altThe wing ornaments that can be found on Traction Avants are meant to symbolise the wings of a swan. The swan was used by Citroën stylists in the early '30s when they introduced the "Moteur Flottant".alt This was the result of their acquiring a license for the "Floating Power" engine mounting system from Chrysler in 1932. The essence was that engines were no longer bolted to the chassis, but were suspended by flexible rubber mountings, thus significantly reducing the transfer of vibrations from the engine to the rest of the vehicle. The mountings were located on either end of the block. This allowed the engine and the gearbox to move longitudinally around their calculated centre of gravity. Moteurs Flottants were first fitted on the late C4G and C6G models, but their true breakthrough came with the Rosalie models that were offered as 8, 10 and 15 (CV). Rosalie Spare Wheel Hub Ornament

Right from the start, the Traction Avant was equipped with a "moteur flottant". In the case of the Traction this meant that the engine was supported left and right by two pyramid shaped coil springs and a large rubber block fitted in a rectangular dome box in the firewall. In front, the clutch/gearbox assembly is supported by a hinge that is mounted in a silentbloc. With the Traction Avant, the practical limits of this "floating power" arrangement were reached. As the engines became more powerful, the movements of the engine block were found to be too violent for practical use. Although the 15-Six was advertised as having a "moteur folttant" as well, I am happy that this monstrous block rests well secured on two rubber side mountings. In its original form, the floating power engine mounting eclipsed from the scene of automotive design silently.

Mid-life modifications

15-Hydraulique (1955) Radiator Grill & Hand Crank TubeAfter the war, once production had picked up again as the demand for cars grew, Citroën made some -but very limited!- changes to the Traction Avant model that was now running out of date at an ever increasing pace. One was to modify the design of the 15-Six gearbox, following a decision to invert the sense of rotation of the engine from anti-clockwise to clockwise as seen from the front of the car. The hand crank claw from then on caught onto the end of the upper shaft. This meant that the aperture in the front grille had to be adapted. Since both pre- and post war 11B (Normales) and 15-Sixes shared the same front grill shape (there are some distinct differences between them though), it was decided to increase the height of the oval slot to allow hand cranking on both types. On the 15-Six the hand crank is inserted into a tube that sits just behind the upper end of the slot, whereas the hand crank of the 11B is engaged over a notch near the lower end of the slot. From then on the 11B was fitted with the well known vertical ornament to cover the hand crank slot. As of 1947, the 15-Six grille saw the well known wing ornament with the (removable) 15/6 monogram above it. On the Six, only the 15/6 monogram has to be removed to insert the hand crank. The wing ornament is attached to the grill more permanently by means of two 3 mm screws and bolts. This also explains why we often see older pictures of 15-Sixes with only the wing ornament on the grill.

11 BL

The wing motive on the 15-Six was well received by the public. In the early 50's it was therefore decided to have a similar motive on the 11BL, which was continued until 1955. Later BL models (until 1957) had to do without an ornament. On the 11BL the wing ornament was supposed to cover the round hand crank hole. It therefore had three spring clips that held it in place and allowed it to be removed. But there are more differences. 11BL wing ornaments are made out of aluminium. They are thicker than their 15/6 peers which are made out of chromed tin plate. One should never attempt to bend an 11BL wing because it will break. The aluminium is easy to polish to a bright shine.

Slough-built Tractions

Big-15 (1954) Ornament & WingsBig-6 (1949) Ornament & WingsSlough-built 11 Normales were called "Big 15" in the UK. They were equipped with the same grills as their French peers. However, on a Big 15 we are likely to find the same wing ornament as on the 15-Six, as well as the oval clip-on monogram, now with "15/4" on it. Original 15/4 emblems are very hard to come by. The only way to make one, is by cutting out the 6 from a 15/6 emblem and welding in a digit 4. Not an easy job, even more so while the entire thing will have to be chrome plated afterwards.

