Citroen Traction 11BL 11CV 7 Sport Roadster

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Traction 11BL 11CV 7 Sport Roadster





The Traction Avant is a car that pioneered mass production of three revolutionary features that are still in use today: a unitary body with no separate frame, four wheel independent suspension, and front wheel drive. The vast majority of cars for many decades were similar in conception to the Ford Model T - a body bolted onto a ladder frame which held all the mechanical elements of the car, a solid rear axle that rigidly connected the rear wheels, and rear wheel drive. The Model T school of automobile engineering proved popular, because it was thought to be cheap to build, but it did pose dynamic defects as cars became more capable, and resulted in a heavier car, which is why cars today are more like the Traction Avant than the Model T under the skin.

Citroën commissioned the American Budd Company to create a prototype, which evolved into the 7-horsepower (CV), 32 hp (24 kW) Traction Avant of 1934.

Achieving quick development of the Traction Avant, tearing down and rebuilding the factory (in five months), and the extensive marketing efforts were investments that were too costly for Citroën to do all at once, causing the financial ruin of the company. In December 1934, despite the assistance of the Michelin company, Citroën filed for bankruptcy. Within the month, Michelin, already the car manufacturer's largest creditor, became its principal shareholder. Fortunately for Michelin, the technologically advanced Traction Avant met with market acceptance, and the basic philosophy of cutting edge technology used as a differentiator continued until the late 1990s. Pierre Michelin became the chairman of Citroën. Pierre-Jules Boulanger became the vice-president of Citroën and chief of the engineering and design department.

In 1935, founder André Citroën died from stomach cancer.

Even before its appearance at the 1934 Paris Motor Show, the Traction was available in several different body styles, one of the most attractive called by Citroën the " faux-cabriolet ", or two-seater coupé. In lieu of a trunk, the car had a spider body at the rear that had enough room for two small people to sit and enjoy the sunshine and the wind. Fairly quickly, and due to the perfectly pure styling, the coupé became the darling of the Bois de Boulogne and Bagatelle concourse d'élégance events, where it was presented by glamorous Parisian women. This was one of the rarest versions of the Traction, with no more than 700 examples built through until 1938.

Apart from its special body, the coupé shared the technical elements of the Traction that made it a car ahead of its time: front-wheel drive, monocoque body, “floating " engine, all-round independent suspension with torsion bars, hydraulic brakes and pushrod ohv engine. These features gave the car exceptional road handling allowing it to keep up with automobiles that were more powerful but more traditional: what the Traction lost on the straight, it made up for in the corners.

The original model, was a small saloon on a 2,910 mm (115 in) wheelbase, with a 1,303 cc (79.5 cu in) engine: this model was called the 7A. After just 2 months, with only about 7,000 cars produced, the 7A was succeeded in June 1934 by the 7B which used a higher-power engine of 1,529 cc (93.3 cu in) and provided two windscreen wipers in place of the single wiper on the original production cars).The manufacturer also took the opportunity to make a start on addressing some of the other initial "under the skin" teething problems.

By September 1934 15,620 7Bs had been produced before it, in turn, was succeeded in October 1934 by the 7C with an even higher-output 1,628 cc (99.3 cu in) engine. The number "7" referred to the French fiscal horsepower rating, or CV of the original car, used to determine annual car tax levels: however, manufacturers did not change the model name every time a change of engine size caused a change in fiscal horsepower, with the result that the 7B's larger engine pushed it into the 9 HP/CV tax band without triggering a change in the number by which the model was identified by Citroën.

Later models were the 11 (launched in November 1934), which had a 1,911 cc (116.6 cu in) four-cylinder engine, and the 15 (launched rather tentatively in June 1938), with a 2,867 cc (175.0 cu in) six. The 11 was an 11 CV, but curiously the 15 was actually in the 16 HP/CV tax band. The 11 was built in two versions, the 11BL ("légère", or "light"), which was the same size as the 7 CV, and the 11B ("Normale", or "normal"), which had a longer wheelbase and wider track. The 7S Traction Avant was created with the obvious aim of expanding the range with a more powerful model. Derived from version 7B, it was distinguished by a more powerful 11hp engine. The 7 Sport is very rare in its roadster version.

