The name of the game for Citroen in the mid-1930s was ‘frontal traction’, for the phenomenally successful Traction Avant was launched in 1934 and over three-quarters of a million would be sold before eventual discontinuation in 1957.
As with many French cars over the years, both technology and design were innovative. The Traction Avant’s looks were rakish and it had an arc-welded monocoque body – abandoning the traditional ‘chassis with separate bodywork bolted on’ approach in favor of an integrated unit… thus popularizing a method of car construction that became almost universal. Another advanced feature was the Traction Avant’s independent front suspension.
This novel low-slung machine was daring indeed compared to its contemporaries. But unfortunately its high development costs bankrupted Citroen, which was taken over by Michelin – thus enabling production to continue, with the added benefit for the new owner that Traction Avants could be used to pre-test Michelin tires. The original 7A model was a saloon with a small engine. This was quickly superseded by the 7B and 7C, each in turn having a slightly larger engine.
Later models were introduced with still larger engines, but the design hardly changed over two decades (though there was a rear-end tweak in 1952). Two-door coupes and four-door saloons were augmented with imaginative variants like the Commerciale, a clever hatchback with split tailgate. There was also a pleasing convertible and long’ model with an extra row of seats, though plans for automatic transmission and a luxury V8-engined limousine version never came to fruition.
Traction Avants were not only built at the main Paris plant, but also in Belgium, Germany and England. These robust vehicles survive in large numbers, with owner-drivers regularly holding rallies all over the world and quite a few still in use as regular road cars.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1934 (until 1957)
1,303 CC, 1,529 CC, 1,628 CC. 1,911 CC Straight Four; 2,867 cc Straight Six
performance: a mid-range engine could reach 70 mph (115 km/h)
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The new monocoque body was treated with widespread suspicion when the Traction Avant was launched, with traditionalists believing it lacked strength – so to confound doubters Citroen arranged an impressive crash test in which the new vehicle remained in one piece after being pushed over a cliff.