CITROËN H VAN
If a classic commercial with a large helping of Gallic chic floats your bateau then it has to be the H Van. With demand and prices still rising, here’s how to buy the best
If you’ve ever bought an artisan coffee or an ice cream from a food truck then there’s a good chance that it was served from the back of one of these. In fact, you can barely move at a festival or show without seeing an H Van doling out snacks and refreshments, and thanks to the quirky styling and impressive versatility it’s not hard to see why.
Launched in 1947 and with corrugated bodywork designed by Pierre Franchiset, it proved hugely popular all across France as a cheap, simple vehicle for all manner of commercial duties. The truncated front end soon saw it gain the nickname of ‘pig nose’ and while the looks are an acquired taste there’s no doubt it possesses charm by the bucket load.
Available in various body styles and wheelbases – including a chassis cab and horsebox – power initially came from a 1911cc petrol engine borrowed from the Traction Avant. A Perkins diesel arrived later which was then replaced by the ‘Indenor’ oil burner, and the transmission of choice was a three-speed unit without synchromesh on first gear. 1958 would see the appearance of the most popular derivative, the HY, and a number of updates during the 1960s improved both reliability and the way a H Van drove. Those later ones are the pick, then, although any hint of modernity is strictly off the menu; all are noisy, heavy to steer at parking speeds and glacially slow, so you’d be wise to try one before taking the plunge. And remember that most are left-hand drive, although a small number of right-hookers were built at Citroën’s Slough factory. Of course, there’s also the matter of money and prices have rocketed even for ropey examples.
They might look simple, but getting an expert eye to look over an potential purchase will save you getting your fingers burned.
‘ You can barely move at a festival or show without seeing an H Van’