Traction Avant is the French for “front-wheel drive,” one of the many innovations first introduced by Citroën on this charismatic and long-running car range.
When first seen as the Citroën 7A in 1934, the four-door sedan was very modern. Its low-slung appearance came from having the entire drivetrain mounted ahead of the cabin. Engine power was through a threespeed manual gearbox in front of the engine with driveshafts to the front wheels.
The construction of the car also broke new ground, being a welded monocoque sedan that did away with a separate chassis frame altogether. Combined with the front-drive and torsion bar front suspension, the car had fantastic roadholding for its time, but was hard work to steer.
The 7A was rather underpowered with its 80ci (1,303cc) engine. Later in 1934, it was joined by the 11 Legere with a 117ci (1,911cc) motor (Light 15 in the UK, denoting the two countries’ different taxation ratings for engine power). This became the signature model, although there was also a “15” six-cylinder version, and a wide choice of bodies, including sedans with a choice of two wheelbases, convertibles, and station wagons.
The Traction Avant became synonymous with egalitarian Parisian style. Yet, although there were few teething troubles, the huge investment needed to put them on sale brought Citroën to bankruptcy. The stress is said to have killed company founder André Citroën, although his company was rescued by tiremaker Michelin, a major creditor.
“A steel greyhound and an emissary which will spread far afield the message of a new, confident France.”
L’auto magazine, 1934
Video model car Citroen Traction Avant
Specification model car Citroen Traction Avant
YEAR REVEALED: 1934
PLACE OF ORIGIN: Paris, France
HISTORICAL STATUS: production car
ENGINE: four-cylinder, 80ci (1,303cc)
MAXIMUM POWER: 32bhp
LAYOUT: front-mounted engine driving the front wheels
BODYWORK: four-door five-seater sedan
TOP SPEED: 59mph (95kph)
NUMBER BUILT: 88,066 (7 versions only—759,123 Traction Avants in total)