By Maz Woolley
All text and photographs by, and copyright of, the Author.
General de Gaulle favoured Citroën cars following the abortive attempt to assassinate him in 1962 when the ability of the Citroën hydro-pneumatic suspension to keep the car under control and driveable even with tyres shot out is said to have saved his life. Rather than start being driven in armoured cars he kept using Citroën cars and ordered a presidential limousine in 1962. It is said his only requirement was that it was longer than John F. Kennedy’s Lincolns!
Citroën turned to Henri Chapron to carry out the specialist bodywork and it took six years before the public saw the car in 1968. It was 6.53 meters in length and 1.96 meters high. Although based on a DS21 the car is different from almost any angle whilst maintaining a DS family look.
The designers were Opron and Dargent and they went to town with gold badging and two tone grey finish. Inside the car they fitted large areas of woodwork in curved shapes even in front of the driver. The car was trimmed in pale leather throughout. A bar, a refrigerator, reading lights and a foldable desk are also part of the on-board equipment.
Powered by a DS21 engine of 2.1 litres it had manual transmission and a modified cooling system to allow the vehicle to run at low speed during official visits. A maximum speed of around 130 Kph is said to be achievable.
Delivered to the Elysee in 1968, this presidential DS was used only rarely. It is said that General de Gaulle only went in it three times as he disliked the separation from the driver with whom he liked chatting. Georges Pompidou scarcely used it either. The car is now owned by Citroën Heritage.
The Atlas model is made in China to 1:43 scale in diecast metal with a plastic base. It was made by Ixo for Atlas I believe. It is one of a series of presidential cars sold on subscription in many continental countries but not in the UK. However this model has been sold by Atlas to third parties and has even been seen on eBay shipping from China.
The model is excellently modelled with a splendid interior including the huge sweeping division glass as well as the additional vents modelled behind the rear window. The steering wheel and gear change are nicely modelled and the sweeping instrument panel moulded in some detail though lacking printed instruments.
The model captures the size and stance of the car well with the chromed wheels well reproduced as well as gold badges on C pillars, shield shape wing markings. There is a small aerial modelled in down position, an emblem inserted into the bonnet, super side mouldings, and bumpers with the correct number plates printed on. To the rear the chrome rear panel and inset lights are well captured. Even the door handle are small inserted parts. The yellow inset front lights under their covers are worthy of a much more expensive model.
All in all an impressive model of an impressive car.
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