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CitroŽn The Complete Story


Lance Cole


The Crowood Press
The Stable Block
Crowood Lane




+44 (0)1672 520320







Number of pages





280 x 215mm


329 colour photographs


£28 on website

The publisher’s description says “In this new view on the Citroen* story, Lance Cole investigates not just the details of the cars of CitroŽn, but the aeronautical and cultural origins that lay behind CitroŽn's form and function. The book digs deep into the ethos of Automobiles CitroŽn to create a narrative on one of the greatest car manufacturers in history. Using interviews, translations, archive documents and specially-commissioned photographs, the CitroŽn journey is cast in a fresh perspective.”

  • Explains in detail the influences upon CitroŽn design: Voisin, Lefebve (sic), Bertoni, Boulanger, Mages (sic), Opron and recent CitroŽn designers such as Coco, Blakeslee and Soubirou.

  • As well as all the men of the great period of 1920s - 1970s expansion, cites less well-known names of CitroŽn's French engineering, design, and influence such as Cayla, Gerin, Giret, Harmand, Dargent and others, to give a full picture of CitroŽn heritage

  • Provides in-depth analysis of all major CitroŽn models with an engineering and design focus

  • Profiles key individuals and cars up to the present day and CitroŽn's 'DS'-branded resurgence

  • Features many newly commissioned photographs, rare archive drawings and interviews with CitroŽn owners

  • Researched amongst leading CitroŽn experts and restorers

* On their website, the name CitroŽn lacks the dieresis and is spelled Citroen and Lefebvre’s name is misspelt as is MagŤs and while this might seem ‘picky’ it is demonstrative of the slightly slipshod approach taken by the publisher which ruins what is an otherwise excellent book.  Fortunately, the correct spelling is used in the book.

The finger of blame must also be pointed at Crowood for the title.  “The Complete Story” is a series of automotive books.  Unfortunately, it is not possible to cover the ‘complete story’ of any automotive manufacturer in some three hundred odd pages; indeed there are books with more pages than this which are dedicated to a single model and these rarely manage to tell the entire story.  So, a change of title would be a good idea.

I approached this book with a great deal of anticipation; not least because Lance and I had discussions while he was still researching it.  I also greatly admire Lance as a writer.  His prose is second-to-none and if anyone deserves the epithet of ‘the new LJKS’ (Leonard Setright), it is Lance Cole.  He has the knack of making quite complex issues easy to understand and, like LJKS, he frequently approaches his subject from a refreshingly new standpoint.

Where this book really excels is in its explanation of what would nowadays be called ‘CitroŽn’s corporate culture’ or ‘company psychology’; of what made CitroŽn unique among motor manufacturers in an era when the ground rules for car design had not been established.  He explains how the company’s design team was given a free hand to investigate new and radical solutions rather than merely refine existing solutions; and to develop new technologies when existing ones were found to be lacking.

The principle models each have a chapter dedicated to them and as mentioned above, Lance brings a new perspective to his descriptions of them.

The book does, however, have a number of flaws.  Probably the most serious is the poor proofing with lots of typos being left uncorrected.  There are a few minor errors and some surprising omissions (including a couple of pictures of the Belphťgor trucks but no explanation of what these are).  CitroŽn’s trucks and buses are not covered.  CitroŽn’s operations in North America are covered, albeit somewhat superficially but the company is called CitroŽn America rather than CitroŽn Cars Corporation.

Some of the non-period pictures were clearly taken at CitroŽn meetings and sadly, some of these are poorly cropped.  I would rather have seen more contemporary pictures.

I found the layout rather dated with text boxes breaking up the flow of the prose.

To sum up then, this book is a flawed diamond.  Were it not for the proofing, it would merit 5 stars. The majority of the shortcomings would seem to be the fault of the publisher.  However, as an exposition of what made CitroŽn unique, it is unparalleled and therefore comes strongly recommended.

© 2014 Julian Marsh