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Citroën GS

Citroën GS/GSA
1983 Citroën GSA Spécial
Manufacturer Citroën
Production 1970–1986
Assembly Rennes, France[1](Chartres-de-Bretagne quarter)
Arica, Chile
Jakarta, Indonesia (Gaya Motor)[2]
Mangualde, Portugal[2]
Vigo, Spain[2]
Port Elizabeth, South Africa[2]
Bangkok, Thailand[2]
Koper, Slovenia (Yugoslavia)[2]
Mutare, Zimbabwe[2]
Designer Robert Opron
Body and chassis
Class Small family car (C)
Body style 4-door fastback
5-door hatchback
5-door estate
3-door van
Layout FF layout
Engine 1015 cc flat-4 air-cooled
1129 cc flat-4 air-cooled
1222 cc flat-4 air-cooled
1299 cc flat-4 air-cooled
2x497.5 cc Wankel engine
Wheelbase 2550 mm (100.39 in)
Length 4120–4180 mm (162.18–164.58 in)
Width 1600–1620 mm (62.99–63.78 in)
Height 1350 mm (53.17 in)
Curb weight 900 kg (1,984 lb) (saloon)
950 kg (2,094 lb) (hatchback)
925 kg (2,039 lb) (3-door van)
(all weights approximate)
Predecessor None
Successor Citroën BX and Citroën ZX

The Citroën GS (1970–80, sedan and wagon) and Citroën GSA (1979–86, liftback and wagon) are small family cars produced by the French automaker Citroën. The GS was voted European Car of the Year for 1971, ahead of stablemate Citroën SM. It was the most technologically advanced car in its class when launched,[3][4] with class leading comfort, safety and aerodynamics.[5]


  • Market placement 1
  • Design stage 2
  • Launch and ongoing development 3
  • Mechanics 4
  • GS Birotor 5
  • GS production abroad 6
  • GSA in German Democratic Republic 7
  • Gallery 8
  • Documentary 9
  • See also 10
  • References 11
  • External links 12

Market placement

The GS filled the enormous gap in Citroën's range, between the 2CV and Ami economy cars and the luxurious DS executive sedan. The DS had moved significantly upmarket from its predecessor the Citroën Traction Avant, and beyond the finances of most French motorists.[6] Leaving this market gap open for fifteen years allowed other manufacturers entry into the most profitable, high volume market segment in France. This combined with the development costs and new factory for the DS-replacing Citroen CX, the 1974 oil crisis, and an aborted Wankel rotary engine, led Citroën to declare bankruptcy in 1974.

The GS met with instant market acceptance and was the largest selling Citroën model for many years. 1,896,742 GS models and 576,757 GSA models were produced in total.

Unlike the 2CV, DS and SM, the GS was never officially imported to the USA.

Design stage

1956 C10 Prototype

The GS took 14 years to develop from initial design to launch.

In 1956, Citroën developed a bubble car prototype to fill the gap in its range between the DS and the 2CV, known as the C10. Development continued with ideas like a Wankel engine and hydropneumatic suspension suggested as possibilities, with a new, modern body to match. Another iteration was the "C60," which resembled an Ami 6 with a long, smooth nose.[7]

In 1963, development had moved to "Project F", which was close to being production ready.[8] Citroën decided the car was too similar to the 1965 [9][10][11]

Launch and ongoing development

1978 GS 1220 Club in Chile

On 24 August 1970, Citroën launched the GS. The body style was as a "Berline" (essentially a saloon, three lateral windows), in a fastback style with a sharp Kamm tail. The aerodynamics gave the best drag coefficient of any vehicle at the time.

Good aerodynamics enabled the car to make the best of the available power, but the car as launched nevertheless drew criticism that it was underpowered. Citroën addressed the issue with the introduction in September 1972, as an option, of a larger 1,222 cc engine.[12] Claimed power increased from 55 bhp (41 kW; 56 PS) to 60 bhp (45 kW; 61 PS), but it was the improved torque that really marked out the more powerful engine, and which enabled the manufacturer, with the larger engined versions, to raise the second gear ratio and the final drive ratio, increasing the vehicle speed per 1,000 rpm from 23 km/h (14.3 mph) to 24.5 km/h (15.2 mph).[12] Larger front brake discs were also fitted.[12]

Visually the GS bore little resemblance to any other car on the market, until the development of the Citroën CX in 1974.

The fastback design, with a separate trunk, was controversial – a hatchback layout was considered too utilitarian by CEO Pierre Bercot. The 1974 CX shared this feature. The boot was nevertheless exceptionally large, in part due to the positioning of the spare wheel on top of the engine.

Both the early GS (until 1976) and the GSA have the unusual rotating drum speedometer (similar in construction to bathroom scales), rather than the dials found in a conventional dashboard. The later GS (from 1977 until the introduction of the GSA) had a conventional speedometer.

The GS was offered in three trims; GS Special, GS Club, and GS Pallas (only saloons) with full wheel covers, side mouldings, tinted glass and upgraded upholstery.

The GS was also available, from September 1971,[13] as a station wagon (estate) and a similar two-door "service" van.

The GSA replaced the GS in 1979 and added a hatchback. Other modifications included a new grille, new bumpers, new taillights, new hubcaps and new exterior handles.[14] It also had a revised dashboard with the auxiliary controls on column-shaped pods so they could be reached without moving the hands from the single-spoked steering wheel; similar to the CX layout. It was partly replaced by the larger BX in 1982, although production continued in reduced volumes until 1986. Citroen did not re-enter the small family hatchback market until the launch of the ZX in 1991.

Contemporary journalists remarked at the smooth ride quality – the hydropneumatic suspension is designed to absorb bumps and ripples that would be uncomfortable in a conventionally sprung car with just a slight body movement.[15]


The vehicle had a front-wheel drive layout and was powered by a flat-4 air-cooled engine.[16] A series of small engines were available, displacing 1015, 1129, 1222 and 1299 cc. Power ranged from 55 PS (40 kW) to 66 PS (49 kW). Mated to a four speed gearbox, these were able to pull this car up to steady 151 km/h (94 mph) at 6250 rpm (with 1222 cc engine), due to the very aerodynamic body shape. Citroën's 3-speed C-Matic semi-automatic transmission was available as an alternative to the manual gearbox. With the introduction of the GSA a 5-speed gearbox was offered, which made cruising at high speeds more comfortable and economical (the top speed was raised to 164 km/h (102 mph) for both long and short gearbox ratios[17]). The GS and GSA were always low powered and needed full use of the free-revving engines to maintain progress, except when cruising, in the tradition of the Citroën 2CV.

The four-wheel independent suspension featured a double wish-bone layout at the front and trailing arms at the rear. Both axles comprised rigid sub frames that gave the car unmatched ride quality and road holding for the time, even on its narrow tires (factory-mounted Michelin ZX 145SR15).

Its central hydraulic system, powering the four disc brakes (inboard in front to help lower unsprung weight) and the advanced hydro-pneumatic self-levelling suspension, was derived from the Citroën DS. It also has a feature that increased or decreased braking pressure in accordance with cargo load, without any noticeable difference in the brake pedal response. The powered system was different from the typical assisted systems in that there was virtually no travel on the brake pedal even when braking hard. The hydraulic suspension allowed the car to be raised for rough terrain at low speeds (a feature taking account of the country lanes of its native France) and to full height for easy access to the partially enclosed rear wheels. As with other Citroën cars, the hydraulic system depressurizes over several hours, so the car will sink to the bump stops when the engine is off.

GS Birotor

A two rotor GS was launched in 1973. Dubbed the Citroën GS Birotor (also called Citroën GZ), it featured a much more powerful 107 PS (79 kW) Wankel birotor produced by the joint NSU-Citroën Comotor project. This style of motor is noted for its smooth power delivery which complemented the luxurious ride quality of the hydropneumatic suspension. Even better, the engine was small relative to its power, an advantage for Tax horsepower calculations, which drive automobile design in France.[18]

The Birotor was extensively reengineered for the Comotor 624 engine. Discs all around (ventilated in front), different wheels with a five-bolt pattern rather than three, and a three-speed semi-automatic transmission were combined with a more luxurious interior and flared fenders to set the Birotor apart from its lesser siblings.

The Birotor cost as much as the larger Citroën DS, and 70% more than the standard GS. The fuel economy was worse than the largest DS - the DS23EFI.[19] So it was not economical for its size, and was launched in October 1973, the exact start of the 1973 oil crisis.

The Birotor version achieved poor sales and was quickly pulled from the market, after 847 units were sold.

The sales were so disappointing that Citroën attempted to buy back and scrap each Birotor, as it did not want to support the model with spare parts. A few of these remarkable vehicles have nonetheless survived in the hands of collectors, many without titles for some time as Citroën did not want to recognize the cars.

GS production abroad

The GS and GSA were built in a number of countries besides France. 385,000 units were built in Vigo, Spain[20] Besides Portugal, production or assembly took place in countries as varied as South Africa, Chile and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). All three body-styles, GS and GSA versions and a mix thereof were built in Cakung in East Jakarta, Indonesia by PT Alun Indah.[21] Indonesian production continued until at least 1990. Like the Indonesian models, Cimos in Slovenia used the twin-headlight fixtures developed for export markets on the GSs they built in Koper. For unknown reasons Slovenian GSs were almost exclusively finished in "campus beige" color. The GSA was called the GA in Yugoslavia.

GSA in German Democratic Republic

Between 1979 and 1983 around 5500 were exported to the German Democratic Republic ("East Germany") making it one of the few western cars in the country. Erich Honecker, the East German party leader, maintained a fleet of the larger CX model and several Volvos.


1973 Citroën GS 1220 Club front 
1973 Citroën GS 1220 Club rear 
1980 Citroën GSA Pallas rear 
GSA Break (estate, see also shooting brake for etymology) – offered from 1972 


See also


  1. ^ Citroen GS: Citroen build with care (Anglophone brochure for UK market).  
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Chiffres de Production, La Page de la GS,
  3. ^ Legelius, Carl Petrolicious ACCESSIBLE CLASSIC: THE FANTASTIC, FORGOTTEN CITROËN GS April 2, 2015
  4. ^ "Citroën GS". Archived from the original on 13 February 2008. Retrieved 1 February 2008. 
  5. ^ British road test of GS
  6. ^ën-ds.html
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b c "News: Bigger engine for Citroen GS".  
  13. ^ "News". Autocar. 135 nbr 3938: Page 21. 16 September 1971. 
  14. ^ "Road test: 1983 Citroën GSA Spécial.". 
  15. ^
  16. ^ Kraus, James Auto Universum JET AGE MOTORING June 22, 2009
  17. ^ Revue Technique Automobile, n° 464, Feb. 1986, Ed Etai, France, ISSN 0017 307X
  18. ^
  19. ^ Citroen: The Complete Story Author: Lance Cole ISBN 9781847976598
  20. ^
  21. ^ "About Us". PT Alun Indah Manufacturing Division. Retrieved 26 March 2010. 

External links

  • Citroën GS and GSA website Lots of information and pictures about GSs and GSAs around the world, detailed production figures, technical information, history of the car and Car club information.
  • la page de la GS
  • Citroën World – GS & GSA links
  • GS at Citroënët
  • GSA at Citroënët
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