Replacing the 1938-1947, Traction-powered, Citroën TUB (Transport Utilitaire Bras) in late 1947, the corrugated-steel H van became, along with the Traction Avant, DS and 2CV, one of the most enduring icons of post-war provincial France. With its square lines, prominent "pig" snout and rippled bodywork, the H was a ubiquitous sight in every marketplace, town centre, farm yard, fire station, building site and lay-by (selling frites or farm produce) for many years until long after its demise in 1981.
Initially powered by the all cast iron 1911cc Traction Avant petrol engine, the basic block continued (with an alloy head in 1963) until the end of production. This made it the longest running automotive component ever, according to some sources, having been introduced in 1934. Also in 1963 came the smaller 1628cc petrol engine and a Perkins diesel engine, then an Indenor diesel of 2068cc in 1965. The vast majority of the nearly 500,000 H vans had three speed gearboxes, making high speeds and comfortable cruising a distant dream. Do note that model types denote engine type and carrying capacity, e.g. an HY 1600 is a 1911cc petrol with a capacity of 1600kg.
With the corrugations in the panels, inspired by the war-time Junkers bombers, providing great strength, and unburstable mechanicals, the H was a sturdy workhorse. Available in many different body combinations, from the standard short wheelbase, low roof line to V-E-R-Y long, extendable body variants for mobile market stalls. The chassis-cab variants were often used for building wooden "Betaillaire" (horse-box) bodies or other specialist configurations.
Still in use throughout France, the H is slowly dying out in favour of more modern commercial vehicles capable of such rarified luxuries as driver comfort. Many are still seen in everyday use, however, with the three piece (upper half being top-hinged, two lower half side-hinged) rear door providing great flexibility for long or unusual loads in safety. They were also manufactured in the Netherlands (approx 10,000 vans between 1963 and 1970),.There were very few major changes to the H in its 34 year run.
Designed single-handed by Pierre Franchiset, working under Pierre-Jules Boulanger (Michelin-appointed saviour of Citroën after Andre's bankruptcy and the father of the 2CV), the bodywork of the H is notable, in part, for the introduction of the "Yoda" pinless hinge. Formed from two curls of steel, this ingenious design was also used for fixing the bonnet, doors and bootlid of 2CVs and "A"-series vans. Now prized amongst 2CV and Citroën enthusiasts, the H van converts very well into a spacious, flexible motor camper.