Prototype Citroen M35

Prototype Citroen M35
Explanation Citroen M35
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L'Opération M35

Door: Kees-Jan Smit

Het lettertype van de tekst op de voorspatborden van de Citroen M35 namaken, hoe doe je dat?

(Translation by Hugo Veldkamp)


Copy a font which was applied to the front wings of a prototype Citroën. How do you do that actually?


Notable to the fonts, which are applied by Citroën to the M35, are the rounding’s to the bottom of the t and the ‘swipe’ at the y s’ tail. As far as I know this doesn’t occur on any standard font type, so an adjustment to the shape of an existing font will be necessary. First we start looking for a font which can be used for a start. Therefore we check the typographic characteristics, such as the relation between bold and regular and rounding’s of, for example, the p, o and e. These have to be similar as much as possible with the original to get to a perfect result. Therefore we should imagine the design department of Citroën in 1970.


A common used sans serif font at that time in France is Univers, which was designed in 1956 by the Swiss Adrian Frutiger. On most points it is quite similar to the font used on the front wing, but on some spots it is missing a certain linearity. During those days Max Miedinger from Switzerland designed the well-known Helvetica. Helvetica is a bit less dashing than the Univers font, but Citroën would not use such a ordinary font as Helvetica on a special prototype like the M35, would they? But yes, they did.

Lettertype Helvetica en Prototype M35 van Citroen




The letter p, r, o and e can be used after a few adjustments, but the special t and y needs to be rebuilt. In the computer program Illustrator we convert the words to contours. With this the characters will be vectorised and can be adjusted by adding and moving anchor points. The new made characters need some small adjustments from an aesthetic point of view to suit better to the other characters. For instance the t goes with its new rounding a bit through the base line. Visually it would be better if it stays on the same height as the other characters.


The numbers which are applied to the front wings are a different story. They can not be retrieved by a standard font, but seem to be designed with square and compass. We have to make this in a similar way, only the square and compass is digital now. Of course not straight forward, because the 8 for instance does consist of two circles of different sizes. Luckily there are photos available of the different numbers, so they can all be reconstructed.

Cijfers voor het Prototype nummer van de Citroen M35


Are you taking the challenge to restore a M35? Do not skip the special typographic on the front wings then. Sander Aalderink has files for a perfect reproduction of the letters and numbers which belong on your M35.