Aside from the usual “production” FWD Citroëns, there were a number of rare cars at this 15th International Citroën Car Club Rally (ICCCR). There usually are a few RWD cars (i.e. necessarily pre-war) and some interesting period accessories, modifications and coachbuilt specials, which are always a treat. The folks at the Conservatoire Citroën also like to participate, taking the time to ship over some interesting prototypes such as this DS-powered Panhard. And a few folks even try to venture into this extremely mono-marque event in a non-Citroën…
This is the ur-Citroën: a 1919 “Type A” 10 HP. Andre Citroën had the capital and the experience to switch to car production after the Great War and decided to emulate Ford’s production methods as much as possible. The Type A was consequently very cheap for its size and sold very well.
In 1922, Citroën tried their hand at the 5HP tax band, which was highly favoured in those days. The tiny 850cc Citroën Type C was another great sales success for the firm. The Type C was ubiquitous on French roads until well into the ‘50s. The most popular variant was the 3-seater boattail cabriolet, which Citroën fans know as the “Trèfle” (clover). Sales were excellent but profits quite low – the C was ditched in 1926.
The Type A was replaced by the B2 (1921-26), whose chassis was used to create the B10 we see here in 1924. The B10 was the first European all-steel bodied car, using Ambi Budd technology – a dramatic step forward. The B10 and B2 were superseded by the B12 in 1926, which evolved and changed names several times in the ‘30s.
A British-made C4 (circa 1931) – from this point on, except for marginal cosmetic changes and new engines after 1934, the RWD Citroëns pretty much stayed like this until 1938. All eyes were now on the Traction Avant.
This is what a genuine pre-war Traction should look like. One stop light, no door or wing brightwork, no turn signals, optional two-tone paint. This is a post ’35 car, as the trunk can be accessed from outside.
This is a genuine rarity – the Traction Avant fixed-head coupé, weirdly termed “faux-cabriolet” by Citroën. Only made for five model years (1934-38), it was never as popular as the convertible. A highly prized collector’s item today, of course.
Citroën never resumed its two-door Traction convertible after production was halted in 1940. Consequently, a number of owners got their pre-war cabriolet tarted up to continue standing out in the post-war traffic. This 1939 11B cabriolet was thus partially re-skinned by Clabot, a specialist of this sort of thing, in 1947. Good segue to coachbuilt and modified cars, isn’t it?
Coachbuilt and Modified Cars
Staying with the Tractions, here are two I’ve already used in my post on the breed in general and the 15-Six in particular. This 1951-52 car has a convertible roof, probably made by AEAT. This was a rather popular modification in the ‘50s – some carmakers, such as Peugeot and Renault, even made those in-house. Citroën never did (except for the 2CV, the Dyane and the short-lived Visa Décapotable), but a period-installed soft-top such as this greatly increases a Traction’s value. This car also has the Grégoire rear suspension, another highly-prized period aftermarket gadget.
Swiss coachbuilders such as Langenthal made a number of proper two-door convertibles with the invincible Traction in the ‘40s and ‘50s, since Citroën did not do their factory convertibles any more. 6-cyl. cars like this ’52 are especially valuable, but that didn’t prevent these guys from taking the ferry like us mere mortals. It’s still a Traction after all – still capable to keep up with modern traffic, except maybe on highways…
The AEAT company continued making business into the ‘70s, but they usually left the C pillars alone on the DS. This more elaborate solution was made by Chapron, a.k.a the last traditional French coachbuilder, on a 1970 DS. The big downside being that one of the car’s coolest features, the roof-mounted turn signals, are sacrificed for the cause…
Henri Chapron forged a relationship with Citroën after he presented a two-door DS convertible at the 1958 Paris Motor Show, which roused the carmaker’s interest. Chapron ended up with a lucrative subcontract to make the “production” DS convertibles, but he also proposed his own, more bespoke and chrome-laden designs.
These two nearly identical 1959 “La Croisette” convertibles were there. It’s rare to see two almost-identical Chapron DSs – there were two- and four-seater convertibles and coupés, as well as a saloon. A handful of cars were made of each type every year until 1975. The cost of Chapron’s work usually equaled the cost of a DS, making these very expensive, but still shy of Rolls-Royce territory. Then costs started spiraling out of control in the ’70s, eventually leading to the coachbuilder’s closure in 1985.
This is a “Concorde” four-seater coupé. From around 1964 to 1970, most Chapron DSs had these slight rear fins à la Facel-Vega.
