Citroën wouldn't sell Chapron any separate chassis, so he was reduced to buying complete cars and dismantling them
The Citroёn DS19 was launched on an unsuspecting world in 1955 and continued to be France's car of choice well into the 1970s. There were many interpretations of the theme, but one of the most appealing came from the workshops of established coachbuilder Henri Chapron, the "La Croisette Cabriolet." At first produced without Citroёn's approval, demand soon persuaded the company of the convertible's appeal and from 1960, "Le Caddy Decapotable" became available through Citroёn dealers. Refining the individuality and composure of the original car's lines, the popularity of the convertible never waned. Indeed, as is proven here, Citroёn was still receiving orders for the Decapotable long after official production ceased in 1971. The convertibles had been based on the underpinnings of the top of the range since the introduction of the DS21 in 1965, so it follows that the late examples were equipped with the fuel-injected 2.3-liter engine good for 141 hp and almost 120 mph. The cars were fitted out to the highest standards of comfort and luxury. In production for more than 20 years, no car has catered more effectively to such a broad cross section of society. Used by everyone from the lowest cabbie to the President himself, the DS is an iconic legend and the Decapotable ranks among its most sought-after variants. Christie's understands this to be the only DS23 IE convertible built, and one of only four convertibles built between 1973 and 1978. It was originally ordered by eminent Parisian Raoul D'Iray in 1973 (letters between Henri Chapron and him accompany the car), in whose ownership it remained for a decade. It then passed to Mr. Van Houten, where it also remained for a decade before passing to Mr. Jaap Knap, a Citroёn dealer who kept it until last year. We are told that apart from a respray in 1985, the Citroën DS23 IE Cabriolet is completely original and in superb condition. With 100,000 kilometers on the odometer, the paint is said to be very good, the bodywork is described as exceptional, and the interior and top are totally original and perfect. The car enjoys a history file that stretches back to its delivery and includes original invoices and all service records.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1973 Citroen DS23 IE Cabriolet
Number Produced:1,654
Original List Price:$7,000 approx. in 1971
Distributor Caps:$35
Chassis Number Location:left front firewall above wiper motor
Engine Number Location:front of block above starter motor
Investment Grade:C

This 1973 Citroën DS23 IE Cabriolet sold for $209,738 at Christie’s Retromobile auction in Paris on February 11, 2006.
This mind-boggling price is five times the highest noted by SCM ($41,835 at Duxford England in 2004-SCM# 34972), but that record is a clue to this result. That money was paid for a car that had been patched together from several in the 1990s-nicely done, but no virgin.
This 1973 Citroën DS23, with its impeccable provenance (albeit bizarre construction history-like building a new ’57 Chevy midway through 1959), must be considered good value. If you’re going to pay stratospheric money for one of these, you’ll demand what was offered here: documented initial order, full records with all names, and obvious expert care.
DS designer Flaminio Bertoni planned a convertible when the DS19 was launched at the 1955 Paris Auto Show. But teething troubles with the sedan put the brakes on the idea. Many of the 80,000 buyers who placed orders at the show were still waiting two years later. Only 69 DS19s were delivered the first year.
The DS19 relied on a complex integrated hydraulic system to control the suspension, steering, gearshift, and brakes. The system ran at 2,250 psi, so any leak instantly became a hemorrhage and paralyzed the vehicle. Critical tolerances were at the limits of available tooling, mechanics were baffled-especially when workshop manuals were delayed-and the company found itself busy dealing with problems on a car-by-car basis, instead of reworking the underlying systemic issues.
However, the DS’s rigid box chassis and unstressed skin meant a convertible was an attractive possibility, and coachbuilder Chapron stepped forward. His “La Croisette” cabriolet (named for the promenade in Cannes) appeared in 1958.
Citroёn wouldn’t sell Chapron any separate chassis, so he was reduced to buying complete cars and dismantling them. Even after the firm relented and had Chapron build “Usine”-or factory-convertibles in 1961, he continued making his own customs. These included the racy sounding “Palm Beach” and “Le Caddy” cabriolets, “Paris,” “Concord,” “Le Dandy” and “Leman” coupes, and “Majesty” and “Lorraine” limousines.
In all, there were 1,365 factory cabriolets-770 DS19s, 483 DS21s and 112 ID19s. Chapron’s custom output totaled 289, including a “Presidentielle” limousine for General Charles de Gaulle. Many Chapron customs are characterized by a squared tail with fins edged in brightwork, like a 1961 Lincoln Continental. They usually have the model name at the top of the front fender.
Despite apparent similarities with the sedans, there are critical differences between real DS convertibles and homemade chop jobs. First, true convertible doors are four inches longer than the sedans and use double latches. Two strips of brightwork run along the side of the car-one at the crease of the door and one at the rocker panel.
The tail is one long, sweeping piece, and the trunk lid is fiberglass.
Convertibles also have two jacking points along the side-the rear fender does not remove as on the sedan, so the car must be lifted higher to change the wheel. European market cabriolets also have “boomerang” turn signals at the rear corners of the top.
The 1961-63 factory convertibles were based on DS and ID sedan shells, but 1964-71 used the ID station wagon exclusively. There were 15 colors offered, 13 shades of leather upholstery, and three carpet colors, allowing more than 76 possible combinations. Engines ranged from 66 hp at first to 141 hp.
The handful of cars-believed four in all-built from 1971 to 1978 have detail variations and each was a labor of love to build. DS cabriolet prices have finally started to climb based on their desirability, but they require skilled mechanical support and a bottomless bank account.
I’ve heard of a cabriolet changing hands in 2005 for around $70,000. This particular car’s full provenance and condition explain its price to some degree, but it’s not going to be matched anytime soon. I can only wonder if the French version of Speed channel had its cameras rolling during Christie’s Retromobile sale and provoked Barrett-Jackson bidding-Paris style.

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