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Citroën GS, best Car of the Year

A few months ago, from La Escudería a survey was proposed to find out which was the best "Car of the Year" of those who had won that award until 1993.

The Citroën GS led at all times and finally won the votes, which is why we dedicate this article to it today.

Talking about GS is especially emotional for me for several reasons: We were both born the same year, in 1970; Furthermore, one of my first toys was a remote-controlled GS by cable from the Moltó brand that an uncle of mine gave me, who has precisely had a GS Club since 1974 with which my cousins ​​and I have grown up and spent the summer in many places -even in the countryside! through where “only” jeeps passed! It has also served as a driving school for them… Currently, the old GS still works, although it needs a good restoration.

For my part, I have another GS, although this is 1/64 scale of the Guisval brand, a relic of childhood, which I keep lovingly on my shelf.

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Today the GS awakens admiration and memories (Courtesy of Citroën)

I remember the first time I saw my uncle's Citroën when I was a five-year-old boy, in the summer of 1975, when we came to my father's village on vacation. He opened his garage doors for us and there was the brand new red GS, very low, almost touching the ground. He started it ... the engine barely made a noise ... And then the car started to climb! I must have thought it was capable of taking off and flying or something. The fascination it produced in that little boy lasts almost 40 years later and must have had a very similar effect on most people who saw one the same at that time.

They will tell me that the DS “Tiburon” was very similar in design to the GS and that it had been in production since the 50s, and that, therefore, people in Spain should already be used to seeing it and not being surprised by its charms. . But the presence of DS was almost testimonial, being an import car not available to everyone.

If we take a look at the most common cars here in the early 70s, namely the Seat 600, 850, 1500 and 1430 or 124, Simca 1000 and 1200, R-4, R-6, R-8 and R- 12 or Citroën 2 CV, Diane and 8, the GS came to be a kind of affordable “Jaws” that was a huge qualitative leap in terms of design and technological innovation.

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It is a mixture of avant-garde design and technological innovation (Courtesy of Citroën)

The hydropneumatic suspension of variable height is one of its greatest successes, together with the air-cooled horizontal boxer engine -evolution of the 2CV two-cylinder- which greatly simplifies the mechanics as it lacks a water circuit and radiator, among other things.

The interior design does not leave you indifferent, even today. Accustomed to today's bulky airbags, the single-sided steering wheel gives it an air of a futuristic ship. And to this we must add the strange speedometer, similar to the display of a bathroom scale and whose background varies in color to indicate which is the most appropriate gear for the speed, and the handbrake control, which consists of a kind of handle in the center of the dashboard.

To the peculiarity of the design must be added in some units the striking of an upholstery all of it in red, which stands out peculiarly if the paint of the bodywork is also red, in contrast to the chrome of the window frames and the bumpers. It is the case of the GS of my family. There were also others in blue, more discreet.

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There would even be a sports version -the X2-, as we will see later (Provided by Citroën)

In essence

We are going to analyze in detail the main characteristics of the car:

The Citroën GS stands out, at first glance, for its careful aerodynamic design, which allows it to reach high speeds with relatively low consumption. The bodywork has hardly any protrusions and in its day it was the only vehicle of national manufacture with an integral fairing of the underbody.

The hydro-pneumatic, liquid and gas suspension offers excellent stability and comfort, being practically impossible to get any of the four wheels to lose contact with the ground. In fact, this car can roll with a flat tire and even without a wheel, which the French brand took advantage of as an advertising claim. Do you remember that television spot in which a GS had a device on a wheel that made it burst and how the car did not lose its trajectory? And the subsequent sequence where you slalomed between cones without one of the rear wheels?

Suspension and brakes work using the same type of pressurized fluid channeled through independent circuits. This system provides a series of advantages, being able to preset three different heights of the body with respect to the ground: for normal roads, for bad roads and for changing the wheel. The lever to be operated is next to the gear lever.

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Credits: photo courtesy of Citroën; video uploaded by user otxarman to Youtube

In 1936, Citroën added rack and pinion steering, compatible with brakes and suspension, to series production. In 1955 he again innovated technologically, by adopting a special geometry of the front axle in which the pivot axis of the steering wheels passes through the point of the tires in contact with the ground; the camshaft thus constituted by the wheel itself, opposite its point of articulation, becomes null and has no power vis-à-vis the steering.