I’ve already featured this 1972 Chapron-built SM “Opéra” – one of eight ever made – in a previous post, but I can’t decently leave this stunning machine out of this compilation. Jaw-dropping. If only Citroën had gone through with the prototypes they designed for a production SM saloon….
Speaking of which, here are a few of the prototypes that Citroën managed not to destroy over the past few decades. This is the C60, which was Citroën’s first stab at making a mid-sized car to fill the massive gap between the DS and the 2CV.
The interior is surprisingly elaborate for a prototype that was never going to go into production as was. Couldn’t be anything but a Citroën though, could it? The company then started afresh with the Projet F, which was a complete debacle. Finally, the GS plugged the gap in 1970.
By that time, a replacement for the DS was well under way. The Project L was the first complete draft of the CX, which was launched in 1974.
The rear of the car was certainly improved in the final design – this is too close to the GS. But the overall CX concept is already there in many ways. Citroën were still the undisputed heavyweights of the automotive avant-garde, having gobbled up talents from Maserati, Berliet and Panhard.
The 1963-67 Panhard 24 – the marque’s final civilian vehicle – was entirely made under Citroën’s watch: Citroën had gradually swallowed Panhard in the late ‘50s. Some Citroën product planners wondered how the pretty Panhard might fare with a full hydro suspension and a special DS engine…
It seems another Panhard 24 CT was also modified to test the Maserati V6 used on the SM in 1968. Being lighter and very aerodynamic, the Maserati-powered Panhard could reach over 240 kph – the SM was a good 20 kph slower.
Officially, Panhards are always welcome at the ICCCR and regarded as “cousins” by the average Citroëniste. Panhard aficionados, on the other hand, usually regard Citroën as “remorseless killers.” They’re both right. One could see a smattering of Panhards (all post-war FWD) as the event, such as this UK market 1960 PL 17.
This is a higher-spec Tigre model – the front suicide doors also make it a 1959-60 car.
By 1963, the Panhard saloon had changed a little bit – more discreet trim, new taillights, new alloy drum brakes, etc. Production ended in 1965.
But the undisputed Queen of Panhards is their final effort, the 24. This is an early CT (short wheelbase) model: the ventilated “ETA” drum brakes on this car were superseded by discs on all four wheels in 1965. The colour is called “quetsche” (a type of plum) and is typical of earlier models as well.
I vividly recall the impression this car made of me as a teen. Panhards were rare by then, though I must have known about the PL17, which is by far the most common model. The 24 was unknown to me until I saw one in a car mag. Love at first sight. This subsequently happened again several times, most notably when I learned about a certain Czechoslovakian streamliner… What’s the white car next to that Panhard, you ask?
It’s a DB HBR 5 (1954-60) much like this one. These are to Panhard what Alpine was to Renault: high-performance, low-volume sports cars based on a popular saloon. The Panhard flat-twin, gearbox and brakes were used, but the backbone chassis and fiberglass body were made by Deutsch & Bonnet (DB), using their experience from racing Panhard-powered prototypes at Le Mans and other endurance races. Pretty exclusive (about 600 made), but not particularly beautiful, especially without the earlier pop-up headlamps.
Staying with baby-blue sports cars, someone showed up with a UK-spec Porsche 356, which was presumably happy to be surrounded by air-cooled boxers. It’s unfortunate that there was no Rosengart Supertraction like there had been in Rome, but this event is obviously a Citro-centric affair, first and foremost.
Well, sometimes the old Citroën charm fails to work at the last minute and one is relegated to attending the rally by way of clever disguise. A few interesting cars could also be seen around Harrogate, chief among which was a pre-war MG I wrote up recently. But at the event, the most impressive non-Citroën was probably the double-decker Daimler seen below.
Classic British buses are always a joy to behold. Which brings us to the final section of our little tour.
Trucks and vans
I’m not overly passionate (nor very knowledgeable) about these vehicles – and was even less keen on them back in 2012. But there is one Citroën truck that always piqued my interest. These were styled by Flaminio Bertoni (who also did the Traction, 2CV, DS and Ami 6) and looked so bizarre that this series of trucks was nicknamed Belphégor, after a popular 1965 TV movie villain whose face sort of coincided with the new truck’s appearance.
The Citroën Belphégor was made until 1974 and was often seen about France into the ‘90s, but now these are getting rare. The HY van behind it, though, is still relatively common – and quite an icon in its own right. That one seems to be a ‘70s Benelux model (front-hinged doors).
I’m afraid that’s it for the heavies – and for this post. Hope you enjoyed this immersion in the Sea of Troën.