The Traction Avant, the revolutionary front wheel drive model of 1934 that set Citroen on the path of unconventional engineering that would be the company’s identity for half a century, could have had a variant that extended the frontier of innovation even further. In 1936, Citroen showed a concept that would move the Traction Avant transaxle to the rear, harness it to the V-8 engine of the planned top of the line 22CV, and enclose passengers in a streamlined, teardrop-shaped body with an airplane-like glassed-in cockpit, center-mounted headlights behind a grill (of unclear purpose with the rear engine), a central fin like on a 1930s Tatra, and a Kamm tail. The artist’s rendition appeared to use doors and side windows straight off of a Traction Avant Familiale 6-window sedan, maintaining some continuity with the existing design.
This Traction Avant variant would have been “une voiture moderne” indeed. Its inspiration may have been contemporary aviation, as it resembles an up-to-date 1930s airplane fuselage with no wings and a vestigial tail. Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion concept car of 1933 may have been an influence, as their general shapes are similar. Citroen appears to have retained a full width body and four wheel configuration (or no wheels, since none are visible – perhaps the extra power of the 22CV engine would energize a levitation device), however, while the Dymaxion had a narrow tail and three wheels, with a steered single rear wheel and two driven front wheels with a rear engine. Functionally, it may have resembled a VW bus or a modern MPV, but with the power and tail-happy handling of a rear-mounted V-8. Stylistically, it would have been radical then and remains so today.
Alas, although Citroen produced publicity material, I have found no evidence of a prototype, test mule or styling mock-up. Furthermore, it would have used a chassis and engine that did not exist in 1936. It probably was never more than a dream concept, comparable to the 1956 GM Motorama flying car, but it did look spectacular.
Photo from www.citroenet.org.uk
Sounds a lot like the Stout Scarab, except those were actually manufactured. The first prototype was finished in 1932.
Looks like it should be in a Buck rogers film.It was definitely an idea if not shape of things to come,a prototype MPV
Andre Citroen had used up all his company’s cash developing the Citroen Traction Avant which debuted in 1934, the same year the company declared bankruptcy. Citroen’s largest creditor, Michelin, then became its principal shareholder. Andre Citroen died in 1935. Maybe that’s why the 22cv was never more than a concept.
My first exposure to this Citroen concept. There was a real fever for ultra-aerodynamic vehicles at the time, but putting them into production was another matter. The ultimate one was the 1939 Schlörwagen, whose Cd was somewhere between 0.185 and 0.15. It was built on a Mercedes 170h (rear engine) chassis.
Thank you Robert you made my day! I had never heard of this concept before. There is definitely something Tatra-esque about it. If a prototype had ever seen the light of day, I guess it would be even more of a Holy Grail today than the mysterious handful of 22CV sedans and convertibles ever known to have been built… maybe in a barn somewhere… nah… I don’t think so… Too bad! Just picture doing Pebble Beach with THIS!
Never heard of that before its really cool and may have worked but as others have noted Citroen was broke so there wasnt money to experiment with things like this.
I never understood why 1930’s stylists thought cars of the future would all look like bean shaped vans?
They KNEW cars would look like beans 🙂
Without today’s aerodynamic science and computational power, they naturally thought a teardrop shape was the most efficient way to cut through the air. It makes obvious sense, too bad it’s not true.
Umm; and what’s more efficient?
If you’re going to say the typical Kammback of today, that’s not right, except that it is of course more space-efficient. The Kammback gets a lot closer to the aerodynamic ideal than the early pioneers would have guessed, but it can’t equal the teardrop shape. That’s why high-speed racing cars at LeMans and such still use long tails. As well as airplanes, etc……
The Porsche 917 came in two versions: short and long tail. The short tail, with its Kammback and spoiler, generated more downward force for curvy tracks. But the long tail, a classic pointed teardrop (with spoiler), was unbeatable at LeMans and such high-speed tracks.
Paul is right. Pininfarina did their X and Y aero vehicles as well as some more work in the 80s which bore resemblance to teardrop. Defining the perfect shape for a vehicle is not really possible if you consider other factors such as directional stability and crosswinds.
Funny thing is, water drops are spheres and not a ‘teardrop’ shape.
True, teardrops in free air, but the wheels and ground have big effects. The lowest drag car of any kind is the Pac-car II, Cd = 0.075, which set a fuel economy record of 12600 mpg in 2005. They put a teardrop up high above the ground and did what they could about wheels.
VW’s production XL1 has the lowest Cx of any real car at 0.189. Even if it’s a noisy uncomfortable super car, it can be driven on real streets and the driver is not lying down head first.
Teardropish but flattened down to the ground and more like the “arch”.
That artwork is hot.
Carmine’s call on bean shapes is interesting; I’m remembering the Alfa ‘people mover’ of the same period. Really, these forms did a better job of predicting the future than the stuff from the fifties.
Speaking of aerodynamics in the thirties.
1937 Auto Union Type C Streamliner.
6 liter V16 engine, 520 hp, top speed approx. 250 mph. (Photo: Audi AG)
This is becoming an adjunct to the QOTD: Modern Sedans Looking Alike post. Paul’s 917 photos remind me that it’s not just about cutting through the air efficiently, it’s also about downforce. In principle, these two effects operate in opposition, which means striking the right balance.
The other thing about that illustration is that it looks like a significant part of the vehicle (in terms of length) is given to the engine compartment at the rear.
scroll down for a side view and other details on this *very* unusual car, which would have been the only rear engined V8 FWD car if it had been built.