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My earliest memory of the Citroën DS was in 1967, when I was 12 years old.
I had read an article in a newspaper about the ‘new’ DS, which had just been launched.
I probably missed all the hyperbole about the magic-carpet ride and the semi-automatic gearchange, but what caught my eye was that this was the first car to have steering headlights.
Little did I know that it was the latest version of a car that had been around since 1955.
I’d had a notion of owning a DS for quite a while, but as prices and potential restoration costs for the model rose I thought the chance had passed me by.
Then, in November 2013, an acquaintance told me that he had an old 1967 DS21 Pallas with a semi-automatic gearbox lying in his garage.
He agreed to give me first refusal, but it took a full year before I actually got to see the car.
The suspension had dropped to its lowest level and all four tyres were flat, so there was no way of seeing underneath.
It was covered in a thick layer of grime, the leather upholstery had long dried out, and a 1998 tax disc was still displayed in the windscreen.
On the positive side, it had covered just over 42,000 miles with only four owners.
I enlisted the help of James Dalton, a DS owner I had met at a car show, and he agreed to have a look.
He soon said that if I didn’t buy it he would, so the decision was made and it was mine.
Having been registered on 1 August 1967 the car is quite rare, being the last of the ‘type 2’ front end but with the more reliable LHM green hydraulic fluid that was introduced at the end of 1966.
The problem with the engine was nothing more than a seized water pump. Some restoration work had been carried out in the 1980s so the frame was pretty solid, with the worst of the corrosion in the tops of both rear inner wings.
I removed all of the body panels and had them repaired and painted locally.
The original colour was Gris Kandahar, which was only available on the DS between 1967 and ’69, so we decided to keep it original but added the Bordeaux roof, another DS colour although not available as an option with the grey.
One of my neighbours christened the car ‘The Kandahar Princess’ and it stuck.
The leather upholstery was entrusted to a local trimmer, who did an excellent job despite this being the first car he had done.
After replacing the water pump and a cracked exhaust manifold, I changed the oil, plugs and points, and the car started after a couple of attempts.
More surprisingly, the hydraulic system worked perfectly.
The car was eventually sent off to DS specialist Graham Morton in Yorkshire for a rebuild, returning in December 2020.
After some more fettling by me it finally went back on the road in March 2021.
Since then we have covered an almost trouble-free 3000 miles, always making it home under our own steam.
The ride really is as smooth and magical as expected, and the semi-automatic gearchange is a dream to use once you get used to it.
The DS is not fast by any manner of means and is quite noisy, but it will cruise at 60mph with plenty in reserve.
It attracts an amazing amount of attention and we love talking to people about it. This is not a concours example, but we just want to enjoy driving it.
My wife has driven it a couple of times on an industrial estate and hopefully she’ll progress to the public roads soon.
We plan to visit France at some point in the future, so a co-driver would be helpful!
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- Owned by Willie Bennie
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