With front-wheel drive and unibody construction, the Citroën Traction Avant helped set the template for modern cars. A 1949-built example of the groundbreaking French sedan was featured on a recent episode of Jay Leno’s Garage.
Introduced in 1934, the Traction Avant wasn’t the first car with front-wheel drive, but it was the first to try to take front-wheel drive mainstream. Company founder André Citroën identified the benefits of front-wheel drive, including better traction from positioning the engine over the driven axle, and greater interior space due to the lack of a transmission tunnel. Unibody construction gave the Traction Avant greater structural rigidity than traditional body-on-frame cars, while independent suspension improved ride quality. These features are commonplace on cars today and they all existed when this car was introduced, but few if any others put them all together. Several of those features would take decades to catch on in the