Gangster wheels inspire Traction restoration

| 15 Jun 2011

With my Jaguar XK150 finally (reliably) back in action following its re-wire (see more on that in August’s Our Classics) my thoughts have turned to my other, rather eclectic automotive passion: Citroën Traction Avants. Or Traction Avant to be precise since I now only have one of these front-wheel French icons gracing my drive; the four-cylinder Slough-built Light 15 having found a new owner in Oxfordshire, following my update in the June issue.Which leaves the shabby looking French-built 15/6. Yes, that’s right. I sold a beautifully restored right-hand drive example instead of the still-needs-loads-of-work (read: cash) left-hooker. And you’re not the only one questioning my wisdom: my mates and family have done their best to hide their surprise at the decision.It was of course one that started out being made in my head (keep the good one and get shot of the one that bled me dry…) but ended up being made by the heart (I love the French-gangster mystique of the 15/6 and the creamy sound of its six cylinder engine).That didn’t stop me lamenting over the Light 15’s departure with a serious bout of seller’s remorse kicking in a day after the sale. It was made worse when the 15/6 refused to start a few days on (still haven’t set the timing up correctly after installing electronic ignition I reckon). Which is why salvation came in the form of an immaculately restored, on-the-button example. Not a new acquisition, I hasten to add, but a 15/6 I saw and ogled over during a recent trip to Belgium.

I bumped into Dutch Traction enthusiast Eric Hermans (pictured above with a friend) and his 15/6 while visiting Spa Francorchamps in Belgium last weekend. Hermans has owned his pristine example for the last 10 years and pristine it certainly is with a deep gloss to its black paintwork and immaculate, correct-in grey/green-velvet cloth interior (below).

Although Hermans’ bought it fully restored, he has spent plenty of time (and money, no doubt) improving his Traction. Upgrades include a 12V electrical system and alternator, an electric cooling fan and electric fuel pump + windscreen washer jets. He’s also extended the rain gutters down the side of the doors in a bid to keep the water out when he’d caught in a cloudburst

That sort of upgrade is way beyond what I’ll ever get round (i.e. be arsed) to doing but I was mightily impressed with his car. And inspired to get a move on with sorting mine – perhaps in black, as it should be for that proper ‘gangster’ look; something that Hermans was reminded of when his car’s previous owner found bullet shells under the back seat during the car’s restoration!