Get ready to experience something incredibly new on TailPipe Tales. We have had stories on cars before, but this is finally like how I envisioned what should be represented on our website. Personal car stories and information coming right from the owners of vintage vehicles.
When we get there, Hans, a good friend of ours, takes us right to his shed to show the beautiful pieces he has sitting there. A Morgan Plus 8 and a Citroën Traction Avant from 1956. In this article, we will pay more attention to the latter.
Let’s start by sketching the scenery of his home. It is situated in a small village in The Netherlands. Right in the middle of the center, very close to the biggest (and probably the only) church in town. Somehow though, his house does have an immense garden, filled with trees, ornaments and lots and lots of chicken. This garden is ideal to place the cars in, on a sunny day like this. The green oasis that is his garden looks stunning with the sun reflecting on everything that is shiny, in this case, the cars.
After Hans placed the cars where we liked them best, since we had a photography session planned, our conversation about the Traction Avant is off to a start. It became clear that he was quite the type to figure it out on his own, which did not come as a surprise, actually. He’s done a lot of things to the car to fix some small things up to his preference. Mostly on the inside, because as you can see, the bodywork shares the impression that it has been used intensely, but has not been maintained likewise.
In earlier days, these types of cars were equipped with basically nothing. Because of this, he added a lot of small parts himself. For instance, it did not have a window cleaning fluid pump, so he took that from an old Toyota. The button on the inside, to actually use the system, came from a 2CV. What’s more interesting, is that the wipers are partially electric. Just the one on the driver’s side though, so the driver at least has some kind of vision in rainy conditions. However, do not make the rookie mistake of overestimating it, because in really harsh conditions it does not do its job properly. It is too slow to keep up with the rain/snow falling down, so you’ll have to do the wiping yourself. That is, if you are fast enough to do this, and able to mulittask. In these conditions, it is more realistic to make it a two-man job. (sorry single people)
Hans then goes on to talk about how his shed is filled with parts for his Traction Avant, all of which he bought over time. Some came from France, some came from his area. It is just too much to go on about, but one part he does go to the shed for, for us, is the double window that can be put in the side windows, so you can turn them to let more air in. These are the iconic double windows you see on most pictures of the Traction Avant, that act as an extra air vent. Very useful for the heat in France, since there was not any air conditioning back then.
Fun Fact: pretty much all windows open, even the one in front.
While on the topic, it is worth mentioning that while these are all precautions for the heat, there are also some ways to get heat in the car, for in Winter.
It does have a heater, but that is a little more interesting, because it is connected to a small piece of the engine. If this ingenious system does not bring you enough warmth, you can close the blinds in front of the radiator, to cause for even less loss of warmth, so that can travel to the cabin. Speaking of Winter: breath freezes too. When this occurs, he has to scratch the frozen breath off of the inside of the window to prevent him from crashing due to lack of sight. More extras on the car he has in his garage include: a vintage imperial on which the spare wheel can be placed -and some skis, a small Michelin doll and a leather suitcase, Hans adds-, sets of brand-spanking new chrome headlights, and lots more.
As you can see, it has these hubcaps on its rims. Personally I was not much of a fan of them when I first saw them, but after a while, I started to like them better. It was only after I saw how good they looked in the picture, where factors like lighting and contrast are visible much better, that I really started to appreciate them. He went through similar phases himself, because there are times when he takes them off, while in other instances, he keeps them on. It’s all about the feel.
At a certain point, I became curious about the exact model of Traction Avant he was the owner of, so after wondering why it had not occured to me to ask this earlier on, I did. He told me it is the Légère 11 BL from 1956, infamously called the ‘sport’. When we discussed the various models in existence, I mentioned how the convertible is mostly used for weddings, and wondered if he ever drove any himself. This sparked a chain of anecdotes on the topic.
He has lent his car many times to friends and family on their special day. However, it wouldn’t be Hans if there was no rebellious behavior involved. Let me elaborate. He bought the car at a young age. He liked it for its style, and for the fact that the model he owned came from the same year he was born in. When he was 22, he decided to buy it. Although he was working at the time, he was still aware of the appeal it had to people when it came to weddings, so sometimes he would take a day off just to earn a little money on the side, by making his car available for these specific events. He would then drive the Traction himself, make some money, and go back the next day like nothing happened. He still does this to this day. Most recently, he drove the Citroën for a friend’s daughter, who wanted to be driven in the same car that her parents drove in when they got married, 35 years ago.
To me, it is just incredible to hear how things come full circle like that, and how a car can have such an impact on people. That is the pure beauty of vintage cars like this one, that have actually been used in their time on our soil. They have a story, and not just one. Entire books could be written if every experience had been kept track of.
After hearing about all these weddings the car had attended, I had one question for him:
”Did all these people not mind the numerous dents, scratches, rust spots, etc, that can be found on your car, since most people have the impression that every wedding needs to be perfect?”
His answer was a very clear ”no”. The thing is, ‘everybody’ has perfect cars at their wedding, beautifully made up and in mint condition. His is the opposite, which makes it stand out. As you can see on the pictures, it still looks terrific. While it may not be perfect in that aspect, it is perfect, because people can see that it has had a life, which fascinates even the ‘non-car-people’. It has character. He even told me that, once, there was a photographer at one of these weddings, who at one point basically stopped taking photos of the bride and groom, because he was just obsessed by the car. Moments like that make you feel like you are doing the right thing.
And that was it. At a certain point you just have to move on to the next car, and that is what we did. The Morgan Plus 8 was up next, which will feature in a future article. We went ahead and took the cars out for a spin as well, which is already for you to watch here, on YouTube. The actual reviews will be posted later as well. Go peep my dad for these outstanding photos here.
Have a good one,