Front-wheel drive and unibody construction is normal in today's passenger cars but somewhat daring when the French sedan arrived
The French were automotive innovators going back to the very beginning, and Citroen has kept that mantle of forward-looking ingenuity throughout its history. As such, the automaker pioneered some of the most important vehicle developments that still prevail today.
The vast majority of modern passenger cars are front-wheel drive, and essentially every one has unitary construction without a separate frame. But those were remarkable innovations for a mass-produced vehicle in 1934 when Citroen introduced its 7CV, better known as the Traction Avant, which means front-wheel drive in French.
Sure, there were a handful of front-drive cars before that, notably those built by Cord, and unibodies also had been done. But with the Traction Avant, Citroen was the first automaker to bring those features to the mass market rather than only to high-end luxury buyers.
The Pick of the Day is a 1956 Citroen 15CV Traction Avant from the model’s last year of production, when it was replaced by the radically aerodynamic DS that became a national symbol of France. The ’56 model was basically still the same low-slung sedan that debuted 22 years earlier, and it seemed quirky and old-fashioned compared with other cars of the mid-1950s.
The Citroen is described by the Chicago dealer advertising the car on ClassicCars.com as very well-maintained by an “avid Citroen enthusiast” who had owned the car since 1977. The CV has been driven regularly, the seller notes. “As it sits, this car is in reliable running and driving order.”
The body is in decent shape, says the dealer, who details minor imperfections in the ad’s extensive photo array. The simple interior looks pretty grungy, though, and would need some cleanup to be more presentable.
Traction Avants are fun to drive, although the oddly positioned shift mechanism that juts out from the dashboard takes some getting used to. Just 75 horsepower comes from the 1.9-liter 4-cylinder engine, although the Citroen is fairly lightweight and can move along at highway speeds.
The Traction Avant remains beloved to those collectors who favor the idiosyncratic cars of France, but still, these Citroens appeal to a very thin slice of the collector car market, and are priced accordingly. The asking price for this one is $19,900.
To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day