Citroën Light 15

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 the FWD - traction-avant - system. And, the Light 15's innovative engineering did not stop there. Its 3-speed gearbox sat in front of the engine - in the nose of the car. Drive passed through CV-jointed shafts - to the torsion-bar-suspended front wheels. Such a transmission set-up was ahead of the game in '34 - when the Light 15 was released. In terms of road-holding, it was a revelation. The only downside was that the FWD made the steering a tad heavy. A few visits to the gym, though, would soon have cancelled that out!

But, there was to be a tragic twist to this tale of technological advancement. The stress caused by spiralling development costs contributed to the premature death of André Citroën - founder of the firm. Sadly, he died without a sou to his name. His company, at least, was bailed out - by tyre maestros Michelin. As a consequence, the Light 15 would remain in production for years. Ironically, it ended up a great success, sales-wise. It was also highly influential. The Light 15's FWD - and up-rated handling - made it a big hit with the French police, for example. Equally, with some less law-abiding citizens. For both cops and robbers, then, driving 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 ensued. Even so, participants did not bounce about too much. The Light 15 had fully independent torsion-bar springing!

So, the Light 15 set many a benchmark. It was not until '55 - and the coming of the DS - that Citroën let it slip into well-earned retirement. It had done much to pave the way for its successor. In particular, it had pioneered the hydro-pneumatic self-levelling suspension for which the DS would be renowned. Styling-wise, the Light 15 stayed pretty consistent during its life-span. Many a fine example can still be seen on French roads ... a clear indicator of its high build quality. The French have a saying ... in English, 'The more things change, the more they stay the same'. The Light 15 was a case in point. Technology has become so sophisticated of late, it is easy to forget that cars like the Citroën Light 15 have always been pushing the envelope!

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