Today, most cars are front wheel drive, but decades ago, such a feature was revolutionary. Today's Nice Price or Crack Pipe Citroën isn't just a Traction Avant, it's avant-garde. But will you find its price Gaul-ing?
Some cars just demand rear-wheel drive, especially those with the kind of horsepower that could conceivably require a transmission with a puree setting, and yesterday's supercharged Corvette convertible came through on both accounts. A number of comments did note that the willowy handling of a stock C4 was pretty likely to bite you in the ass, and compounding that with gobs more horsepower meant that car was to be treated, at best with respect, and at worst with total avoidance.
The rest of you, as exemplified in the car's 62% Nice Price win, just shouted Weeeeeeeeeeeeeee-haaaaaaaaaaw as you spun around in your desk chairs pretending you were doing donuts on the Walmart parking lot in it.
Engineered by André Lefèbvre and designed by Flaminio Bertoni, Citroën's Traction Avant wasn't the world's first front wheel drive car, that honor going to the Cugnot fardier à vapeur of 1770. It was however, the first to sport both front wheel drive and a fully unitized monocoque body. Add independent suspension all around, and the basic mechanical specifications of the Traction Avant are as contemporary as any cartoday. And all that was first brought to market in 1934. Sacré bleu!
Today's big Cit was built in the year of the car's 20th anniversary, proving not only was the Traction Avant's specification a precursor of future trends, but also a timeless design. This Traction Avant 15 Six is just as handsome today, its flowing fenders and canted spade-shaped grille reminiscent of the ‘34 Fordor. The Citroën is far more advanced than that American icon - or even than the domestic products from this car's year of manufacture, 1954.
The body of the 15 Six is based on that of the 11CV only with a longer hood, perforated not by the 4-cylinder car's movable flaps, but a series of louvers - just like the Ford. Under that hood lurks a 2,867-cc straight six putting out a respectable 77 horses. Power from the six is routed forward to an integral three-speed manual change gearbox and differential, making the Traction Avant for all intents and purposes a mid-engine car. I merde you not.
That engine placement, as well as the secure handling of the torsion bar front/independent -and in this case hydropneumatic, hence the H in the name - rear suspension, earned the car the title in France of reine de la route, or queen of the road. This car is said to have been owned, not by royalty, but by a Citroën dealer in Santa Monica, California, and shows the results of a recent restoration. The paint is claimed to have been applied in 2009 and is a stately black - and no, they weren't all black back in the day, but monotone photographs and movies like The Thin Man do make it seem that way. Inside the front wheel drive layout shows its worth in a completely flat floor and dash-mounted shifter in woeful need of some Viagra.
The Jaeger gauge cluster is a minor work of art, comprised of a speedo with both art deco markings and a clever needle featuring a clear disc covering the odometers, plus a center-mounted clock. The additional instruments - essence telling you how much fuel you have left, and batterie, doing the same for electricity - mark the corners. There's no tach so it'd be up to the driver to determine the engine's French revolutions by ear, although that may not be too necessary as the six is not known to be rev happy. Check out the seller-provided video to see what I mean.
It should be noted that the condition inside does not mirror that of the exterior, and surface rust and signs of wear abound on the dash. The seat material, wall to wall, and headliner however, look great. A cool feature of the car is its crank-out windscreen, which makes up for the lack of A/C and dash vents. Total mileage (kilometerage?) is 63K.
There are cars, and then there are Citroëns, and until the company's gas-crisis driven bankruptcy and eventual take-over by Peugeot in the mid ‘70s, no car was more eclectic. The Traction Avant represents not only a significant part of Citroën's history, but that of automobiledom as a whole. So much of what went into the cars showed up decades later in others that it was almost as though those designing them had themselves arrived from the future. And while this Traction Avant 15 CV H represents the company's past, it's also being offered to be part of some lucky buyer's gallic-infused future.
That opportunity of course comes at a price, which is $89,995. Yes, the first time I saw that, my response was also a wispered merde!, but then I delved deeper into what this car represents, and its rarity, and that price. . . still seemed really high. But what do you think, is a fin-shy of ninety grand a princely sum for the queen of the road? Or, do you think, with that price, the seller won't be getting any traction?
Help me out with NPOCP. Click here to send a me a tip, and remember to include your commenter handle.