The GS has both advancements. That way, your steering is insensitive to road bumps, to variations in adhesion and sudden blows. Thus, it is understood that the puncture of a front tire or passing over a pothole or a stone, even at high speed, does not cause loss of stability or heading.

Specifically, the steering is rack-mounted, without a return spring, with an articulated column. The transmission of movement to the wheels is carried out by means of tie rods and levers.

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Photo courtesy of Citroën

The hydropneumatic suspension

Regarding this, it is worth noting how the unsprung weight on the front axle is reduced to a minimum as the front disc brakes are located at the exit of the differential. With this, the inertia of the oscillating system is practically zero, resulting, as we said, the loss of adhesion of the driving wheels almost impossible.

Each wheel is independently linked to the box by an arm integral with a piston. This piston, when sliding inside a cylinder, acts on a liquid that compresses more or less a constant mass of gas under pressure contained in a sphere. This gas behaves like a very flexible spring or pneumatic spring. Every piston thrust corresponds to a decrease in gas volume and, therefore, an increase in pressure. On the contrary, when the thrust ceases, there will be an increase in volume and a reduction in the latter.

The distance from the body to the ground is then kept constant, thanks to the possibility of varying the volume of liquid contained between the membrane and the piston.

Credits: first video user Changoteam2, from Youtube; second, jajaniono, which has an interesting old engine announcement channel.

When the load of the vehicle increases, the body lowers, causing by means of the stabilizer bar a movement of the handle of the height corrector (intake). At the intake, the volume of the liquid increases in the cylinders, which, consequently, should raise the body. This change of body position favors a new action of the stabilizer bar, which returns the shooter to its neutral position. Witty!

Citroën also pioneered the introduction of disc brakes into the mainstream in 1955. The GS inherits the DS's independent circuit, oil-assisted, pressure-assisted brake system. The rear brake oil is taken from the suspension spheres and, in this way, rear braking is proportional to the load and the rear wheels are prevented from locking.

There is no brake pump. The system takes advantage of the suspension fluid and the pedal travel is non-existent. The main device is equipped with front discs positioned at the output of the gearbox; the rear discs are on the wheel cores. The handbrake is mechanical, acting on the front discs with independent calipers from the main system.

The dashboard includes warning lights for the minimum level of braking pressure in the front circuit and the maximum wear of the front brake pads.

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It certainly looked like the car of the future ...

The safest and quietest car in the country

The GS was designed with the premise of safety. The cabin is extremely rigid due to its robust sides, capable of withstanding strong side blows. The front and rear are progressively deformable to keep the cabin intact. To protect the fuel tank, it is installed inside a reinforced rectangle that forms the rear bridge.

The steering column is deformable while the steering wheel is padded. Rounded shapes dominate the interior, and there are no protruding objects that could harm passengers in the event of a collision. The seat belts are of three points - shoulder strap and waist -, having pre-installation for rear belts; and the rear locks have a child lock.

On the outside, protruding edges were also avoided: pilots, doorknobs and other elements are embedded in the bodywork.

According to a study conducted by the magazine Speed, In its day it was the safest car in Spain.

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Credits: first image, provided by Citroën; second, from the official catalog and uploaded to Flickr by Darren davis

As for the engine, it responds with force and joy at high revs. However, it is often necessary to change gears below 3.000 laps. His silence is striking. In its day it was the quietest car ever sold in Spain.

It has the four opposed cylinders, two by two, with the carburetion in the center. This implies a good use of gasoline, since the path to be covered by it is the same for all four.

With everything explained so far, it is not surprising that in its home country, during the first three months of 1971, Citroën accounted for 24% of car sales in the French market. It was an increase of almost 6% over the previous year, largely due to the considerable success of the new GS; in fact, with 27.119 units, it was the best-selling car during the first quarter of 1971. In the foreign market the model also reaped similar success, largely due to the continuous awards received since the beginning of the year.

Daily production of the GS grew at the Rennes-La-Janais factory from 400 units in December 1970 to 705 in March 71, reaching the target of 750 cars per day. He shared the factory with the AMI 8 and the Mehari. Soon one GS per minute was assembled.

