The Citroen DS was introduced in 1955 and was a revolutionary car that featured many new technologies and improvements, such as the hydro-pneumatic suspension or the later introduced driving lights. The day it was introduced, it made history already because in the first 15 minutes after the introduction of the DS, 743 orders were placed, and a total of 12'000 orders came together at the end of the day. This was a record that stood for over 60 years. By the end of production in 1975, a total of 1.4M units had been produced. The DS was also modified by many french coachbuilders who converted them into station wagons, coupés, convertibles, delivery vans and special limousines.
Four years after the premiere of the Citroën DS, France received a new President. During WWII, General Charles de Gaulle had led the resistance against the Germans. His appeal to the French population, which was broadcast on the British radio station BBC in 1940, brought him great publicity. In 1945 he became President of the provisional government of France. However, after differences of opinion with Social Democratic and Communist politicians and his disapproval of the Constitution of the Fourth Republic, he resigned after only three months. But in 1959, he returned to the presidency and became the leader of the Fifth French Republic.
In addition to the introduction of a new currency and various other reforms, de Gaulle also renewed the government vehicle fleet. He was particularly fond and impressed by the Citroën DS. He then commissioned a large number of this model in black from a dealer and friend of his. Consequently, from that point on, the sedan appeared at public appearances by the President and ministerial appointments and trips by members of the parliament.
Citroën offered the DS Prestige in a chauffeur variant with a partition wall between the cockpit and the rear seats. De Gaulle deliberately decided against this variant for his personal vehicle. He always regarded his chauffeur as a friend with whom he wanted to talk while driving. In 1961, on his way to Villacoublay military airport, his personal vehicle and the black DS convoy were attacked by terrorists. Fortunately, no one got hurt. De Gaulle was targeted by the Organisation armée secrète (OAS) in retaliation for his initiatives to give Algeria back to the Algerians.
The second assassination of Petit-Clamard near Paris followed in 1962. As his black Citroen DS sped along in Paris at 110kph, 12 OAS gunmen opened fire on the convoy. A hail of 140 bullets, most of them coming from behind, killed two of the president’s motorcycle bodyguards, shattered the car’s rear window and punctured all four of its tires. The Citroen went into a front-wheel slide, and de Gaulle’s chauffeur managed to take control of the vehicle and drove to safety, all thanks to the car’s superior suspension system. The suspension automatically adjusted the height of the car to keep it level and enable the chauffeur to maintain control. De Gaulle and his wife kept their heads down and came out unharmed. De Gaulle commented "Ils tirent comme des cochons" (They shoot like pigs).
De Gaulle was urged to take safety precautions to protect him and his staff from future assassinations. He eventually had to give in and agreed to modify the DS with bulletproof panels and commissioned a custom-made presidential limousine called the "Presidentielle". This car was built by coachbuilder Chapron and was based on a DS 21. Unfortunately, the project took longer than expected, and his car wasn't completed until 1965. Delivery didn't even take place until 1968. General de Gaulle used this limousine only three times on official occasions and still preferred his normal DS 21. Even when he resigned in 1969 and Georges Pompidou became the new President of France, there were no further appearances by the DS Présidentielle. This was due to the fact that the fashion had changed in the meantime and the body shape seemed old-fashioned even compared to the normal DS.