by Per Ahlstrom
The Commerciale was aimed at French farmers and small businessmen who needed both a workhorse vehicle for work and an elegant sedan for going to church on Sundays. It was built on the long Familiale body, on which the rear end was opened up all the way into the roof, and had the opening fitted with a rear hatch divided into two parts. The profile of the car stayed the same as in the Familiale, but the handles for the rear hatches were moved up over the waist of the car.
The interior differs a lot from the regular sedans. The whole interior is made in pegamoid, which is a cotton cloth impregnated with celluloid. It is extremely flammable, so on my Commerciale I had it replaced with a modern Naugahyde in a color and texture as close to original as I could find.
The rear seat has the back hanging in chains, with the bottom of the seat back supported by the edge of a wooden floor. Some Commerciales, like mine, had two positions for the back seat – a forward position which provided more room for cargo and a rear position which provided more space between the seats. With the back seat in the forward position, the gap was filled with a short wooden floor. The seat also comes out easily, and then a long wooden floor, reaching all the way to the front seat could be fitted.
A number of accessories allowed the Commerciale to be adapted for different professions. There was a box for animal transportation (the car is equipped with a drain for animal urine as standard, so you can hose it out), there were ramps for rolling wine barrels into the car, etc.
The rear of the car has detachable panels that snap onto a plywood backing. This makes it easy to convert it from a weekday truck to a Sunday sedan. The back of the front passenger seat can be folded down, and the upholstery snapped off, to provide a suitable place for scales or a cash register when you take the car to sell at the Farmers Market on Saturdays.
If you need space for really long items, you can fold up the right front seat right up to the firewall and lift the lower rear hatch to hinges that are placed so that the hatch forms an extension of the cargo area, hanging horizontally in its chains.
3000 Commerciales were sold in 1938-39. Very few remain, as these cars were workhorses that usually ended up rusting away behind a barn when they were worn out. I believe my car is the only pre-war Commerciale in the U.S. and Canada.
There are a also couple of Commerciales of the postwar model in the U.S. These cars were made 1954-1955 and thus have the big trunk design. The rear door on these cars is a one-piece big door that lifts up, and the spare wheel is standing up in the door opening.
I don’t know if they have a drain for animal urine, the one feature that really sets the prewar Commerciales apart from all other cars.
The Commerciale brochure shows how versatile the car is: