Citroen H a corrugated workhorse

‘pig’ snout beauty: From 1947 to 1981, about 500,000 of the vans with cast-iron block engines were sold

North America’s relationship with the van dates back to panel delivery or sedan delivery vehicles of the early 1920s.

Tradesmen, small business and large companies relied on Chrysler, Ford and GMC to produce medium-size, no frills commercial vehicles that would meet their needs.

Today those needs are being met by Daimler Chrysler (Mercedes) with its Dodge Sprinter Van, and the smaller Nissan NV Cargo.

And if you want really small there is the Ford Transit Connect.

The workhorse in France, for many years, has been the no-nonsense Citroen Type H van. The sighting of one of these in Canada would be very rare, but many are still in use today overseas.

The H was introduced at the 1947 Paris Motor Show, and the corrugated steel-sided van became one of the most enduring icons of postwar provincial France.

With is square body lines, prominent “pig” snout (somewhat similar to some recent Subarus), the

H was a ubiquitous sight in every small village, town centre, police station, post office depot, fire hall and construction site long after its demise in 1981.

Initially powered by a cast-iron 1,911-C.C. Traction Avant gasoline engine, the basic block remained unchanged (except for an aluminum cylinder head in 1963) until the end of production.

Some sources contend that this made it the longest-running automotive component ever, having been introduced in 1934.

In 1962, you could purchase the H with a 1,623-C.C. gasoline engine, which in itself was a bit of an oddity as manufacturers typically increase engine size over time, not decrease it.

The majority of the nearly 500,000 H vans were fitted with a three-speed transmission, making high-speed cruising a dream — 80 km/h was a realistic, comfortable cruising speed.

The unmistakable corrugations in the body panels were inspired by the wartime German Junkers bombers.

That great strength and when combined with an equally indestructible engine, the H van was a sturdy workhorse.

Another unusual feature of the H van was the different wheelbase length on each side.

About 10,000 units were built in the Netherlands (1963-1970).

The National Citroen meet held in New York state in 2007 hosted North America’s largest ever gathering of  H Type vans — all three of them!

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