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Models and Their Evolutions from 1934 to 1957

Nicknamed the car with 100 patents, it combined the most modern solutions of the time. In addition to front-wheel drive, it notably featured a monocoque structure, hydraulic brakes, and independent suspension on all four wheels. Full of innovations, Traction Avant is still inspiring the brand in both comfort and technical solutions. A true benchmark for road holding and comfort, the Traction Avant continued production until 1957.

The 15, the Queen of the Road
Citroën is celebrating the 90th anniversary of the Traction Avant, which was unveiled in Paris on 18 April 1934. Designed to make a lasting impression, it was intended to relaunch Citroën and highlight the innovative spirit of a manufacturer that had been the first to import mass-produced cars to Europe in 1919, and had invented, among other things, the autochenille in 1921, the all-steel body in 1924 and the floating engine in 1932. Launched under the commercial name "7" in reference to its tax rating, it was quickly nicknamed the Traction Avant, an innovation that had just been introduced and which it put forward.

The Traction Avant was unique in that it brought together in a single model all the most modern technical solutions of the time, such as front-wheel drive, a monocoque structure, hydraulic brakes and independent suspension on all four wheels. At the time, it was considered to be the car with the best road holding, the safest and the most comfortable. Throughout its career, it benefited from technological developments and was nicknamed the car with 100 patents. Its distinctive aerodynamic styling, inspired by the Streamline, quickly made it an emblematic Citroën model that would endure the test of time and evoke an imagination of resistance fighters and gangsters that was perpetuated in numerous films. 760,000 examples of the Traction Avant were sold, and production ended in 1957.

It is still an emblem for the Marque, embodying its promise of design and comfort for the mobility of as many people as possible. These values are still reflected today in the new ë-C3, which demonstrates innovation to make electric mobility accessible, and the C5 X grand tourer, which brings together all the elements to make every journey a moment of absolute serenity.

When it was decided in early 1933 to replace the Citroën 8, 10, and 15, which had been introduced in October 1932, André Citroën aimed to make a significant impact and outpace all competition by launching a completely revolutionary car. His goal was to gain at least a two-year lead to also shield from the effects of the early 1930s global economic crisis then being felt across Europe. This new car would therefore be particularly remarkable and gather a maximum of technical innovations.

Included were an all-steel monocoque body that eliminated the need for a chassis and significantly lowered the center of gravity, front-wheel drive, an overhead valve engine with removable sleeves, hydraulic brake control, four-wheel independent torsion bar suspension, and an automatic transmission. Due to time constraints, however, the automatic transmission was omitted from the initial 1934 production models.

Besides these technical innovations, the chassis-less Traction featured a lowered, aerodynamic body both in its lines and flat bottom. Lastly, its compact motor and gearbox assembly, in addition to its very low center of gravity, allowed for the maximal front-weight distribution. The first journalists and drivers were ecstatic about the new Citroën. Never before had a car enabled such safe and easy driving in all conditions. Its road-holding set a new standard. The engine was responsive, the brakes were powerful, and the safety was impeccable. These qualities, constantly enhanced, such as adopting rack and pinion steering in June 1936, ensured the Traction a technical lead over all other cars, leading to a brilliant and exceptionally long career that only ended in July 1957

-The first model of the Traction, the 7 A, started production on April 18, 1934. It featured a four-cylinder engine with a 72 x 80 mm bore x stroke, 1,303 cm3 displacement, and 32 hp for 7 fiscal horsepower. It was the only true 7 HP model!

-The 7 B, its successor, is launched in June thereafter. Its new engine had a 78 x 80 mm bore x stroke, increasing displacement to 1,529 cm3 and power to 35 hp with a fiscal rating of 9 HP. The 7 B then reached speeds of 100 km/h.

-In July 1934, a sports version of the 7 called the 7 S or 7 Sport appeared. Under its hood, it had a 1,910 cm3 engine with a 78 x 100 mm bore x stroke, developing 46 hp for 11 fiscal horsepower, allowing it to reach a top speed of 115 km/h.

