Andre Citroen was confident that a new car would save Citroen from the depression in the early 1930’s and when the all-new Traction Avant ‘7’ (and larger ’11’) was first shown in the spring of
1934, it incorporated the most up to date technology including hydraulic brakes, torsion bar suspension and a brand new engine driving the front wheels all packaged in a low-slung aerodynamic unibody construction designed by Flaminio Bertoni.
The Traction Avant (front-wheel drive) quickly captured the market for executive cars in France after the war and became popular in countries such as Austria, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands. They were also built in Belgium and in the Citroen factory in Slough, Buckinghamshire - which is where this example was created.
The Slough built cars were available in a greater range of colours other than Black! and were more luxurious featuring leather seats, a wooden dash and oversized headlamps and electrics courtesy of Lucas. The Big Six was introduced in 1938 and UK production totalled around 1,300 ending in 1955 just as they began to trial hydro-pneumatic suspension before the arrival of the DS.
They were affectionately called “la Reine de la route” (Queen of the road).
Built in Citroen's Slough factory, this RHD Big Six was first registered in the UK on the 5th October 1953 and would have cost around £1,350. It appears to have first resided in the Dorset area during the 1950’s until arriving in Hertfordshire in 2001.
The previous owner, who purchased the car in 2001, also owned a Citroen DS and regularly drove both to work for many years. We are not sure of the exact year, but the bodywork was restored sometime between 2002 and 2018 during his ownership, and although originally Regal red, it was repainted in Delage red which is still close to the original colour (see photo of framed information sheet).
Toting up the numerous receipts, largely from Citroen specialists Classic Restorations in London, this gentleman spent around £44,000 restoring and upgrading this lovely Citroen between 2002 and 2018.
The current owner purchased it on the 17th October 2020 and has fitted EZ electric power steering and a new spare tyre.
The I.D. plate on the bulkhead confirms that this is a 15C chassis car but the engine block plate appears to display a different number to the original buff log book
A neat lever arch file contains the original log book, the V5 in the current owners name, lots of receipts for parts and the work carried out in recent years and some old tax discs. A reproduction Citroen instruction book is also included.
The MOT is valid until 5th April 2022, and looking at available online records, has passed each recorded MOT and showed a mileage of 96,447 miles in 2006 and 6,324 miles in April 2021, so has covered an average of just 658 miles a year over the last 15 years. The exempt tax runs until the 1st October 2022.
Upon opening the ‘suicide’ front doors, the first thing you notice is the sumptuous leather bench
seat with centre armrest. The luxury continues for the rear passengers and all the upholstery, door trim and fittings are exceptional and appear free of any significant damage. The wool roof lining is also in great condition, and despite some wear up front, the carpet is nice too.
The UK factory specification continues in this spacious cabin with a wood dash and door window frames which certainly add a touch of class. The internal chrome door handles and window winders all operate as they should and the hinged windscreen opens as intended.
A Jaeger speedo and ammeter/fuel gauge (with a very discreet clock) are accompanied by additional Smiths temperature and oil gauges. The handbrake is located by the drivers knee and the slightly ungainly looking dash mounted gear lever falls easily to the left hand.
The previous owner added a few practical upgrades including windscreen washers, a Clayton barrel heater and demister and matching red inertia seat belts for added safety. Switches and warning lights for the front spot lights, etc sit below the dash. The current owner assures us that all the electrical equipment is in working order.
Overall, this Citroen is in beautiful condition. It is not quite concours, but with a small degree of extra TLC, could easily be. The red coachwork has a deep even shine and appears free from any major imperfections. We didn’t notice any bubbling along the wing-to-body seams or door bottoms and it is obvious that the previous restoration work has stood up well.
Dominated by the large front grille, the chrome work on the lights and bumpers, etc. is generally good too. The windscreen rubber is splitting at the corners but the glass and light lenses appear scratch and crack free. The fantastic B-pillar indicators are backed up with newer ones mounted on the rear bumper.
This Avant benefits from the later larger boot, and once the spare wheel is removed, access is good. Although not in perfect condition, it is clean and tidy and also houses a fairly new Hardi electric fuel pump. A factory sunroof features and original colour coordinated steel wheels with shiny hubcaps have a set of Michelin 185 R 400 X tyres with good degree of tread remaining.
Underneath, the flat floor looks clean and structurally sound although there are some small areas of age-related surface rust on the bottom edge of the sills.
The engine bay is clean and presentable and houses the gorgeous sounding 2866cc straight six offering around 73bhp and a maximum speed of 80mph. The longitudinal block and front wheel drive layout provides a low favourable weight distribution which helps with the handling characteristics.
Mechanical features include a single Solex carburettor, 12 volt Lucas dynamo and starter and a three-speed gearbox (with synchro on 2nd and 3rd) and servo-assisted hydraulic brakes. An electric fan has also been installed.
Usual servicing needs have been attended to by the current owner and he informs us that this
Big Six is in good mechanical order and will confidently (and comfortably) waft you along the highway at 70mph.
The Traction Avant is one of the world’s most innovative cars, and combines so many technical
features not fully utilised on most of its contemporaries at the time and being around 25 per cent lighter than many other cars of the era, it is also nimble to drive and is very capable even in modern traffic.
By not having a propshaft to the rear wheels, the flat floor provides a very spacious interior, and externally, the long flowing lines and purposeful stance of the Citroen is undeniably cool.
This beautifully restored 15CV Avant Big Six has obviously been well loved and had a huge amount of money lavished on it in recent years. It is sure to attract attention wherever it goes and should be a reliable and comfortable joy to drive for many years to come.
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