Friday 15th March 1935
Citroen unveiled the revolutionary Traction Avant (French for “front wheel drive” – also known as 7CV7, 11CV, and 15CV). It was packed with pioneering technology, from its lightweight all-steel monocoque chassis to its front-wheel-drive layout and independent torsion-bar suspension. Engineers continued to improve it, fitting rack-and-pinion steering, hydraulic brakes and radial ply tyres. Yet the Traction Avant nearly didn’t happen. Its huge development costs had plunged Citroen deep into the red, leaving a question mark over the firm’s very existence, before Michelin stepped in to complete a buy-out in 1935.he model’s hi-tech mechanicals were the brainchild of talented engineer André Lefebvre – who went on to design the 2CV and DS – while the gorgeous exterior was the work of Italian stylist Flaminio Bertoni. Early cars had a 1.3-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which was underpowered. Stronger 1.5, 1.6 and 1.9-litre units became available and, in 1947, a 2.9-litre six-cylinder was introduced. All were mated to a standard three-speed manual gearbox. There was a bodystyle for every occasion: as well as the immaculate 1949 Légère (‘Light’) in our pictures, Citroen introduced a larger Normale model, a rakish coupé and even a stylish drop-top roadster. Six and nine-seater variants were also made, while the Commerciale was one of the first-ever hatchbacks.