-Days before the Paris Motor Show in September 1934, the 7 B was replaced by the 7 C, whose engine evolved further. Although still rated at 9 fiscal horsepower, the displacement increased to 1,628 cm3 due to a 72 x 100 mm bore x stroke. The actual power was now 36 hp, maintaining a top speed of 100 km/h.

-Finally, from February 1939, the 7 C received a new engine called the 7 Economique, which reduced fuel consumption by ten percent.

The production of the 7 ended in the spring of 1941.

The 11 and Its Long Career

-The first 11 took the name 11 A and was released in August 1934, a month after the 7 S, using the same 1,910 cm3, 78 x 100 mm bore x stroke engine producing 46 hp for 11 fiscal horsepower. Externally, it was distinguished from the 7 by its more spacious body, 12 cm wider and 20 cm longer.

-In October 1934, at the Paris Motor Show, the 11 AL, or 11 Light, replaced the 7 S. Like it, it was built from a 7 body and an 11 CV engine but differed by adopting a higher interior finish level of the 11 A.

--The 11 B and 11 BL replaced the 11 A and 11 AL in February 1937. A small series of about 500 units of 11, called the 11 AM, for 11 Improved, equipped with a special cylinder head engine, was simultaneously produced.

-In April 1938, a utility version of the 11 known as the 11 C, or 11 Commercial, was launched. Mechanically identical to the 11, it was a multi-purpose vehicle convertible at will offering a tourist or a utility configuration with a 500 kg payload. It adopted the long-wheelbase body of the family car and received a two-part tailgate facilitating loading.

-A new engine called the 11 Performance equipped all 11 models from March 1939. Its power was increased to 56 hp from 46.

-The last evolution in May 1955 of the 11 B, 11 BL, and 11 C involved the adoption of a new engine called the 11 D, with power increased to 68 hp, anticipating those of the future DS 19 and ID 19.

The production of the 11 ended at the Javel factory on July 25, 1957. It was the last of the Traction. In just over 23 years, 758,948 units across all models were produced.

Of all the Traction models, the most prestigious and still today the most enigmatic remains the 22. A high-end model, it was presented at the Paris Motor Show in October 1934. It received a totally new V8 overhead valve engine with the same 78 x 100 mm bore x stroke as that of the 11. Its displacement was 3,822 cm3 for a power of 100 hp and a top speed of 140 km/h! Externally, it was distinguished by streamlined headlights, a grille marked with the number eight, and half-blade superimposed bumpers. Only about twenty trial units were produced, but, despite various rumors and the passionate research of collectors and historians, all seem to have definitively disappeared...

After abandoning the 22 projects, Citroën still aimed to market a high-end Traction and launched the 15 Six in October 1938. This new model received a brand-new inline six-cylinder engine of 2,867 cm3 delivering 77 hp for 16 fiscal horsepower. It had the peculiar feature of rotating to the left, which earned the new arrival the designation 15 Six G. The 15 Six offered the same external presentation as the 11 B; their bodies were identical in this respect. However, the new, longer engine required an 11 cm extended bonnet, giving it a distinctive personality. Powerful and quiet, offering exceptional road and comfort qualities, it was quickly nicknamed the Queen of the Road. In September 1947, the direction of its engine's rotation was reversed, and the 15 Six D succeeded the 15 Six G. The 15 Six achieved post-war success and established itself as the French high-end car up to the very top of the state, where it gained a true iconic status. In May 1954, a new 15 Six was marketed, the 6 H, which was notably equipped on the rear axle with a constant height hydro-pneumatic suspension. This was none other than the revolutionary suspension that would equip the DS 19 almost a year and a half later. The launch of this new Queen of Javel in October 1955 then definitively ended the commercialization of the 15 Six.

