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Citroën produced the DS for 20 years, a sedan that still gets kudos for being as innovative as it was distinctive. When Citroën aimed to return to the premium ranks in 2009, it called its new division DS even though the last of the old four-doors had rolled off the line some 35 years before. The French automaker is still working to establish its premium range, but a coachbuilt coupe called the DS Grand Palais is a rolling demonstration of the DS sheen that Citroën is chasing. Two veteran French automotive industry designers began the project when one of them, Christophe Bihr, bought a 1968 DS21. Bihr asked his former colleague and longtime collaborator Gérard Godfroy to turn the DS21 into a convertible like the Chapron-produced droptops of the 1960s. Godfrey suggested a coupe might be a more distinctive proposition because Citroën never made DS coupes. The result is a gorgeous 2+2 that looks as good today as it would have in 1968.
Godfrey, who’s resume includes the Peugeot 205, coachbuilt projects with Heuliez, and helping to found Venturi Automobiles, didn’t skimp on the effort, working full-time for six months on the design in his Normandy headquarters. The build took place at Bihr’s studio in Le Mans, starting with Godfrey sculpting the new roof profile out of polyurethane foam by hand until he had the shape he wanted. While “reflecting the spirit of the original,” he noted changes like lowering the roofline, removing the B-pillars, lengthening the doors by 10 centimeters, and adding more curve to the rear fenders for more fluid lines. Bihr reinforced the roof and body structure, and fashioned the new panels out of fiberglass. Both men say the DS Grand Palais is stiffer than the original, and is within 40 pounds of the four-door’s weight.
Bihr and the two coachbuilders in his studio spent 6,000 hours fashioning the new car. The curved rear glass enhances the shapeliness of the back deck, which flows to a smooth taper at the top of the rear bumper, unlike on the 1968 car. The aluminum trunk hinges were handmade. The revised interior saw the original car’s window switches moved from the door to the center console, and the door panels redesigned. The radio, which was in front of the passenger in the DS21, was moved within reach of the driver. Interior panels behind the front door curve to meet the rear bench. The fit and finish appears immaculate.
From beginning to end, Godfrey said the DS Grand Palais took 11,000 hours to make between 2014 and 2019. The two men did it only for the pleasure and to have a token to celebrate Citroën’s 100th anniversary last year. They didn’t plan to build any more, but after a showing at Paris’ Retromobile and press coverage, they’ve received requests for two of the DS Grand Palais. “Maybe we could do four or five per year,” Godfrey said, at an estimated cost between €100,000 and €150,000 ($109,000 and $163,000 U.S.). “That would be perfect.” Indeed it would be.