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Citroën Traction Avant (1934-1957)

Published: 29th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Citroën Traction Avant (1934-1957)

Fast Facts

  • Engine: 1911cc/4-cyl
  • Power (bhp/rpm): 64/4000
  • Torque (lb ft@rpm): 96/2500
  • Top speed: 75mph
  • 0-60mph: 17.4sec
  • Fuel consumption: 23mpg
  • Transmission: 3-speed manual
  • Length: 14ft 4in (4.38m)
  • Width (inc mirrors): 5ft 4in (1.64m)
  • Weight: 2354lb (1070kg)
  • Books: Citroën Traction Avant by John Pressnell. Crowood,ISBN 1-86126-614-6; Citroën Traction Avant Gold Portfolio 1934- 1957, Brooklands Books. ISBN 0-1-85520-031-7
  • Clubs:;
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Revolutionary cars are rare, and Citroën has made more than most. Its Traction Avant is one of a string of cutting-edge designs, with front-wheel drive, monocoque construction and all-independent suspension – all on a car that debuted over 75 years ago. The car cost so much to develop that it bankrupted Citroën, but you can enjoy the fruits of its labours by picking up your own usable Traction from just £4000 or so. A few sympathetic upgrades can produce a car that’s suitable for regular use while DIY maintenance is generally straightforward. The Traction was built in France and over here in Slough with the French and British factories making the same bodystyles; saloons, fi xedhead coupés and roadsters were available until 1945, then post-war there were just saloons. French and English editions had different names, there were fi ve engines, saloons came with a choice of three wheelbases and four distinct profi les (legeres, normales, familiale, commerciale). The Familiale was a seven-seater saloon with three rows of seats, while the Commerciale offered just two rows of seats but with a tailgate, later replaced with a hatchback.

What to look for?

The Traction’s structure is hardy, but the lower panels need scrutiny, so analyse the footwells, fl oorpans and check the door fi t; if it’s way out, the chances are the monocoque is rotten. Also check the three-piece sills, which are crucial to the car’s structural integrity. The extensions protruding either side of the engine from the front bulkhead (the jambonneaux) are tough but can rust, but repairs aren’t diffi cult once the front of the car has been stripped down. Pre-1954 engines use white-metal bearings, which can be converted to shells, but a more common upgrade is the fi tment of a later powerplant. However, as neither engine is more durable than the other, it makes little difference. All Tractions use a three-speed manual, which can be fragile on fourcylinder cars. Synchromesh fails readily, so go up and down through the ‘box to see if there’s any crunching – there was never synchro on fi rst. The hubs are held onto the driveshafts by a taper, but the hub nut has to be done up to around 250lb ft to do its job properly. If it’s loose it’ll wreck the driveshaft which may even snap, and it’ll take the hub and brake drum with it – so check this carefully. There are various suspension points which need lubricating every 1000 miles, including the bushes and swivels. Stiffness and creaking indicates wear in the lower balljoint swivels, possibly because of water ingress. It’s often possible to adjust the suspension to remove this play, but there are limits.


The nicest four-cylinder saloons are £10-12,000 while usable cars are £4-6000. Six-cylinder Tractions fetch a small premium but are harder to sell because of higher running costs; the best examples are £14,000. 1628cc cars are rare, but values are similar to 1911cc cars; collectors pay a small premium for the earlier cars. Exceptional Roadsters can fetch £60,000, usable cars are £40,000+ so the time to buy is sooner not later.

Driving one

The torquey 1911cc engine offers relaxed driving while the handling is surprisingly modern for such an oldie; grip is good too thanks to front wheel drive while the rie is typically Citroen soothing. The precise gearchange is also good news, but the three-speed gearbox really needs an extra ratio. Smaller engines are best avoided if you plan to use the car for long journeys but for its era the Traction Avant was years ahead of the game.



The Traction Avant debuts – in Britain the fi rst RHD cars are unveiled at the Olympia motor show. UK cars have a 1303cc (7CV) engine but in France there’s a 36bhp 1628cc (9CV) engine.


At the London Motor Show the Sports 12 (7S) and the Super Modern 15 (11A) are shown


The fi rst six-cylinder models appear, using a 76bhp 2866cc engine.


Citroën starts Traction Avant production in Slough. Over nine years around 19,000 examples are made in the UK, albeit most for export.


Citroën’s Slough factory starts production of left-hand drive Tractions, for export to France.


The Traction’s biggest redesign sees an extended boot, which now houses the spare wheel.


Six-cylinder Traction Avants gain hydropneumatic suspension at the rear.


The DS goes on sale and the Slough factory ceases production of the Traction Avant.


The last Traction Avant is built, the 708,339th to be produced as the DS takes fully over.

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