A neighbor of mine used to have this fine specimen parked in front of their house, and having been in awe of the exotic curves and design elements that felt strikingly similar to the mid century architectural elements LA is so known for, I had to learn more about this magical mystery ride known at the Citroen.
Although punk had not yet emerged in the nineteenth century, Andre Citroen would have enjoyed it. He was a revolutionary, and the founder of the famous avant-garde French car workshops shared a lot of the attitude that the punk-wave brought forward much later. Citroen, like Antiflag, a punk band from the United States, raised 'A New Kind of Army' with the release of one of their albums.
Andre Citroen was born in 1878, the son of a wealthy diamond merchant from the Netherlands. Young Andre had already been enamored with technology by the time he finished high school, a passion he had first felt at the age of ten when he encountered Jules Verne's novels. He enrolled at the Polytechnical school in Paris at the age of 20, fully committed to his dream of becoming an engineer.
Years of study paid well, and after working for a period with the car company 'Mors,' he moved on to start his own business. In 1905, 'Andre Citroen&Cie' was established. At the time, Andre was only 27 years old.
The company's name was changed to 'Societe des Engrenages Citroen' in 1913. (Citroen Cog Factory). In the same year, the visionary engineer formed a new company primarily dedicated to the development of carburetors based on a patent he had already acquired. Fascinated by Henry Hord's methods, he paid a visit to one of his assembly lines in the United States, where he meticulously examined the logical steps that had been done in constructing such a working environment.
Citroen would deliver his first automobile in 1919, shortly after World War I ended, after witnessing the process and being motivated by his own desire to build automobiles. Citroen, like other automobile manufacturers, had to convert its manufacturing lines to cater for the requirement for armaments and ammunition during wartime. It was during this time that he began to consider what he would do once the war was over.
His factory's first car was simply known as Type A, and it was powered by a 4-cylinder 1326 cc engine that could propel the vehicle to a top speed of 40.4 mph (65 km/h). The Model A's greatest advantage was its versatility, as everything was custom constructed or could be picked straight from the factory from a large selection of alternatives, including body types and spare wheels, aside from the chassis and engine.
Another outstanding feature of the Model A was its low cost. The car received a favourable response as a result of these two opposing characteristics. The Type A sold 2,500 units in just six months after its release. Citroen had already produced nearly ten times as many cars by the following year, 1920.
The year 1920 featured a slew of technological advancements, several of which would eventually become Citroen brand names. Citroen experimented with half-tracks he called 'Autochenilles' after becoming interested in road-building vehicles and military equipment.
By 1921, Citroen had grown in popularity to the point where it had become a part of the Parisian way of life. The first Citroen Taxis are introduced, followed by the introduction of a newer car model, the Type C, which is lighter, smaller, and less powerful than its predecessor, the Type A. This vehicle was also offered in a three-seater version known as 'Le Trefle' (Clover Leaf), which was well-received.
Years later, more advanced models, such as the B12 in 1925 and the B14 in 1927, were introduced. Citroen would introduce the C4 and C6 just before the start of the 1930s, the latter being a significant success for the French manufacturer as it was both his first 6-cylinder car and the first to hit 62 mph.
Citroen, unlike its competitors at the time, used extensive advertising efforts as well as elaborate and lengthy public relations initiatives. In 1922, planes were observed penning the name Citroen over Paris, and three years later, inhabitants could read the same message inscribed in light on the Eiffel Tower. To 'Citroenize' the Tour d'Eiffel, 200,000 light bulbs and miles of wire were required to provide a notion of Citroen's expensive ways and almost Texan-like think-big attitude.
His crusades to promote the benefits of motorized vehicles are as well-known. In a 1922-1923 motorized expedition, Citroen crossed the Sahara desert for the first time, traveled from Algeria to the southern tip of the African continent, the Cape of Good Hope via Kenya in the 1924-25 'Black Journey,' and drove from Beirut to Beijing in a second endeavor dubbed the 'Yellow Journey,' which took a year to complete (1931-32).
The first big technological advancements would emerge soon after Citroen's winning exploits: the "Floating Power" engine, which minimized vibrations by using a rubber bolt securing system previously invented by Chrysler. Citroen had already broken 106 world records with their Rosalie 8 model, which travelled 300,000 kilometers in 134 days, and would soon be joining them. As a result, the automobiles' dependability was once again highlighted.
But, just as Nelly Furtado foretold, all good things must come to an end. The corporation was hit by the Great Depression like a tidal wave of financial distress. Citroen was spared from drowning thanks to the presence of a Michelin lifeguard.
Michelin took Citroen under his wing after performing CPR on the company. Citroen continued to innovate, and by the mid-1930s, they had unveiled their most significant innovation to the public: the front-wheel-drive or 'Traction Avant.' Despite the fact that Citroen was not the first to invent the system, the Type 7 was the first FWD car to reach mass production.
The 22CV and the 11CV would be born later. The new traction system's popularity would far exceed any expectations, indicating good times ahead for the corporation. In mid-summer 1957, the last iconic Traction model, an 11CV Familiale, went out the factory gates. The 1960s saw the conclusion of Citroen's golden period and the beginning of a new era of technological advancements, such as the introduction of hydro-pneumatic suspension.
Citroen cars, despite their reputation for dependability, failed to meet design trends at some point, conservatism that resulted in a significant drop in sales. However, Citroen models began to take rounder and smoother shapes in the early 1990s, which countered the effect. New models and reimagining old ones have ensured the company's success thus far, and the brand is still regarded as a purveyor of fine automobiles after more than 75 years.