 at 10:35:05 PM PDT

  •  I rode in a 70s era DS while in France. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ichibon, RiveroftheWest, peterfallow

    I spent a summer there way back in 1980.  The family I lived with owned a white DS.  The father proudly showed me the hydraulic suspension and made the car go up and down for me.

    Since I'm not a car person, I didn't know enough to be impressed.  Still, it was cool watching the car go up and down.

    "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

    by FogCityJohn on Sat Sep 07, 2013 at 10:49:12 PM PDT

  •  My father was a citroen dealer manager/owner (6+ / 0-)

    from around 1960 to when he retired around 1980, so I grew up around them.

    Along the way I owned a couple, a Dyane 6 and an Ami 8.

    As I worked for him for a year between school and college, and during the vacations, I got to be a handy mechanic on all things Citroen. Foe example, you can change out the engine on a Dyane/2cv in under an hour with no crane.

    Around 1970, Citroen brought out the DS23 EFI, for electronic fuel injection, and was one of the first cars to have serious electronics and an engine management system.

    At the time, mechanics had no experience in electronics, and it took quite a while to learn how to diagnose the problems and identify the sensors that were misbehaving and needed replacement.

    As for the hydraulics, they are expansive, but not that complicated once you get to know them. Weak spots were rust on the underbody pipes, and a sticky height adjuster on the rear wheel.

  •  That advanced suspension "req'ment" .. (5+ / 0-)

    With the marginal rural back roads and Paris' cobblestone streets, the magic carpet ride would have been a big selling point in the home market.

    To introduce a political dimension, I was re-reading "7 Ages of Paris" last night (we're actually here on vacation :-) ) and it mentions the conscious decision to begin tarring over the stones in the late 60's - to wean future protesters off easily accessible projectiles!

    No DS series (or SMs) seen in the streets of Paris in one week.  And the only 2CVs, so far, have been tarted up tourist taxis. Tragique., where did I leave my torches and villagers?

    by FrankSpoke on Sun Sep 08, 2013 at 02:36:27 AM PDT

  •  one of my high school friends had an old Renault (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Matthew D Jones, RiveroftheWest

    (I'm pretty sure it was a Renault) sitting in a garage rusting away, that was a "semi-automatic" transmission.  Instead of a stick shift, it had a number of buttons on the dashboard, and you shifted gears by pushing the appropriate button.  I had never seen such an odd system either before or since.

    •  VW had a semi automatic (3+ / 0-)

      My mother had a VW Beetle in the late 1960s. She couldn't drive a manual shift and VW didn't offer a true automatic.

      It had a stick shift with what I think was an electric clutch that engaged when you pushed downwards on the shifter.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Sun Sep 08, 2013 at 06:14:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The humble 2 CV... (3+ / 0-)

        Had a centrifugal clutch, like a moped, meaning that when in traffic jams you could stay in first gear while stopped... A breeze on the accelerator pedal and you would jump the next few meter without doing anything else...!

        It also had on the back wheels what was called the "Pots batteurs" a very simple empty tube soldered to the arm carrying the wheel. This tube had a heavy mass inside on an axis and spring. When driving in some North African desert, the regular little bumps created by the wind (called tôle ondulée = corrugated iron) would bring the rear suspension of each back wheel to fall in a chaotic rhythm that could then have enough energy to get the car in a rear before hood crash (phenomena well known to some pilots of light aircrafts !).
        This contraption (a few francs' worth) would dampen the vibrations and allow for some good speed on such difficult surfaces... :-)

        "What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night" A.E. Housman

        by Margouillat on Sun Sep 08, 2013 at 03:57:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  2 CV amazing rollover properties (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          markdd, ColoTim, RiveroftheWest

          A friend was driving some of us home late one night in his 2 CV (I really thought of it as deux chevaux) in Heidelberg, when we knicked a trolly track on a curve, and the car flipped on its side. We opened the roof, climbed out, set the car back on its wheels, and continued on.  Apparently no damage, and a good story.

          •  Similar to "For Your Eyes Only" when Bond and (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            his paramour were in her 2CV and they rolled it in a town.  She had been driving, but after the townspeople put it rightside-up, he demanded to drive and proceeded to only do marginally better as he careened down a hill with switchbacks by going straight down.

    •  The Edsel Had Buttons For Gear IIRC nt (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      6412093, RiveroftheWest

      Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness. -Pascal

      by bernardpliers on Mon Sep 09, 2013 at 10:41:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Some did (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        "Tele-touch" was an option on the Edsel. The buttons were in the center of the steering column.

        If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

        by Major Kong on Mon Sep 09, 2013 at 02:30:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  1964 Dodge Dart 270, with the (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      6412093, RiveroftheWest

      famous Chrysler "slant 6," had a push button automatic transmission.  We owned one for years--great car, but not very sexy.

      I have also read that the Edsel had a push button auto, with the buttons on the hub of the steering wheel, but since I've only ever seen Edsels from a distance, I couldn't verify that.

      •  All Chrysler products had them (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        from sometime around 1956 through 1964.

