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CitroŽn GS & GSA Topklasse in het middensegment


Marc StabŤl






€ 37,50

In 1970, CitroŽn launched two new models: the Maserati-powered SM supercar and the far more modest but ultimately more interesting and influential GS. The vast majority of cars sold in Britain in 1970 were utterly conventional, rear wheel drive vehicles with live rear axles, drum brakes and the aerodynamics of a house brick – cars like the Ford Cortina, Ford Escort, Morris Marina, Vauxhall Viva, Ford Capri, and Hillman Avenger.  It is true that the Mini and 1100/1300 broke the mould with front wheel drive.  In mainland Europe, much the same held true although Renault and Peugeot built front wheel drive cars.

Back in 1960 CitroŽn sold two ranges of cars.  The D Series which, in Britain at least, was viewed as an expensive luxury car and the 2CV which was (wrongly) viewed as a primitive and agricultural contraption.  Between these two extremes, CitroŽn’s competitors had the marketplace to themselves.  During the 1960s, the Renault 4 was making inroads into 2CV territory and Peugeot’s 203 and 204 were major players in CitroŽn’s domestic market.  CitroŽn’s response was the Ami 6, the underpinnings of which derived from the 2CV.  The Ami 6 was always viewed as a stopgap product.  The Dyane was introduced as a Renault 4 competitor.

Work started in 1960 on a project to fill this gap - the C 60 - longer and wider than the Ami but employing some of that car's styling elements such as the reverse rake rear window and with a front end reminiscent of the DS, it would have been powered by a flat four air cooled engine of either 1,100 cc or 1,400 cc and the larger-engined version would have used hydropneumatic suspension. Development costs escalated and in 1963, the decision was taken to cut their losses and start a new project – a project which nearly brought about the demise of the company and which was indirectly responsible for the Peugeot take over in 1974.

Projet F (also known as Projet AP) was to have been the definitive middle range CitroŽn and was conceived in four versions using a bored out to 750cc version of the 2CV flat twin; flat four, air-cooled one litre;1600cc transverse mounted unit derived from the D Series and a Wankel rotary version, the latter fitted with hydropneumatic suspension while the other versions used torsion bars

While the use of advanced techniques such as front wheel drive and hydropneumatics had been enough to put CitroŽn at the forefront of automotive technology during the preceding thirty years, it was felt that something new was required if the company were to maintain its reputation.  That something was the Wankel rotary engine and a joint venture was set up with NSU to build the powerplants.  Unfortunately, the Wankel engine proved to be unreliable, thirsty, and very dirty (it would take another forty years until these problems were solved by Mazda) and there were problems with body rigidity.  The two versions (torsion bar and hydropneumatic) differed in length from each other and the conventionally sprung vehicle suffered too great a variation in ride height between unladen and laden states and there were problems with road holding and handling.  Additionally there was a considerable shortfall in refinement when the prototypes were pitted against the C60.  Work on this project had reached an extremely advanced stage when Renault launched the almost identically styled 16 and to add insult to injury, the technique chosen for Projet F for welding the roof and door frames had been patented by Renault.  CitroŽn had decided not to patent the process since it did not want its competitors to have any inkling of what they were up to.  On 14th April 1967, the project was dropped – presses ordered from Budd had to be paid for and millions of Francs were written off. 

This book tells the incredible story of project G and its predecessors and how it was launched after only three years of development and then goes on to cover every variant of the car including the Wankel-powered Birotor and some lesser known vehicles built in Spain, Portugal, South Africa, the former Yugoslavia and Indonesia.  It also analyses the car’s reception in markets outside France.

There are numerous hitherto unpublished photos of several restyling exercises from 1974 on and pictures of the development of the GSA.

Inevitably this book will bear comparison with the only other book about the GS - ‘La CitroŽn GS de mon pŤre’ by Dominique Pagneux and for most British readers, French is probably a more familiar language than Dutch but StabŤl’s book contains much more information and more accurate information; is written with a passion that Pagneux’s book seems to lack; and contains a huge number of unpublished photographs.  I asked Marc StabŤl about this and he told me that in 2000, together with Martijn Kok he had already published a book on the GS & GSA since this model had been unfairly neglected by motoring book publishers.  A mere 450 copies were printed (so it is a collector’s item) and then, one month later, ETAI published ‘La CitroŽn GS de mon pŤre’.  The StabŤl/Kok book looked rather amateurish in comparison with its very small and almost completely monochrome pictures and unclear captions. It clearly could not compete with the full colour French book. This certainly cannot be said for this book which, although based on the 2000 book, has a completely different hardback presentation and full colour illustrations, and furthermore the content of the book has been hugely expanded and amended where new information has been discovered over the last 16 years. When his old friend Thijs van der Zanden published his CitroŽn Visa book in 2010, StabŤl started toying with the idea of revamping the GS & GSA book and the result is yet another beautiful book from the Citrovisie Publishing house.  Thijs was responsible for the layout and for many of the new pictures and information, thanks to his contacts at CitroŽn. Martijn Kok was also involved at an early stage but had to withdraw due to other commitments.
I owned three G Series cars and for sheer driving pleasure, they were amongst the best CitroŽns I have ever owned.  They had their faults it is true: underpowered; thirsty; and a pig to work on and then of course there was the rust (although in this latter regard, they were no worse than their peers – just ask any Alfa Sud owner).  The car was also a technological delight (as one discovered when working on them) so when Thijs told me that he would be publishing a book on the GS and GSA, I was really excited.  The book fully met my expectations.

About the author
Marc StabŤl, was born in 1961, is married to IrŤne, he has two children and lives in Eindhoven in the Netherlands where he teaches English and Dutch at a secondary school.

His passion for CitroŽn started in his youth, when his parents decided their Trabant 601 had become too unreliable and bought a 2CV4.  Five years later, their ‘Deuche’ was replaced by a GSpťcial. At the age of 19, Marc bought his first car: a DSpťcial. Just as I did, he discovered that such a car is less than ideal transport for an impecunious student so that experience didn’t last very long. Eventually, after years of riding a bike, he bought himself a GSA Club, which he drove for some 12 years. After the GSA there have been a BX 14 RE, a BX Break 16 TRI, a Xantia 1.6 Pallas and a Xantia Break 2.0 16V. Currently he drives a C5 II  Break 2.0 16V.

Once again, my only complaint is that the book is only available in Dutch. When I put this to him, he observed “…pictures speak louder than words. In which case you might want to cover your ears.”

If enough people were to commit to buying an English language version, perhaps Citrovisie might be persuaded to provide a version in English. 

Citrovisie was founded by Thijs van der Zanden, who combines his passion for writing and CitroŽns.
Citrovisie publishes books which will interest the enthusiasts of the CitroŽn brand. 
The formula is simple: no basic books with well-known facts and standard photographs, but books full of new information and unseen images. Besides the heap of information a Citrovisie book offers, it's also a lot of fun browsing through the chapters, since there are many images in the books many of which have never been published before.

© 2016 Julian Marsh/Images © 2016 Citrovisie