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

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - BUYING & SELLING - WORDS Chris Ran­dall PHOTOGRAPHY Magic Car Pics

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’

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