        You can just see them on the left side of my steering wheel here

        If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

        by Major Kong on Mon Sep 09, 2013 at 02:34:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Keep up the good work. n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Rivers are horses and kayaks are their saddles

    by River Rover on Sun Sep 08, 2013 at 07:04:55 AM PDT

  •  Thanks. How about the seats? Every Peugeot (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and Renault I have owned had the most comfortable seats of all the other cars I've owned.

    Further, affiant sayeth not. 53959

    by Gary Norton on Sun Sep 08, 2013 at 07:19:03 AM PDT

    •  It had bench seats (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest, Gary Norton

      They were quite comfortable however. I think the DS, being a higher-end model, had nicer seats than the ID.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Sun Sep 08, 2013 at 08:36:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  French Loves'em Some Pneumohydraulic Systems (5+ / 0-)

    Back in the 1930s the French included a complicated pneumohydraulic transmissions system in their principal heavy tank of the time, Char B1 bisthe .  This tank had a large (for the time) 75mm cannon mounted in a sponson in the hull of the tank rather than in a turret (although it also had a turret).  As one might imagine, aiming a cannon mounted in the hull of the tank posed some problems for the designers.  The French tied the sighting system into the pneumohydraulic transmission so that very fine adjustments could be made to aiming the hull cannon by having the tank shift on its treads.  It was a very elegant solution but a very complicated and expensive one.  The French found that this design could easily take out almost any German design (1939-1940) of the time (as exemplified by a fight at Stonne in 1940 when a SINGLE Char B1 bis knocked out over a dozen German tanks and survived) but that they possessed too few of them.

    The Citroen design always remined me of the Sud-Est SE.100 heavy fighter the French had been developing at the start of WW2.  The SE.100 seemed to offer much promise but its development got terminated by France's defeat in 1940.  I've always wondered if Citroen had ultimately based their vehicle design on what they considered to be the optimal aerodyamics for the vehicle in the light of the SE.100's similarity.  It would certainly have been a very Gallic thing to do.

    "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

    by PrahaPartizan on Sun Sep 08, 2013 at 08:58:44 AM PDT

    •  French Also Had An Excellent Rifle They Didnt Make (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Just before WW2, it was functionally similar to an M-14. When the Germans invaded they concealed all the plans and equipment because it would have been the best rifle of WW2 for the Nazis.

      Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness. -Pascal

      by bernardpliers on Mon Sep 09, 2013 at 10:47:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Tank design (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ColoTim, RiveroftheWest

      Those were similar to American M3, but we abandoned the hull mounted gun.  The Germans adopted this design for the "Stug"  series of tank destroyers, which were one of the most successful designs of WW2.  

      Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness. -Pascal

      by bernardpliers on Mon Sep 09, 2013 at 01:44:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  They also didn't use their tanks very well (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Rather than grouping them together they used them for infantry support.

      I don't know if any Char B1's still exist. I do recall seeing the turret from one in a Paris museum.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Mon Sep 09, 2013 at 02:29:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes and No (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RiveroftheWest, Major Kong

        The French entered WW2 with a bifurcated view on the use of armor.  They had a cavalry arm, equipped mostly with the outstanding SOMUA 35, probably the best tank available in the 1939-1940 time frame.  Those units, which went under the name of Light Mechanized Divisions (DLM, Division Legere Mechanique), were quite comparable to the German Panzer divisions.  Unfortunately, the French had but three of them compared to the dozen or so panzer divisions the Germans had.  The DLM units were intended to fight against the German armor and acquitted itself well during the spring 1940 campaign.  The French also had four heavy armor divisions which had about 200 tanks per unit, but with almost no infantry.  Those units could engage the German panzer divisions, but needed a paired French infantry division to match up well against the combined-arms force of a panzer divisions.  Between the cavalry and heavy armor divisions, the French had about 1400 of the 4000 tanks they deployed in Flanders that spring.  The rest were parceled out in tank regiments to the various armies and corps depending on expected need.  The one thing which truly hindered the French armored force was that not every tank had a radio and all their tanks were equipped with one-man turrets.  French battlefield response was therefore sluggish, which did not bode well when engaging the very agile German panzer divisions.

        Incidentally, the Char B1 bis turret was identical to the turret mounted on the SOMUA 35.  It possessed the very capable 47mm cannon which the French fielded that spring.  In many respects it is unfortunate that Guderian had spent his WW1 in communications in the Western Front directing artillery fire, because that experience led him to insist on all the German panzers being equipped with a two-way radio.  More than anything, radio was the force multiplier in the German quiver in the spring 1940.

        "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

        by PrahaPartizan on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 12:07:12 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Didn't the Russians have the same problem? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          At least early in the war, I seem to recall only about one out ten Soviet tanks being equipped with a radio.

