1937 Citroen Traction Avant
Year of manufacture1937
1937 Citroën 7C 'Traction' Cabriolet
Chassis no. 93639
Engine no. AX18178
"The car that André Citroën envisaged the immortal Traction Avant was to be quite unlike anything that he had produced before, a truly 'clean sheet' design so dramatically new in every respect that its appearance would send shock waves reverberating around the motoring world. Intended to give a five-year lead over his rivals, it remained in production for almost twenty-five." John Reynolds, André Citroën The Man and the Motor Cars.
A curious mixture of romantic visionary and practical businessman, André Citroën was determined that economic depression and a contracting car market would not prevent him introducing a revolutionary new model, which he was convinced would ensure the future of his company. It did just that, but not until after Citroën had lost control of his empire when a minor creditor commenced legal proceedings against him. Within two years, new owner Michelin had paid off all of Citroën's debts.
Citroën's brainchild, the 7C 'Traction Avant', broke new ground in almost every aspect of production car engineering on its launch in 1934. Unitary construction of the body/chassis, front wheel drive, all-independent suspension sprung by torsion bars, hydraulic brakes, synchromesh transmission and a four-cylinder, overhead-valve, wet-liner engine were all incorporated in the new car at a time when the majority of its rivals employed a separate chassis, cart springs, sidevalve engines and mechanical brakes. This ground-breaking specification would have counted for little had the result not worked in practice, but the Traction soon gained a well-deserved reputation for exceptional stability and exemplary handling that endures to this day. The 1.3-litre original was soon superseded by larger-engined versions and from 1935 there were two four-cylinder models available - the 1,628cc 7C and 1,911cc 11CV - to which was added a 2.9-litre 'six' - the 15 - in 1938. Production resumed after WW2 and lasted until 1957 when the Traction Avant was replaced by the equally revolutionary 'DS'.
A superb example of one of Citroën's rarest and most sought-after models - there were no soft-top Tractions after WW2 - this 7C Cabriolet has been in the current owner's family's possession since its purchase in 2003 by her late father, Mr André Heytens. A Belgian businessman in the millinery trade, its late owner first encountered the Traction while visiting a hat factory in St Girons at the foot of the Pyrenees. The Traction had undergone restoration at the workshop of the local Carrosserie Bagate Paulin, whose proprietor a friend of the hat factory owner - intended to keep it as his personal car. However, after protracted bargaining he was persuaded to part with it.
After the bodywork had been finished and the technical inspection completed (on 31st January 2004 in France), the Citroën was loaded onto a trailer and transported to Belgium where its owner drove and maintained it frequently. In 2005 the Citroën was used in the Belgian TV series Onder de Wolken, directed by Stijn Coninx (see magazine article on file).
Although infirm and unable to drive his beloved Traction for the last two years of his life, André Heytens continued to admire the car daily in its heated garage. After his death in 2015 the car passed to his daughter, the current vendor. After five years of taking good care of her father's Traction, starting it every now and then, she now feels the time is right to pass the car on to a new owner who will feel as passionately about it as her father.
An older restoration that is holding up very well, the Traction should require only minimal re-commissioning before being ready to enjoy. It should be noted that the car is fitted with a later (post-war) and more desirable 1.9-litre Citroen 11CV engine (number 'AX18178'). Accompanying documentation includes old Belgian registration documents dated 2004, and photographs taken when André Heytens visited Bagate Paulin and during the car's time in Belgium.