History Outtake: Avant-Garde Traction Avant 22CV


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