1955 Citroen Traction Avant (‘Big Fifteen’)

Highlights


 • Presents in good, drivable order throughout.
 • Low mileage / low ownership.
 • A perfect wedding carriage – spacious and comfortable.


The Background


The 20th century was full of motoring innovation, but one of the most forward-looking companies has to have been Citroen. While the sublime DS and utilitarian 2CV tend to be recipients of most of the love, there’s one car that was arguably more important than either. The Traction Avant was responsible for popularising three major innovations that are commonplace today.

The Traction Avant popularised front-wheel drive, monocoque body construction (without a separate chassis) and all-round independent suspension.

The 1934 Citroen Traction Avant took all three into the mainstream – wrapping them into a package that was attractive and accessible and producing it en masse thanks to André Citroen deploying Henry Ford’s mass production techniques in France. It was even unofficially named after its propulsion: Traction Avant literally means ‘front-wheel drive’, though the official name was numerical and referred to the car’s taxed horsepower ratings.

The result was a car that was so ahead of its time, that it still felt contemporary more than two decades later. With more than 760,000 Traction’s produced across five European plants until 1957, it even sold alongside the legendary DS for two years. Compare the Traction with contemporary models and the advancements become even more apparent. Ford, for example, would not build its first unitary bodied-car until the 1955 Zephyr and it wouldn’t experiment with front-wheel drive until the 1963 Taunus.

The front-wheel drive layout and lack of a separate chassis means this big car is almost impossibly sleek and chic for the era – place it next to a conventional model of a similar age and it appears low-slung and positively rakish. There were practical advantages, too – the weight-saving from a separate chassis improved performance and economy and the lack of a transmission tunnel meant the interior could have a low floor and cavernous passenger space.

Right-hand drive cars were built at Citroen Cars Ltd of Slough in Berkshire, England. The Slough versions of the regular Traction Avant were called the Light Fifteen and the long wheelbase model was called the Big Fifteen, as offered here.

The History


This low-mileage, low-ownership and highly presentable Traction Avant ‘Big Fifteen’ rolled off the Slough production line in early February, 1955 and received its first UK registration later that month. During the intervening 67 years, the car has been lovingly enjoyed by just four previous keepers.

The current custodian acquired the car towards the end of October, 2021. However, it is being sold to make way for an exciting addition to an evolving collection of classic vehicles.

A rummage through online MoT records shows the previous test to have expired in 2013. However, of the seven recorded MoT tests, the car failed just two. When not in use the car is dry-stored and only removed from the garage for brief local excursions to keep the engine and mechanicals active and lubricated.

Incidentally, the car has been driven just 4,600 miles in the intervening nine years since the car’s MoT of May, 2013, which recorded a mileage of 51,208.

The Paperwork


Accompanying the sale will be the V5C, two sets of keys and a file of past paperwork which details spares acquired and maintenance undertaken in recent years.

The Interior


While not quite in concours condition, the interior of this historic automotive gem presents in exceptionally good condition, to the extent that the writer frequently had to remind himself that this is a sixty-seven year old British-built French classic.

The original interior reflects its ‘lovingly and lightly used’ condition throughout its life and promises to be a delightful place in which to spend some immersive road time.

The interior is swathed in light-cream leather and plush carpeted floor coverings. The full-width wooden dashboard houses a full complement of Jaeger instruments and the leather-clad door cards present remarkably well for their age, as does the very tidy roof liner.

The cabin is very comfortable and spacious…indeed, this particular example has been used for weddings on several occasions. Like the condition of the cabin, the surprisingly spacious boot is tidy and houses the spare wheel and historic crank handle.

The Exterior


Along with the smart and tidy interior, the car’s exterior is also highly presentable, although it would benefit from some TLC by its new keeper. The metallic blue paintwork gleams to a high standard and all the brightwork shines as intended. The front and rear lights are clear and all electrics are said to be in working order and both undersides of the boot lid and bonnet are in excellent condition.

A cursory glance down each flank of the car shows no evidence of damage and the front number plate, bumper and valance – for all their vulnerability – remain in remarkably good condition. 

The front, rear and side sills of the car are blemish-free, as are each of the door under-sills. The condition of the car highlights the love and care afforded it over the years. The more astute will have noticed the VW Beetle rear lights fitted by the previous keeper which offer greater visibility and safety than the original units.

As with all ‘yings’ come a few ‘yangs’. As intimated, the cars paintwork and window trim would benefit from some TLC. There are a few blemishes to the paintwork and the upper window tracks of three of the doors are showing signs of wear and tear. They are evidenced in the gallery below, but their respective repairs would present little challenge to a professional body shop worthy of the name.

The Mechanics


At the photo location, André Citroen’s trusty 1,911cc four-pot fired up at the first ask every time and settled into an appreciative burble. The gearbox connected smoothly and the clutch engaged with no drama, requiring a just gentle rev to get underway.

The custodian reports the car to be very good mechanical condition with steering, brakes, engine, drivetrain and running gear performing as well as their respective engineers intended nearly seven decades ago. 

The engine bay is very tidy and clean and, like the immediately visible parts of this Traction Avant, the underside of the car presents in good order with the usual degree of natural oxidation that may reasonably be expected on a car of this age and mileage.

The Appeal


The Citroen Traction Avant was a revolutionary car in its day and various features present in this innovative vehicle may still be found in today’s modern car offerings. As an entry to the classic car lifestyle, the Citroen Traction Avant is a good choice, providing a spacious, comfortable and stylish car still viable for modern road use, with well-documented good handling and on-road civility.

In UTF 790 we have a healthy and well-presented 1955 example of one of Citroen’s finest creations as the Traction matured towards the closing years of its production life. It presents in very good condition inside, outside and under its attractive skin.

In addition, membership of the UK Traction Owner’s Club is open to everyone with historic, current and future interest in the vehicle and its members are as knowledgeable and enthusiastic as they come.



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Vehicle specification
  • Year 1955
  • Make Citroen
  • Model Traction
  • Colour Blue
  • Odometer 55,782 Miles
  • Engine size 1911
Auction Details
  • Seller Type Private
  • Location Surrey
  • Country United Kingdom
Bidding history
11 bids from 8 bidders
  • du•••• £15,000 18/02/22
  • ma•••• £14,000 17/02/22
  • TO•••• £13,500 17/02/22
  • ma•••• £12,750 17/02/22
  • pa•••• £12,500 17/02/22
  • pa•••• £12,000 17/02/22
  • Ti•••• £11,750 14/02/22
  • la•••• £11,500 13/02/22
  • pa•••• £11,000 11/02/22
  • da•••• £6,000 10/02/22

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