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Citroën GS: it was a sales success thanks to its safety (Courtesy of Citroën)

Awards and accolades everywhere

Between the late 1970s and the early months of 1971, with virtually no discussion, the GS earned the admiration and consideration of experts around the world in the form of awards and trophies.
El Grand Prize for Art and Industry Awarded by the “Société d'Encouragement à l 'Art et à l'Industrie” in the context of the Paris Motor Show, it was given national repercussions in France.

The worldwide projection would arrive at the Amsterdam Hall, where was the trophy awarded Car of the Year, attributed by a jury of 44 motoring journalists from twelve countries. Chosen from among fifteen models taking into account technique, image, safety and quality / price ratio, it achieved a total of 233 points, well above its closest competitors, the Volkswagen K70 (121 points), or the Citroën SM ( 105 points). He captured 53% of the maximum possible points, and 28 of the 44 members of the jury voted him directly in first place.

A few days later, he also won the contest Car of the Year 1970 from Czechoslovakia, organized by the weekly “Technické Noviny” in collaboration with the “Czech and Slovak Association of Motor Journalists”. 42 journalists and specialists from the Czechoslovakian Institutes of Sciences and Technical Schools had nominated him as the best, with 1.391,5 points out of a possible total of 1.560, ahead of the Volkswagen K70 (857 points) and the Opel Ascona ( 624 points).

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The bodywork design was and is versatile, being able to move the GS in all kinds of environments (Courtesy of Citroën)

He then received the Great Britain Car of the Year Trophy, organized by "Car Magazine". On this occasion, the jury was made up of 19 specialized journalists, 6 of them British, 2 Americans, an Australian and a Japanese, together with the readers and the editorial team of the magazine. The GS won with 86,5 points, ahead of the Range Rover with 55 and the Citroën SM with 52,5.

And that's not all: At the Geneva Motor Show, in which Citroën drew attention with a “hydraulic” stand in which there was a cascade of water on silver stalactites, with a GS as the protagonist, the director of the Style Center of the Design Department of the French brand collected the Style-Auto Award 1970 for the best bodywork, sponsored by the Italian magazine “Style auto, architettura della carrozzeria” and with an international jury made up of 65 specialists in car lines, directors of design departments of different brands, directors of style centers, engineers, bodybuilders and independent designers. The GS scored 79 points, compared to 44 for the Lamborghini Jarama and 39 for the Citroën SM.

In subsequent years, it would also get the Car of the Year titles in Holland, Yugoslavia and Spain - the latter in 1974. Not surprisingly, the Spanish GS came out with an elongated sticker on the rear window with several European flags inscribed with the legend "Citroën GS: the most awarded car in Europe". Even for promotional purposes, several GS were painted with the banners of the countries where it had been awarded; in fact, the assistance units of the Spanish Rally Championship came to look so striking. And I remember an official Citroën workshop that was in the Madrid neighborhood of Carabanchel, almost at the end of Calle General Ricardos, whose door was decorated until the end of the 90s with a GS like this.

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Detail of the exclusive chrome exhaust pipe of the GS Palas

The Citroën GS in Spain

Here it was necessary to wait until 1973 for its manufacture in Vigo and commercialization, with an initial model called "Club", of 1200 cc.

In April 1975 the sale of the "Break" began in Spain. This bodywork added surprising practicality, with a 710-liter boot expandable to 1.510 by folding down the rear seats. The curb weight was 905 kg; the total laden weight, 1.320. The maximum speed amounted to 151 km / h and the DIN consumption of 9,3 l. Outstanding in it, apart from the aforementioned possibility of folding down the rear seats, an easily removable folding tray to cover the trunk load.

The range was completed with the “Palas” - “Pallas” outside of Spain-, which was presented for the first time for the Spanish market at the 1975 Barcelona International Motor Show. In that year of few novelties in the automobile industry, Citroën managed to monopolize the attention of visitors with a striking and futuristic stand made of aluminum plates. The name of the new model was borrowed from the goddess Pallas Athena, daughter of Zeus according to Greek mythology.

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GS Palas I (Courtesy of Citroën)

The advertising slogans of the time defined it as "the symbiosis of luxury and comfort." Apart from a more luxurious finish, the interior of the first series is differentiated by the brown dashboard and steering wheel - they were black in the rest of the range - and by the green hands instead of red on the rev counter and hour clock. . The seats and door panels were trimmed in Velor jersey tricot.

