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  • Writer's pictureFrank Oles

Traction Avant Update 2021

After a month of driving the Traction Avant around in November and getting to know its quirks and features, we brought it into the shop when winter weather finally hit. Initial impressions were that it was a hilariously fun car to drive. Areas for improvement included heavy steering (non power-assisted and front-wheel drive), soft brakes, suspicious oil pressure, high running temps and some cosmetic needs. It would seem our list of to-dos for the winter was ready to be tackled.

The TA seemed to run OK, but there was definitely some room for cosmetic improvements and aesthetic appeal. Jim is also not a fan of carburetors - not at all. In fact, most of his vintage cars have all been converted to fuel injection, and this Traction would be no exception.

The engine bay in the TA is quite tight for access, especially near the front frame rails. Given the list of work, Jim decided that pulling the engine for access was the best order of action.

We were curious as to the original color of the car, in part because of the creme-colored primer and the French blue that were visible in chipped-away parts of the engine bay. Further investigative work was needed.

We had a peek under the chassis data plate and we were pleasantly surprised to find similar dark blue paint! While we were never going to change the color of the car since we like the dark blue, it was also nice to know that it was the car's original color. Was the engine bay (or the whole car) painted bright blue at one point? That must have been interesting to see!

After grime removal and tedious prep work, we resprayed the engine bay a matching shade of dark blue. This fresh paint will provide the perfect backdrop for the rest of the mechanical work to follow.

The weak oil pressure was traced to a worn rocker shaft, which was replaced. Other engine upgrades included hard chroming the splined fan/accessory shaft for a more precise fit as well as adding a larger, modern alternator and Holley Sniper fuel injection to replace the old carb setup.

Thankfully, the new throttle body unit was able to fit under the factory air cleaner unit to keep the upgrade less visible, at least when the driver's side of the hood is open. Jim also chose to supplement the mechanically-driven fan with an electric pusher fan and a refreshed radiator for increased cooling capability.

Special attention was paid to make sure that the color and finish of each of the engine components was correct. Definitely looking refreshed and ready to go. Unfortunately, we would end up pulling this engine one more time before the car was declared finished.

Wiring was a bit of mixed bag. We would end out ripping it all out and replacing everything with a custom-made harness that would be more reliable and also safer. Visible in this shot is the unique 3-speed manual shift on the dash, as well as this car's collection of various event participation badges.

Tucked up under the dash, barely visible on the steering column is the new electric motor for the power steering assist. This kit mounts directly to the TA steering column with some modification, and it was available from a TA specialist in the Netherlands. The only giveaway is a small knob on the dashboard that lets you adjust the steering from finger tip light to no assist at all. It has increased the driving pleasure of the car considerably and is definitely a worth-while mod.

Besides fuel injection, many of our vintage cars have been upgraded with disc brakes in the front to aid stopping ability. A vintage car does not have to be fast, but it must stop quickly to avoid incident in modern traffic. We were able to source blueprints for the Wilwood caliper mounting from a club member in Europe. This kit also has stainless steel flex lines and an electro-hydraulic power assist tucked away under the fender and out of site. Jim also added a dual circuit master cylinder under the hood. The car now stops securely with very little effort.

Work carried on through the winter, spring and summer months of 2021. COVID did not make parts availability any easier or faster! Our deadline for finishing the car was Sunday, August 22 - the date of the Geneva Concours where this Traction Avant would have a place of honor. Unfortunately, the day before the event, just when it looked like we would have the car running in time, we discovered that the engine mount was improperly installed on the engine side of the firewall. Turns out, it is mounted on the firewall on the INSIDE of the car under the dashboard. Thankfully, with the engine mount in its correct position, everything was finally lining up correctly.

After barely an hour of sleep the night before, we did manage to get the TA put back together and shined up for the event. Test drives would have to wait until later, but the work was done, and successful all around. Future plans for the car include fitting a self-contained air conditioning unit in the trunk (boot) of the car. Jim already has it all worked out in his head!

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