Japan
Page creation 06/01/2008, revision 18/06/2011
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Above: Kobayashi-san (far right) after the road test of the new Honda
S600 at the Murayama Testing Ground, March 1964, in the Ome
vicinity. On the back can be seen a Volvo P1800 and a DS19, both
test cars belonging to Honda, whose engineers (in white uniform)
joined the event. Amazing picture, from the book "Kobayashi Shotaro
no Sekai" ("The world of Shotaro Kobayashi"), incl. conversations
with Aritsune Tokudaiji, Ed. Nigensha, 1992.
The first "road impression" report of a DS test drive made on Japan's roads was published in
August 1959 by Shotaro Kobayashi, still considered today the father of Japan's motor
journalism. Almost 50 years later, he still remembered how "impressed" he was.
Kobayashi-san, then a  young enthusiast
and promising journalist for "Car
Magazine", inaugurated the concept of
"road impression" reports, going beyond
the usual description of the car's design
and technical specifications. He would
take the car to long trips on the country's
newly built highway and dirt roads alike,
and relate his personal impressions at
the wheel of the car. In 1962 he launched
"Car Graphic", still today one of Japan's
most respected car magazines.
For this first-ever "road impression" report of a
DS19, Kobayashi-san took the car to a relatively
short 250 km mountainous course from Tokyo to
and back from Hakone, a famous resort area. The
car, "almost new",  was borrowed from an American
owner, as indicated by the plate number with an
"E": in those early days, and up to 1962, car imports
were basically limited to foreigners and diplomats.
But let's continue to have
Kobayashi-san do the
talking:

"The commands are easy
to handle, but they are
positioned in an unusual
manner; it is like learning a
new language."

"Before even starting the
engine, upon entering the
car, one is stunned by the
class (not the luxury) of the
interior, and the futuristic
atmosphere of every bit of
it."
As a matter of fact, Kobayashi-san
was not new to Citroen; while still a
student, he once owned a Light 15 (a
UK-made Traction Avant), purchased
second-hand from a taxi driver.

In an interview published in Car
Graphic, April 2006, he recalls this
first test drive: "Although we had
shown the DS19 in Car Magazine
several times already, it was a real
shock to drive one for the first time. In
those days most people did not even
dream of owning a car, and the
imported ones were mostly American
models. (...) The DS was indeed an
unusual car, but after the test drive I
thought it would be hard to shift back
to a normal one. The suspension, the
road holding, the steering were
amazing. (...) I thought no other car
could compare to it, at least until the
appearance of the Jaguar Type E in
1961."
Kobayashi-san then describes at length every
aspect of the car, and concludes:
"It was a short rendez-vous (in French in the original
text !) with the Citroen DS19, but I felt so much
affection for this car with a somewhat funny face,
that it was hard to part. To cut a long story short, I'd
say the DS19 is an economical family car with the
handling and the road holding of a top-range sports
car, and the comfort of a first-class american car.
Due to circumstances specific to Japan, some
aspects of this car may not be valued here; but for
the faithful followers of the Traction Avant, no doubt
this car will be a dream come true."
Six out of the original article's seven pages. Click to enlarge. (Car Magazine, August 1959)
In his article, Kobayashi-san makes a full review of
the car's extraordinary features.

His opening comments set the tone:  "I had reviewed
all the documentation I could find about the car
before, so I thought I knew what could be expected.
But from the moment I took the wheel and made the
first turn, I forgot everything, as I realized this was a
totally new concept of motoring."
In spite of all that, Kobayashi never
owned a DS: "I was young in those
days, and I was more interested in
lighter, sports-type of cars. But when I
look at it now, I think the DS is
definitely one of the few cars that will
survive the times. You know, I was in
the organizing committee of the
COTC (Car Of The Century) contest
back in 2000, so I could not vote.
The Ford T was selected in the end.
If I could have voted, no doubt I would
have chosen the DS."  
Left: Kobayashi-san (center), now
retired from motor journalism but still
inhabited by the passion, finds
himself again in front of a DS, at the
occasion of its 50th anniversary, for
Car Graphic (April 2006). The car
belongs to Sugiyama-san (right),
advisor for the Citroen Club of Japan.
Above: Kobayashi-san in his UK-made "Light 15", around 1957 (Car
Graphic, August 1984).