Citroens H van is typical of the French. Its unconventional looks gave it the look of an old shed but it was an exceptionally practical design and was used in many different industries. Even the French Police used them and referred to the H van as the Salad Basket. Although the majority of French people used to call them Pig Nose. Both terms were fairly derogatory considering its practicality and simplicity.
The Citroen H van design was effective with its unitary body with no separate frame, four wheel independent suspension and front wheel drive allowing a flat floor low to the ground perfect for commercial use. The body panels are ribbed which adds strength without increasing weight, flat panels were braced from inside ideal for carrying heavy loads.
Today the free thinking radicals at Citroen can be proud of their quirky design as the H van has definitely got that je ne sais quoi as has developed its own cult status amongst Citroen enthusiast across the world.
The Citroen H Van is old and French so it will rust, Moisture gets in panel gaps and this starts corrosion issues. Common rust areas are nose cone, around the head lights, along the curved panel above the wheel arch and side steps so check thoroughly. If the Citroen H van has been restored then make sure it’s been done properly as bad repairs can be hidden.
Floors rot so inspect comprehensively as the condition of the floor affects the integrity of the whole van. It can rust from the inside out due to condensation getting in between the two layers of steel. If the top layer is rusty the bottom layer will probably be worse.
Petrol engines are less noisy and more powerful. As the Citroen H van needs an oil change around every 2000 miles, inspect the service history to make sure this has been done using low detergent oil. This is designed to drop any contaminants into the sump as the H van doesn’t have an oil filter. Diesel engines are very strong but very noisy so make sure it’s a good runner.
Gearboxes are strong and reliable despite the odd selection order and being only three speed gives you a serious disadvantage on today’s roads. Look out for bearing wear as rebuilding the gearbox is expensive. Unless it has been done fairly recently the clutch will need renewing so check documented history.
Ensure brakes have been set up correctly and check for leaky hoses. Brakes are rarely looked after properly so expect some issues. Steering is heavy being unassisted, rubber gaiters will probably need replacing if it’s a struggle to steer. Steering column top bushes wear quickly but are cheap to replace so check it’s in good working order.
Suspension is robust and if greased regularly will last a long time. Check the tyres carefully as restorers often fit cheaper incorrectly sized ones. Original tyres have stopped being made now; they were either 17r400 or 19r400 but may still be available. A modern alternative would be a 205/80 16 tyre.
Most H Vans were sold in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. At the Slough Trading Estate assembly facility (1926-1966), Citroën UK built a small number of right hand drive versions. Today there is still believed to be one surviving Right Hand Drive model somewhere in the UK.
Mark Wilkinson, Managing Director Says:
“Citroen in the past has always been known for innovative designs with great feats of engineering. The Citroen H van is no different and is seen as a cult classic van today.”