To mark the 50th anniversary of the GS at Rétromobile 2020, which will take place from February 5 to 9 at the Paris Exhibition Centre at the Porte de Versailles, Citroën will feature this exceptional model in its booth.

Citroën first presented the GS at the 1970 Paris Motor Show, filling the gap in Citroën’s range, between the 2CV and Ami economy cars and the luxurious DS executive sedan. Shortly afterwards it was named “Car of the Year 1971”. Between 1970 and 1987, around 2.5 million units (including GSA) were produced.

Original GS.

As we have said before, the GS is one of the most significant Citroëns because it ushered in a new era beyond the DS where Citroen modernized its manufacturing processes for mass production. It was the first of Citroen’s modern aerodynamic appearance designs and the forerunner of the larger CX that was introduced 4 years later. Both incorporated the hydropneumatic suspension but unlike the CX which had a 4 cylinder transverse-mounted water-cooled engine, the GS was equipped with a four-cylinder air-cooled boxer engine.

The hydropneumatic suspension provided incomparable comfort and a driving performance that set standards in the market segment. With four disc brakes and a trunk capacity of 465 litres (710 litres as a Break), the GS was ahead of its time. Other exceptional features included the handbrake integrated into the dashboard and in 1st generation models, an innovative magnifying speedometer.

The GS is still a marvel in interior packaging and trunk space given its modest exterior size. The Berline (sedan model) is a length of 4.12 metres, a width of 1.60 metres, a height of 1.34 metres and an empty weight of just 900 kilograms – perfectly tailored to the requirements of the time. The only thing initial reviewers had issue with was the modest 1,015 cc engine’s output of just 54 hp. Citroen addressed the issue with the introduction in September 1972, with a larger 1,222 cc engine that produced significantly more torque and increased power to 60 hp. In subsequent years, engine size increased to 1,299 cc producing 66 hp and a 5-peed gearbox was made available. A 3-speed C-Matic semi-automatic transmission was available as an alternative to the manual gearbox.

Citroën also offered the GS Birotor (also called Citroën GZ), featuring a 106 hp Wankel Birotor engine produced as a joint venture with NSU. Launched in October 1973, the Birotor cost as much as the larger Citroën DS at the time and 70% more than the standard GS. The fuel economy was worse than the largest DS and since the 1973 oil crisis had just commenced, the Birotor proved to not be economical. That engine seal reliability forced Citroën to quickly pull it from the market, after just 847 units had been sold.

The GS received a facelift in 1979 and was subsequently marketed as the GSA in hatchback and estate body styles (1979-1986). In total, almost 2.5 million units were sold.

GSA Break.

Today, collectors appreciate the GS for its unique lines, innovative design and excellent driving characteristics. Even fifty years after its launch, the model still has very devoted fans.

Citroen will also present a special GS at Rétromobile with a recent interior designed by Tristan Auer for the Parisian hotel “Les Bains”. It will be on display for three years at the hotel at 7 rue du Bourg L’Abbé – an institution in Paris since the 1970s. Denis Huille of Citroën Heritage states: “The restoration was carried out under the supervision of Citroën Heritage.”

GS interior designed by Tristan Auer.

In addition to featuring the GS, Citroën will also showcase a detailed replica of the “Scarabée d’Or” commemorating the first crossing of the Sahara by automobile in 1922.

In January 1921 André Citroën founded a department responsible for planning the expedition from Toggourt (Algeria) to Timbuktu (Mali). The vehicles were equipped with Adolphe Kégresse’s caterpillar drive, a world first.

André Citroën studies the 1st Sahara Expedition route.

The Sahara crossing took place between December 19, 1922 and 7 January 7,1923, utilizing five Citroën B2s with caterpillar drive. They were named Scarabée d’Or, Croissant d’Argent, Tortue Volante, Bœuf Apis and Chenille Rampante – the latter two were responsible for freight. The Citroën B2 10 HP model K1 served as a base. Led by Georges-Marie Haardt and Louis Audouin-Dubreuil, they covered 3,200 kilometres through the desert. Initially only the one-way route was planned. However, the high reliability of the vehicles also made the return journey possible. This expedition paved the way for others, including the “Croisière Jaune”, as well as for the exploration of new areas, which were subsequently mapped.

1st Sahara expedition from Toggourt to Timbuktu.

These expeditions have been featured in films and books and are a demonstration of the know-how and spirit of adventure that Citroën stands for. As is so often the case, there is a little story behind the big story: the crew included the dog Flossie, who inspired the Belgian comic artist Hergé to create “Snowy” from “Tintin”.

Many media reported about the desert expedition which was daring for its time. The news was transmitted by radio and telegraph. The expedition illustrated Citroën’s industrial, technical and commercial know-how, but was also a human adventure. In the foreword to his book about the expedition, published in 1923, André Citroën told of these adventurers: “Their greatest satisfaction is to know that they have contributed to a lasting work, a work that will continue even though they themselves will no longer be alive. The builders will one day die, but the work is done.”

In addition to the Citroën booth at Rétromobile, Citroën Clubs will be present and, their exhibited vehicles include:

  • L’agence CX – CX GTI Turbo 2 (1986)
  • C4 C6 Vintage Club – C6 Sedan (1931)
  • La Traction Universelle – Traction Avant 11 Légère (1938)
  • Association of the 2CV Club de France – 2 CV Charleston (1980)
  • Méhari Club de France – Méhari Arlequin (1972)
  • Citromini – Miniature vehicles GS, Motorsport
  • GSAventure – GS 1015 (1971)
  • Club Citroën France – GSA Tuner (limited special edition, 1982)

As well as the Amicale Citroën Internationale (ACI), the umbrella organization of clubs worldwide, will have a booth.

In the boutique “Le Petit Citroën” new articles, as well as selected products from the lifestyle collection, will be available. The new products include miniature 1:43 scale vehicles of the GS (37 Euro) and the 1:43 scale models of the CX (37 Euro) and in 1:64 scale (5 Euro). Also a 2CV wall lamp (30 Euro).