The Citroën Traction Avant is an executive car produced by the French manufacturer Citroën from 1934 to 1957. Approximately 760,000 units were produced. This Traction Avant pioneered mass production of three revolutionary features still in use today: a unitary body with no separate frame, four-wheel independent suspension, and front-wheel drive.
Traction Avant, which translates literally as "front wheel drive," is not the official name. The car was named according to the French fiscal horsepower rating, or CV, 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. In 1934, Citroën introduced the 7CV, unofficially the 7A. They continued calling the car 7CV when the 7B model's larger engine pushed it into the 9 CV tax band. Other designations were 11CV, 15CV and 22CV. In France, the Traction is known as "Reine de la Route" ("Queen of the Road").
Initially, the French Army lacked enthusiasm for the Traction Avant, believing it offered insufficient ground clearance for their needs. Nevertheless, by September 1939, roughly 250 had found their way into military service. With losses of cars at the frontier mounting, Citroën supplied a further 570 to the Army between February and May 1940, and subsequent deliveries probably took place before military defeat intervened.
During the war many of the cars were re-registered with "WH..." (Wehrmacht Heer/Army command) license plates, having been requisitioned by the German Army. These gave reliable service both in France and further afield, notably in Libya and Stalingrad. Traction Avants were also favoured by the Resistance, and as occupation gave way to Liberation they turned up all over France with FFI inscribed proudly on their doors. Less gloriously, the cars were known as favourites among gangsters such as the then infamous Pierrot le Fou and his Traction gang.
The 11CV (launched in November 1934), which had a 1,911cc four-cylinder engine, was actually in the 16 CV tax band. The 11 was built in two versions, the 11BL ("légère" or "light"), which was the same size as the 7CV, and the 11B ("Normale" or "normal"), which had a longer wheelbase and wider track.
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