Citroen Light 15 1930s French classic sports car

Not many cars can claim to have changed the face of motoring. One that can is the Citroën Light 15. Its unique selling point was front wheel drive – or traction-avant, in its native tongue. And its innovative engineering did not stop there. The Light 15\’s 3-speed gearbox sat in its nose – fore of the engine. Power passed to the torsion-bar-suspended front wheels via CV-jointed shafts. Said transmission system was decidedly avant-garde in \’34 – when the Light 15 was released. In road-holding terms, it was a revelation. The only downside to FWD was that it made the steering a tad heavy. A subscription to the local gym, though, soon sorted that out!

There was to be a tragic twist, though, to the Light 15 tale. Its cutting edge features meant Citroën\’s development costs spiralled. The resulting stress contributed to the early death of André Citroën – the firm\’s founder. Sadly, he died without a sou to his name. At least his company was bailed out – by tyre maestro Michelin. As a result, the Light 15 stayed in production for years to come. In time, it became a best-seller for Citroën. Not that that benefitted poor André much. It was also highly influential. For example, the Light 15\’s FWD – and, thus, improved handling – made it a big hit with the French police. Ironically, it was just as popular with less law-abiding citizens – and for precisely the same reasons. Cops \’n\’ Robbers had never been so much fun! Thanks to its 1.9-litre overhead-valve motor, the Light 15 had a top speed of 75mph. Hair-raising chases duly ensued. But – thanks to the Light 15\’s independent torsion-bar springing – they were bounce-free. Well, almost!

The Light 15, then, was a benchmark car. It was not until \’55, however – and the advent of the DS – that Citroën let it slip into well-earned retirement. After all, the Light 15 had done much to pave the way for its successor. In particular, it had pioneered the hydro-pneumatic self-levelling suspension set-up for which the DS would be celebrated. Styling-wise, the Light 15 did not change much over the years. Fine examples can still be seen on French roads today – a clear indication of its high build quality. The French have a saying, which translates to \’The more things change, the more they stay the same\’. The Light 15 was a case in point. The rate of change has sky-rocketed recently. So, it is easy to forget that machines like the Citroën Light 15 have long been pushing the technological envelope!