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Restore, or Not? 1956 Citroën Traction Avant 11B

Many car makers lay claim to some fame or another: first this, first that. My favorite “car of firsts” is the Lancia Lambda. Yes, I probably like Lancias too well, but the Lambda did deserve accolades for the first V4 engine, first independent suspension, first monocoque chassis, and first four-wheel brakes. On the other hand, Citroen – while not inventing any of the elements itself – managed to combine several “firsts” achieved by others into a single production car, making a sort of first of “firsts”. (Ok, I am tired of the word “first”.) Here on eBay is one of the most innovative cars to ever be birthed by any maker anywhere, a 1956 Citroën Traction Avant 11B. Bidding has reached $2247, reserve not met. This car can probably be driven a short distance comfortably from its current home in Conowingo, Maryland.

Citroën launched the Traction Avant (literally “front drive”) in 1934. The car is an amalgamation of the Lambda’s independent suspension and monocoque construction, augmented by rack and pinion steering (in 1936), hydraulic brakes, and front-wheel drive. Engines at first displaced just 1.3 liters but advanced in size over a matter of months. This example has its factory-supplied 1.9-liter four-cylinder, paired with a three-speed manual gearbox. The gearshift lever is on the dash. A previous owner installed an electric fuel pump and a relatively new exhaust. Its underside is heavily scaled in rust, but the body is said to be in good condition and sporting its factory paint. Taking a page from Citroën’s idol, Henry Ford, until 1953 the only color offered was black.

The interior needs work, but with the sale comes new grey upholstery. The green shag carpet is a modern nicety, and aftermarket gauges are installed on the dash. The headliner … isn’t. The front door panels are also missing. Speaking of doors, all four-door Traction Avants had suicide front doors and conventional rears. The broad flat floor was a big advantage in the market back in the ’30s, allowing the car to seat five or tote a lot of merchandise.

Another innovation was the lack of running boards – unneeded thanks to the already-stiff monocoque construction. In about 1952, Citroën responded to market criticism regarding the boot – which until then was only accessible from the car’s interior – by lengthening it and providing a trunk lid. However, the spare tire was moved inside, subtracting much of the space gained. These “big boot” cars do sell for less than their “small boot” brethren, but they also have a punky gangster look, as if one could have starred in The Godfather. About 760,000 examples of the Traction Avant were made; their prevalence has kept prices affordable and club support is strong. This nice 11B sold for $13,000, implying that there’s not too much upside left in our slightly needy subject car.


  1. Troy

    If bidding hits the reserve and it sells someone is going to have fun working with this thing but I’m A hard pass, it has some things I like about it suicide doors but it also has to extra doors and if you Shorten it then it would look funny, however I do disagree with the seller and I think the frame rust needs a deeper dive to make sure its usable.

    Like 3
  2. Jack Quantrill

    These were in the old tv show “Paris Precinct “. With Louis Jourdan, and Claude Dauphine. Unusual siren, “ wee-ooo, wee-ooo “.

    Like 2
  3. Frank Barrett Member

    Restoring this properly will put you upside down immediately. Since much better examples can be found for $20-30K, that’s the way to go. This poor old thing is on the verge of becoming a parts car, so others may live on.

    Like 3
  4. CarNutDan

    I always had an itch to take one of these and turn it into a hot rod, with a chevy or mopar or even a toyota or honda engine then take it to a citroen car show.

    Like 1
  5. sonny Member

    Have to agree, frame is very bad, more than surface rust. With the materials for the interior, labor alone is about $2300. Cool car but rust means to me run.

    Like 3
  6. Derek

    Looks ok to me.

    It doesn’t have a separate chassis; what kills them is rust/damage to the bulkhead and front longerons. The big rusty-looking suspension thing os bolted to the front of the longerons.

    Flat floors’re great; the 2CV has them too, and it makes carrying large objects very easy.

    One of my friends has a Traction as not-quite-a-daily-driver. It’s used a few times a week and lives outdoors. Good cars.

    Like 6
  7. Martin Horrocks

    While I also like the Lambda, Lancia did not pioneer V4, IFS, 4 wheel brakes or monocoque construction (actually Lambda is unibody rather than monocoque construction, which is not the same thing). These had all featured previously elsewhere though (as you say about the Citroën)the Lambda was the first production car to introduce these features in one model.

    The 1934 TA Citroën was also initially designed to have automatic transmission, but this could not be made reliable so was quickly replaced by a 3 speed manual. The TA was unitary, rather than unibody – revolutionary in a production car- and proved that FWD was practical for mass production, selling 3/4 million over the years; unfortunately not before it had bankrupted André Citroën.

