When I recently visited a Citroën workshop – where old cars are still being lovingly cared for – my companion described an early ID standing on the lift in very unflattering terms: “I don’t like the old headlights… “
I belong to those who believe that ALL ID’s and DS’s enjoy high status and that is why my friend’s somewhat plebeian statement buried itself into my otherwise “spacious” ears.
When Citroën launched the ID / DS in the mid-1950s, they probably thought they had a sensation up their sleeve, but I highly doubt that they thought it was going to be one of history’s most striking car designs. However, that’s indeed what happened, and in this context it is crazy to think that a decade later Citroën set out to modernize the design of the car.
Naturally, the brave man to whom it fell to perform this task was Citroën’s new head of design Robert Opron. I suppose he must have been nervous of stepping into the shoes of the former head of design, the enigmatic Flaminio Bertoni and the masterpieces he left behind. Nevertheless, Opron made his changes to the ID / DS in 1968 and the results more than speak for themselves.
Opron, fortunately, proved more than capable of solving the task, despite unsuccessful attempts to reinvent the rear end, and the facelift of the 1968 car not only managed the feat of honoring the original, but improved it to such an extent that in many ways the facelifted car is seen as the definitive, the “real” DS. So well integrated were the new headlights that it quickly became almost impossible to imagine any other arrangement.
As such, I had to agree with my opinionated friend as we stood and let our eyes fall upon the old IDs with the old type headlights. It had auxiliary lights mounted, which helped a bit, but they were not nearly as harmonious and natural as Opron’s changes. We thank him for that and raise our hats. Facelifts, or updates, rarely improve on an original and successful design; the DS is an exception to this rule.
If I can think of another similar example, it would be Porsche’s addition of the so-called “harmonica bumper” in 1974. A simple and well thought out solution to new safety requirements that ended up serving the original design well.