The 2019 Insurance Classic Motor Show : The World's First Hatchback? – The Citroen Traction Avant Commerciale The 2019 Insurance Classic Motor Show : The World's First Hatchback? – The Citroen Traction Avant Commerciale
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The World's First Hatchback? – The Citroen Traction Avant Commerciale

To select the ultimate version of the Traction Avant is almost as impossible as choosing the finest record by The Beatles  - so,  I will merely opt for my favourite variant and a true classic car.

The Citroen Traction Avant Commerciale

Four years after its debut in 1934 the Traction, together with the Peugeot 202, held 50% of the French car market and the Commerciale further increased the Citroën’s appeal.

In essence, it was a coalescing of the long-wheelbase of the Familiale with a two-part tailgate (the post-war models had a one-piece hatchback) and folding rear seats. 

Citroën naturally promoted it as one of the most versatile cars you could hope to find. That the Commerciale was perfect holiday transport almost went without saying, but it was also marketed to hotels, wine-makers,  dairy farmers (for milk churns), bakers (it was capable of conveying 400 kg of bread) and, most bizarre of all, butchers and shepherds. Brochure photos displayed the Citroen ready to take cows or even six sheep to market.

Black and white image of a Citroen TA-Commercilale classic car

When such a multiplicity of uses was combined with the Traction Avant’s famed abilities and appearance, it was evident that the Commerciale was no ordinary utility vehicle. Brian Sewell noted that when the Traction was launched, its Flaminio Bertoni lines ensured it resembled no other car. It was:

"long and low and wide-seeming when most cars were tall, narrow and comparatively short; with a wheel in each corner, its wings short, sans overhang, running-boards, fussy detail, sold in just one colour, its elegance depended on simplicity; only its door handles hint at art deco, and of flashy American streamlining there's not a hint."

When Traction production finally ceased in 1957, the five-door version had established the tradition for generations of Citroen Safaris. And, although controversy still reigns over this issue, the Commerciale did set the template for the modern hatchback. Formidable!

 

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