Am I Blue? 1955 Citroen Traction Avant 11 B

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Some of us find the looks of this old Citroen listed on craigslist in Simi Valley, California as quite, well, lovely and the $8,500 asking doesn’t seem too outrageous. The Traction Avant, front wheel drive in English, was not the first front wheel drive car of course, but it was the first unibody front wheel drive car. When the design was introduced in 1934 the front suspension was advanced for its day, with independently sprung front wheels and wishbone suspension  and torsion bars. Most other cars in the early 1030s were using a live axle and leaf springs. This made the car a lot lower than other cars. By 1955, this Citroen was quite dated, but not as dated as an American car. Can you imagine a 1934 Ford or Chevy still in production in the 1950’s? The same family has owned this Citroen for a long time, and it’s been in and out of storage. Somewhere along the way it must have had some serious restoration.

inside front

The interior looks really nice. It appears original and complete. There’s a lot of legroom in the back. It isn’t exactly luxurious, but it’s not bad.

engine

The engine compartment looks especially clean. It’s quite a simple engine. Any idea what that thing on top of the engine is?

trunk

Back in the boot, or trunk, all is clean and neat. There’s perhaps surface rust around the top edge?

left

The paint and bodywork look really nice from 10 feet. It looks like a car you could climb right in and take to a car show!

front left

This could be a fun little driver. Enthusiasts have driven them coast to coast. They have a reputation for being tough and reliable although they are known to leak into the passenger compartment. It will be interesting to see what you think of this quirky little car.

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Comments

  1. Aurel

    Nice traction!
    The box on the top of the engine is an air filter. It is so big that you could almost use it as a lunch box as well,

  2. PhxBarbie

    Posting pulled already? Too bad, I was looking forward to seeing more pics. A very interesting car!

  3. Alan Brase

    If it sold already, I guess it was too cheap! A lot of (quirky) value!

  4. Ken Nelson

    hope a spare wheel goes with the car – it should be in the boot right behind the rear bumper – Also it looks like an earlier car than ’55, as I have a ’55 Commerciale, and the post-50’s cars didn’t have the trafficator flip-out turnsignals showing in the B pillar of this car –

    • Bill McCoskey

      RE: Trafficators; it depended on what country it was destined for when new. Some countries required them into the 60s

  5. grant

    It looks like a French gangsters car, if there is such a thing. Cool.

  6. Ken Nelson

    The French gangster cars were the 15-6 version, a stretched chassis and a six cylinder engine, capable of pulling the car to 100 mph. During WW II, the Resistance fighters mounted machine guns on roadster versions of the sedans – the roadsters being very rare today and worth a bunch of money – to fight the invaders. The front wheel drive of these cars kept them going even when the rear tires were shot out.

    Like 1
  7. Jesper

    Here in Europe we call them gangster limosine.
    They are not so rare here, but i think they as many other french cars, is dificult to find parts for.

    Like 1
  8. gwizzzzz

    Small hotel outside of Olympus in Turkey has a whole fleet of these for transfering clients from the airport

    Like 1
  9. rogerowen

    Lovely car!

  10. TBall

    She’s a beaut that’s for sure – and apparently with the right price. Only concern I would have had would be parts availability. Car looked well cared for – thanks for the share.

  11. Roger Owen

    I believe there were several variants including the ‘Commercial’ – a very long version with a full opening tailgate, I’ve only ever seen one of these. Looks like German registration? Anyone remember the French detective Maigret??

    Like 1
  12. z1rider

    The transmission’s for these is a concern. They were definitely the weak link. Citroen like Ford (with the Model A a few years before these made their debut) attempted to develop an auto/semi-automatic transmission for the Traction Avant. Also like Ford they were unsuccessful, which lead to a rush job on the manual they, Citroen, would go into production with. Oddly it seems they never did much to improve it over the decades these were in production. I bought my 1953 Traction less it’s transmission as it was a donor for a 1938 in need of a transmission. I got it cheap, but I am still casually looking for a transmission for mine.

  13. Eric Dashman

    I know that this may be considered blasphemy to many, but I’ve always wanted to take one of these and put a modern FWD engine and transmission in one of these with a modern suspension….Honda Civic or Acura Integra, new Mini. I love the look of this car. The suicide front doors are great!

    • Tony, Aust.

      Eric, I’ve got a mate here in South Australia who is currently fitting a small block Chev and 350 trans with 9 inch rear in one of these. When asked why he said ‘why not’, it’s just different to all the 32 and 34 Ford coupes in town and he’ll have 4 doors to boot, fair point I suppose. He paid AUS$8,000 and drive it home.

      • z1rider

        Tony, Aust.

        Has he sold off the stock engine and transmission yet? I could use them.

    • z1rider

      Eric,

      I’ve given some thought to doing the same, since as I mentioned already mine is less a transmission at the moment.

      However, the donor cars you reference, all being transverse engine designs just would not work. The bodies of those cars are designed around that powertrain. You will have to go with a longitudinal engine in one of these.

      • Eric

        How about a Toronado or Eldorado?

      • Tony, Aust.

        z1rider
        Yes the engine and most of the running gear has been sold to a guy in the local Citroen club who needed them for a resto. Peter really only wanted the body and chassis but had to buy a good complete car to get them.
        Tony

      • Mark-A

        To go really left field for a Longitudinally mounted FWD how about using a VW Passat Turbo Diesel? Let the Torque talk?

  14. Woodie Man

    They remind me of my ’50 MGYB.which I bought back in ’76 in London…..I love the trafficators….

    On another note that battery ground on the valve cover head gives me the willies……

  15. rangeroger

    I almost bought one of these in the early ’70s. Owner was a mechanic and had several. He had replaced engine and tranny with the later DS-19 unit and only wanted a $1000 for it. Alas couldn’t find the cash.

  16. Ian

    One of the most significant cars of the last century and this seems a really low price. Spares might be harder the US but there is a large spares movement behind these cars in Europe (as the is for the 2CV ) . It’s not really that unusual in London to see one in daily use in the thick of the worst traffic….but do they stand out and look great !! Tks this posting

    Like 1
  17. Ken Nelson

    Roger, I’ve got a ’55 Commerciale here in San Jose – finally solved an engine problem that had baffled me for 5 yrs. It has the huge, heavy full height hatch and the farmers used them for hauling everything. I swear a cow could walk into the back! I grabbed it when it appeared for sale in spite of engine problems. Finally got that fixed & rebuilt the brakes. Parts aren’t really a problem – there are good suppliers here in the US and a lot of expertise thru the Traction club and all the manuals are online. Ebay.fr is where to find parts along with a co. called Depanoto near Lemans that I visited yrs ago to get parts – still in business and online today. DS19 blocks can be substituted for the Traction with mostly a swap of heads. As for power, putting in a DS19 engine & trans gets you a car that’ll cruise at 90 but the brakes I doubt are up to that speed capability as the DS got the first power discs put into production – in 1955.
    Bob Lutz used his 15-6 sedan on several road rallies out of San Francisco run by Martin Swig. Being Swiss, Bob wasn’t wedded to Detroit Iron as one might logically think, having run Chrysler then pulled out of retirement to get GM back on its feet. He has quite a collection of old classics & is the last of the REAL car guys. Told me he once had a fuel problem with the big Traction, and Phil Hill was running another car in the bunch. Phil stopped to help Bob and found a split in the rubber fuel line from the tank pickup tube to the chassis tube (it’s easily accessible in the trunk). A short bit of new line & Bob was back in the running – it’s a common problem with Tractions that have been around for so many yrs.

  18. Julles

    There is a 1948 on Copart.

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