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Solid French Classic: 1955 Citroen Traction Avant

The success of the Citroen Traction Avant can be measured on two separate levels. The first is that the car managed to remain in production, although undergoing frequent upgrades along the way, for a total of 23-years. The second measure of success is that even though front-wheel-drive family vehicles were treated with a certain amount of caution at this point in time, Citroen still managed to produce 760,000 cars during those years. This 1955 model is an original survivor that is in search of a new home. It is located in Alpine, Wyoming, and is listed for sale here on eBay. The owner has set a BIN price of $24,000 for the little French classic.

When reflecting upon the total build numbers for the Traction Avant, it is worth considering the fact that those production figures included the lost years of World War II. After the war, it took some time for production to ramp back up, so that final total is actually extremely impressive. This little post-war classic is said to still wear its original paint, and to be in solid condition. Interestingly, while the paint on the front of the car looks to be quite matte in appearance, the paint on the rest of the car looks like it has a bit of a shine to it. I would be very interested to see how the car would respond to a decent buff and polish.

One of the most impressive characteristics of the Traction Avant was how much passenger space that Citroen was able to squeeze into a fairly tiny package. Then again, this has always been something of a Citroen strength. Anyone who has ever spent any time in a 2CV can attest to this. The interior of this Citroen is another aspect of the car that is said to be original, and it certainly looks quite serviceable as well. All of the upholstered surfaces, along with the headliner, look to be in good condition, while there is certainly plenty of room to fit 4 adults into the car in relative comfort. One of the quirky little features that I quite like is the gear shifter sticking straight out of the dash. These take some getting used to initially, but once that is achieved, they are quite easy to work with.

Bulk horsepower was never the strong point of the Traction Avant, but what the car delivered was good engine torque and power at low engine revs. The 1,911cc 4-cylinder engine only pumped out 56hp, but both maximum horsepower and maximum torque occurred at around the 2,000-3,000 rpm mark, making the car incredibly flexible. The power is then fed to the front wheels via a 3-speed manual transmission, while handling was enhanced by a sophisticated 4-wheel independent suspension system, and rack-and-pinion steering. The encouraging news with this car is that the owner says that it starts easily and runs well. It isn’t clear whether the car has seen any recent road use, so there isn’t any indication of how well it drives.

With an official top speed of only 75mph, the Traction Avant will not tear up the highways. Where these cars demonstrate their greatest strength is by providing their occupants with incredible ride comfort. As a sedate and relaxing cruiser, a Traction Avant is absolutely in its element. This original survivor looks like a good one, and while the price might seem high to some people, if this car is as original and solid as is claimed, and if it runs and drives well, then the price would seem to be about right.


  1. healeydays

    I like how he has it advertised on Ebay as a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air/150/210.

    Folks are going to miss that one…

    Like 4
  2. luke arnott

    I had a ’54 Light 15.The gearbox design meant you could NOT change gear quickly.The lever was connected to the gearbox by a series of rods that went over the engine to the box,which was behind the radiator.

    Like 1
  3. Jack Quantrill

    They had these in those French cop movies. Great “wee-ooo, wee-ooo, “ sirens!

    Like 0
    • Dominique Legeai

      Not clear whether this is the « légère » or the « normale » model? They are quite different in size..

      Like 0
  4. Daymo

    As well as Paris, these cars were also built in Slough, here in the UK. With different specifications you can tell where it was built.

    Like 1
    • luke arnott

      Mine was a Slough car!

      Like 0
    • Solosolo UK ken tilly Member

      I think the easiest way to tell a UK Light 15 is by the boot/trunk lid. The French cars have a dummy wheel cover on the lid whereas the UK version has a curved lid which protrudes quite a bit.

      Like 0
      • luke arnott

        My Slough built car had a dummy round wheel cover!