When the 7 was launched in 1934, it was available in a four-door sedan version but also in a coupe (or false-convertible) and in a convertible with a foldable windshield (or roadster). When the 11 appeared a few months later, it was in turn offered in a sedan, a coupe, and a convertible but also in a long body with six windows configured either as a 7-9 seat family car, a taxi, or a 5-6 seat sedan, as well as in a long body with four windows configured as a 5-seat town coupe. From April 1938, the 11 was also available in a Commercial mixed utility-tourism 5-seater or 500 kg payload version. The production of the 7 and 11 coupes ended in September 1938, while that of the 7 and 11 convertibles concluded in November 1939. When the 15 Six was commercialized in October 1938, it was available as a 5-6 seat sedan, and it was not until May 1939 that, like the 11, it was also offered in a 5-6 seat limousine and in an 8-9 seat family car. Less than a dozen 15 Six convertibles were assembled, but this model was not marketed. After the war, the 11 and 15 family cars were not back on the price list until September 1953 and the 11 commercials not until March 1954. Indeed, the last Traction produced on July 24, 1957, was an 11 B family car.

From its launch, the Traction distinguished itself in various competitions and sporting feats. It first stood out during the summer of 1934 in the highly popular elegance contests at Bagatelle, Bois de Boulogne, and Deauville where, whether as a sedan, a convertible, or a coupe, its lowered and aerodynamic lines allowed it to win various Grand Prizes, First Prizes, Prizes of Excellence, and Jury Prizes.

Also in 1934, with François Lecot and Maurice Penaud, it also demonstrated its mechanical qualities by performing impressive endurance raids such as a Tour of France and Belgium covering 5,007 kilometers in 77 hours and the first postal connection Paris-Moscow-Paris with 3,200 kilometers covered in eight days. From July 22, 1935, to July 26, 1936, under the control of the Automobile Club of France, François Lecot set out alone and performed a raid of 400,000 kilometers, essentially between Paris and Monte Carlo, averaging 1,000 kilometers per day!

Under the colors of the famous Yacco oils, a Traction named Rosalie VII took to the track at the Linas Montlhéry autodrome. From July 18 to 23, 1934, it set five international class E records including those for six days at 111.183 km/h and for 10,000 miles in 14 h, 43 min, 14 s, and 09/100th for a total distance of 16,093.420 km. Another Traction, this time named Rosalie IX, performed an endurance raid on open road from March to May 1936 with Citroën network dealers and the Yacco drivers’ team at the wheel. Covering a minimum of 1,500 km daily, its raid ended in front of the headquarters of the Automobile Club of France after having traveled 104,000 km.

More recently, two 1953 Traction 11 B, named Chrome and Cambouis, performed a round-the-world tour of 100,000 km across the five continents with four young French people from July 1988 to January 1990. The eternal traveler, whether on the Nationale 7 or the African tracks, the Traction remains even today the car of all feats and all adventures!

A true French icon, the Traction is one of the few automobiles considered by many to be a true historical monument. Since its launch on April 18, 1934, it has been part of French life. The car of Mr. Everyman becomes in turn the car of bank robbers with the Traction gang, the car of military personnel from 1939 to 1945, the car of the Resistance with which it liberates France, and the car of the country in reconstruction. With politicians, it also becomes the official car of the State. The Traction is General de Gaulle's favorite! A true symbol of power, it is at home everywhere, whether in the courtyard of the Élysée Palace, in all ministries, and in all prefectures.

In March 1968, barely ten years after its production ended, the first collectors' club entirely dedicated to it was created. Named La Traction Universelle, it is today the largest Traction club in the world with over 1,600 members spread across 17 regional sections in France, but also on all continents. Since the fiftieth anniversary of the Traction organized in 1984 at Place de la Concorde and at Le Bourget, La Traction Universelle celebrates all the major anniversaries of this iconic Citroën. This year, for its 90th anniversary, the French club will welcome Traction enthusiasts from May 9 to 11 in Auvergne, at the Charade circuit near Clermont-Ferrand, where over a thousand crews are already registered.
The Exploits of the Traction
The Traction, a Historical Monument and Collectible

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