Rare Footage of the Henri Chapron Built Traction Avant Presidential Limousine

Thanks to the preservation efforts of L’Institut national de l’audiovisuel in France, we have these clips showing the Traction Avant 15 H Presidential limousine commissioned by French president René Coty and bodied by Henri Chapron Coachworks, in service for the official visit to Paris of Queen Elizabeth II. The four-door convertible parade car features a peculiar beltline dip that was designed by Carlo Delaisse so that the VIPs sitting in the rear seat might be better seen by the public.

We see the Queen and Prince Phillip’s arrival at Orly airport, the royal couple at the Elysée Palace, the royal procession on the Champs Elysées and a wreath laying at the tomb of the unknown soldier:

In 1955, French president René Coty, an older man with health problems, was recommended Citroën’s hydro-pneumatic suspension by his physician. He personally ordered a 15 H limousine (one of only two ever made, as the 15 H was only produced as a saloon), soon after having two new official state cars built on a stretched Citroën 15 H platform to replace both his predecessor’s Talbot-Lago convertible and Marshal Pétain’s 1942 Renault Suprastella town car.

President Coty’s personal 15 H limo, specially-made by Citroën in late 1956. Perhaps the very last 15-6 built.

The first 15-6 H-based state car was a limousine designed by Philippe Charbonneaux and bodied by Franay in 1955 – the coachbuilder’s final piece before closing shop.

15-6 H-based state car was a limousine designed by Philippe Charbonneaux and bodied by Franay in 1955.

The second presidential 15 H was made by Henri Chapron in 1956.

Both 15 H limousines were in service until about 1974, when these and several other state cars were (bizarrely) donated by president Pompidou to one of his doctors.

Henri Chapron bodied 15 H state car with Charles De Gaulle (standing) and René Coty (seated).

By all accounts, these cars’ longer and substantially heavier ash-framed bodies were very tough on the 80 hp engine, so these were not usually driven on the open road, unlike the Citroën SM phaetons, also built by Henri Chapron, that replaced them.

1972 SM Presidentielle Limousines and 15 H state car — all built by Henri Chapron.
SM Presidentielle Limousines by Henri Chapron.

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