When we think vans we think Citroen, Ford & Volkswagen.
Ford’s Transit van has earned the reputation of the very first van to drive like a car and many in the UK felt it brought large goods transport back under control of the people. It was fast and nimble, seeing transit vans get used in bank robberies throughout the 60’s & 70’s. This assumed reputation has been kept in the public consciousness by Jeremy Clarkson’s Top Gear, who treats the Transit van as a fan favourite, most notably when racing driver Sabine Schmitz took a Ford Transit around Germany’s infamous Nurburgring. The classic Transporter has one of the strongest and most recognisable images of any van, with converted camper vans going for tens of thousands of pounds before being taken to rock festivals and beach resorts.
Thanks to the continuation and gradual evolution of famous names like the Transporter & Transit when we look at Ford & Volkswagen’s flagship vans you think back Transits being used as getaway vehicles in 70’s police TV shows, or Transporters being used as camper vans at Woodstock and other hippie festivals. But we believe that the Citroen ‘H’ van is just as iconic.
Built in 1947, the H van had distinctive corrugated body work, inspired by the WW1 German ‘Junker’ Planes. This style not only earned it a ‘love it or hate it’ cult following – it had a practical use. The ribbed surfacing strengthened the bodywork, making it especially effective at withstanding bump and scrapes by the standards of the time it was conceived. The van had other stylish quirks as well, such as reverse-hinged ‘suicide doors’ that open outwards at the front rather than at the back as is conventional. Other cars that have the unfortunately named ‘suicide doors’ are the original chic Fiat 500 and the luxurious and modern Rolls Royce Phantom.
The H van was conceived at a time when Citroen were establishing themselves as an automotive company that took an alternative, and yet entirely practical thought approach. One year after this van was conceived the company’s famous 2CV went into production – a car that was designed under that criterion that it could be driven over a ploughed field with a basket of eggs on board, and that none of the eggs would break.
This common sense approach is something that you can often see in Citroens of today, in their efforts to combine the benefits of van and car. And where Citroen Relay is concerned, that is all van and no car. They have maximised its van-ability by giving it a versatile, class beating loading area.
Nowadays the H van is enjoying the beginnings of a cult revival, with many being restored and converted into stylish festival burger vans, and other food suppositories.