In between was the Ami, a rebodied 2CV with a 602cc engine, and the ID, which was a stripped-out DS.
The cabin is eccentrically Citroën
It had taken Citroën five years to react to the Renault Dauphine with the Ami. And when Renault came out with a ‘better 2CV’, the R4, Citroën tried to take its nationalised rival to court for supposedly copying the 2CV’s design.
The Ami held the fort for a while – indeed it became France’s best-seller. But in the boom years of de Gaulle’s presidency it was clear that a dolled-up ‘Deuche’ was inadequate to plug that 2CV-to-DS chasm.
In ’64 Peugeot launched the 204, a smart, technically up-to-the-moment model that happily sat above the Ami; a year later Renault unveiled its R16, equally happily sitting below the ID and DS.
As the economy expanded, both cars went on to sell in large numbers.
Citroën got it right with the GS … eventually!
Happiness was in short supply at Citroën dealerships, as the two competitors ate into their market share.
A second attempt to drag Renault through the courts, this time for ‘copying’ the Traction Avant in designing the R16, was a reflection of the Quai de Javel’s arrogance.
What was needed was not bully-boy legal manoeuvres, but a mid-range car people wanted to buy.
But Citroën muffed it, in typical fashion, by spending far too long trying to develop a new mid-sized model… then calling it quits.
Having abandoned a design known as the C60, a sort of miniature DS with hydropneumatic suspension and a flat-four, in 1962 it threw its energy into a new proposition.
The spare sits over the hemi-head boxer
‘Project F’ was to have either a flat-twin or a Wankel rotary, and be available in two wheelbases with two different suspension systems: torsion-bar or hydropneumatic.
The car was intended to be on sale by ’67 but it proved a disaster.
Prototypes suffered from miserable rigidity and poor roadholding. The Wankel wasn’t ready and the C60’s flat-four didn’t fit.