The word ‘oldtimer’ in English refers to a man in his late 60s, 70s, 80, or even 90s! The German word ‘Oldtimer’ is usually translated as ‘classic car’.
Andrew Milne-Skinner (aged 74) and his Citroën Traction-Avant (aged 65): a ‘Self-Interview’
How long have you owned the car?
Since 1971, imported from St Omer in France to London, then brought to Tirol in 1972. Driven here in the 1980s, then dry-stored since then.
And the future?
We are now restoring the car here in Inzing, thanks to Daniel Hofmüller and Omar, our Syrian Kurd. The body is sound, thankfully, and we are doing a complete mechanical overhaul: steering, suspension, brakes, fuel and exhaust systems. We hope to have her back on the road in the spring of 2022! If the Inzinger Oldtimerclub manage to hold their annual show at the parking areas by the swimming-pool at the end of April, then she will appear there….
We will then drive her across Eastern France to Calais, then all the way up to Scotland, where she will live in a farm-barn, but be used in the summers.
How about spare parts?
From Detmold in Germany and Depanoto, near Chartres in France, costing quite a lot! Many parts are newly made for members of various Traction clubs in Europe, for example, the Citroën-Veteranen-Club, based in Munich. I am a member of that club, and our main contact there, Josef, has been very helpful in lending us specialist tools, for example, the front-wheel hub-puller.
And the model itself?
She’s a 1956 Citroën 11 BN, 4-cylinder, 1911 cc, 56 bhp. The Traction-Avant was introduced in 1934…a revolutionary car! Front-wheel drive, complete body without a chassis, torsion-bar suspension…! New and radical. Our model is one of the very last! I have owned 5 Traction-Avants in my life.
What is she like to drive?
A joy, when she is running well! Behind the wheel, looking out ahead over her large flaring wings, her thrusting bonnet and rounded chrome headlamps….she offers a new perspective, a trip down memory lane, as if we were driving down the old Route Nationale 7 in France to the Côte d’Azur.
What about the myths surrounding the Traction Citroën?
What interests me is the cultural history of this model: used by the French Résistance in the 1940s, adopted by the German SS in Paris. She (the car is female!) gained a legendary reputation in the post-War period as the gangster’s getaway car….and here in Austria she is usually called the ‘Gangsterlimousine’! The car starred in French crime films of the 1950s…and used by Maigret! The French chanson singer Léo Ferré, in his song Paris Canaille, mentions the Traction-Avant:
‘Paris bandit/ Aux mains qui glissent/ T’as pas d’amis/ Dans la police/Hold-up savants/ Pour la chronique/ Traction-Avant/ Pour la tactique.’
(for tactics when planning a bank hold-up)!
Now the Traction-Avant, with its charismatic lines, and shield-shaped chevrons on the front radiator grill, is a cult car par excellence! She positively reeks of cultural history and nostalgia.