Citroën looks back on 100 years of creature comfort…

One of the most legendary qualities of Citroën cars have been – certainly from the legendary “Traction” and the 2CV onwards – their comfort, which went arm in arm with just as unique roadholding qualities.

No small wonder, as one knows that Citroën had been taken over early 1935 by Michelin, and that since that day the genius of engineer and Pierre-Jules Boulanger was the inspiration behind the revolutionary design of Citroëns. Boulanger was the deputy of Pierre Michelin, who became the chairman of Citroën in 1935.

The long wheelbase version of the “Traction” offered superb comfort…

Pierre-Jules Boulanger became vice-president and chief of the engineering and design departments, and had a strong hand in the development of the 2 CV. He put his engineering know how to work with the revolutionary suspension, introducing the revolutionary concept of combining roadholding with a comfortable, very elastic suspension. They also made the world’s first radial tyres…for the 2 CV.

In the late stages of the life of the Traction, Michelin and the team of Pierre Boulanger also reached  a helping hand with developing the revolutionary hydropneumatic suspension for the long wheelbase version of the Traction, which then later was adopted for the “Déesse”. Actually, this long wheelbase Traction served as a test bed for the revolutionary DS. Michelin then was at the basis of the development of the whole hydropneumatic system.

This high-pressure hydraulic system would form the basis of over 9 million Citroëns, spanning from including the DS, SM, GS, CX, BX, XM, Xantia, C5, all through the still so beautiful and iconic C6.

Revolutionary also in developing inboard space…

But of course there are more aspects to just suspension. Citroën has long emphasized the benefits of adaptable seating arrangements and maximum cabin space and storage.

In 1923, the B2Type offered buyers the choice of more seats or greater luggage capacity, with an early attempt at modular cabin design. The C3Type ‘Torpédo’ was a two-seater, yet offered a folding third seat behind the driver, creating more luggage capacity or passenger room as required.

In 1924, a new ‘Trefle’ (three-leaf clover) three-seat configuration was introduced, with a fixed third seat mounted in the middle of the cabin behind the two front seats, with cargo areas either side.

For the 1930s and beyond, the Traction Avant offered various seating layouts. These included a long-wheelbase sevenseat model, and a variant with a wagon-style rear lift-up door – possibly the world’s first production hatchback.

Even the 2CV ahd an adaptable, modular cabin. With removable seats, a convertible roof, wash-down floor, and an extendible cargo area, the 2CV could well be seen as the car that started the trend for functional or technological cabin design – more than half a century ago.

Both the DS and the CX were sold as wagons (or ‘breaks’), offering maximum living comfort with intelligent seating layouts, long before more recent trends for six- or seven-seat cars.

The multi-seat CX Familiale was unique in its market class and it took many years for its competitors to catch up.

Citroën has also produced a series of design concepts as ‘one off’ show cars, with living comfort key to their motor show stand appeal, notably the 1980 Citroën Karin concept. This pyramid-shaped three-seater, built with composite materials, featured new storage ideas, moulded seats, and a stunning control ‘pod’ and steering wheel interface with fingertip controls. Such ideas are now familiar in the company’s production cars.

There is much more to come on Citroëns unique story around creature comfort, so stay tuned on these columns, and enjoy the photos here with us…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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