The Isle of Man is a motoring mecca and home of the The Isle of Men TT race — the oldest race in motorcycle history. It is considered to be one of the hardest and most daring races still allowed. When motorcycles are not roaring about, a small fleet of unusually shaped 2CVs take to the road in a more leisurely pace to deliver local Bushy’s beer.
Citroënvie member Paul Duchenne visited the Isle of Man in June 2022 and took this photo on the seafront in Port Erin.
You have to look pretty closely to see it is a 2CV from the side and the rear. The wheels and the door handle are about the only two things you first spot that are a holdover from a 2CV. Then, on second glance toward the front, you notice the familiar fenders, headlights and bumper.
We were fascinated by the 2CV bottle van creation and decided to do some digging to find out more. Reaching out to Bushy’s Brewery in Braddan, George Dyke spoke with founder Martin Brunnschwieler. He started the brewery in 1986 and in a short while, with growing demand, wanted to have a prolific means to market and deliver Bushy beers throughout the Isle.
Martin’s brother Andy happens to be a very handy automotive mechanic and craftsman. He did his apprenticeship at a local Citroën dealer in Blackburn when 2CVs were sold there and then went on to work at a kit-car company that built Jaguar XK-120 replicas. Martin floated the idea of a promotion/delivery vehicle by him and that got Andy thinking….
As Andy tells it — the idea of doing a bottle van came about from a suggestion by their father. A few bottle cars had been constructed before and Andy recalled seeing an old original Bass Brewery bottle car (1 of 5 Bass bottle cars that were made in the 1920s) as it participated in a London to Brighton Classic Car Run.
The Bass bottle cars were imposing — built on Daimler chassis and using a 1/4” boiler plate for body panels they were massive. Andy figured that building something along the same lines but a more modest size could be equally as striking, He originally envisioned his bottle van being based on a Morgan but giving some further thought, he decided that for for reliability and simplicity, 2CV underpinnings would be a more practical choice.
Andy has built three Bottle Cars for Bushy’s; the first one being aluminium bodied and the latter two having fiberglass bodies.
For the first one, he located a 2CV with accident damage where the body was completely crumpled. This was fine because he just wanted the rolling chassis (which was unmarked) and the drivetrain.
He built the body piece by piece, welding up a steel frame and skinning it with aluminium. Andy considered the possibility of a rollover (though it has never happened) and built a roll bar structure into the body frame as well and ensured there were reinforcements for the seat belt mounts. He worked with a friend who was a local fiberglass specialist to make the mold for the bottle cap that sits on the front end.
One of the most challenging aspects was the large curved Triplex windscreen. It had to be laminated and Andy made all the tooling for it.
The rest of the car was all 2CV components except for the door hinges that came from a Reliant Robin, mirrors and the wiper motor (a push/pull type) and that was standard on British Leyland cars of the 60’s and 70s era.
He started building the first van in 1987, and worked on it in his spare time (he had a full time job) and managing to complete it in 18 months.
For the second and third vans, wrecked 2CVs were sourced again and his friend also helped him make the fiberglass molds for the complete bodies, a process which resulted in the second bottle van taking 2 years to construct.
The third bottle van was completed and passed MOT in March 1990.
Now, 30 plus years on, two of the original frames have rusted away and been swapped out for galvanized ones.
Over that time, the bottle vans have gained quite a bit of notoriety. Martin says; “They have been extremely successful in getting our brewery name out and about and are one of the most photographed things on the Isle of Man!”
And when they aren’t turning heads on the Isle of Man they have been in demand as showpieces. The National Motor Museum in Beaulieu (UK) asked to display one for a year in 2009.
They have even been on display in different overseas locations — places like Daytona Beach (USA), France, Holland, Spain and Gibraltar. Quite an accomplishment for a small brewery, and well deserved recognition for such a creative engineering effort in making three distinctive delivery vans.
If you happen to be on the Isle of Man, keep an eye out for Bushy’s bottle vans, and stop in for a fresh pint of Bushy’s at pubs on the Isle or at the brewery:
Isle of Man