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Retromobile 2020: Citroën to Mark the 50th Birthday of Gs & Celebrate the First Automobile Crossing of the Sahara

  • Citroën will mark 50 years of GS and commemorate the first-ever automobile crossing of the Sahara at Retromobile 2020, which runs from 5 to 9 February in Paris.
  • To celebrate the 50th birthday of GS – originally launched in 1970 – the brand will unveil CitroënGS by Tristan Auer for Les Bains. Tristan Auer is a well-known interior designer in France.
  • Also at the show, the spirit of adventure will be in the air with the display of a replica Golden Scarab, the first vehicle to cross the Sahara in 1922.
  • A special announcement will be made during the press conference on the Citroën stand at 21:00 on Tuesday 4 February.


This year, Retromobile – the famous Parisian classic vehicle show – will take place from Wednesday 5 to Sunday 9 February. Following a historic year in 2019 (the brand’s centenary), Citroën will celebrate yet another birthday milestone in 2020 and showcase the spirit of adventure on its Retromobile stand.

During the ‘press preview evening’ on Tuesday 4 February (from 19:00), Citroën will welcome media guests to its display stand in Hall 1 at Paris Expo Porte de Versailles.

Citroën GS was the star of the 1970 Paris Motor Show and won the ‘European Car of the Year’ title in 1971. Its success, with around 2.5 million units sold between 1970 and 1987 (including GSA), demonstrates the global commercial appeal of the model.

The GS recipe for success: a mid-range car (length 4.12m, width 1.60m, height 1.34m, unladen weight 900kg), with five seats was well adapted to the needs of its time. Built in the factory at Rennes-la-Janais in Brittany, the GS had an outstanding exterior design. It was given modern and aerodynamic styling, all-new flat 4-cylinder mechanics and a well thought out cabin. On top of that, it was fitted with hydraulic suspension, which offered comfort and road holding that its competitors could not rival.

A number of other characteristics made it a model that was ahead of its time, such as four-disc brakes and its boot volume of 465-litres (710-litres for the estate version). GS also included some original features, like a parking brake with the lever incorporated into the centre of the dashboard and a rotary speedometer with magnification in the glass.

The car’s long lifespan was punctuated with numerous developments, in terms of body style (estate, major facelift to become GSA), mechanics (engine capacity, five-speed gearbox, C-Matic transmission) and it was even – fleetingly – presented as a ‘Birotor’ version with a rotary engine, of which only 847 units were built, from 1973 to 1975.

GSA succeeded GS in 1979. The car adopted sizeable bumpers and a tailgate for greater practicality. It was also fitted with a ‘diagnostic’ socket under the bonnet, which allowed for various adjustments and checks.

Press commentary at the time was evidence of the success of the GS: “With GS, Citroën has hit the nail on the head”. Not forgetting the impactful wording of the 1979 advertising slogan from Jacques Séguéla: THE ANTI-RATTLETRAP.

With its innovative shape and design, along with its excellent driving qualities, the GS created a following among collectors. The GS has predecessors and successors, which sometimes steal its limelight. However, it is not lacking in loyal fans who will celebrate this iconic vehicles 50th birthday.



For the 50th birthday of GS, the brand will unveil Citroën GS by Tristan Auer for Les Bains. Citroën entrusted a GS to the interior designer Tristan Auer, so he could transform it for display at the Retromobile show. It will then head off to its destination for the next three years, Les Bains (an institution of Parisian nightlife since 1978, which is synonymous with the era of GS).

Arnaud Belloni, Citroën Marketing and Communications Director“For Citroën, the 50th birthday of GS is the chance to celebrate the whole spirit of the 70s and 80s with the elegance of today. We had already enjoyed Tristan Auer’s talent for reinterpreting the brand’s classics, as part of his ‘cartailoring’ work. For GS, he had free reign and the idea was not to stick to a display car. After Retromobile, this GS will head to Les Bains, the legendary club for Parisian nightlife! It is a journey through time, which I am sure will draw in customers both from that era and today, along with all of the brand’s fans!”

With this transformation, Tristan Auer pays tribute to comfort and design, values that are totally in keeping with Citroën’s ethos. As someone who is passionate about the tailor-made restoration of old cars, Tristan Auer enhanced this iconic vehicle, which will be made available to guests of Les Bains, located a few streets away from the Pompidou Centre.

Tristan Auer:“It is an honour and a real treat for me to have been able to work on this Citroën GS, an extremely well designed and popular car, which I have been able to rediscover.”

Les Bains is a location that the designer knows well. In 2015 he renovated the Club and the Chinese Salon there. During the transformation he created 40 bedrooms, turning the venue into a five-star hotel under the direction of Jean-Pierre Marois.

Jean-Pierre Marois, owner of the establishment: “Having such a gem, in the company’s colours, at the foot of the front steps of Les Bains is a delight. It contributes to the journey through time and space that we provide our guests with. Citroën, is a brand whose cult models stir our imaginations, a French world which we can throw ourselves into and dream about, just like with Les Bains, it is an absolute icon of Parisian life.”

For this subsequent transformation, Citroën decided upon a GS 1015 Comfort model from 1972.

Denis Huille, Citroën Heritage“The restoration and the coordination of the transformation were led by the Citroën Heritage team, with in particular a complete mechanical overhaul at the Citroën Conservatoire. Under the artistic direction of Tristan Auer, it was also a complete reworking, both interior and exterior, which was carried out along with craftspeople: seats, dashboard, console, roof headlining, rear shelf, floor carpet, door trims and boot, not to mention the paintwork.”

After its display at Retromobile 2020, Citroën GS by Tristan Auerfor Les Bains will be in residence for three years at the prestigious address of 7 Rue du Bourg L’Abbé, Paris 3ème.

The first crossing of the Sahara in an automobile took place from 17 December 1922 to 7 January 1923, with five Citroën half-tracks: Golden Scarab, Silver Crescent, Flying Turtle, Sacred Cow and Crawling Caterpillar (Scarabée d’Or, Croissant d’Argent, Tortue Volante, Bœuf Apis and Chenille Rampante – the last two being dedicated to cargo).

Under the dual command of Georges-Marie Haardt, the expedition leader, and Louis Audouin-Dubreuil, his second in command, they travelled over 3,200km in the desert on the outward journey. No return was initially planned, but encouraged by the success of the operation and the reliability of the vehicles, the crew suggested doing the return journey in the same way, thereby doubling the scope of the expedition.


Besides the phenomenal technical success in 1922 – with half-tracks based on the Citroën B2 10 HP model K1 – it should also be remembered that this expedition paved the way for the famous Citroën ‘crossings’, such as La Croisière Jaune. The exploits were broadcast via cinema and in books, a demonstration of expertise and an adventurous spirit that Citroën has always embodied. Not to mention the fact that the crew was accompanied by Flossie, a dog who inspired Hergé to create the character of Snowy (in French: Milou) in The Adventures of Tintin.

To prepare for the crossing of the Sahara, from Touggourt (Algeria) to Timbuktu (Mali), André Citroën created a special department in January 1921. The ‘mission’ was carried out using vehicles fitted with Kégresse tracks. André Citroën knew the key to success: the endless track belt mechanism invented by Adolphe Kégresse. This world first is at the root of all automobile rally events in modern history.

This journey of exploration took place right under the gaze of the media, with regular bulletins in the newspapers as soon as the transmissions by radio and telegraph reached Paris from the desert. A demonstration of Citroën’s industrial, technical and commercial expertise, this marathon was also a human adventure.

In the preface to the book about the expedition published in 1923 by PLON, André Citroën commented when talking about these adventurers: “(…) their greatest satisfaction is still to say to themselves that, thanks to them, a sustainable piece of work has been constructed, a piece of work which will continue to produce results, when they themselves have gone. And for them, that is the key: the builders will die, but the temple is built”.

Citroën will present a replica of the Golden Scarab half-track at Retromobile 2020. The faithful reproduction of the original was part of Citroën’s centenary celebrations last year: Born Paris XV, the open-air display of 100 Citroën’s in June 2019 and The Gathering of the Century in July 2019.

The presentation of replica this year allows the brand to salute the work of the team, which consisted of 160 students from the Arts and Crafts (Arts et Métiers) engineering school and the Château d’Épluches school for automotive professions. In addition, 50 teachers and supervisors were involved, culminating in 50,000 hours of work and the use of 1,500kg of metal, across 11 production sites.

Citroën partnered in this educational project through various contributions: loan of the original vehicle, financial, technical and logistical support. This ambitious project began four years ago, started by the association Of Cars & Men (Des Voitures & Des Hommes). President, Olivier Masi, recalls: “At the very beginning of the project presentation, Citroën’s response was: we will help you, because Citroën equals audacity”.

The first crossing of the Sahara in an automobile

The rebuilding of the Golden Scarab (replica display vehicle)

From 17 December 1922 to 7 January 1923, 21 days
Five Citroën half-tracks Including the Golden Scarab
3,200km outward journey
3,200km return journey
From Touggourt (Algeria) to Timbuktu (Mali)
Length 3.70m, Width 1.50m, Height 1.68m
Average speed: 25km/h
Kerb weight: 1,700kg

From 2016 to 2019 (Citroën’s Centenary)
Faithful rebuilding of the original from the Citroën Conservatoire
At the instigation of the association ‘Des Voitures & Des Hommes’ (Of Cars & Men)
160 students and pupils (Arts and Crafts and Château d’Épluches schools), 50 teachers and supervisors, 50,000 hours of work
1,500kg of metal
11 production sites spread across France


As in previous years, visitors to the Retromobile show will be able to talk to representatives of the collectors’ clubs and admire other iconic models from the brand:

Citroën collectors’ clubs present

The models on display

L’agence CX
C4 C6 Vintage Club
La Traction Universelle
Association des 2 CV Clubs de France
Méhari Club de France
Citromini (miniatures)
Club Citroën France

1986 CX GTI Turbo 2
1931 C6 Limousine
1938 Traction Avant 11 light
1980 2 CV Charleston
1972 Méhari ‘Arlequin’
Miniatures from the GS, motorsport
1971 GS 1015
1982 GSA Tuner (limited edition)

A boutique – called Le Petit Citroën’ – will also be available, where visitors will be able to see new items launched for the Retromobile show, as well as a selection of products from the Citroën Lifestylee-boutique.

While waiting for Retromobile 2020 to begin, you can see the most iconic models in the brand’s history at the Citroën Origins website: (virtual museum comprising 79 vehicles, available in 65 countries).