Many Traction Avant convertible conversions have been done since the Citroën factory ceased making them in 1941. While the UK conversions and those done on the European continent came close to mimicking factory original cabriolets by featuring the folding windshield, extended doors with the top edge swooping upward toward the front and having a “cabrio-like” rear end with a rumble seat, many done in other parts of the world, particularly in places like Vietnam, took a simpler approach. In those cases the sedan’s windshield A pillar structure was left intact and the roof cut off just beyond the windshield. In these cases the front doors had the window frame cut down but they were not elongated, and the rear of the car was either modified to resemble a true cabriolet with a body section made that contained the rumble seat and swooped down to the back where the enclosed spare tire was mounted.
There has been great debate over the years as to the authenticity of many conversions that looked very close to the original cabriolets. Some people have been fooled by them and invested a great deal in what they thought was an authentic car. I n Toronto in the 1980’s Mark Ketenjian wanted a Traction convertible and decided to build one himself.
Mark’s love of the Traction began in his hometown of Aleppo, Syria. In his early 20’s his father purchased one for him which he used for leisure as well as work. At the time he owned an auto parts shop and used the Traction to deliver parts around the city.
In 1968 he moved to Toronto and once established started the search for a Traction, looking for the connection to his youth and father that only that car could bring. He found what he was looking for in the classifieds section of the newspaper and bought the car in the late 70’s.
He and his brother Gary owned an auto repair and body shop in Leaside and Mark determined that he could take a Traction 11BL and work that into his dream convertible. With considerable effort and some clever engineering he created this unique Traction by strengthening the monocoque body structure in the lower sills, lengthening the doors (doing the top sweep toward the front), and having them reverse open and close by fitting Austin Mini door hinges to the area further back where the lower B pillar section had been re-located. In order to have operating rear windows that fully descended, Mark got a hold of a VW Beetle convertible and extracted the rear side windows, fitting them in the Traction. He was then able to make the front door windows that rolled down from conventional straight glass that was edge capped in chrome trim as was the front side glass pieces that filled the area of the doors between the roll down glass and the rake of the windshield A pillars.
Possibly because he liked the greater trunk space the ‘51 BL had, preferred the extended box section design of the modern trunk introduced in the autumn of 1952 (the boot was lengthened and its volume doubled) or he just couldn’t bring himself to fabricate an entirely new back end, Mark merely cut off the roof at the C-pillars and left the rear intact. A custom fabric top was fitted and with that he had in effect a Traction convertible!
Other Tractions have had roof sections removed and the rear end left as is. A popular conversion in Europe for doing this leaving the door and the sides of the roof in place was carried out by AEAT (Anciens Établissements Ansart and Teisseire – located in Neuilly sur Seine 41 to 43, rue Ybry and 22, boulevard du General Leclerc). This conversions made a découvrable out of sedan taking off the roof from just behind the windshield to the just above the trunk lid and fitting a foldable fabric top that included a rear window.
Mark owned his Traction BL convertible along with another unmodified 11BL sedan up until his passing in 2016. He drove both very sparingly as he was always busy doing one thing or another and never really got around driving to them. In fact 6 years ago he confessed to George Dyke that he actually only drove them to the gas station once each year to put in fresh fuel! Amazingly the Traction convertible has managed to stay in exactly the same condition as when it was converted.
Mark’s love of Traction’s was only matched by his love of Mini Coopers. He owned many through the years and for a short time in the 70’s raced them at Mosport, a race track just outside Toronto. It was in the passenger seat of these Mini Coopers that his son has some of his fondest childhood memories. Mark’s strong emotional ties to Traction’s were because of their connection with his father in Syria and his son now has those same emotional ties to Mini Coopers, not Traction Avant’s. Although the family honours and appreciates the workmanship and engineering put into this unique car, they also acknowledge that in order for it to be loved and maintained properly it might be best to find it a new home. This is why they are considering putting it up for sale.
We’re not sure how much this one-off convertible BL will command, but one thing is for sure, if you have the same desire as Mark Ketenjian did to own a topless Traction, and are impressed by what he achieved with his conversion, you surely can’t get a more distinctive ride!