The general's Citroën

(To Gianluca Celentano)

It is a warm evening of 22 August 1962 in Paris and, despite the repeated calls for caution by the Minister of the Interior at the time, Roger Frey, neither the French political tension nor the attack suffered a year earlier in Pont sur Seine reduce travel. of the president of the republic, general Charles de Gaulle.

Its conductor, Marshal Francis Marroux, speeds at 90-100 km / h on board one Citroen DS 19 black on the Avenue de la Libération in the direction of the military airport of Villacoublay.

General de Gaulle does not choose the more elegant version DS Prestige with the separation of the rear seats from the front ones, but a more common model although absolutely not Spartan, quite the contrary. He likes to converse with Marroux leaning on the front sofa and maintaining a confidential relationship.

The car with de Gaulle on board accompanied by his wife Yvonne and his son-in-law Colonel Alain de Boissieu, is followed by a second vehicle carrying three leather heads and a doctor, in turn followed by two motorcyclists from the Gendarmerie.

A very small procession to evade any snipers. Not really "tactical", but perhaps it is part of a discretionary strategy that reveals General de Gaulle's contempt for danger, as well as his habit of making continuous shifts in a period of tension.

Among other things, the black DS of the general is not even armored and who should know knows it well.

The attack

The general is a passionate admirer of Citroën DS which here has been nicknamed the shark, perhaps because of its aerodynamic lines that came out of Flaminio Bertoni's pencil.

Do you think that the general's ethics are so intransigent as to make him refuse a service car at the expense of the state and in fact the luxurious DS driven by Marshal Marroux was purchased from a dealer, as well as the other Citroën that General de Gaulle owns in his villa.

A distinguished man with a hat and a newspaper in his hand beckons on the sultry Avenue de la Libération as the two cars of the procession arrive, followed by motorcycles.

Suddenly from a Renault van some terrorists of the extremist group of the OAS begin to fire volleys of automatic weapons on the vehicles.

The conductor Francis Marroux remains lucid - which is not easy without a protected vehicle - on the contrary, he increases the speed to escape enemy fire. He is aware that from that moment on, any maneuvers or ramming carried out using the luxurious DS as a ram to clear the way are legitimate to protect the safety of the general and those transported.

On board the occupants are lowered at the invitation of Colonel de Boissieu, which is not easy for the very tall general who with his 196 cm of stature always dominates everyone.

The bodywork can only fortuitously deflect an ogive, not stop it.

Two diagonally opposite tires are hit almost immediately, as are the windshield, a window, the rear roof pillar and the fuel filler flap; even a motorbike of the parade is hit by the fire of the terrorists.

A little further on at the intersection with Rue du Bois, another blue Citroën DS stands in the way as if to ram the presidential car or break the escort procession.

From the second DS which then disappears, other bursts of machine guns leave and continue until the Petit-Clamart roundabout where the escape of de Gaulle's car is headed.

Fortunately, no one is hit or injured although there are about 140 shells on the ground. One would think of a scarce aim of the terrorists or the ability of Marshal Marroux to proceed zigzagging.

Saved from suspensions

The DS is equipped with sophisticated independent oleo-pneumatic suspensions that make the suspension self-leveling. For this reason, the Citroën DS remained drivable albeit with two tires diagonally out of order. After this episode, the presidency manages to convince (or oblige) de Gaulle to use an armored ministerial car that he detests because it loses its driving brilliance and a certain aesthetic beauty.

It seems that it was the oleo-pneumatic suspension system that saved General de Gaulle's life by making the car maneuverable without forcing the driver to stop, starting a vain firefight with predictable results.

What to say? Ironically about what happened, one cannot fail to recognize that de Gaulle was undoubtedly a good connoisseur of cars.

