Featured: Accessible Classic: The Fantastic, Forgotten Citroën GS

Accessible Classic: The Fantastic, Forgotten Citroën GS

Petrolicious Productions By Petrolicious Productions
April 1, 2015
17 comments

Photography by Carl Legelius, Claes Johansson, Simon Hamelius

Launched in 1970—the same year as the famous SM—the GS filled an important slot in the Citroën range. Up until the GS arrived there had been an obvious gap between the frugal 2CV and its derivatives and the large and luxurious DS. GS stood for Grand Series to really point out that this was the marques’ new volume car.

The 13.7-ft long (4.2-metre) GS was aimed at the growing middle class, and competed both in size, performance and price with cars like the Ford Taunus/Cortina, Opel Ascona, Saab 96, Morris Marina, Fiat 124, Alfasud and Volkswagen K70.

Why pick the GS over the more mainstream competition? Simple: its advanced construction and unrivalled ride comfort. It had the hydropneumatic suspension and brake system of its larger siblings, disc brakes all ’round, and a newly-developed, high-revving air-cooled four cylinder engine.

I drive a 1975 Citroën GS 1220 Pallas. It has the slighter larger engine of 1,222-cc, compared to the first cars, offered with just a 1,015-cc engine. The Pallas trim in the Citroën range means it’s the top model with more brightwork, thicker carpeting, and higher-spec upholstery. Even today, I think it’s really elegant—and has aged remarkably well.

It was bought new by a man in Kiruna, the northernmost town in Sweden—a small community north of the Arctic Circle. Rather oddly, he only drove three cars in his life, the first a Model T Ford, the second a ’50s Ford Taunus 12m, and finally, the Citroën GS. He must really have felt the technical development of the car industry with each trade-up!

After some 30 years of pedantical ownership (he was well known at the local Citroën garage) he sold the car to an enthusiast who had a light restoration of the car carried out. There was no rust at all and the tobacco brown interior was in very good condition, but the original metallic paint work was very matted down by time.

When I was 18 and just had received my driving licence in the mid-eighties, there were plenty of GS models around to choose from. Better yet, they were dirt cheap! I ran a string of them, buying them for a song, enjoying their comfort and roadholding until an expensive part broke, usually after a year or so. Then it was passed on to another motorist even more cheaply—or scrapped.

This example, however, was a whole new deal: a GS in almost mint condition. I was proud to really care for it, and I only used in the summer time. As soon as I got behind the one-spoke steering wheel, I felt at home. Despite its humble engine capacity, the GS is a car that loves to be driven…and the feel of performance you get out of the 1.2-litre engine is a lot stronger than the 60 horsepower its specification says.

The feeling on road is of a much larger car, with stability and road holding that beggars belief—just look at those narrow tires! The only thing you have to adapt to is the high-revving engine: 5500–6000 rpm on the motorway sounds a lot but feels totally effortless for the car.

When you compare the GS with the often three times more expensive SM coupé you see many similarities.

In period, the Citroën GS lived up to its name and became a big seller—at least by Citroën standards. Together with its facelifted successor, the GSA, more than 2.5 million cars were built. Today, sadly very few still exist…and the interest even among Citroën enthusiasts is very limited.

I think the GS is even more fascinating than the larger DS and SM—because, like the 2CV, the GS was a “people’s car” that drove as well as the very best cars of its era.

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[…] Accessible Classic: The Fantastic, Forgotten Citroën GS … […]

Souffle
Souffle

I recently bought a GS and having had a CX and a DSpécial the GS is I think the best car they made. The combination of a bigger flat air cooled 4 cylinder motor ( from the 2CV lineage) and the less complicated hydroneumatics from the D’s combine to make them a hell of a car, comfortable, zippy and easy to maintain. I am going over the mechanicals in my GS but not doing any cosmetic restoration as it is great just the way it is. It might look a bit sad, luckily virtually no rust, but when you open… Read more »

DerekR
DerekR

Nice write up, well done. I also have a 1975 GS Pallas, and the paintwork is original – falling off, with one door looking like rhinoceros hide! But she’s almost rust free having spent most of her life in France, and has been cavity waxed with Dynax S-50 on being imported into the UK in 2008. I have had GSA’s before, and the ride and handling have been outstanding. It’s a shame that they appear to be a ‘forgotten classic’, I think in part it’s because they look like most cars from the 1980’s on – just ahead of their… Read more »