Slough-built 15-Sixes were called "Big 6" after the war. They received a monogram with a large "6" instead of the 15/6 as the French cars had. The wing ornaments were the same as on the French cars.

Not all Wings are Equal

15-Six (1947-1950 and 1953-1956) Ornament & Wings 15-Six (1950-1953) Ornament & Wings

If we take a closer look at the wings used on different Traction Avants, we will notice that some of them suggest the right wing to be over the left one; others suggest the opposite: "left over right". One can find these differences on 15-Sixes (and Big 15 and Big-6) as well as on 11BL models. For the remainder of this article, I will concentrate on the wing ornaments of the 15-Six, since this is the model I know about. There are no doubt people around who know everything about the 11BL or the Slough-built cars

Why the Difference?

Obvious next question is: why the difference? Some suggest it is simply a matter of some of the wings being fitted facing backwards. Impossible, because the back side of the wings is plane, without the suggestion of overlapping as on the front side. Conclusion: these wings were meant to be different. Another suggestion might be that the shop that made them just used different pressing and cutting tools, producing both types in random order. Nope again! The truth is: Citroën started off with one type and then deliberately changed over to the other type at a certain point in time. Stangely enough, after a few years they changed back to the original wing setting! Only the French can dream up such a thing!!

Logic?

Stylists are famous for not being methodical thinkers -logic is not an natural enabler for creativity. But why should one set off using shape A, change over to shape B and then after a while change back to shape A? I am afraid very few people will be able to explain.

Model Year Differences

To find out on what models/years the different wing ornaments were used, one should take a closer look at the original images that were issued by Citroën itself, or at pictures of which the authenticity is undisputed. Looking around at Traction rallies and browsing through pictures on websites is likely to be confusing, since many 15-Six owners are unaware of the differences and may have just stuck onto their cars what was available. You may take my word for it that there are very many 15-Sixes around nowadays with wings that do not correspond with the model years of the cars.

Heres what it should be:

· As of July 1947 when the first 15-Six with the clockwise rotating (D) engine was launched, the wings were "right over left".

· In the course of 1950 the "moustache" bumpers on the Sixes were replaced by the straight higher ones, coinciding with a number of other upgrades to give the car a slightly classier look. As of this point, ornaments were fitted with their wings "left over right". This lasted until the summer closure of the factory in 1953.

· After the summer of 1953, all 15-Sixes were again equipped with ornaments with their wings "right over left". This lasted until the end of 15-Six production in 1956. Late 1953 was also the time of re-introduction of the Familiale (only some 250 of these were made as 15-Sixes), to be followed by the 15-Hydraulique in April of 1954.

Rules of thumb:

· All "moustache-bumper" 15-Sixes from 1947 onwards: wings "right over left".

· All straight-bumper small-boot 15-Sixes of 1950, 1951 and 1952: wings "left over right"

· All boot-lid 15-Sixes of 1952 and early 1953: same as above.

· Late 1953 and 1954 Sixes with standard rear suspension: wings "right over left".

· All 15-Familiales *) and 15-Hydrauliques: wings "right over left".

*) Very early factory image material of the 15-Familiale shows "left over right" wings as well as one single (left) tail light. As far as I have been able to analyse, all production line 15-Familiales (1953 - 1954) came with "right over left" wings and tail lights on both sides.

Wing Swops

There are owners who have the correct wing ornaments on their Tractions, either because they still have the original ones, and/or because they are aware of the differences as described in this article. But I have seen so many 15-Sixes with wing ornaments that did not match the model year, that I doubt whether the owners are aware. There will also be people to whom it will not really matter. As far as I know, only new aftermarket "left over right" 15-Six wings are available these days. I will be delighted to see people starting to swop wings at rallies and other Traction gatherings if they find out that both parties have got the wrong ones on their cars. Although it only a very minor detail, this would help preserve the original looks of Traction Avants in the future.