Automotive. The Citroën GS Birotor, the wrong car at the wrong time

At the beginning of the 1970s, it was urgent for Citroën to develop its range. Between the popular 2CV and AMI 8, and the prestigious DS, there is a huge gulf in the brand’s catalog. It was absolutely necessary to release a medium sedan, able to attract French families in the 70s.

Many solutions are thought of, based on the modified AMI 8, flat, rotary, diesel engine, with or without hydraulic suspension. Chevron was torn between making a large 2CV or a small DS, to finally produce a modified AMI under the name “Project F”.

While several dozen models had been produced, Citroën boss Pierre Bercot decided to abandon them all. You have to decide and this medium sedan will become a new car, the G project.

The Wankel engine will remain the exception.

An engine for GS

In September 1970, the first GS was produced. They are modern, handle well on the road and offer comfort above the competition.

But Citroën engineers knew that the car did not have a “real” engine. A few years before, discovering the rotary engine that Félix Wankel had imagined, Pierre Bercot, CEO of Citroën, found the perfect solution.

Not only can this engine cap the range by offering more power, but this innovative technology can combine Citroën’s innovative image.

A canceled NSU-Citroën collaboration

The rotary engine is also called the Wankel engine, named after Félix Wankel, who was the first to make it a series engine. Accepted by the German firm NSU, he will develop this engine, which is superior in many points to the conventional engine.

An agreement was then concluded with Citroën, creating the Comobil company, based in Geneva. Three years later, Comotor was created, aiming to produce a French rotary engine.

Projects to suddenly stop taking on Volkswagen’s NSU. If Citroën wants its rotary engine, it will have to do it itself.

The GS is the heart of the range.

The GS is the heart of the range.

Citroën continues

Pierre Bercot and the guys from Citroën’s design office were not discouraged and decided to take care of themselves. The brand will use its customers as testers! The M35, a coupé based on the AMI 8, will carry a single-rotor rotary engine of

995 cc generating 50 horsepower. The cars are sold more expensively than the DS, but benefit from extensive service and an unlimited warranty.

But the operation was a failure, the customers did not want to serve as guinea pigs. The 500 copies planned turned out to be 267 cars sold.

No one wanted these rotary engines, the development and production costs were too high, but that’s not all. The rotary engine is very fragile and consumes like a Concorde. However, at Citroën we believe in it and we will release this GS Birotor.

The GS is the heart of the range.

The GS is the heart of the range.

bad timing

While the GS is shown at 15,400 F, the Birotor is sold for 25,000 F, the price of a DS 23 Pallas, the top of the brand’s range.

Suffice it to say that at this price, customers are not crowding in front of Citroën concessions. But the rafters will also be unlucky. The oil crisis of 1973, which led to a rise in petrol prices, dealt the final blow to this GS Birotor.

The timing was particularly unlucky. While the GS Birotor was unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 1973, the oil crisis broke out, almost two months later, in the middle of the Paris Motor Show!

A show where we discovered that this GS would be classified in the tax category 11 HP, with the key, the taxes that come with it. At the time of its release, the GS Birotor had only one argument, its top speed of 175 km/h. But that doesn’t interest anyone anymore.

With the Biroto, Citroën wants to offer advanced motorization in the GS

With the Biroto, Citroën wants to offer advanced motorization in the GS

Citroen is bad

At Citroën, too, there is more urgency. The late GS launch, the Maserati takeover, the SM failure, are a lot of issues to swallow. In 1974, the brand presented a balance sheet showing a loss of one billion francs.

Michelin, the main shareholder, decided to remove this cumbersome burden. Peugeot, heavily encouraged by the State, will be a buyer. It’s time to save. Maserati is sold, all loss-making branches are closed.

With only 847 copies made, the Wankel engine was clearly abandoned. But Citroën isn’t done with these models yet…

The 1970s would be complicated for Citroën

The 1970s would be complicated for Citroën

We must get rid of GS Biroto

Of these 847 models, only a third were sold. Others piled up for months in the rain in the Rennes factory parking lot, due to a lack of customers. vsItroën initially decided to offer it to eligible dealers, against the promise to keep it for them, and the prohibition to resell it. Admittedly, Citroën’s after-sales service is busy with so few models in circulation.

In 1977, PSA management offered GS Birotor owners the possibility to recover their car, under favorable conditions, for the purchase of a CX.

Once picked up, the GS will be destroyed by the manufacturer. There are approximately fifty GS Birotors in circulation today.

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