The entire interior surface was covered with waterproofed carpet. In addition, numerous details increased passenger comfort, such as pockets on the sides of the seats, a center armrest in the rear seat and an interior light switch accessible from anywhere in the car.

On the outside stood out the stainless steel hubcaps that covered the entire rim, side trim moldings, stainless steel tailpipe and a gold monogram with the inscription "GS Palas". This first series was offered in an exclusive metallic “Nacre Gray” color, to which later blue, green and gold were added, also metallic.

The engine was the same as the Club and the Break, 1.222 cc and 65,5 hp at 5.750 rpm.

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A Break version was also available, with a fantastic cargo space (Courtesy of Citroën)

The range was reformed in 1976, with the New GS, GS Club, GS Break and GS Palas. The New GS was a basic version without a rev counter, clock, or tripmeter. It also did not mount a central armrest, and the seats had a simpler upholstery in a material similar to "skay". There was no chrome on the window frames, either.

As a differentiating detail between the '76 range and the previous ones, the wheels of this series have 6 rectangular holes while those of the previous ones have 10 round ones. The price of one of its basic units was 195.900 pts. FF (Factory Free).

At the end of 1977, the list of variants of the car was expanded again and some details were changed: larger taillights were included, without the chrome trim; rims without holes, newly designed hubcaps and front grille with horizontal slats instead of honeycomb structure. In the case of the Palas, the dashboard clocks became conventional rather than the “bathroom scale” design.

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A pity that the Palas II returned to a more conventional dashboard (Loaned by Citroën)

The main technical characteristics then corresponded to the following:

→ Engine with four opposed horizontal cylinders. Displacement: 1.222 cc (77 × 65,6). Air cooled. Volumetric rate: 8,2. Two overhead camshafts (one per cylinder head), driven by toothed belts.

→ Effective power: 65,6 hp SAE at 5.750 rpm

→ Maximum torque: 8,9 m / kg. DIN at 3.250 rpm

→ Transmission: front wheel drive. Four synchronized speeds and reverse gear; lever control on the ground. Conical pair, 8 x 33

→ Steering rack. Turning diameter between sidewalks: 9,40 meters.

→ Electricity: Battery 35/175 A / h. Alternator 490 w.

→ Tires: 145-15ZX. Spare wheel under the hood

→ Capacities: Fuel tank: 43 liters. Oil sump: 4,2 liters. Gearbox: 1,4 liters

→ DIN consumption in liters (at 100 km): at 90 km / h: 6,8 l. At 120 km / h: 9,6 l. In urban travel: 11,2 liters

 

Video uploaded to Youtube by user gsdel78. We hope your GS keeps rolling just as well.

In 1977 the sports model "X2" appeared, whose essential characteristics were ...

→ 71 hp at 5.750 rpm

→ Anatomical seats with integrated head restraints

→ Specific upholstery

→ Fog lights

→ Exclusive design hubcaps

→ Rear spoiler

→ Sliding roof in option

→ Bumpers and window frames in matt black instead of chrome

Ambulance versions, with elongated bodywork and raised roof, also began to be manufactured on the basis of the Break.

In France, in addition, there were other variants that were not marketed in Spain, such as the strange 1973 “Birotor” with a Wankel rotary engine, of which barely 700 units were manufactured; the Automatic or the Commercial, which was like a 3-door Estate, with no rear windows.

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Credits: photo by Klaus Nahr, upload to Flickr; uploaded video to Youtube by user smiffy1071's.

Sport and sales techniques

First with the DS, and then with the SM and GS, Citroën was present in the 60s and 70s in “adventure” type competitions of exotic landscapes and car wrecking tours. In them he gained fame as a robust car brand.

Claude Laurent participated in the Monte Carlo in 1975 and in the Rally de Portugal with a GS “Gr. 2 ”1.300 cc and 95 hp, equipped with special camshafts and double carburettors. The cabin was complemented with a Trip Master, two chronometers and special covers for the seats that turned them almost into baquets, while sound-absorbing elements were removed from the body to reduce weight. In addition, a spare wheel attached to the floor with straps and a huge fire extinguisher was added. The headlamp capacity was completed by huge yellow Cibié fog lamps and a pair of long-range Oscars, and the stock tires were swapped for studded ones to withstand the harsh winter conditions of these tests.

