1934-1957 Citroen 'Traction avant'

The 1934-1957 Citroën “Traction avant” was the product of the French mass-production pioneer of front drive and all-steel unit construction, the latter encouraged -- and tooled -- by America's Budd Body Company. It boasted many advances, including pushrod ohv engines, removable wet cylinder liners, independent front suspension, and four-wheel torsion-bar springing.

The driveline put a three-speed manual gearbox ahead of the differential and engine. This layout influenced the U.S. Cord 810/812. The shifter poked through the dash and worked "backwards," an artifact of Andre Citroën's aborted plan for automatic transmission.

Styling, now long world-famous, was low-slung -- just 60 inches high, some 18 inches below the contemporary norm -- emphasized by omitting running boards. Wheels at the extreme corners made for exceptional interior space, a smooth ride, and -- with fairly broad track dimensions -- high stability.

There were progressive improvements and more powerful four-cylinder engines, plus a six-cylinder alternative from 1938. Mainstay models were four-door sedans: four-seat legere ("light"), stretched five/six-seat normale, and longer seven/nine-passenger familiale. The last had a lift-up rear-end panel -- an early hatchback -- and was also sold with removable seats as a commerciale. A 2+2 coupe and convertible were built for a time, as was a low-volume five-seat coupe de ville.

The 1934-1957 Citroën “Traction avant” was not fundamentally changed postwar, but it saw further improvements and, from 1953, "trunkback" styling. Starting in 1954, some 3000 Sixes received the radical new oleopneumatic suspension system from the forthcoming 1955 DS19, though Traction assemblies didn't stop until July 1957.

Pluses of the 1934-1957 Citroën “Traction avant:”
  • History-makers all
  • Great character
  • Unmistakable "French connection" styling
  • Roomy and smooth-riding
Minuses of the 1934-1957 Citroën “Traction avant:”
  • Not that common in U.S.
  • Ditto parts/service/restoration expertise
  • Ditto club support
  • Leisurely performance
  • Established Citroën's reputation for quirkiness
Production of the 1934-1957 Citroën “Traction avant:”
4-cylinder: 708,339
6-cylinder: 50,518
(includes prewar British-built models)

Specifications of the 1934-1957 Citroën “Traction avant:”
Wheelbase, inches: 114.5 (7CV, 11 legere); 121.5 (15/Six and 11 normale); 129.0 (11 familiale/commerciale)
Length, inches: 184 (7CV/11 legere); 191 (15/Six and 11 normale); 198.5 (11 familiale/commerciale)

Weight, pounds: 2650-2950
Price, new: $1,798-2,686 (1955 U.S. POE)

Engines for the 1934-1957 Citroën “Traction avant:”

Type Size
ohv I-4
79.5 cc
32 1934
ohv I-4 93.3 cc
35 1934
ohv I-4 99.3 cc
36 1934-1941
ohv I-4 116.6 cc
45/56 1934-1957
ohv I-6 175.0 cc
77 1938-1957

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