There are two famous Traction cartoons by Russell Brockbank. One, entitled 'Citroën Pressé', has a Traction being harried by an oversized Blower Bentley. The other demonstrates the extraordinary road holding as a Traction hurtles over the edge of a mountain road, a chunk of that road stuck to each tyre and matching holes on the terra firma left behind. Compared with contemporary rivals that's how it must have felt, up to the point of flight at least.
I put this to the test – not the airborne part – a few years ago in a gathering of cars for a magazine feature. The idea was to compare machines introduced just after World War Two had ended, which still showed pre-war influences but also looked to the future. Three were British: a Jaguar MkV, a Rover P3 and a Triumph Renown. The fourth was a Traction, chosen as the most technically advanced saloon of the time. The trouble was that I couldn't get hold of a post-war Traction for the date I required, but the very helpful Traction Owners' Club came up with a 1938 French-built 11BL normale, the car that formed the basis of Britain's Big Fifteen. That Light Fifteen I drove was derived from the more slender 11BL légére.
That it was a pre-war made little difference. It had cool pilote wheels with air slots, different vents in the bonnet sides and, of course, a French décor of cloth seats with exposed tubular frames, a painted dashboard and less exterior chrome work. It drove beautifully. Compared with its British rivals it was a decade or more ahead, not behind, even though the breed was launched in 1934. By contrast, the Brits were heavy, stodgy puddings of cars, of which the Rover was comfortably the best, but the difference in both dynamic aptitude and space efficiency was embarrassing in its vastness. It was almost as if the British motoring press of the time was in a conspiracy of silence to mask the truth.