1967 Citroen DS21 Décapotable by Henry Chapron

  • 1967 Citroen DS21 Décapotable
  • Certified Chapron-built car
  • Rouge Rubis with Cuir Gold interior
  • Very rare specification

Few cars can match the combination of style and comfort offered by the Citroën DS Décapotable, and the example now being offered for sale by The Classic Motor Hub has been superbly restored to original specification.

The Henri Chapron order form is included in the car’s history file and shows that chassis number 4376093 was delivered to the carrosserie’s Rue Aristide Briand premises in central Paris on 8 December 1966. Built under the Chapron number 9092, it was finished in Rouge Rubis with a Cuir Gold leather interior and left Chapron on 14 February 1967.

This DS21 Décapotable is a rare find in that it features the earlier style of ‘Frogeye’ headlamps but benefits from using LHM hydraulic fluid. That combination was produced only between September 1966 and September 1967, before the front end was updated with the ‘shark’ style of enclosed headlamps for the 1968 model year. The mineral oil-based LHM fluid had been introduced in order to replace the previous LHV and LHS fluids, which were hygroscopic˙and therefore much more prone to wear.

It is also one of only 60 DS21 Décapotables that were sold in 1967 with the ‘semi-automatic’ gearbox. One of the DS’s many advanced features, this system uses a standard clutch and gearbox, but the clutch is operated via the column-mounted gear lever rather than a pedal.

A registration document in the history file shows that this particular car was living in Le Vesinet in the western suburbs of Paris during the mid-1970s, but in 1978 it was acquired by Alistair Hacking and exported to the UK. It was fully restored in 1992-1993, and more recently was transported to a Dutch Citroën DS specialist to receive a further restoration during 2019-2020. This latest work covered everything from the interior to the mechanical components, the hydraulic system, the brightwork and the bodywork.

The car has retained its matching-numbers status, with the chassis and body numbers matching those on the Chapron register, and the original engine is still fitted. Further testament to its originality is the fact that several of the Chapron markings are still visible on the various body panels. It has been certified by Henri Chapron via a document issued by Noëlle-Eléonore Chapron-Paul in 2019.

The Citroën DS Décapotable is the most sought-after variant of an iconic design, and Chapron built 1365 in total. Only 483 were based on the DS21 model, and this particular example is the 340th of those. Now presenting in exemplary condition following its recent restoration, it drives beautifully and – with its cosseting interior and refined hydropneumatic suspension – redefines the concept of comfort.

As Jay Leno has said of driving his Citroën DS21, it’s ‘like riding in a cloud’, and there are surely few more stylish ways to travel.

Model history

When it was launched in 1955, the Citroën DS was like nothing else on the road. Its confident, flowing design swept away any sense of dour post-war austerity and instead looked to the future and the burgeoning jet age.

But there was more to it than show-stopping looks. It was the first mass-produced car to be fitted with disc brakes, and its hydropneumatic suspension system set a new standard in ride quality and offered comfort without sacrificing control. There was power steering, too, plus a semi-automatic transmission system.

Such was its instant impact that 12,000 orders were placed on the day of its unveiling at the 1955 Paris Motor Show. Citroën’s original intention had been to fit an air-cooled flat-six engine, but instead it had to settle on a 1911cc development of the four-cylinder engine from the Traction Avant. Over the years, that was upgraded into 1985cc form, and then in 1965 came the DS21 with a 109bhp 2175cc engine. The final development was the 1973 2347cc DS23, which was also offered with fuel injection.

In total, almost 1.5 million Citroën DSs were built before production ended in 1975, and variants included a Safari estate and – most famously – the Chapron convertibles.

Henri Chapron had presented his prototype at the 1958 Paris Motor Show, and over the next two years worked closely with Citroën in order to make it a production reality. The first Chapron DS Décapotable Usine – ‘factory convertible’ – left the Rue Aristide Briand workshop in October 1960, and they remain the most coveted of Citroën DS models.

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