– by Larry A. Lewis

The Traction from the Black Lagoon.


They said that? dept:


“The most futuristic car ever,” Jalopnik said. Never heard of Jalopnik so I checked it out.  An online forum of various opinions about cars, some taken to the extreme, it looks like.  Geared to a younger audience than I am, I suppose.  They said the DS Citroën is the most futuristic.  There was little said about how they arrived at that conclusion, or am I missing something?  Sure, it’s futuristic in its looks, like the Normandie was a futuristic ocean liner and the 1964 New York World’s Fair was a futuristic look at the “World ‘O Tomorrow.”

DS-1963 01

But what is the true way to the future?  From the 30s to the 60s the future looked great! According to Le Corbusier, we would all live in high-rise blocks sitting in fields of concrete that would be covered in automobiles.  No room for pedestrians in that world.  Who would not want to live like that?  According to Frank Lloyd Wright, everything would be cantilevered.  We would have personal helicopters and travel to work on a monorail.  We would all drive cars with a hydraulic suspension.  No, wait a minute.  We won’t.


We don’t drive rear-engined air cooled cars either, an idea that came and went just like airship travel.  We don’t drive cars that look like a flying saucer. I f the D was so wonderful, what the hell happened?  Why wasn’t its suspension taken to a higher level?  High speed trains use microprocessors to detect centrifugal forces to make the train tilt using hydraulics enabling higher speeds and a comfortable ride.  I know people have experimented with the D and by using railway-based technology made a D that would bank around curves like an airplane.  Why don’t all cars do that?


Mediocrity has happened to Citroën in recent years, but for one brief, shining moment that lasted from 1934 to 1957, Citroën showed us the path to the future that we live today and likely will live until the gas runs out.  What other car back then had front wheel drive, rack and pinion steering and torsion bars, not to mention an all-steel unitary step-down body, (revolutionary at the time) and removable cylinder liners?  None.  Not one.  What cars today don’t have at least two of these?  I can’t think of any.  Yes, the Traction was futuristic for its time.  When it went out of production, it was still pointing the way to where we are now.  Nothing else from back then even came close.


The DS created a false trail.  Further development work was done as the years passed and the C6 had a more sophisticated arrangement but recent information reveals how the entire hydraulic system is going away in favour of electrically charged shock absorbers that will do the same thing.  It seems a shame to give all that up, but I’ve said it before that it all appeared to be the answer to a question no one asked.  A torsion bar DS would have been a lot more reliable and still would have sold like beer on a troopship.


What does the future hold right now?  Driverless cars?  Yeah, right.  A crock if I ever heard one.  Might work on a Palo Alto office campus but in the real world?  Don’t make me laugh.  Electric cars?  There are possibilities but I’d rather have a 1918 Detroit electric than a Tesla.  The limitations of both are identical.  So what are we left with?  What we have.


What the future held in 1934 still holds true today.  The Traction is the car of the past, present and future.



There he said it again dept:


Taken verbatim from an August 1955 Mechanix Illustrated “Mail for McCahill” column:


What is the name of the very popular French front wheel drive automobile that you reported on a few years back?  It was so satisfactory that no major changes were made in over several years’ production.  Is this car still made and do you know of any dealers in this country?  It sounded to me at the time like a great car for this rough country.

                                         A. Harris

                                         Bozeman, Montana


The car was a front-wheel-drive Citroën.  They came in four- and six-cylinder packages.  They are great automobiles, though they steer hard.  I don’t know of any dealers in this country.


I guess Unk wasn’t aware that Challenger Motors sold Tractions until 1957, but then, he was based on the east coast and the innertube, I mean the internet hadn’t been discovered yet.

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