If Citroen’s going to make weird cars they should look like this
The new C5X isn’t the first car from the French carmaker that defied description
What is this?
This is the magnificent Citroen GS Camargue, a concept car first revealed at the 1972 Geneva motor show. The name comes from a region on the south coast of France up the coast from Montpellier, that strip of Mediterranean renowned for its leathery grand dames of French society. The GS Camargue wowed with its bold geometric lines, elegant roofline and wheels that looked like giant bass speakers.Advertisement - Page continues below
Yes, but what actually is it? A coupe? A hatch?
Mais no one knows – it’s part of the GS Camargue’s mystique, it was the original je ne sais car. It could have been an executive saloon from the front, an elegant hatchback from the side and a sporty coupe from the rear.
Who came up with the crazy idea of the GS Camargue?
This concept was the work of Italian design studio Bertone, which had heard that Citroen was considering a coupe version of its successful GS saloon and thought that it would chuck a few ideas into the ring in the form of this stylish hand grenade. It didn’t look anything like a Citroen of the time, despite the GS underpinnings, but interestingly it did rather foreshadow Citroens of the near future.Advertisement - Page continues below
Didn’t Bertone design the Citroen BX?
It did – that wasn’t until 1982, but there weren’t many opportunities to pen a decent Citroen between the reveal of the GS Camargue and the start of work on the bold new family car that would define Citroen in the 1980s. You can see hints of the car the BX would become in the Bertone concept’s bold lines, the beginnings of a new design language for the company. This was a challenging concept when it came out, easy to forget with the passage of time.
Wait, doesn’t that back end look a bit familiar?
Perhaps it does – Bertone admitted to being somewhat inspired by the Dodge Challenger, with its large square back end and expansive rear lights. The full-width design of the lights has crept back into fashion even now, making the GS Camargue concept still feel fresh.
What’s under the bonnet?
The GS Camargue had a suitably idiosyncratic 1,015cc 4cyl air-cooled boxer engine under the bonnet, producing a magnificently meagre 54bhp and 52lb ft. The car was based on the standard GS saloon – which is where the engine came from too – so it shared the same 4,115mm length as the donor car, but a 60mm increase in the car’s track made it wider. It was also 200mm lower, for that tres sleek look.
Are there any crazy concept car touches?
Strip away the usual Citroen craziness and there isn’t much left to attribute to concept car exuberance. It seems that Bertone wanted to make a proper fist of the GS Camargue concept and hoped that it might go into production – especially easy given how much of the GS was underneath. Sure, you could point a few fingers at the strange single-spoke steering wheel and the innovative hydro-pneumatic suspension and braking set-up, but those were actually nabbed straight from the GS production car. Basically just the seats and a bit of trim were added inside for that sporty executive runabout vibe. Ooh la la.Advertisement - Page continues below
Why didn’t the GS Camargue concept go into production?
Well, if you really liked the name Rolls-Royce pinched it for a two-door Pininfarina-designed flagship coupe in 1975, but that would have set you back a bit of cash. Ultimately the GS Camargue was an elaborate Bertone business card – something to show the French carmaker what the Italian powerhouse was capable of putting together. It might have been a little too weird even for Citroen, but with the boundary crossing new C5X making a virtue of its hard-to-put-your-finger-on-ness, the whacky manufacturer could do worse than look to the past for some future inspiration.