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Citroëns were designed to run with Michelin tires. In fact, during the period from 1935 to 1974 Michelin actually owned Citroën. So the cars they produced in that era were intrinsically engineered for optimum performance with Michelin tires.
When it comes to tire replacement, many Citroën owners who source original Michelin tires are shocked by their cost. And of course, for a radial tire to perform optimally, the rubber needs to be fresh. Tires that are a decade or more old, no matter how good they look, will have hardened so that sidewall flex and road grip are very compromised. Consequently people turn to less expensive alternatives in the hope of finding a tire that can fit, perhaps even look like an original Michelin and have the same handling characteristics. Although this applies to owners of 2CVs (and all the 2CV variants), Traction Avant, GS and SM, for the purposes of staying focused in this article, we will look into tire alternatives for the revolutionary DS, arguably the Citroën most engineered around the Michelin radial tire.
First, suffice to say that if you want originality and can afford Michelin prices, go with an original Michelin tire. The least expensive place we know to get an original Michelin tire for any model of Citroën is Longstone Tyres in the UK. And bonus, – their prices include free shipping to Canada and the USA!
Coker Tire in the USA carries some of the original Michelin tires for late model Tractions Avant, 2CV, DS, GS and SM. Prices vary, but checking between Longstone and Coker (factoring in shipping with Coker) will get you a fresh original Michelin.
For DS owners, tire choices are more varied and somewhat complex because Citroën used different sizes at different times. And since 1,455,746 D models were produced, based on high volume, a 25 year production span, and varied use, there was a market for cheaper tires alternatives than Michelins. Today people make tire choices for their DS depending on the condition of the vehicle; whether it is daily driver, an occasional use vehicle, or a car where one wants to experience “the true legendary DS ride”. For those forgoing original Michelins, tire alternatives basically comes down to size and price. Mostly though, – price!
All the tires we will discuss here will work on a DS or ID, but let’s look at size considerations first:
All Citroën D models up until September 1965 used tires that were mounted on 400mm (15.75”) rims. After September 1965 tires for all D models were mounted on 381mm (15”) rims.
The initial Citroën DS19 and ID19 were fitted with 165×400 Michelin X radial tire in the front and 155×400 Michelin X radial tire in the rear. But DS19/ID19 sedans, wagons, and convertibles from 1955-1965 destined for the North American market were delivered with 165×400 Michelin X all around.
The first major change in tire fitment to the Citroën DS/ID occurred in the 1966 model year when they took the unique step of fitting a 180×15 Michelin XAS at the front of the car and a smaller 155×15 XAS or 165×15 XAS at the rear. (Did you know that the Citroën D is the only car legally allowed to have larger tyres on the front in the UK!)
The later cars were fitted a 180×15 XAS or 185×15 XAS all round.
|Production date||1939||1946||1946||1946||Stored at Javel||Stored at Javel|
|Production #||EE 016||None||El 131||El 168||El 359||El 368|
|First owner||Mme Michelin||Countess de la Porte||French Ambassador to the US||?||Robert Puiseux|
|Where is it now?||Owned by French collector||?||?||Claimed to be a restored original (red)||Claimed to be a restored original car (yellow)||Crashed||Converted to presidential limo ?||Converted to presidential limo ?|
|Note||Verifiably authentic||Numbers match Citroën ledger||Numbers match Citroën ledger||Not verified in Citroën ledgers. ViN issued by French registration authority.||Not listed as convertible in ledgers||Not verified in Citroën ledgers.||Not verified in Citroën ledgers.||Not verified in Citroën ledgers.|
But wait! – If you want a 185×15 Michelin XAS you are out of luck. In that case you have to go with the 185VR15 XVS
The Michelin XVS was launched in 1972 and was a development of the XAS. It was designed to provide high-performance grip levels for cars with a speed capability exceeding 200 km/h and flat tread with water drainage channels, similar to the XAS.
The XVS – P was a further development of the XVS requested by certain car builders. The P (for “protection”) highlights the fact that the tire includes a heavy-duty rubber bead on its outer sidewall, in order to protect the wheel or hubcap from curbside friction.
