Mike Stevens | Feb 9, 2009

Here’s something: the Citroen DS was recently voted the most beautiful car of all time by a twenty-strong panel of renowned automotive designers, beating out beauties such as the Jaguar XK120, the Ferrari 275GTB, and the Jaguar E-type.

Among its number was Giorgetto Giugiaro – voted in 1999 as Car Designer of the Century and responsible for the likes of the Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT, the VW Golf I and the DeLorean DMC-12.

Other notables included Marcello Gandini – responsible for the Lamborghini Countach and Lancia Stratos – and Jaguar’s Ian Callum.

It should be noted though that the DS’ victory is owed to the rank-by-preference polling system used. Rather than being everyone’s top choice, the DS was the car that most designers voted most highly overall.

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Organised by Classic and Sports Car magazine, the panel’s decision was something of a surprise result.

"The Citroen is a benchmark design," Editor James Elliot said, "but we are still astonished that it came top when you look the sexiness and values of its rivals."

Gandini recalled his feelings back in the day, and how it lead him to his decision in the vote.

"At the time I think it was a complete folly, madness from a business point of view. But it was a really innovative car in 1955. A few people may have thought of all those beautiful ideas, but it was real bravery by Citroen to implement them all in one car."

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Giugiaro declared the Citroen DS to be the only example of ‘outside the box thinking’ in automotive design.

"The Citroen DS is the only example of a car really conceived 'outside the box'. It is just impossible to imitate."

Designed by Italian Flaminio Bertoni (who also designed the 2CV, adored by romantics the world over), more than 1.5 million Citroen DS models were built between 1955 and 1975.

Featuring one of the earliest applications of aerodynamic considerations in automotive design, as well as bolt-on and plastic panels, self-levelling suspension, power steering, power brakes and a power clutch, the DS was something of a technological marvel in its day.

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At the Bonhams Retromobile auction in Paris this weekend – the same auction that saw a Bugatti Type 57S go for AUD$6.5m – an ultra-rare 1973 Citroen DS Convertible fetched a remarkable €337,500 (AUD$647,165), a new record for a Citroen.

This particular example auctioned had been restored to ‘as new’ condition, with a black leather interior, soft grey carpet, and the lower dashboard finished in a trompe l’oeil, imitating varnished walnut.

Here’s a list of the designers who voted:

Dennis Adams, Roy Axe, Paul Bracq, Iam Callum, Russell Carr, Steve Crijns, Leonardo Fioravanti, Marcello Gandini, Giorgetto Giugiaro, John Heffernan, Tom Karen, Patrick Le Quément, Paulo Martin, Gordon Murray, Ken Okuyama, Martin Smith, Peter Stevens, Julian Thomson, Tom Tjaarda, Oliver Winterbottom

And all the cars that were listed for voting:

  • Alfa Romeo Canguro
  • Aston Martin DB9
  • Audi A6
  • Bentley Continental GT
  • Bentley R-Type Continental
  • Bertone BAT 5
  • Bertone Marzal
  • BMW 328 Mille Miglia
  • Bugatti T41 Royale Coupé Napoleon
  • Bugatti T57SC Atlantic
  • Buick Riviera (1963-’65)
  • “Cadzilla”
  • Citroën ID/DS
  • Cord 810/812
  • Delage D8-120S
  • Ferrari 166 Barchetta
  • Ferrari 250GT Lusso
  • Ferrari 250GT swb
  • Ferrari 250GTO
  • Ferrari 275GTB
  • Ferrari 330 P3/4
  • Ferrari Dino 206S
  • Ferrari Dino 246GT
  • Ferrari P6
  • Ford GT40
  • Hispano-Suiza H6 (Tulip Wood)
  • Jaguar E-type
  • Jaguar XJ6 S1
  • Jaguar XK120
  • Jaguar XKSS
  • Lagonda Rapide
  • Lamborghini Countach
  • Lamborghini Gallardo
  • Lamborghini Miura
  • Lancia Stratos
  • Lincoln Continental (1961)
  • Lotus Elan +2
  • Lotus Elan S3
  • Lotus Elite (1957)
  • Maserati Boomerang
  • Maserati Khamsin
  • Mercedes-Benz 500K
  • Mercedes-Benz Gullwing 300SL
  • Mini
  • Pagaso Z102 ‘Thrill’
  • Phantom Corsair
  • Triumph TR4
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