By Classic Yorkshire correspondent Tony Lofthouse.
Nearly 70 years after its launch the Citroën DS remains one of the most innovative European cars of its time – a technological and design classic.
If you need any persuading meet Ray Calvert, a lifelong enthusiast of the stylish French car maker and in particular all things DS.
A look around his Bradford garage is a step back in time and a reflection of Citroën’s popularity over the years. Outside there are old DS, GS, Xantia, CX, Xsara, C5 and BX models sharing space with executive SM coupés.
I’d been invited to see Ray’s latest restoration success – a 1967 DS 21 Pallas, which had been rescued from a storage unit in France in a badly rusting state.
Four years on and he has painstakingly rebuilt the car for its new owner in Huddersfield.
The range topping Pallas was launched in 1965, an iconic addition to the DS range with its advanced hydro-pneumatic suspension giving an amazing ride. A turn of the ignition key would automatically raise the car for road comfort. In addition, the DS featured ground-breaking power steering and a semi-automatic transmission system.
More innovations included headlamps that moved with the steering, enabling the driver to better see ‘around’ turns in the road.
It’s fair to say when the DS debuted at the Paris Motor Show in 1955 no one had seen anything like it – its aerodynamic lines giving it a jaw-dropping look. Facelift models followed including cabriolet and safari estate versions. In 1975 the last of 1.46 million DS cars rolled off the production line.
The DS would also go on to have a successful rally career including overall wins in the 1959 and 1966 Monte Carlo Rally.
For Ray, the 2.1 litre Pallas has proved one of his most rewarding projects.
Ray explains: “The car came to me in a sorry state and other restorers wouldn’t touch it.
“It’s been a big task involving replacing the floor and sills, restoring the doors, wing panels and wheel arches. I’ve completely rebuilt the engine, whilst the body work was fully stripped ready for a respray in metallic grey.
“Wherever possible I’ve kept its original fittings such as chrome door handles, rear lights, wheel trims and its gear stick.”
The car is unusual in featuring frog-eyed headlights that move up and down. A model facelift in 1968 would see the headlights fitted with glass covered canopies.
Inside, Ray has sourced original Pallas fittings, replacing the cloth upholstery with leather and even tracking down a second-hand dashboard from Germany. New carpets have kept to the DS look. To bring a little modern styling, the radio’s facia hides digital technology and the dash instruments are lit with tasteful green LED lighting.
Ray said: “By Christmas 2021, the car was ready to return to the road after 25 years under wraps.
“As a finishing touch the Pallas went through an MoT and passed, something I wanted to do to give me that extra satisfaction that my hard work has been professionally inspected.
“It’s been a wonderful project. I’ve worked on hundreds of DS models and every time I’m left marvelling at just how ahead of the time they were. Bringing this Pallas back to life though has to be one of my favourites.”
Another memorable project has involved working on a rare DS Safari brought over from Australia.
Next up for Ray is a full restoration of a late 90s Saxo and the rebuilding of a Maserati engine for an SM owner – examples, if you needed it, of the diversity of this top European car maker.
If you would like to discuss a classic car project with Ray or need advice ring Ray Calvert Classic Car Restorations on 07833 741938
Declaration – I can confirm that Classic Yorkshire received no payment or benefits for this article.