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Surrey Vintage Vehicle Society caters for veteran cars, vintage cars & classic cars, as well as commercials and motorcycles.

:: [ A brief History of Andre Citroen and of the 5CV Citroen Model C ] ::
(Written in 2001)

Part 1/.  Brief History of Bozi Mohacek's 1921 Citroen 5CV " L'Escargot ".
Part 2/.  Andre Citroen and his introduction to double chevron gears.
Part 3/.  Andre Citroen and his connection with Mors and Munitions.
Part 4/.  Formation of the 'S.A. Andre Citroen' Car Company.
Part 5/.  Brief History of the Model C 5CV Citroen.

Part 2/.  Andre Citroen and his introduction to double chevron gears.

Andre Citroen was born in Paris on the 5th of February 1878, the fifth child of a middle class prosperous Jewish family whose origins were from the outskirts of Amsterdam. There they had traded in 'exotic fruit' from which they took the name Limoenman. Andre's grandfather however became a jeweller and in order to secure marriage to his grandmother changed his name to the more upmarket Citroen, the Dutch for Lemon. The family had become successful jewellers and diamond dealers, and Andre's father, one of fourteen children, was sent from Amsterdam to Warsaw to expand the family operations. There he met his Polish wife with whom he eventually moved to Paris in about 1872. Andre's early childhood was comfortable but sadly due to some complex diamond dealings which went wrong, his father committed suicide in 1884 when Andre was only six. The rest of Andre's childhood was therefore relatively sombre. Fortunately Andre was clever and graduated from lycee Louise le Grande in 1894 with some very impressive grades.

This gained him acceptance to the imposing and prestigious Ecole Polytechnique to study for a Diploma in Engineering. However, by the time his education was finished the early academic excellence seemed to have been waning, not helped by his mother having died when he was only 20 and before he had completed his studies. He did obtain his Diploma in 1900 at the age of 22 but was well down the pass list. Because of these results he decided to take the easy and secure step into the future by joining the French Army as an engineer officer, and blended into the military way of life for four years.

In view of his part-Polish origin Citroen had been visiting his relatives in Poland as a child, but it was during this army period that Citroen visited Poland again, now a technically mature engineer. Precisely when, where and how he first came into contact with wooden helical gears seems to differ in most Citroen biographies. Some say he was introduced to them in Poland as a child, others that he had spent some time in Poland before his army career working with relatives conversant with helical gears, and yet others that he first saw the gears on one of his visits to Poland when on leave from the army.

It is however apparent that at some time during his first army period he became technically aware of wooden double helical gears being used in Poland for driving water-driven machinery. He also became aware that double-helical gears ran quietly and were capable of transmitting considerable loads without damaging the wood they were made from. He was aware that the same wooden double helicals were successfully operating Lodz textile mills and could see the technical advantages if such gears could be made out of steel. 

Precise accounts as to how he eventually got to designing steel gears also differ. Some biographies say that steel double helicals had already been made by his relatives in Glowno, some say that his brother in law had the patent which he sold to Citroen, and yet others that Citroen purchased the rights to manufacture steel gears from a Russian company which was already making helical gears in Russia. The official Citroen Car Company version is that he purchased the patent rights from a man in Poland. In any event, by 1904 Citroen had left the army and had filed a patent for the double helical chevron gear to be made in steel.

His first industrial adventure was a small gear cutting business called 'Engrenages Citroen' in Fauburg St Denis when he introduced the 'logo' for his company as two double helical 'chevrons'. This emblem survived all his other subsequent activities and is still the internationally recognisable double chevron logo of Citroen cars. 'Engrenages Citroen' became quite successful and Citroen was later joined in his venture by André Boas and Jacques Hinstin. A new company was formed in 1905 renamed 'Hinstin Freres Citroen & Cie' and moved to Essonnes (Orly). As the French automobile industry was very well advanced, the requirement for gears was high. Citroen began very quickly to comprehend the need to mass produce components in order to achieve low prices and fast deliveries. He therefore invested in latest up-to-date machinery and introduced flow control management processes. His gears found their way into most French cars and to such diverse avenues as the steering system for the 'Titanic' and to being evaluated for use by Rolls-Royce.

By the time he was 27, which was about five years after he started 'Engrenages Citroen', Andre Citroen was well know as a successful industrialist in the French automobile industry. The company was having a one million Franc turnover by 1910 and he had built up important connections with many of the French automobile manufacturers; - with one, more so than the others. Although Citroen was known to the Societe Nouvelle des Automobiles Mors as a gear manufacturer, he was also known to them through the marriage of his brother to daughter of the President of the Mors board, a Monsieur Harbleisher. These contacts had earlier resulted in Citroen being awarded a contract to manufacture 500 engines for Sizaire Nurdin in a new factory on the Quai Grenelle



Continue with Part 3/.
(Written in 2001)

Copyright © MMI, Bozi Mohacek.  Reproduction only by permission from the Author.

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