Rumblings, June 1960

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Are press cars faked?

Sometimes it is suggested to us that cars submitted for road-test are faked to provide that little extra. The Editor thinks otherwise. Having experienced a Ford Falcon and a Chrysler Valiant, which flatly refused to start and having recently spent a miserable weekend with an N.S.U. Prinz 30 the dynastarter of which proved unable to turn the engine over compression, his opinion is that press cars are not “fixed” – some of them are not even properly serviced!

* * * * *

Re-acqaintance with the ID19

It is always pleasant to make re-acquaintance with old friends and we enjoyed the week spent recently driving that most modern of motor cars, the Citroën ID19. There is nothing particularly novel about the DS and ID19 Citroëns these days – they are far too good not to sell in very appreciable numbers and are, consequently, met with increasing frequency on our roads. When they were sensational new models Motor Sport devoted much space to them (DS = April, 1958; ID = October, 1958). The ID has not changed much since then, so if we dismiss it in a few lines this is not to disparage in any way the world’s most advanced motor car. Stepping down into a modern Citroën is the prelude to enjoyable, fast, very safe and completely relaxed travel.

It is a little disappointing to find that none of the minor shortcomings have been eradicated. Thus the petrol gauge remains the girl-friend’s nightmare, because it so often indicates “empty” when many gallons remain in the tank, and a central mirror of the disliked “diminishing” variety prevents the average-height driver seeing the near-side front wing, while the solid bars of the anti-dazzle vizors negative the crash-padding round the roof sill. The ID19 is also underpowered for this country unless the driver enjoys continual gear changing, which, as the gate is “back to front,” calls for some mental concentration. However, providing top gear is regarded as an overdrive and second is used to accelerate from slow corners,the ID19 covers the ground far faster than its unhurried demeanour suggests, especially as it is happy up to 70 m.p.h. in third speed. In top it cruises at 80 m.p.h. in mechanical near-silence.

When all is said and done the excellence of the self-levelling suspension, the high cornering power, and the accuracy of the steering put the air-sprung front-wheel-drive Citroën in a class of its own and entirely complementary to these factors are such items as the spacious bodywork, splendidly comfortable seats, the side lamp “tell-tales”, good all-round visibility, huge luggage boot, clever interior door-locks, ingenious (if very inaccessible) hand-brake, the complete and effective heating and ventilatory arrangements which include facia-level air-vents, copied by Rolls-Royce and Rover, the uncomplicated but well-stocked facia instruments seen clearly through the man-sized single-spoke steering wheel, which is covered in sweat-absorbing tape, Michelin “X” tyres as standard, the many safety factors, the convenient “stalk” control of lamps and two-tone horn, the variable ground clearance, extremely good steering-lock, “mechanical” jacking, the huge, illuminated luggage boot – one can go on and on enumerating the virtues of the modern Citroëns. There are, too, fade-free disc brakes on the front wheels which, like. the ID’s performance, are more effective than first acquaintance, and the long-travel pedal action, suggests. The main facia panel is still of polished wood but this has been tidied-up since we tested an ID19 two years ago, and circular-dial Jaeger and Lucas instruments are now used.

One day Citroën will put the long-awaited air-cooled flat-six engine in these cars, endowing them with real performance to match their rally-winning handling qualities, and then the demand will be insatiable.

Meanwhile, the ID19, the less complicated of the modern Citroëns, is a car of tremendous (and practical) individuality, which represents excellent value at less  than £1,500 in this country, all dues paid. It is the ideal means of commuting for modern families and it is also a constant sounce of joy to children as it sighs quietly to itself and settles down for the night after a day’s work – an automobile with its own endearing personality.

* * * * *

At Slough

The Citroën factory on the Tradng Estate at Slough is largely self-contained and the cars for the most part British made. Body panels and power units arrive almost daily from Paris on railway wagons which run into sidings outside the Slough assembly shops. The panels are a weldedup at Slough after de-greasing and the body shells are then rust-proofed, 75 lb. of underseal being used on each body, after which five coats of I.C.I. paint are applied.

A single assembly-line, moved by hand, is used for the assembly of DS, ID and Safari models. Most of the accessories are of British make, parts being stacked beside the line, where the cars are virtually put together in unhurried fashion by hand. First the electric wiring for Lucas lamps and components goes in and the car gradually grows, until the power unit and hydraulics are installed. The Citroën then goes up on to blocks and the engine is started for adjustments to be made, running on its own water and lubrication systems, after an extension has been fitted over the exhaust. This is done before the wings, doors and trim have been fitted, giving excellent accessibility to mechanised components. Finally, every car goes for a short run over a standard test-route.

At Slough Citroën have their own chromium-plating shop, their hydraulics test-shop and make their own upholstery on batteries of Singer sewing machines. Whereas the French versions have cloth upholstery, English Citroëns have leather seats and there are other differences, in the lamps facing, use of a metal instead of a fibreglass roof, etc. The DS and ID models are turned out in five different colours and choice of three trim styles, or in special colours to order. Since 1958 the exhaust system has twice been modified and today twin small-bore tail pipes emerge under the centre of the tail. The DS engine is recognised on the assembly bench by its different inlet manifolding from that of the ID.

Production of the 2 c.v. has ceased at Slough but that of the Bijou is just beginning, this model not being made in Paris. The fibreglass bodies for this new 425-c.c. Citroën are English made. At present 1 in 3-1/2, as it were, of all Citroëns emanating from Slough are ID19s.