“Wow, what make of car is that …?” Difficult to say these days. With a few exceptions. There was a time once when each make of car had its own unique look. And there were (and still are) a number of faces in the crowd that stood out from all the rest – not least because of the design and arrangement of their headlights. Our mini-series will take a subjective look at some of the most spectacular designs and some of the weirdest, some long forgotten and some that are still on the roads today. We’ll start with the DS/ID, the Déesse from Citroën. The goddess with the minor technical miracles created by designers with vision and courage.
Whatever the legends and myths surrounding the launch in 1955 of Citroen’s latest model, the thing looked and still looks like a futuristic spaceship. Apart from the many innovations (hydropneumatic suspension linked with the brakes, gears and steering) and an aerodynamic design that delivered impressive performance from relatively modest horsepower, the DS had one thing above all others that made it stand out – it had a face. The broad front end was flanked by protruding wings which in models from 1967 onwards housed huge dual headlights. A mechanical link to the steering column enabled them swivel to illuminate corners, preempting a feature that 50 years later is only just starting to gain ground. To protect the mechanism from dirt from the road and from rain the two round headlights fitted with Bilux lamps (an Osram invention by the way) were installed behind a smooth glass cover. That’s another thing that we’re seeing more and more on current vehicles.
A DS or an ID (a model of the same design but with a lower spec in terms of engine and trim) is timeless. It was never new or dated, it was just different. Provocatively different but by and large ingenious, and unless it was the “Pallas” model with all the bells and whistles it was extremely reliable and easy to repair. Its streamlined shape, its plastic roof that slanted down at the back and the four frameless doors make the car so likable and attract admiring glances wherever it is seen. And it’s instantly recognizable in the rear view mirror. Although the DS comes from a time before rapid developments in headlight technology really took off, it has character and therefore a kind of “expression”, by day and by night. It doesn’t look “angry” or a bit silly like some small cars from that era. It looks alert, vigilant, focused. The very definition of cool.
Over time its “eyes” were given a more modern look. For a long time lamp inserts with H4 bases have been available for it. Halogen lamps are still to be found in very many current vehicles, and Osram continues to work on making improvements to these lamps which have been produced in their millions since the 1970s. With Night Breaker Unlimited lamps, for example, even a classic DS can throw bright light onto the road and show not only a pretty face but also that even more than 60 years after its premiere it is still a practical everyday vehicle with bags of character. A car for everyone, but particularly for individualists.