This biography of André Lefebvre gives a revealing insight into the work of a practically unknown aeronautic engineer who, after building and racing competition cars for Gabriel Voisin in 1933, created for André Citroën the revolutionary front wheel drive Traction Avant (light fifteen in the UK). He was responsible for the minimalist 2CV and the Citroën DS, which was the sensation of the automotive world in 1955, and is still an icon of original automobile engineering and avant-garde design today.
Together with his colleagues at Citroën, Andre Lefebvre created the Traction Avant (1934), the TUB (1939) – Citroën's first front wheel drive utility van that was succeeded by the H and HY vans (1947) – the Deux Chevaux (1948), and, last but not least, the DS (1955). From 1923 to 1931 Lefebvre also designed several highly original and outstanding competition cars and record-breaking automobiles for Voisin. He even drove some these cars in races and record attempts. It is obvious that during his 16 years with Gabriel Voisin he was very much influenced by the ideas of this illustrious aviation pioneer and car manufacturer. The experience gained during that period gave him the self-confidence to persuade his successive bosses at Citroën that his unorthodox approach to automobile design was what the company needed; first he convinced André Citroën, later Pierre Michelin, then Pierre-Jules Boulanger, and finally Robert Puiseux and Pierre Bercot. His oeuvre for Citroën alone earns him a place of honour among the great automobile designers of the past century. The fact that most present-day cars still carry the DNA of his design philosophy makes him stand out above other automotive pioneers and innovators. That is why it is amazing that so little is known about this fascinating and brilliant engineer. This book was written in order to remedy that, and to pay tribute to André Lefebvre: the passionate pioneer who left car enthusiasts around the world such an important heritage.
About the author
Gijsbert-Paul Berk studied at the Institute for Automobile Management IVA, Driebergen, and worked as an apprentice for Maurice Gatsonides (Gatso). As a post graduate, he did courses on industrial time- and production-management and on marketing communications. His first job was as an assistant in the sports department of the Netherlands Automobile Club, KNAC. At that time he started writing articles for their magazine De Auto. Between 1955 and 1959 he was technical editor of AutoVisie, and the first Dutch journalist to road test the Citroën DS. He participated in various economy runs and was a member of the NAV team, organising motor races at the Zandvoort circuit. After a stint as a freelance journalist, working for, amongst others, Car and Driver (USA) and Popular Mechanics, as well as writing and translating books, he became PR manager for Renault in the Netherlands. In 1973 he was appointed Deputy Director at the Amsterdam Exhibition and Congress Centre RAI, responsible for all communications. He has also contributed to a TV documentary on the 50th anniversary of the Citroën DS and was a member of the jury for the International Concours d’Elégance at Het Loo, Apeldoorn (Netherlands).