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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 4/.  Formation of the 'S.A. Andre Citroen' Car Company.

One car which seemed to fulfill Citroen's requirements had been the pre-war small four-cylinder Le Zčbre which had been designed by an army officer Citroen had got to know in the Army Technical Service, Jules Salomon. Salomon’s long-term friendship with financier Jacques Bizet (son of the composer of "Carmen" etc) built up during their cooperation at George Richard, later Unic, was becoming strained. Citroen persuaded Salomon to leave Le Zčbre and instructed his works manger Georges Haardt to commence reorganizing the works for the production of automobiles. 

Jules Salomon produced a design based round a simple four seater 1327cc sidevalve four cylinder car which Citroen liked. Initially 30 prototypes were built. The car weighed only 990 pounds, was very economical to run at 35 miles per gallon, and had a top speed of 40 mph. The car was to be called the Type A and was to be provided as standard with an electric starter, electric lighting, a spare wheel and a soft top. As these items were normally optional extras, the price at 7,950 FF made the car far cheaper than any of the competition. Profitability of the venture was to depend on economies of scale, but for a while the price went up rather than down.

Within four months following the end of the war the Quay de Javel factory had been converted to automobile manufacture and a new name came into existence, 'S.A. Andre Citroen'. The Type A was put into production on the 28th of May 1919 and was launched in April. 

A massive advertising campaign had preceded it with full page advertisements in newspapers and magazines announcing the launch of 'Europe's first mass production' car. Orders for 16,000 cars were reported as having been received within a fortnight and the break-even target of 30,000 was reported as having been reached before any car left the plant, a powerful use of publicity. 

The sales drive was backed with the introduction of over 1,000 Citroen dealers throughout France fully conversant with the model being launched and backed with published repair costs and stocks of spare parts. Owners had access to maintenance manuals and detailed spare parts catalogues. Buyers were barraged with posters and advertisements including eventually the lighting up of the Eiffel Tower with an enormous  sign spelling out the name Citroen. 

All these publications resulted in Citroen forming his own publishing company named 'André Citroën Editions'. Other specialist offshoots followed including the first finance company in France specifically to finance purchase of automobiles, and a company specifically set up to provide motor insurance. In addition Citroen commenced manufacture of model cars mainly for publicity but this too turned into an industry manufacturing over 3 million toy cars.

Initially the only body available for the Model A was the open tourer torpedo, but five body styles followed. Production originally planned as 100 cars per day, grew from an initial 30 cars per day in 1919 and reached the target of to 100 by the beginning of 1920. By 1921 the production was up to 20,000, which was more than Peugeot and Renault put together. A start had also been made in production of flatbed commercial vehicles. With this many cars behind him, Citroen felt that the basic Model A was ready for an upgrade and put the Model B into development.

Model B appeared in June 1921 being very similar in concept to the Model A which had by then reached the production figure of 25,000. Called the Model B2, it was provided with a 10CV 1450cc engine which made it marginally faster and like its predecessor it was fully equipped. The Model A continued in production in small numbers as the 'Sport' until December 1921. By 1922 the factory was producing over 300 Model Bs a day and reached some 500 cars a day before the production run ended in 1927.

In the meantime an interesting sideways development was taking place involving Adolphe Kégresse who had earlier instigated and operated the Imperial Garage for Czar Nicholas II of Russia between 1909 and 1917. Kegresse had developed a system of half-tracks which could be fitted to normal cars to make them suitable for off road and military use. He teamed up with Citroen and together with Jacques Hinstin (of 'Hinstin Freres Citroen & Cie') developed a system that was fitted to Model A and Model B cars. 

To publicise the venture some very dramatic trans-continental half-track expeditions followed. Perhaps the best known was the 1922 Trans-Sahara Expedition to Timbuktu but other ventures included the 1924 'La Croisiere Noire' crossing of Africa from north to south, and 1931 'La Croisiere Jaune' commencing at Beirut in Lebanon and following Marco Polo's route along the Silk Road to Beijing in China. A further less well known expedition involved the Subarctic crossing of British Columbia by Bedaux in 1934.



Continue with Part 5/.
(Written in 2001)
Copyright © MMI, Bozi Mohacek.  Reproduction only by permission from the Author.

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