In Spain, Ricardo “Rizos” Muñoz stood out as the official Citroën driver in the Spanish Rally Championship, in the Gr. 2 national touring car category, with another GS prepared in Portugal by Jaime Nunes Rodrigues. The chassis was strengthened and an impressive lower fairing capable of withstanding the hardest blows was added. The gas tank had 80 liters - instead of the 43 of series - to face long rallies, and the engine was raised to 93 CV by means of special camshafts and two double Weber carburettors. The gearbox and bevel group remained standard for safety. The suspension was modified, giving it five possible heights instead of the standard three, although the setting was so hard on the highest that they made the car uncomfortable and hardly used.

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Ricardo «Rizos» Muñoz, official Citroën driver in the 70s

If we review the GS advertising, television campaigns highlighted the stability of the car and the comfort of its suspension. Famous was the launch announcement in which a tire was exploded while rolling at high speed without the car changing its stability, or the scene of the same spot in which he did a slalom with only 3 wheels.

The Palas campaign also attracted attention, in which a man was smoking a good cigar in the back seat while the car drove down a bumpy road, and he wondered "Why doesn't the ash fall off?" Or that ending in which the announcer said: "And if they don't believe us, we swallow that stone"; then the driver raised the GS, crossed the obstacle, and asked sarcastically: "What stone?"

The press campaigns were less conspicuous. The main slogan was "A car for those who have already owned several." Among the texts, emphasis was placed on aerodynamics and the technical peculiarities of the model: “16% less drag than the most aerodynamic car, the Tiburon DS. Air is also energy for the GS ”, o "It has the same suspension as the Citroën Maserati (SM) and the CX." Likewise, “Air cooling. The simplest and most efficient system so that an engine never gets hot. It also frees the car from the bulky water circuit and saves you breakdowns ”.

Video provided by Citroën

The GS remained in production from 1970 -in Spain from 1973- until 1980. In 1979 the GSA appeared, which was actually an improved GS to which more versatility was added with the adoption of a tailgate. The bumpers became plastic, and the interiors were renewed with new seats. The controls were changed to the so-called "satellite", with a futuristic design similar to those of the CX and which were not widely accepted due to the complexity of their handling. The GSA remained in production until 1986, although the BX had already appeared in 1984, a model that finally continued with the GS philosophy.

GS maintenance

In its day, the GS earned the problem car "sanbenito". The reality is that I needed a specific tooling that at first was only available in official workshops, and the neighborhood ones damaged more than they fixed.

The main maintenance tasks for a GS, apart from changing the oil and checking the suspension fluid level, may also consist of changing its spheres. Over time the cuffs can become damaged and, when pressure is added, leaks may appear. As the brake and suspension systems go together, the replacement is a bit cumbersome, although the operation should not involve major inconveniences.

Perhaps in official workshops it is already difficult to find spare parts, but in France, or through the internet, you can find any type of spare part for old Citroën. Here in Spain, specifically in Collado Mediano, in Madrid, you will find Citroclassic, where there is a wide catalog of new parts. Also, through pages like www.todogs.org, you can get a lot of information about the model.

The author in his "younger years" with his first GS
The miniatures do not usually give mechanical problems: The author in his "young years" with his first GS

An element that does not withstand the passage of time well is the steering wheel. The plastic on the rim cracks and looks rather unsightly, like it's burned. That is a difficult replacement to get, but you can hide the problem in a fairly dignified way with a cover. Regarding the upholstery, those of the "dry" GS and those of the Club, being in solid colors, can be easily repaired by any upholsterer. That of the X2 has a checkered design that can complicate things a bit, like that of the Palas, the most difficult of all, which has a specific pattern.

From here, I would like to thank my great friend Armando Abrego, from Citroën Hispania, for his collaboration in preparing this article, for the large amount of graphic documentation that he has provided me with. On the other hand, in the credits of the promotional photos I was surprised to see in them the signature of another old friend, colleague and great photographer, José María Pueche, to whom we send a cordial greeting.

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Written by Michael Angel Vazquez

Miguel Ángel Vázquez, graduated in Audiovisual Communication from the European University of Madrid and Master in Dubbing, Translation and Subtitling (UEM). I have been a motor racing fan since I was a child, but my connection, let's say "professional" with Classic Vehicles began ... See more

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