General de Gaulle, Georges Brassens, Francis Ford Coppola, Yvette Horner, Youri Gagarine, Jean-Pierre Foucault, Philippe Bouvard, Johan Cruyff…

A host of past and present personalities from France and elsewhere have enjoyed a special, and sometimes quite affectionate, relationship with legendary Citroën models like the Traction Avant, the DS, the 2CV or the SM. As the 32nd "Rétromobile" show opens its doors with the theme of "Stars and their Cars", let’s look back at some of the celebrities who were "driven by Citroën".

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In their day, just like the Le France ocean liner and Concorde, the Traction Avant, the DS and the SM were symbols of the French nation and became status symbols for the stars. French TV and radio star Philippe Bouvard, a notorious lover of fine cars, owns a splendid DS 21 Prestige dating back to 1971, converted by Chapron, who fitted a telephone, a mini recording studio and a TV set!

Singer Mireille Mathieu never went anywhere without her chauffeurdriven DS. Even though singer/songwriter Georges Brassens shied away from being seen at the wheel of a prestigious automobile, he remained faithful to his Traction Avant and then his DS. Singer Pierre Vassiliu caught the DS fever from Brassens.

He still feels nostalgic about the DS, as do author Daniel Picouly, illustrator Franck Margerin and American director Francis Ford Coppola. The SM was a stylish coupé and a symbol of off-beat luxury that was popular with red-blooded stars like Johan Cruyff, a 1970s footballing legend. French comic Fernand Raynaud also owned an SM, which, if rumour is to be believed, was stolen just two days before he died at the wheel of his Rolls-Royce. French singer Line Renaud never went anywhere without her SM, with her partner Loulou Gasté at the wheel.

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The stars and their Citroën

The Traction Avant marks a milestone in the Citroën legend. Many French celebrities chose the Traction Avant in the post-war period, mainly for its performance as a grand tourer. The infamous "Pierrot le Fou", boss of the notorious "Gang of the Tractions" was a star of an altogether different kind! General de Gaulle owned a total of four Traction Avants as his own private vehicles, the last of which, a 15 Six H, was bought in 1955.

The General later discovered the gentle charms of the DS. And it saved his life! The General was in a black DS 19 when he was the victim of an attempted assassination in Le Petit Clamart, near Paris, in 1962. Riddled with bullet holes and with its tyres in shreds, the limousine equipped with its famous constant-attitude hydropneumatic suspension on all four wheels, rather than just the rear axle like the Traction, was able to speed its way on to Villacoublay. In 1968, another of the General’s presidential DS models caused a few heads to turn.

The DS with the registration number "1 PR 75" is well known to Citroën lovers. Measuring 6.53 m in length, this exceptional model, designed by Citroën and built by Henri Chapron, was even longer than President Johnson’s official car, which measured a mere 6.40 m. This vehicle is one of the stars of the Rétromobile show and, for the first time, is flanked by one of the two presidential 4-door, soft top SM models made by Chapron for President Pompidou in 1971 with the registration numbers 2 PR 75 and 3 PR 75.

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The vintage spirit No-one has forgotten the images of the newly-elected French President
Jacques Chirac in 1995, speeding through the streets of Paris in a 2.5 l Turbo Prestige CX, with the registration number 19 FLX 75 that recalls his political stronghold of Corrèze (19 being the number of this French département).

A host of celebrities have admitted their affection for these legendary vintage Citroëns. The youth of film director Jean-Jacques Beineix was marked by the Traction Avant to such an extent that the car became one of the stars of his cult film "Diva" in 1980. And this phenomenon continues to grow. Jean-Pierre Foucault’s very first car was his mother’s 2CV. She would accompany him on the road when he started his career as a simple sales rep peddling key fobs. He even used to sleep in the car!

But the French TV star still has a 2CV that dates back to 1958. Member of parliament André Santini recalls that he learnt to drive in his father’s 2CV. An exotic scent is added to these nostalgic recollections when the happy owners are international stars. This goes for Mike Connors, alias Joe Mannix, or Lee Majors, better known as Steve Austin, the hero of the US TV series "The Bionic Man", who were both bowled over by the SM Export USA. Or the Rolling Stones who had two, plus the ultimate "love and peace" vehicle, the Méhari, that the group’s drummer, Charlie Watts, bought in the Citroën dealership in Montpellier!

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Citroën stars

Juliette Greco, Jacques Dutronc, Kirk Douglas, Bjorn Borg, Marcel Marceau, Claude Brasseur, Jacky Ickx, Eddy Mitchell, Patrick Poivre d’Arvor, Roger Hanin, Robert Charlebois, and so on. The list of celebrities photographed or filmed alongside a legendary Citroën is endless. Josephine Baker took her driving test at the wheel of a B14 in the 1920s, before becoming a star of the brand’s advertising campaigns. In 1954, French President René Coty opted for one of the first Traction 15 Six H. And what of the stars of the screen in love with the stars of the road? The most famous example is certainly Brigitte Bardot, immortalised by Jean-Luc Godard in 1962 in "Le Mépris", as she puts on her makeup on the front bonnet of a DS.

Sacha Guitry’s C6

The Citroën C6 with its new 6-cylinder engine was unveiled at the 1928 Paris Motor Show. This top-end model offered a smooth drive and a range of luxury bodywork options. The interiors were rich and refined. Actor and dramatic author Sacha Guitry was taken aback by the elegance of this two-door coupé, the rear part of which was modified following his request. This 1929 car, which is on show at Rétromobile, was acquired by Citroën a few years ago. Some repairs have been made, including the restoration of the fine chrome finish.

A 1923 B2 Caddy will also be on show. Citroën built 223 “Torpedoes”, one of which was used by Mistinguett. The Citroën clubs As the Rosalie celebrates its 75th birthday, the Automobile Club André Citroën is exhibiting an extremely rare Rosalie 15 A coupé, of which only three still exist. "L’idéale DS France" is exhibiting a surprising 1.5-scale reproduction of the orange DS 19 that features in Frankin’s comic book "Z comme Zorglub".

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A B2 used by Mistinguett is on show in the ICCR space on the Citroën stand. "L’Amicale Citroën" is presenting one of the authentic, and suitably bashed up, yellow 2CV 007 models, powered by a GS engine, that featured in the 1981 James Bond film "For Your Eyes Only" with Roger Moore and Carole Bouquet. "Les Amis du type H" are exhibiting the Citroën van used in the French TV series "Louis la Brocante". The French Citroën club is celebrating 70 years of diesel, and the association of 2CV clubs the 40th anniversary of the Dyane.

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