The Citroën H Van, Type H, H-Type or HY, was a delivery vehicle produced between 1947 and 1981. It was developed as a simple front wheel driven van after WWII. A total of 473,289 were produced in 34 years in factories in France and Belgium.
There is something fundamental in the design of the H Van that causes people to smile. Like other Citroëns of the era, the H Van was as innovative as it was weird-looking. This innovation made for a highly practical vehicle.
Over the years they have become icons and been featured in many films and television programs. See a full list here: Citroën H Van Film & TV Database
The French and rest-of-the-world market H Vans had front-opening doors hinged at the rear, with the Traction Avant’s antique-looking door handles while the Dutch/Belgian/Swiss vans had front hinged doors with their door handles (taken from the DS) placed at the back of the doors, and set much lower. Also, the step ahead of the front wheel is noticeably thicker, with a much more pronounced angle.
For a vehicle that was never really styled (Flaminio Bertoni was kept completely out of the loop on this one), the distinctive corrugated body work was inspired by German Junkers (aircraft) of the 1930s. Pierre Franchiset, working on a shoestring budget, actually designed a perfect engineer’s van – something durable, easy to manufacture and very user-friendly. The ribs added strength without adding weight, and required only simple, low cost press tools. The flat body panels were braced on the inside by ‘top hat’ box sections, at right angles to the ribs.
Rather than integrating headlights into the body, the 2CV’s free-standing pods were in mass production, so they would do quite nicely and became a pronounced feature in the front-end design.
Power came from the Traction Avant’s 1911cc engine coupled to a 3-speed manual gearbox (no synchro on 1st). Unlike the Traction where the gearbox is mounted forward of the engine, H Vans have a reverse placement with the engine mounted out front. This was the default configuration from the beginning to the very end. In 1963, a 1.6 litre option was added to the range; a Perkins Diesel became available in the early ‘60s and was soon replaced by a Peugeot/Volvo Indenor diesel.
Inside, the H Van is a veritable Ali Baba’s cave of classic Citroën parts – the Ami’s instrument panel, 2CV headlamp controls, DS-19 switch-gear, and a Traction Avant steering wheel.
The H Van was offered in various lengths, heights and cargo configurations.
H Vans are turning up in all sorts of places these days taking on rejuvenated roles as a street vending vehicles in a variety of food truck and rolling shop variations. Here’s a gallery of photos that really illustrates its diversity and the creative ways people are using them in their businesses.
Click here to view the full gallery. And for a full screen slideshow click on the icon (upper right of screen).