For 1936, at the 29th Paris Motor Show, in October 1935, various modifications were on show. At the front painted front grilles replaced chrome ones and the headlight covers were restyled. The changes at the back were more practical and involved an opening luggage hatch/lid: it was no longer necessary to clamber over the back seats to get at the luggage space at the rear of the passenger cabin (although the overall size of the luggage locker remained at this stage rather restricted). The opening boot/trunk lid made it necessary to reposition the rear-license plate, previously under most circumstances centrally mounted just above the bumper, and now mounted on the rear-wing on the left side. On the original cars it had been possible to access the fuel tank using capped filler openings on either side, but now the left side fuel filler cap was removed, and filling the fuel tank had to be done using the filler beside the rear wing on the right side.

Two months later the radical "Pausodyne" suspension was modified, now incorporating conical rubber rings at the front. A further improvement across the range, introduced on 15 May 1936, came with the fitting of rack and pinion steering in place of the relatively imprecise "worm and roller" steering system. Despite Citroën's attention to the perceived shortcomings of the earlier Tractions, significant numbers of customers still opted for the manufacturer's old rear wheel drive models which, in 1936, still accounted for more than 10% of the factory's output.

Citroën planned two variants that never entered production, since there was not enough funding available to develop them, except as running prototype vehicles. One was an automatic transmission-equipped model, based on the Sensaud de Lavaud automatic transmission, the other a 22 CV model with a 3.8 liter V8. The transmission (which was actually originally designed for the Citroen) was a "gearless" automatic, using the torque-converter alone to match engine revolutions to the drivetrain revolutions, much like the Dynaflow Transmission introduced later in the USA. The car was supposed to have a less spartan interior than the other Traction Avants and it was to feature Citroën's own new V8 engine. About twenty prototypes were made, but the project was canceled at the start of 1935 after the company's bankruptcy and resulting Michelin takeover repidly led to a level of financial discipline that the company had hitherto heroically failed to apply. The prototype 22CVs were probably all destroyed.

Citroën could not be accused of over-producing the Traction 15-Six, with just two examples officially listed by the factory. This vacuum provoked a reaction from two coachbuilders, who developed their own versions. Curiously both Langenthal and Worblaufen were from Switzerland, with the latter being much more prolific than the former, producing fifteen examples, two in 1948 and 13 in 1949, while Langenthal built just two. This was not Worblaufen's first creation on a Citroën base, as he had already built several Traction 11 CV cabriolets. However the 15CV cabriolet that he presented at the 1948 Geneva Motor Show had a very distinctive form. The whole rear section was different to the factory version, being more rounded and enveloping, and it had a spacious interior. The wings were specific, as were the doors that opened the 'right' way. At the time, this type of hand built body was very expensive, which explains the very limited production.

In addition to the 4-door body, the car was also produced as a 2-door coupé with a rumble seat, dickie seat, as a convertible also with a rumble seat, dickie seat and as an extended length Familiale, Family model with three rows of seats, seating 9 aduls. There was even a hatchback-type Commerciale, Commercial variant, in 1939, well ahead of its time, in which the tailgate was in two halves, the lower of which carried the spare wheel with the upper opening up to roof level. A one-piece top-hinged tailgate was introduced when the Commerciale resumed production in 1954 after being suspended during World War II.

The 6 cylinder, 2876cc model was used as a "Test Bed" for the introduction of the Hydraulic Suspension that underpinned the revolutionary Citroen DS19 that was launched at the Paris Motor Show in 1955. The Hydraulic suspension was fitted to the rear suspension of the "15/6 H" with a lever in the real to permit the "ride height" to be modified. A fan-belt driven high pressure pump was added and an under-bonnet reservoir to hold the "LHS" hydraulic fluid. The parts ere interchangeable with the early DS 19 models (which also had Hydraulic Disk Brakes, Hydraulically assisted steering and a hydraulically operated "semi-automatic" gearbox).

Sadly none of these other hydraulic features we fitted to the 15/6 H, which ceased production in 1956, 1 year after the arrival of the DS.

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