Deciphering Traction Avant Dashboard Control Knobs

by George Dyke…..

Traction Avants get a lot attention whenever they appear at local car shows.  One of the questions that often comes up is “What are the dash controls?”  Let’s look at those in the mid-1951 onward models such as the 11BN, the 11BL and the 15-6 built in Europe:


After you explain the “ladel spoon” gear shift protruding from the dash and the knob that opens the windshield, the knob that let’s you advance or retard the distributor, and my personal favourite, the manual knob you can turn to operate the stationary windshield wipers (that rotates if you have the wipers switched on), there are 4 silver knobs mounted round the ashtray that confuse many people (including Traction owners) by their markings “D”, “S”, ”EG” and “P”. 

You end up explaining that they are; D for starter, S for the choke, EG for windshield wipers and P for the interior light. But then the next question invariably is “Why does the naming not make sense?” Rather than answer “That’s the french way, don’t ask”, here’s a little insight as to why they are marked in the manner they are:

• The starter is marked “D” is for “démarreur” the French word for starter and stated as such in the Traction Avant owners manuals.  If you Google just “starter in English and look for the French translation you will get “debut”.  (Not the word Citroën intended to apply to the knob but as power makes it debut to the engine via the starter motor to cause rotational force, actually appropriate!)
• “P” is for “Plafonnier” which means ceiling.  Hence the switch is for the interior ceiling (or dome) light.  You could also say it is for “Phare” which when translated into English is headlight, but I think it can also be applied to “overhead light” which in this case it is.  
• “S” is for “suffoquer” a choke translation of the english word suffocate.  
• and “EG” is for “Essuie-glaces” which means windscreen wipers. (Actually also an accurate French abbreviation and the true name in french for windscreen wipers.)  

Tip: Say the explanations above with a french accent and it will sound like you really know what you’re talking about!  (Or people will just figure you are pompous, leave you alone and not bug you with further questions.)

Other dash knobs are the turn signal indicator on the upper right (above the choke) and the “butterfly knob” under the dash in the middle that operates the cowl vent opening between the windshield and the hood.

   From the Traction Avant 11BN owners handbook

Then there’s the dashboard light dimmer control – the little black knob protruding out of the right side of the speedometer housing. And above that a silver knob that you rotate to reset the trip odometer.  On the Traction 15-6 and the 11(B)CV there is a silver knob on the other side of the dashboard pod that you use to set the time of the clock that is built into to speedometer display.  

And on the left of the speedometer housing are found 2 controls; one – an on-off-on horizontal switch that selects power to the left or right ville lights mounted on at the top exterior are of the B pillars, and underneath that is knob that you rotate to open and close a flap in the heat duct tube that gets “warm” air channeled from the radiator.   

If you see other knobs or controls added to the dash, they were done at some point after it left the factory.  

Of course earlier Tractions and those built in Slough England had different dashboards so the location of these functions on those cars vary.

You can check the “Citroën Traction Avant” book by Jon Pressnell to see the various earlier dashboard configurations and those of the Slough built cars.



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