Henning Marcard

Very nice contribution, thanks. my second car was a 1978 GS and I loved it. But needed a lot of welding due to salted streets at the time. My dream was always arust-free GS/A and once the internet was introduced to the world, I could find me one in southern France. One thing that I’d like to stress: The GS is one of only a very few cars that has been designed and constructed completely new. No other parts such as engine/drive train or suspension taken from a previous or sister model. That’s what gives it a distinct personality. The… Read more »

Gary Kurzer

In the past, I have owned a GS1015 Convertissuer, various GS1220 sedans and wagons (estates). Today (Feb 2017) I have taken possession of a rather wild (customised) GS1220 5 speed. I will post some pics later. I have also owned D Series cars (1966. 1967, 1968, 1973, 1974 … presently 2 DS23 Pallas sedans …) CXs (presently 2 x CX2500s) and a 2CV. Also a great Xantia Activa and various C5s (currently a 2.2HDI). There is a strong family thread that runs with those hydraulic models (DS, CX, GS) and all are great cars, with the CX and GS being… Read more »

Peter Lukáč
Peter Lukáč

Very nice one, man. 🙂 And the text is good to read. I have never seen GS, or at least I don´t remember, but I always liked that car. It´s under “shadow” of “glory” of famosu Citroen classics, like 2CV, DS, SM, but also Ami, but it´s very interesting car. Still not so expensive, with hydraulic suspension and nice, timeless design… Have a place on my lsit of cars, which I would like to get.

Giannis Papoutsis
Giannis Papoutsis

I have one but dont have the funds ….
[URL=http://s478.photobucket.com/user/gatonini/media/CITROEN/P1110066.jpg.html][IMG]http://i478.photobucket.com/albums/rr148/gatonini/CITROEN/P1110066.jpg[/IMG][/URL]
[URL=http://s478.photobucket.com/user/gatonini/media/CITROEN/P1110063.jpg.html][IMG]http://i478.photobucket.com/albums/rr148/gatonini/CITROEN/P1110063.jpg[/IMG][/URL]
[URL=http://s478.photobucket.com/user/gatonini/media/CITROEN/P1110065.jpg.html][IMG]http://i478.photobucket.com/albums/rr148/gatonini/CITROEN/P1110065.jpg[/IMG][/URL]

Jorrit Hermans
Jorrit Hermans

My dad drove a grass green Citroën GS in 1982.
I remember it already started rusting on photographs in the sales catalogue…

Riccardo
Riccardo

Nice article and what a beautiful car!

I love all these Citroens from this era, DS, CX, GS, 2CV, even the Ami (Break!) I like.

Luc Bonachera
Luc Bonachera

My first car, back in 1993, was a 1977 GS 1220 Club. Hated its looks (it was white and I had all my friends draw on it with black markers, I hated that color so much), but love its engine note and handling, especially on snow thanks to its skinny tires and height adjustable suspension.

Rene Borggreve
Rene Borggreve

This story brings me back to 1980 when my father bought his first Citroen, a red GSA. The GSA was a facelifted version of the GS with a ´fifth´door and had a bigger 1299 cc flat four engine with 65 horsepower. The self leveling suspension was a nice gimmick.
Carl your GS Pallas is very nice example of the GS series. Enjoy it and keep it on the road.;)

Thomas maine
Thomas maine
Vintage Son
Vintage Son

I really used to dislike French cars, namely Citroens. Usually felt they were bland and uninteresting. But I’ve seen that they were bland to me because I didn’t see what they were actually doing. Personally some of the most character filled cars I’ve ever heard of. Hell, some of them are genuinely attractive, such as this GS. Great looking car, hopefully someone will have one of these at the import show this year.

Ae Neuman
Ae Neuman

i miss theses genuine little citroens.
at the time they were popular cars, well designed, great to drive, even affordable.
where have they all gone ?

Vintage Son
Vintage Son

In the US at least, they either:
1. Fell into great disrepair because there were never many Citroen dealers
2. They all rusted
3. Some combination of the two, and/or one caused the other.

Greg Long
Greg Long

Vintage Son, they never sold them in the US or Canada… a handful were brought in for testing, and stayed, but that’s it. The Citroen Executives choose to focus on the Mehari instead… a really bad business decision… the GS would have done well here in the US, I bet, like all the other markets.

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange

Cool car, shame there are not that many left on the road these days. Remember one of the custom car mags featured one a few years ago. It had white wall tyres which sounds horrendous but worked really well on the GS.