1953 Citroën Traction-Avant 11 Légère

Welcome to Down On The Street, where we admire old vehicles found parked on the streets of the Island That Rust Forgot: Alameda, California. We're due for another French car, so let's break out the heavy artillery today! Would you believe a showroom-condition '53 Citroën Traction-Avant parked on the street? Neither did I, but that's just what I found on the same block as the '66 Volvo Amazon and around the corner from the '57 Pontiac.


I'd never seen this car in town before and I haven't seen it since, so it's either a one-time visitor to the island or an Alameda car that normally lives in a garage.

This is one of the few vehicles that could actually fit in one of the typical basement "garages" dug under Alameda houses during the very early days of the automobile. Back in 1911, everyone knew that cars would always be tall and narrow, with vast ground clearance, and they built theses garage accordingly (those who built huge "entertainment centers" into their living rooms based on the assumption that televisions would always be 4' deep CRTs are now learning the same lesson). These days, the only vehicles that can get down such a driveway are motorcycles and vehicles built on designs from the 1930s and earlier… such as the Traction-Avant, which was so technologically advanced for its time that it might as well have been from another planet.


Yes, front-wheel-drive cars can be cool. Just ask this back-seat passenger!


According to Citroënet's section on the Traction-Avant, the 11 was available only in black; the Légère was the "entry-level" Traction-Avant 11, but it was no stripped-down econobox. This hood ornament is rivaled only by the likes of the Pontiac Chieftan's!

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