    BTW, the black only was in the first 5 years after WW2, several other colours were availlable pre-war and blue and gray were added to black in 1953. UK built cars were always available in different colours to the French cars.

    I´ve had 2 TA Citroëns, one mint and one scruffy. They were both great to drive and I´d have another any day. Maybe this one is too scruffy, but all parts are available from Europe, as are cars in excellent condition for $15-20000. probably a better buy for driving.

    Like 6
    • Greg in Texas

      Yes, I think you go for the driver you’re showing off, not worried about a bell hop scuff or passengers’ shoe scuffs and popcorn in the seats. Since it’s already running and driving, the naysayers about surface rust underneath probably hoping to snag it cheap in last hour bidding. It’s easily $9k as it is. You will sink another $5k and 3 years your own free time labor AS YOU DRIVE IT making it reliable, fun and presentable. You can flip it for a little more than that if done well, but odds are you might get a real kick out of it. Some movies need such cars as well.

      Like 1
  8. H Siegel

    I really like this car would love to own it. It is fairly close to me. I have a fair amount of knowledge of American cars and British such as the Triumph Spitfire. But no knowledge of the mechanicals of the Citroen. Would love to learn them. I wonder about parts availability and cost. Also what’s the horsepower and cruising speed. Are they difficult to maintain to keep running. I think one drawback would be if it broke down on the road can’t go to the local parts store for parts. Are there clubs and forums for these. Think I’ll keep an eye on the bidding. GLWTA

    Like 3
  9. C5 Corvette

    Viet Nam….1967….There were many of these in the city area. When the French pulled out of VN they were left. They were mostly used as Taxi cabs and transportation by wealthy private owners. All where Black. I never rode in one as I was in the Boonie’s!

    Like 3
  10. Rustydust

    I believe this is the car featured in a plot twist (trick?) in the 80’s film Diva. Worth a watch.

    Like 1
  11. Laurence

    This Traction Avant could be used as a prop “as-is” in Second World War films…but its post-war ’50s large boot/trunk would need to be kept out of the scenes…or it should get some reversible “surgery”.

    A while ago I watched a film about Ernest Hemingway set during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39, and it featured one of these anachronistic 1950s big-boot post-war variants. The film lost some credibility because of it. Prop masters should do their research.

    While it would be sad for this to become a parts car, it also has to be reasonably-priced to be worth restoring. Unfortunately it is one of the long wheelbase variants that is less desirable. I wish the car and its seller good luck..

    Like 3
    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

      Vehicle mistakes are fairly common in movies. One of the biggest mistakes was using a 1948 Packard Custom-8 limousine in the movie Patton. It must have been a very early Packard prototype because General Patton died in 1945.

      Like 2
      • Laurence

        Bill: in Patton they even used some latter Jeeps that were not used during the Second World War…the ones with the headlamps NOT recessed inwards. Oftentimes films don’t make mistakes and just use the wrong thing out of laziness or to save money. One of the most ridiculous things I ever saw was using a 1950s Morris Minor in an episode of Rat Patrol!

        Like 0
  12. Big C

    The French were so far ahead of every other car manufacturer, that their 1956 models looked almost like their 1930’s models? The Frenchie’s must have thought a ’56 Chevy was a UFO.

    Like 1
    • SubGothius

      The Traction Avant was far ahead of its time when it debuted in 1934, and then of course WWII disrupted production and development for several years, but by 1956 it was already long overdue for retirement, so in that same year Citroën introduced its successor, the DS, which once again leapt far ahead of its time and looked like a UFO compared to anything else in production at the time and for at least another decade-plus to come.

      Like 2
    • hatofpork

      Perhaps but there are still people who think the DS cars are weirdos from outer space, but they made Tri-Fives technically obsolete at their first showing, which was 1955, I believe. Once Citroen bought Maserati and put their V6 in the SM,
      (arguably an evolution of the DS), they had a real spaceship which is still coveted (ergo expensive) 50 years on.

      Like 0
  13. Car Nut Tacoma

    Good looking car. I’ve heard of the Citroen Traction Avant, but I’ve never seen one in person. Assuming everything on the car works like it should and it’s safe to drive, I’d be willing to pay close to the $13k.

    Like 1
  14. LCL

    There is a vertical slot in the grill near the bottom, and a shaft protruding from the front of the engine/trans.
    The shaft has a hole through it, perhaps for a cotter pin?
    What is that for? A PTO? Hand crank? Why is the there a tall slot?
    Thoughts anyone?

    Like 0
    • SubGothius

      The grille slot is indeed for a hand crank, which even the later DS also retained provision for. I think that “hole” you noticed may actually be an extended pin instead, which the hand crank’s receiver would engage to turn the shaft.

      Like 3
      • LCL


        Like 1

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