Images courtesy the Mullin Automotive Museum.
Though largely unknown to contemporary consumers in the United States, French automaker Citroen is beloved in much of the world for its innovative designs and unique Gallic sense of style. On March 11, the Mullin Museum in Oxnard, California, will debut an exhibit honoring the brand, and Citroen: The Man, The Marque, The Mystique aims to be “the most comprehensive look at the history of the famed French automaker ever attempted in North America.”
1938 Citroen Traction Avant.
Founded by Andre Citroen in 1919, the firm announced its first production car, the Type A, in March of 1919. Like the Ford Model T, the Citroen Type A was designed to be light, rugged, and easily manufactured, making it affordable (or relatively affordable) transportation for the masses in post-World-War-I Europe. While sales were slow in the car’s debut year, by 1920 demand was such that Citroen produced over 20,000 cars, in a factory capable of building 100 vehicles per day.
1952 Citroen 2CV.
In 1934, Citroen introduced the Traction Avant, the first mass-produced automobile to use unibody construction, front-wheel drive and a four-wheel independent suspension. The expense of creating an all-new model, including significant factory changes and an intensive marketing and advertising program, ultimately bankrupted the company, which was acquired by tire manufacturer Michelin, its largest creditor. Compounding the company’s misfortunes, founder Andre Citroen died of stomach cancer in July of 1935.
1973 Citroen DS.
The firm survived the Second World War, and against direct orders from occupying German forces, its engineers and designers worked in secret on developing a range of vehicles that included the 2CV and the Type H delivery van. Debuting at the Paris Salon in 1948, the 2CV was designed to be inexpensive, versatile and easily repaired, and its softly-sprung suspension made it ideal for traversing rutted dirt roads (and even farmer’s fields). So beloved was the deux chevaux that nearly nine million examples were produced in the 43 years it remained in production.
1974 Citroen SM.
In 1955, Citroen introduced its next revolutionary automobile, the futuristic DS. Nicknamed the “Goddess” (since DS is pronounced the same as déesse, or goddess, in French), the automobile was available in sedan, wagon and convertible forms, and used an oleopneumatic, self-leveling suspension system to deliver both an exceptional ride and superior handling. The same high-pressure hydraulic system that served the suspension also provided the power steering and power brakes, either simplifying or complicating the car’s engineering, depending upon perspective.
1991 Citroen 2CV.
Citroen: The Man, The Marque, The Mystique will feature 46 of the French automaker’s vehicles, covering a wide range of years and styles. Planned displays include a range of 2CVs (including a two-engine, four-wheel drive Sahara), an HY Van, a Traction Avant Cabriolet, contemporary C6 and C3 Pluriel models and even a selection of Citroens rebodied by French coachbuilder Chapron.
Semi-private tours will be offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the exhibit is scheduled to run through the spring of 2018. To purchase tickets, or for more information on Citroen: The Man, The Marque, The Mystique, visit MullinAutomotiveMuseum.com.