Every year (covid notwithstanding) around midsummer’s day Citroën Rendezvous, the largest gathering of Citroën vehicles in the north-east US, takes place in Saratoga Springs, New York. Citroën (now part of the Stellantis group, along with Fiat, Opel, Maserati, Lancia, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, and a few others) has had no official dealer network in Canada since the mid-1970s when U.S. design regulations outlawed core features of Citroën cars, so almost every one of the 120 or so cars at the show is at least 40 years old. A few date back to the mid-1930s.
The Traction Avant, as the name implies, was the first mass-produced front-wheel drive car in the world, first manufactured in 1934.
It was in the 1954 model that the famous hydro-pneumatic self-levelling suspension was introduced, a feature common to almost all of Citroën’s higher-end models until quite recently. At the lower end of the spectrum, the Deux Chevaux was produced from 1948 – 1990. One of its stated design criteria was that it should be able to cross a ploughed field without breaking any eggs in a basket on the rear seat. This was the French answer to the Volkswagen.
Ironically, the 2-cylinder air cooled engine was made by BMW and the first model delivered only 9hp. Over 9 million 2CVs were produced during their long production run.
The SM was Citroën’s attempt to break into the high-end luxury sporty end of the market. It adopted all the technical innovations of the DS and combined them with a 2.7 litre 6-cylinder Maserati engine and a 5-speed manual transmission. With a 90 litre fuel tank, the car was designed to travel from Paris to Marseilles (about 800Km) at 200Km/hour without stopping.
The experiment ended with Citroën’s bankruptcy and subsequent acquisition by Peugeot in 1974. Things were never quite the same after that!
Of course, there were many other vehicles in Citroën’s stable, such as:
One car at this year’s show deserves special mention. It doesn’t look like much
but the history of this early DS is amazing. In 2008 it was rescued from a field in Montana. When the DS was introduced at the Paris Motor Show in 1955, over 12,000 sales orders were taken in the first day. The serial number of the pictured vehicle is 10950, which probably means it was one of those cars. The proud owner gives a brief show-and-tell about his adventure in this YT video.
There were a few interesting non-Citroëns present too, but they are hardly worth mentioning 😉.