It is the 185VR15 XVS size tire that has become the one that other companies have replicated. Vredestein, a Dutch tire manufacturer that in 1971, became wholly owned by B.F. Goodrich and in 2009 was acquired by India’s Apollo Tyres Ltd, when the company name was changed to Apollo Vredestein BV, has offered, for some time, the 185Hr15 Sprint Classic that many DS/ID owners install in an attempt to save money. However it spoils the handling of the D that really needs an asymmetric tread tire (similar to the Michelin XAS and XVS tires).
Asymmetrical tread means that the inner and outer portion of the tread pattern is different. With the XAS, Michelin made more progress by differentiating the many elements that form the tire. It was constructed taking into account the different kinds of work done by the shoulders, sidewalls and different parts of the crown, depending on whether they are on the inside or outside relative to the car. Just like a person’s foot is asymmetrical, the inside and outside of a tire work differently to give the car good balance and sure handling.
- Remarkable stability
- Exceptional road holding on bends
- Previously unknown levels of grip in all conditions.
It is these advantages that competitor NanKang, a Taiwanese tire manufacturer with plants in Taipei and in the Chinese mainland province of Jiangsu, strive to achieve with their 185×15 asymmetrical tread tires. Their 185/80R15 93H tire is now branded as the Rebel.
original Nankang 185/80R15 93H
The original Nankang version had a Michelin XVS style tread pattern but the opposite way around to how Michelin had it. The Rebel tread has been turned around the “right” way like a Michelin XVS.
The Rebel tires are marked tubeless, but if fitting to an original Citroën D model wheel, a tube should be used and recommended tire pressure is 32psi in the front and 29 in the rear. (If you choose to buy a brand new powder coated steel rims, then you will not need the inner tubes.)
Again, if you want authenticity on your pre ’73 DS or ID, the Michelin 180HR15 XAS is the tire to fit as they were designed for car. However you can fit 185×15 tires. And if you choose to go that route, you are most likely doing so to save money.
So Let’s Look at Tire Costs:
Here’s how these tires compare in price in the UK based on sourcing the Michelins and the Vredestein tires from Longstone Tyre and the the NanKang Rebel from Citroën Classics UK: Remember to add on the cost of a tube (£15.00) for all of these tires:
Rebel (Nankang) 185/80R15 93H – £69.99 excl VAT (Source: Citroën Classics UK)
Vredestein 185HR15 Classic – £109.00 excl VAT (Source: Longstone Tyre UK)
Michelin 185HR15 XVS-P – £195.00 excl VAT (Source: Longstone Tyre UK)
Michelin 180HR15 XAS – £156.00 excl VAT (Source: Longstone Tyre UK)
Michelin 165HR15 XAS – £134.00 excl VAT (Source: Longstone Tyre UK)
Now before you run out to buy Rebel tires, remember that their cost does not include shipping. Let’s say you want to order 5 tires from the UK: Here is your cost factoring in tubes and shipping:
|Model||Year of production||Front Tire||Rear Tire||Spare Tire|
|DS19 & ID19||Sept '65||165SR400 X||155SR400 X||155SR400 X|
|Break||Sept '65||165SR400 X||165SR400 X||165SR400 X|
|All Models Except;||Sept '65||180HR15 XAS||155HR15 XAS|
|D Super (5), DS21 & DS23||180HR15 XAS||165HR15 XAS|
|Break||180HR15 XAS||180HR15 XAS|
|DS21 inj. & DS23 inj.||185HR15 XAS||185HR15 XAS|
As the above chart shows; the Rebel and the Vredestein 185×15 tires are almost identically priced. The Michelin 185HR15 XVS tires are 70% more, but that is based on comparable size which should only apply to post 1972 DS models. The proper tire for earlier DS and ID models is the Michelin 180HR15 XAS and 5 of those are going to cost you £855, about 25% more than the Rebel and Vredestein tires. And the rebel tires are not presently available in Canada or the USA. If they were, then they would be a bargain if their price was comparable to the UK and you only had to pay local shipping.
Are original Michelin tires worth it? You be the judge. At least now you know your options.
For more information on DS Tire sizes, check out the “Tech Tip – DS Tire Sizes” article by Chris Dubuque (Seattle, WA) featured in the Winter 2008 issue of Citroënthusiast. (It’s in our Archive Documents section.)