Looking at a visual montage of classic French automobiles, we came across this picture of a Traction Avant 15-6 Roadster and noticed what looks to be USA license plate on the front bumper.
Upon closer inspection, we noticed the aerial on the back right side. That is a match to a photo we featured in our article where we interviewed Red Dellinger, a Citroën dealer and collector in Lewisberry, Pennsylvania. Red described how he acquired the Madame Michelin 15-6 roadster from Augie Pabst (of Pabst Brewing company) around 1990. (Read about how Red bought the car in the Winter 2008 issue of Citroënthusiast – which you can find in our Members’ Newsletters Archive section). The photo of the car at Red’s shows a young Brad Nauss Behind the wheel and driving it out of Red’s garage. Other than the license plate missing, it most certainly is the same car!
There were only three 6-cylinder roadsters that were made in late 1939, and one assembled from the remaining parts in 1940. Of the four, the Madame Michelin roadster is the most famous.
The car, chassis number 680959, was the very first example built. It was assigned to Mrs Anna Michelin, the widow of Pierre Michelin and daughter of tyre baron Edouard Michelin, who used this exceptional car for her personal transportation. It was outfitted with several unique and special features, such as a retractable armrest in the back of the seat, a deeper glovebox than standard, a 75-litre fuel tank, and trafficator-style turn signals. In addition, it was finished in green with plum leather upholstery.
It was sold in 1951 to Eric Bloch, who had it refinished in a darker green shade. Three years later the car was sold to an American enthusiast, Richard Haynes. Mr. Haynes was fully aware of the significance of his purchase and commissioned American Citroën distributor Charles Buchet to research its history. Upon its arrival at the port of Detroit in 1954, the car was fitted with a chrome radiator grille and straight bumpers, the body refinished in metallic gold.
Following Mr. Haynes’s passing in 1980, the car was inherited by his son, who surrendered the title and keys to the car when losing it in a poker game to Augie Pabst. Augie stored it in Wisconsin before selling it to Red Delligner.
We were most surprised to come across this photo of it in the USA while watching a wonderful YouTube video slide show titled “Les voitures françaises d’autrefois 1950 / 1960”. You can see it at 9:36 mark.
There are American cars behind it including a station wagon that looks to be from the late 1950’s. We wonder if that is Richard Haynes behind the wheel?
It is great to have proof of the car existing in the USA prior to Red purchasing it.
Red sold the car in 1997 to the prominent Dutch Traction Avant collector Nico Michon. When Michon purchased the car, he restored it to its original factory configuration and refinished it in a “frog green” colour.
The car was afterward displayed to considerable fanfare at Rétromobile in February of 2003 and participated in various rallies, including the EuroCitro on the Bugatti circuit at Le Mans and the Tractionades on the Charade circuit in Clermont-Ferrand.
It has changed hands (and colours) at least two times since its time in the USA. Its present owner in Germany has had it carefully restored once again and repainted in what is believed to be the original, elegant, dark green.