From Academic Kids


The CitroŽn GS / GSA: was a popular, comfortable and very agile French car made by CitroŽn. 2,5 million were produced from 1970 to 1986.

The initial body shape was a 'berline' (three lateral glass). The vehicle displayed fluid body lines and was equipped with front wheel drive, a flat-four air-cooled engine with roots at Panhard. Its central hydraulic system powering the four disc-brakes and the hydropneumatic suspension system was derived from the CitroŽn DS.

The motors were 1015, 1129, 1220, 1299 cm≥ producing from 55 to 65 ch DIN, plus a Wankel birotor produced by Comotor on the CitroŽn GZ version.

From 1972 a 'break' (estate) bodyshell was introduced as were 'Enterprise' service vans.

GS Service Van
GS Service Van

The original vehicles (approx 1970 - 1978) were branded GS; a later face-lifted series with a hatchback and plastic bumpers (approx 1979 - 1986) were branded GSA. Among the unusual features on these models was a magnifying glass in front of cylinder-based speedometer and tachometer.

The GS was voted European Car of the Year for 1971. An advanced car for its time packing a lot of advanced technology for its low price. A masterpiece of Citroen concept engineering rather let down by poor manufacturing quality. In part, this was because Citroën produced so many of them in 1979. These then lay unsold in Southampton, often for as long as two years, exposed to salt air and with no corrosion-proofing other than the thin coat of grease applied to new cars at the factory. This meant that in the UK, early 80s (X-, Y- and A-registered) models can have deteriorated far more than their older counterparts. Unfortunately, the ongoing corrosion problems meant that many of them were scrapped in the early 1990s, often requiring as little as an hour's work to see them fit for the road.

Driving the GSA

The GSA takes a bit of getting used to, with a ride and control feel quite unlike any other car. The front brakes are mounted on the gearbox, leaving the wheel hubs clear. This means that the front wheels pivot through their centre (imagine a line drawn across the diameter of the wheel, through the centre of the tyre's tread band), instead of moving in a segment of a circle as on conventional cars. This gives it incredibly sharp steering with a lot of resistance to bump-steer. The dual-wishbone front suspension, coupled with the self-levelling hydraulics, allows a lot of suspension travel which soaks up bumps like a Rolls-Royce (who used a very similar system derived from the larger CitroŽn CX on their own cars). The strongly-damped suspension gives the car remarkable roadholding, even with the tall skinny tyres.

The cabin is surprisingly roomy, in part due to the flat floor (although there is a large centre console with the gear lever, and the radio mounted sideways between the seats). Both versions have the characteristic single-spoke steering wheel, with the GS and older GSAs having conventional "stalk" controls mounted on the steering column. These are substantial chromed items, that operate with a very smooth and satisfying click. The later GSA with the "Starship Enterprise" dashboard has two "cylinders" about the size of soft drinks cans with switches on, the one on the right carrying up to eight push buttons for fog lights, hazard warning lights, heated rear window, and so on. The one on the left has the "PRN" controls ("Pluie, Route, Nuit" - Rain, Road and Night). There's a big rocker switch for the indicators (which don't self-cancel), a rotary switch at the bottom for the headlights, the centre of which depresses to flash the headlights and switch from dipped to main beam, and a rotary switch at the top for the windscreen wipers (with the washers in the centre). Right at the back, behind the indicators, is the horn. It looks scary and complicated, but after five miles or so it falls to hand so easily that you wonder why no other manufacturer has this. The instrument panel is largely taken up by a green illuminated diagram of the car, with little arrows pointing to the bits corresponding to the various warning lights.

The engine starts with a sharp rasp from the tailpipe, and settles down into a gentle thrumming unlike any inline engine. It's not much like the lolloping burble of the Subaru flat-four engines, more like an elderly Porsche, or a very well-silenced Piper J-3. The aircooled engine needs a lot of choke until it is thoroughly warm. There's a slotted squarish plastic plate that is kept in the spare wheel (which is under the bonnet, on top of the gearbox - so you don't need to dig everything out of the boot if you get a puncture) - this is the "grille muff" which should be slotted into place in front of the huge cooling fan when it gets below 10C outside (so that's pretty much all the time in Scotland), otherwise the engine will never warm up and will stall at every junction. Ease off the handbrake (a big plastic handle emerging from high up in the centre of the dashboard), up with the clutch, and you're off!

The first thing you'll notice is how smooth the ride is. If the car is well-maintained (sadly, this is not always the case), the hydraulic suspension will turn bumps and ripples that would be uncomfortable in a conventionally-sprung car into a slight nodding and a bit of noise. Speed bumps become a distinct undulation and a "buh-dumpf" at anything below thoroughly antisocial speeds. The next thing you'll notice is that the brake pedal only moves about 5mm from fully-off to fully-on. Although it requires a fair bit of pressure to operate, the brake valve is very sensitive. It's nice to know that stopping is as responsive as the throttle.

The crisp steering lends itself well to twisty country roads, although there is a lot of body roll. The turbine-smooth engine redlines at around 7,500rpm and pulls strongly from around 2,000, and the gearbox is smooth with well-chosen ratios. Even with only 67hp from the 1300cc version, the GSA will cruise happily on the motorway at the same speed as the other traffic all day.

The smooth ride, the indescribable exhaust note and the sure-footed roadholding, all tends to lead to one thing - hooligan behaviour on back roads. Seems like the old girl ought to know better at her age.

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External links

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