        Like 0
      • Ian

        ..and I think also the Sloughbuilt ones only had wooden dashboards “to suit the British market”

        Like 0
  5. Wayne

    I always liked the styling of these cars. The shifter sounds just like the ones on 2CVs. Honda 600 shifters were attached to the bottom of the dash and took some “getting used to” also. (Lift/push-up , twist left, twist right, pull down, twist left, twist right, lift/push up, twist right, twist left pull down, twist right. Ok, if I remember properly that gets you all four gears in a Honda 600.) Typical French car, “comfortable, fuel efficient and slow” with some quirky style. I never realized the large production quantity and the front wheel drive aspect that these had. (Always thought that they were rear wheel drive.) It could be a fun cruiser.

    Like 1
  6. B-rad jeepster

    How come it has Wisconsin collector plates on it ?

    Like 2
  7. James HGF

    The “make offer” option might lead to a more reasonable price. Compared to 11BL cars available in France on leboncoin dot fr (uniquely French sell anything site) the BIN price is too high. That is factoring in $5k for freight to the US and another $5k more or less for purchase aid, if required, plus a nice holiday. Preferably not in July or August when all of France in on vacation.

    The leboncoin link is for 37 adverts that popped up under a search for “Citroen 11BL”, but first a short comment about four selected to give a general overview. Euro to dollar is < $1.14.

    Car #1 is a 1956 in superb condition @ 12,000€ – $13,680. 45k kilometers – see interior photo.

    Car #2 also a 1956 in very good condition inside and out with 42,5k kilometers @ 10,500€ = $11,970.

    Car #12 1938 fully restored is offered by the dealer for 19,500€ = $22,230 with 40k kilometers. Check out the PILOTE wheels with original hub caps and the prewar interior.

    Car # 16 is a 1953 is light grey with 30k kilometers priced @ 12,500€ = $14.250 – see superior interior photo that really shows seat fabric material.

    Car or Item numbers above are subject to change as autos are added removed etc., but model year, milage, and pricing should allow one to match few words above to machine still on offer.


    Like 2
    • Martin Horrocks

      You are correct there is no value in this car above $10000. It´s a nice basis, a solid late 11 légère with the 11D motor, so the quickest of the tractions (a 6 cylinder is quicker top speed, but heavier and a different price bracket). Hard to tell from the photos but the seat covers look to be covers, very typical at the time. If you are lucky, you might find an original cloth interior under thoe.

      These cars drive amazingly well, and handle beautifully. The 3 speed box has no synchro on first,so not a lot of gear-changing is invoved.

      And no, it won´t buff up much if the paint is original. The factory paint wasn´t meant to shine, so that rural French owners didn´t need get too worried if their car got dirty. I learned this after 3 years of trying to get a shine on my car, which was a low mile survivor in great condition, same colours as this. Shone fine after a repaint, but you lose some of the charm of the car as well.

      Like 1
  8. Willowen

    The first one of these I saw in person was straight out of a movie: Parking garage in San Francisco, ca. 1967. A raucous roar, and black Traction comes squealing briskly in, squeals around into position, graunch from gearbox, backs into its space. Door opens, out bounces chubby guy with a cigarette hanging from his mouth and wearing a striped long-sleeve T-shirt and (YES!!) beret. Gives me a grin, and out the door …

    Looks nice, and I have a friend who’d probably volunteer to work on it, since he’s had a lot of them. Those French hemi-head engines were all pretty agricultural, and in their chosen application all the better for it. Enough power, enough torque, and just about bulletproof. I would be very much tempted if I weren’t so fond of staying married …

    Unless this is a very late model, the rear suspension is not independent, but a light dead axle on (I think) leaf springs. The very last Tractions got the DS sphere-sprung trailing arms.

    Like 2
  9. Del

    Cannot see a market for this, even at 1/2 the asking price

    Like 1
  10. SubGothius

    I seem to recall reading the standard black paint on these is inherently a satin finish that can’t readily attain a proper glossy shine, albeit not nearly as matte as the front end on this one.

    Like 1
  11. Solosolo UK ken tilly Member

    @Luke Arnott. Was that original or was it changed by a previous owner as I have always believed otherwise, however, I learn something new every day on BF.

    Like 0
    • luke arnott

      It was original.I bought the car from the original owner in 1971 for £25,it was sold new by the local Citroen dealer in Wallasey.Great car!

      Like 0

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