Few guests knew that the famous company with the Javel embankment was in a difficult situation: the cash desk was almost empty, and the debt to creditors exceeded 830 million francs!
But Andre Citroën, almost the sole leader of the company of his own name (by the way, he died 70 years ago), did not despair. "Dead winter", as they called the season 1933-1934 in France. for a sharp decline in sales and exports, Citroen did not deprive either energy, or even less excitement. And the propensity for it, both friends and enemies, was considered one of the main features of the famous French industrialist.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the offspring of a family known in the circles of diamond dealers surprised relatives and acquaintances. He engaged in the production of chevron gears, and after the First World War “without knocking” broke into automobile France, becoming one of the leaders in it. Eighty thousand cars of one model! For France, the first third of the twentieth century, this was a curiosity. Meanwhile, it was Citroen who first managed to sell so many inexpensive cars of the 5CV model. “He gave us neither sleep nor rest,” Louis Renault spoke of the rival.
What even worth the grandiose projects that were born in the office on the embankment of Javel! In 1922, the Citroens drove through the Sahara. Following this race, called the “Black Raid,” in the early 1930s an even more complex “Yellow” was organized in Central and Southeast Asia. He, like the first, brought the company worldwide fame, although it pretty depleted its box office. But Citroen, not stingy, already financed the project of a new, largely revolutionary car.
Citroen 7, which went on sale on April 19, 1934 (the first car was sold on May 3), was immediately dubbed the “car of one hundred patents”. The main innovation was front-wheel drive (in French - traction avan, a phrase that became unofficial, but recognized by all fans of the model as the name of the car). The gearbox and differential stood in front of the engine. The body was carrier and due to the absence of the driveshaft - low. Magazines of that time wrote: “Traction Avan” - the first car in France, for getting into which you do not need to climb the bandwagon (Citroën didn’t have them), but simply sit down on the seat. In addition, Model 7 was distinguished by independent torsion bar suspensions. In general, Andre Lefebvre - the designer who led the creation of the car, and the designer Flaminio Bertoni worked hard. Perhaps the only thing that could not be seen at the Citroen-7 was an automatic transmission. Having tried a complex unit on prototypes, we settled on the usual three-stage gearbox, with synchronizers in second and third gears.
But all this technical splendor did not bring the company quick success. Experts claimed that the number of “childhood diseases” of the first cars was approaching two hundred! Lack of body rigidity, weak 32-horsepower 1.3-liter engine, which also overheated … The brakes, although hydraulic, were ineffective, and the electrics were unreliable. All this, of course, did not improve the reputation of the company either among buyers or lenders. In order to maintain sales, we decided so far not to withdraw from production the previous Citroen C6 model.
Meanwhile, sparing no money, they “treated” a new car. The engine was upgraded twice in 1934. In July, the volume was increased to 1.5 liters, power - up to 35 hp, and since October, a 1.6-liter 36-horsepower engine was installed on the Citroen-7C. This version was presented at the autumn Paris Motor Show, along with a modification of 11, extended by 200 mm and equipped with a 1.9-liter 46-horsepower engine. But the main magnet of the corporate stand was Citroën-22CV - four prototypes with different bodies and a V8 engine. The 3.8 liter engine (cylinders and pistons were the same as on the 1.9 liter engine) developed 90 hp. In relation to this model, Andre Citroen also had the most serious intentions. Several cars have already been sent to dealers, and in the main salon of the company on the Champs Elysees, one 22CV was even allocated for test drives, however, with a driver.
And yet, despite the fact that the company finished not bad in 1934, having produced, like its main competitor - Renault, 60 thousand cars, it was not up to prestigious models. The patience of creditors has come to an end. Citroen negotiated, haggled, appealed to the government, but one of the main conditions for the banks was his removal from the leadership. In fact, this happened in December 1934, and formally the managing director Andre Citroen left January 31, 1935. The Michelin tire company, one of Citroen’s main lenders, gained control of the company. The founder of the famous factories on the promenade Javel was no longer seen. He was offered different positions, but the industrialist was not able to play second roles.
And the reputation of Traksion Avan, meanwhile, was getting better and better. Buyers appreciated the excellent handling of the car. "Citroen" began to be considered even a "gangster" machine. Many cars, including police, on winding roads and indeed with difficulty could keep up with the squat front-wheel Citroen.
In 1937, they upgraded model 11, a year later the Citroen-15 appeared with a six-cylinder 2.9-liter engine with 76 hp. The range was also expanded by roadsters, coupes and versions of the Familial with an opening rear wall - the forerunners of wagons. Citroens were assembled in Belgium and Germany, the French firm Rosengart made traction with a redesigned design, many body shops built custom versions, mainly convertibles.
During the war, production was curtailed, in 1942 only three cars were assembled. After 1945, more and more new models appeared in Europe, but demand for the Citroens remained stable. Even when the sensational DS model debuted in 1955, by the way, repeating the Traxion in terms of layout and engine, versions 11 and 15 were not immediately discontinued. It is noteworthy that in 1956-1957. built about 50 "traction" with hydropneumatic, as in the DS model and many subsequent, suspension. True, there were no such modifications in the dealer price lists, but it is known that French President Coti purchased one car.