          If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

          by Major Kong on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 03:33:50 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes! Can You Read that Battle Flag, Commander? (1+ / 0-)
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            The French and the Russians planned on using battle flags to try to direct their tanks in combat.  Only the British and the Germans designed their tanks to include radios from the gitgo.  The German radio designs were more advanced than the British during the 1930s, but that British doctrine at least sufficed.  Unfortunately, the British, French, Russian and early American armor doctrine all looked at armor combat from a single-arm point of view.  The German panzer divisions always had quite a bit of infantry to hold the ground the panzers seized, and the Germans increased the infantry-to-armor ratio as the war progressed.  So did the other sides, with the Americans having a decent balance in their armor divisions by war's end, although Soviet armor-combined arms doctrine was likely slightly better than the American even if their tank corps (division equivalent in their system) were slightly armor heavy.

            "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

            by PrahaPartizan on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 08:53:39 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  All Countries Had Light "Cavalry" Tanks & Heavies (1+ / 0-)
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          Their light tanks they used for blitzkrieg were just little things, the classic "cavalry" tank.  The heavy tanks were seen as being support for infantry and bunker busters, hence quite slow.

          The Germans and Russians innovated as a result of their great tank battles on the Eastern Front. The Germans (actually Hitler personally) had a mania for bigger and bigger guns, and the Russians were no slouches at up-gunning either.

          America decided they did not need to put tank development on the fast track beyond the Sherman. The German heavy tanks looked wise when the Germans were playing defense after Nomandy.

          Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness. -Pascal

          by bernardpliers on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 01:18:46 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Much Tank Development Started Before the War (1+ / 0-)
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            Without a doubt the Germans and the Russians engaged in a mutual escalation of the offense/defense values for their armor during the war.  However, the Russians premier main battle tank, the T-34, had been in development before the war, displaying a perfected Christie suspension system and sloped armor.  The Germans adapted their PsKW MkIV through successive models with more capable guns and various armor schemes, but even that tank served in the 1939 and 1940 campaigns.  The Germans freaked when they encountered the first effective Russian heavy tank, the KV-1, which laughed at the German anti-tank guns during even the first 1941 battles.  Boths sides were in a race to install larger guns to defeat the heavier armor their opponents were sporting while they up-armored to counter the larger guns.  It was like the naval battleship race seen during the first two decades of the 20th century.

            The Americans did develop heavy tanks.  The M-36 Pershing would have been available for the fall battles in northern Europe, but the Pentagon decided that shipping two Shermans for every Pershing counted more.  They changed their minds in 1945, especially since the Pershings were the first American tanks to cross the Remagen Bridge

            "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

            by PrahaPartizan on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 06:20:52 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Some Doubt About If Pershings Crossed the Bridge (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              RiveroftheWest, PrahaPartizan
              They changed their minds in 1945, especially since the Pershings were the first American tanks to cross the Remagen Bridge
              They got there, but It's not clear that any of them actually crossed the bridge, which was structurally damaged and soon fell down by itself.  There were Pershings taken across on barges, but I'm not sure if any crossed that bridge. Wikipedia says that of the Pershing that made it to Europe, only 20 saw combat.  It would have been nice if 500 had arrived for Normandy.

              Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness. -Pascal

              by bernardpliers on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 08:53:35 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  My dad drove some DSs in Afghanistan&India (3+ / 0-)

    between @ 1959 and 1964... may have had one in the US briefly... year or two on our return to the USA.

    Getting parts to keep the first one running in Kabul was something... he was with the US Embassy so getting parts shipped in was not a big problem but had to do at least some work himself. Changing tires using the hydraulic suspension was always a treat... I don't recall the roads being bumpy... must have been the DS...

    Then in India... we were on the first let of a planned trip to Southern India (we were living in Bombay/Mumbai)... and just after nightfall outside of Poona/Pune... the right front hydraulic suspension globe or cylinder or whatever it is called fractured... real workout on that road... metal crystallized in the casting and bam... stranded on the road... not much traffic in 1963 at night on the road to Poona... we got a lift from a truck carrying rock salt in burlap bags... My mother got to ride up front in the cab... and my brothers and dad & in back on the rock salt bags... I was 12 or 13....
    We had to go back to Bombay and continue the trip via planes, trains and hired cars... (and I picked up a foot fungus infection in Poona)
    Usually the DS was a champ on other trips... and my dad got to do the hydraulic tire change trick to the amazement and general acclaim of locals watching in Mahableshwar...

    And as for collision safety... he got a fairly severe test later in back in Bombay... a business man zoomed out of a side street a block from my school and really messed up the side front of the car... but no one was hurt and again it was time for ordering parts shipped in from Hong Kong... duty free... diplomatic again.

    Great car... and always felt special in one.

    Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

    by IreGyre on Mon Sep 09, 2013 at 04:18:13 PM PDT

    •  Katcha roads... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest, IreGyre

      We might have met... :-)
      Instead of a DS we went around with a Packard, then a Ford Mercury, in those years ! Importation of foreign cars wasn't allowed unless diplomatic staff.
      Living in Calcutta, we often had to go for stranded lorries, with spare parts...!
      The Great Trunk Road was quite a sight in those times and worth many rallies with all those lorries crashed on the roadside or stuck in a ford (those bamboo bridges could be surprising if you drove too fast with a heavy load, sort of a trampoline effect)!

      Time flies...!

      "What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night" A.E. Housman

      by Margouillat on Mon Sep 09, 2013 at 04:41:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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