The oleo-pneumatic suspensions

The suspension system created by Paul Magès for Citroën consists of a high-pressure hydraulic pump driven by the engine, an accumulator tank and pipes directed to the 4 spheres placed on the respective shock absorbers. Here the pressure is brought together as the compressibility of fluids and gases (nitrogen placed in the spheres) makes the system more flexible than traditional springs.

The presence of double-acting valves that release or load the pressure serves for constant leveling of the car, such as when the occupants get out.

Due to corrosion, the sophisticated system will need years to be perfected however the DS which debuted in 1955 is very futuristic and still current as systems and line; with the hydraulic pressure generated by the high pressure, the brakes are activated with a “mushroom” pedal that has more than the switch. It is to be understood what modularity could be obtained on low-adherence bottoms.

From the 70s onwards, aluminum was used to combat rust, while the internal reflectors of the lights that follow the curve are available to increase active safety, illuminating the road better. Its track is greater on the front to contain the mechanics, but above all it is the first sedan to use the front disc brakes housed at the exit of the differentials to reduce mass.

The versions and fittings of the DS made up to '75 were: 19, 20 Super, 21, 23 with powers from 75 up to 140 HP for the injection version and, curiously, the DS is the first car to offer as optional to the traditional manual gearbox (already 5-speed) a semi-automatic gearbox (no torque converter) precursor of the current robotics, the “Citromatic”. It consists of a transmission with a box similar to the manual and with a clutch disc that is activated (with centrifugal governor) by accelerating at the start. The linkages of the ratios are moved by hydraulic cylinders when moving a rod placed on the steering wheel. As there are no phonic wheels and sensors, everything works thanks to regulators.

Its weak point is the fact of having to register the elements in the workshop every 15 thousand km in city use, a limit of no small importance. In reality there is a linkage under the steering wheel to manage the clutch in an emergency.

In the early 70s, the 23 cm2347 and 3 hp DS 115 version was equipped with a traditional hydraulic automatic gearbox with torque converter and control always on the console behind the steering wheel. The positions of the selections are PRNA-2-1. The position A (automatique), which is equivalent to the D of drive, distinguished the French automatic gear selectors from all the other world productions where the D was used until the unification occurred in the 80s.

The DS also in version station wagon it had several setups some really bizarre like the caravan trailer variants, but some will also remember the ambulance version. It was the French institutional car par excellence, but after the attacks on de Gaulle, a three-volume armored derivative was redesigned based on the DS21 which distorted its forms, the Présidentielle numbered 1 PR 75.

Citroenvie source

Fiat Citroën collaborations

If with the 2Cv and the DS it was the artistic skills of Flaminio Bertoni that contributed to the success, the collaboration with Italy of Citroën and Michelin has much more ancient roots starting at the beginning of the last century with Safaf - Société Anonyme Francaise des Automobiles Fiat -. Then there is a name that everyone remembers, la Simca 5 e 6 or the Mickey mouse under license from Fiat and, more recently, the Maserati passed into French hands before being absorbed by the De Tomaso group today Stellantis.

Fiat 242 / Citroën C35

A Franco-Italian military collaboration comes to life through the Eurosam consortium created in 1989 for armaments, but later also for the interest shown in our Astra Actl. For the rest at the level of means, France has always appeared very indigenous.

However, there is an Italian-French vehicle that is certainly not very nice as a form that has been around for a long time in our barracks.

The Fiat 70 was a very popular van in the 80s / 242s, built in collaboration with Fiat and Citroën and with the DS 2200 and 2500 cm3 diesel engines.

The capacity of 242 which is branded in France Citroën C35, as well as the adoption of front-wheel drive have actually placed it at the forefront of the automotive commercial park, albeit with considerable problems of early rust. The use of 4 disc brakes was also innovative for a commercial vehicle of the time. However, it was very reliable and among the many outfits there was the minibus and camper version as well as military for mixed use.

Our army had enlisted many in dark green color, while PS and Carabinieri used it as armored cars and the Fire Brigade as a logistic means of support.

Photo: web