75 Years TA – A retrospective from the U.S.

Larry Lewis writes: There were over One Thousand! Tractions! That’s a lot, by my count. There were cars from all over Europe and one from Florida! That guy was a hero, bringing his car from the States and driving it to the event. The cars that were there were in all conditions, all types and all years. Fabric roof panels of the very early right up to the very end. No two were alike! It was remarkable to see the differences of the cars, different instruments, wind wings, upholstery, lights, you name it. Lots of glove-box radios. Since the newest ones are now fifty-two years old, there are bound to be a few modifications. The rarest ones were those that had only factory equipment; these you could count on the fingers of one hand. Unrestored cars were a treat! They were driven there and really stood out from the crowd with their dents, rust, missing parts and rotten upholstery. Why restore something like that? They had a singularity that is hard to copy. My Light 15 would have fit right in and stood right out!

There were about six convertibles from Denmark, (there were LOTS more) plus coupes from all over and whole bunches of Familiales and Commerciales. Every country in Europe was represented. Most from France, (duh) a lot from Belgium, Germany and Switzerland and quite a few from Holland. Several were from Spain and a fairly large group came from Portugal. Slough cars were in abundance and these seemed to come from every country, not just Britain.

One of the Portuguese cars was a Slough-built 6, in great shape but an unfortunate two-toned black and white paint scheme did not do the car any favours. A Rosengart “Super Traction” attracted a lot of attention with its coach-built body; some aspects of the car were intriguing but over-all it showed a distinct lack of taste on the part of the designers.

There were several other custom bodied cars. The Splendilux- bodied car in the show hall was quite nice; made it look almost like a Delahaye but the 11BL with the roll-back roof out in the main square was hilarious to behold. Really, what were they thinking? These were period body kits, not a complete new body, but add-on body parts and trim. There were a few of the A.E.A.T. roll-back roof cars but some looked like they were home made. I was told that it’s an easy thing to do but I would hate to do that to a nice original car.

There was a 6 cylinder Slough convertible owned by a long-time member and officer of The Traction Owner’s club, Steve Southgate. This has one of the last Peacock Engineering bodies (brand new roadster bodies, awesome!) with original running gear and is a gorgeous ride! You could consider it a new car. Recent, anyway and it’s for sale. The sister to the Madame Michelin car was there as well as the owner of the MM, but the car was not. There were a few 6 cylinder conversions, all of them well done. A Danish 11B van drew a lot of attention. Big surprise.

Cars were situated at the two large squares in the centre of town but the actual show was held at a nearby trade exhibition hall on the edge of town. One half was the exhibit of 75 Tractions, all of them significant and other half held the flea market or as the British say, the auto-jumble and as the continentals do, the “Bourse.” CTA, Depanoto, José Franssen and many others were there, all selling anything you would ever need and lots of things you don’t. I was able to escape with only two Traction models, but I sure could have bought a lot more. In the parking lot were the same type of vendors that you see at any show; the guys selling stuff out of their garages. It was nice for a change to not have to look at Chevrolet parts, Buck knives, ugly T-shirts and those stupid dolls of children leaning on the bumper. What the hell is the point of those dolls? But I digress. Two sellers of power steering for Tractions! An electric servo motor mounted in the steering column that makes your Traction steer like a modern car for the low price of 2,200 euros! Longstone Tyres of Britain was there installing new rubber for anyone that had the money. Mounting and balancing in the parking lot! They’re the Michelin agent in Britain and have lower prices than Coker. He also said that he ships to North America. When I asked the rep that I thought that Coker was the exclusive vendor for vintage Michelin tires, he said that was a “load of bollocks!”

The food at the show sure wasn’t much. A chip truck selling French fries, big surprise. Frites. A huge pile loaded down with salt. Then a big (and I mean BIG) wad of mayo on top! Splat! Wrapped up in waxed paper, enough to feed the entire Maginot Line! How the hell do these people stay so thin? The beer was Ch’ti, pronounced “shitty” which about summed it up. Ch’ti is the brand of beer and is the name of the local dialect, I am told. Luckily there was an excellent beer store almost adjacent to the hotel and the selection and prices were amazing! Yes, we drank a lot. It was good. Especially the large bottles of Kasteel beer. The dinner parties were fun. On Friday we had a large company picnic type event at an outdoor park. Everyone line up for your Frites! No, you can’t have more chicken! The chicken piece they gave out was about the size of a Traction ignition key but they did have to feed an army of thousands. The dinner with the folks from the Traction Owner’s Club in Britain was a great event on the Saturday. Not formal but I wore a Citroën dealer’s tie anyway. People were impressed that we came from far away for the event, so we got a big hand during introductions at the dinner. Nice. It was sure great to meet people whose names I’ve only seen in print in “Floating Power.”

The famous CV22 Traction V8 replica from the Netherlands was displayed. It was made to look like a “barn find”, and it looked the part. 75 hours of homage was paid to François Lecot who, between July 22, 1935 and July 26, 1936, drove a Traction Avant (a 4 cyl, 11CV model) back and forth from Paris to Monte Carlo, clocking up 400,134 km. Repairs to attendees cars (if needed) were carried out on site in a dedicated tent with expert Traction mechanics. Also on display… Charles de Gaulle’s Traction.

At the trade hall there were talks given by Olivier de Serres, John Presnell and several others. Great that the opportunity was there to learn more about our cars. On the Sunday there was a parade of cars in front of the city hall with one car representing each country present. There were people in period clothing including one man dressed as Charles de Gaulle. The guy from Florida seemed to get the biggest hand from the crowd and for once no one was booing the American flag!

Like all great times, this one ended far too soon.