In Memoriam – Robert Opron (February 22, 1932 – March 29, 2021)

We are saddened to announce the passing of Robert Opron, who headed the design of the last great generation of Citroëns, prior to the company’s takeover by Peugeot in 1974. He died on March, 29, 2021 in Antony, Hauts-de-Seine, France at the age of 89.

Opron had an eye for the avant-garde when it came to styling cars, with a career that began at Simca, designing the wild, bubble-topped Simca Fulgur.

He then moved to Citroen in 1962 to study under Flaminio Bertonii, who designed the Traction Avant, 2CV, Ami and DS. Upon Bertoni’s death in February 1964, Opron became head of design at Citroën with his first project being the revision to the front of the DS.

Early versions of Robert Opron’s revision sketch to the DS front end.

He then embarked on restylings of the 2CV, the Dyane, the Ami 8, the Wankel-Powered M35, and did outstanding styling of three completely new models introducing a new era of aerodynamics and organic design with the SM, the GS, and the CX.

Robert Opron inspecting a GS clay body model.
SM clay styling model.

Opron was even involved in the Citroën 350 Bus and the C35 panel van, which appeared in 1974.

One of Robert Opron’s favourite challenges was the CX, delivering a “space-age” four-door sedan replacement of the DS. Like the DS, he sought to produce a timeless design that in a world of rather boring sedan offerings from other companies, offered an exciting and unique look while at the same time delivering passenger comfort and practicality. He did that with the CX in a model that was easier to mass produce than the DS.

To add to his legacy, the SM was named Motor Trend Car of the Year in 1972, and the GS was European Car of the Year in 1971, and the CX in 1975.

John McCulloch and George Dyke interviewed Robert Opron when he and his wife Genevieve attended the Citroën Rendezvous at Saratoga Springs, NY in 2004. You can read about his start in automotive design and time with Citroën and comments on the SM, GS and CX — in his own words, here: https://www.sugarsync.com/pf/D1866000_06300102_804205

Genevieve and Robert Opron at Rendezvous in 2004.

After leaving Citroën in 1974, Opron headed to Renault, where he left his mark on the Renault 9, 11, 25, Supercinq, Fuego and Rodeo 5, the Vesta prototype, Renault Espace and Express, and even the Alpine V6. He then worked as a designer for Fiat for 6 years, ending upon his “official” retirement in 1992. He then acted as an independent consultant from the 1990s with Ligier Optima, Ambra and Dué, among others.

Robert Opron was sought after to be a featured guest at many classic car events such as Retromobile and Technoclassica and achieved numerous honours from Citroën Clubs that welcomed him as a guest.

His last public appearance was at the Citroën 100th anniversary celebration at La Ferté-Vidame, France in 2019.

Although he had been in failing health for some time, the cause of his death has been attributed to Covid-19. Robert is survived by his wife Genevieve, and his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Our sincere condolences go out to them.

Read more about Robert Opron here: http://www.citroenet.org.uk/miscellaneous/opron/obituary.html

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