A short history of Charles de Gaulle's Citroën DS 21 'Presidentielle'

This car was an underdog. Which is why I love it.

10w ago

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Charles de Gaulle was a French army officer and statesman, one of the most important political figures in the history of France, and shortly after being elected president in 1959, he decided to freshen up the government's car fleet.

De Gaulle was drawn to the Citroën DS 19, a car he adored, and he decided to get one, legend has it he actually bought the car himself from the showroom, in black. The car was left completely standard, with no modifications whatsoever, and for about three years, De Gaulle was happily chauffeured around in the back seat of a black 19.

One day in August 1962, on his way to Villacoublay military airport, his DS and the convoy of black DSs he was riding with were attacked by terrorists. Fortunately, no one got hurt but once again De Gaulle was pressured to take safety steps to make he and his staff were protected. He eventually had to give in and agreed to using a bulletproof as long as it was a DS.

the bullet holes on De Gaulle's DS 19

the bullet holes on De Gaulle's DS 19

The project took longer than expected and even though the team he'd put together to design the car initially thought about using the 19, they eventually opted the DS21, introduced in 1965, because it would be easier to make it bulletproof.

The new car, dubbed the 'Presidentielle', was powered by the same 109-hp 2175 cc engine as the standard 21, with new electronic fuel injectors by Bosch, with redesigned interior and a customized number plate "1-PR-75".

It's hard to call this project successful for a variety of reasons. The DS 19 became an icon because that's the car that saved his life in the assassination attempt, whereas this DS 21 was a bit of an underdog, which makes it more charming, in a way. In the end, it was only ready in 1968 and De Gaulle only used it three times because in the meantime, he'd also bought a DS 21 Pallas.

In 1969, De Gaulle resigned and his successor, Georges Pompidou inherited the 'Presidentielle'.

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Comments (19)

  • Interesting article, thanks for it! Two years ago I had a chance to see that car, along with many presidential DS at the Retromobile ( egzostive.com/retromobile-2018-ds/ ), from this one to the 2018 DS7 used by Président Macron.

    This was the most impressive by far (Holland's DS5 was the absolute low), Prez Pompidou may have taken over this, but he later used an open one (primarily for the parades).

      2 months ago
  • Somewhere in France, hidden in a small village, there's a museum with former cars of various heads of state. I found this place accidentally, when driving through France a couple of years ago. Among other cars, they also have De Gaulle's DS 19, the one from the picture, in which he survived the terrorist ambush, with bullet holes and all. Turns out they even shot one tire but the car kept going because of its hydropneumatic suspension. Amazing stuff!

      2 months ago
    • I think I saw their cars a few years ago (egzostive.com/retromobile-2018-ds/). Can you recall where it was more exactly (which region of France?) I quite often go t France on holidays, so there is a chance I might visit them.

        2 months ago
    • It should be this one: Musee de l'Automobile du Chateau de Montjalin but apparently they don't have those presidential cars any longer...

      Read more
        2 months ago
  • #carstories #classics

      2 months ago
  • Dumb phone. Not butts leak. Should have said "but sleak"

      2 months ago
    • it's an interesting story for an interesting car that is usually overlooked

        2 months ago
    • I always like that particular Citron. It was weird, butts leak an odd enough to be interesting

        2 months ago
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