I've got quite a lot to go through so hope it all gets mentioned. If I've missed anything then apologies. Lets start off with the National held in the Scrivelsby estate. I don't often attend meetings outside of Registers day but this felt it was near enough to have a trek out for the day. Pleasant drive out, lovely clear roads ahead, tons of traffic behind us I'm sure they where enjoying the day out too. The satnav took us down a dirt track with potholes the size only seen on the moon. Finally arrived to find out that there was a miss print in the mag and a days entry was £10 each and no discount for members. But the goody bag was nice. Parked up had a look around at the stalls had a great chat with Rob and Dalvinder who owns Mike Goodes van, we got into a long discussion about his clutch. Also met up with Richard Burch, I said I'd mention his name as I'd forgotten it at Registers Day. If you are reading this Richard can you send me your details of your van for some reason they are not on the website register. Sally and Mark Flemming where there selling there fantastic coffee and crepes, nice to meet up with Mark and have a chat. The picture I took of their van was very blurred so sorry about that hopefully next time.
I've had an email from David Ross who also attended the 70th Anniversary meet of H Vans at Thouars he sent in an article and loads of pictures. David wrote:-
70 ans du Citroen Type H, Orangerie deThouars
The Citroen Type H was launched 70 years ago this year at the October 1947 Salon de l’Automobile in Paris. I had attended La Traversee de Paris on 12th October 2007 with my 1965 HY72 ex fire service van, to mark the 60th anniversary. The decision to take my van to an event in France this year, to mark the 70th anniversary, seemed an obvious one.
After several searches, I decided upon an event being promoted by the delightfully named H Tendre et Chevronnés in Thuoars. I couldn’t find a great deal of information about the celebrations but the location looked attractive and the route there and back would be interesting.
Thouars is a commune in the Deux-Sèvres department in western France and is described on TripAdvisor as “one of those pretty French towns that few people have ever heard of... it has many beautiful old houses and streets, a wonderful chateau….” all of which we found to be true.
Embarking on such a journey in a fifty-two year old van is always an act of faith however well you and the van are prepared. A recent engine rebuild and thorough overhaul, together with a couple of successful outings with the van, gave me a reasonable level of confidence before we set off for France. Despite all that, the van decided to deposit a large quantity of brake fluid over the shed floor less than 24 hours before departure! For a moment, I thought that the trip would be over before it started. However, a quick call to the ever-helpful Barry Lowdell at B.L. Autos & Sons in Welwyn Garden City (01707 327555) resulted in me taking the van to him there and then. Barry traced the leak to the rubber connector between the glass brake fluid reservoir and the pipe to the master cylinder; it had perished and allowed the fluid to escape. The next challenge was then to find something to replace the somewhat complicated rubber moulding. However, luck was on my side as I keep a box of “essential” spares in the van, to my amazement there was just the part. It had lain dormant and forgotten in the box for many years. Once fitted and refilled with brake fluid trip was on again!
A study of the maps indicated that taking the Portsmouth to Ouistreham (Caen) ferry was our best option, staying overnight in Caen before onward travel to Thouars the next day.
On Thursday 25th May, accompanied by my brother Sandy, I travelled from home in St Albans to Portsmouth using the M25 and A3. We got there in time to have our lunch in the sunshine, on the seafront in Southsea, near to the Isle of Wight hovercraft terminal. The van attracted the attention of many passers-by wanting to stop and chat which made lunch an enjoyable, though protracted affair.
Our arrival at the ferry terminal similarly excited interest, particularly when the two-tone siren echoed loudly around the customs shed! Well the customs officer did ask if it was in working order!
The ferry crossing to Ouistreham was pleasant and uneventful, though the food service on board was rather disorganised and the food itself disappointing.
Our first night in France was spent at the Ibis Caen Herouville Savary, which is located in Herouville Saint Clair, a suburb to the north of Caen and convenient for the Boulevard périphérique de Caen. On our way to the hotel we came across the track of the amazing guided light transit, which is an electrically powered guided bus system, serving Caen using three-section articulated vehicles. We explored this more thoroughly on our return journey – see later.
We concluded the day with some painfully, expensive Kronenbourg 1664 in the hotel bar.
We made an early start on Friday, as we had a journey of some 325 km ahead of us, at an average speed of no more than 50kph. We had decided to keep away from the main roads as far as possible and had planned a direct route following mainly D roads to Thouars. Our route from Caen took us through Mayenne and Laval along lovely scenic “driving” roads that suited the Type H van well, though some of the longer hills required a bit of a crawl in 2nd gear.
We didn’t do too well with lunch having decided that a Lidl baguette was better than no lunch at all. Getting round Angers was our final challenge, though that turned out to be easier than we had imagined.
We arrived in Thouars in the late afternoon where we checked in to a warm welcome at the Hôtel du Relais. Later we unloaded our two additional passengers, an orange 4600 Velo Solex and a PliSolex (one of the rare folding VeloSolex) and went into town to find the rally site and register our arrival. A large number of H vans were already parked in their allotted space. Riding the VeloSolex in the warm evening air was a real pleasure after the noise and heat of the van. The bikes came into their own navigating the narrow streets of the historic centre of town.
Later on, we parked the VeloSolex on the pavement in the town square, found an excellent restaurant and sat outside under a clear blue sky. It was an idyllic setting with swifts swooping by whilst we ate our evening meal. Our return through the centre ville was accompanied by applause from local people in the restaurants and bars, who seemed to approve of our eccentric means of transport.
On Saturday, we took the van down to the rally site and got ourselves orientated. We were amazed at the scale of the event and impressed by the superb organisation. There must have been fifty or more Type H vans that were arranged in lines along the parade ground in front of and below the Orangerie. There was also a number of sales stands and marquees housing special displays that added to the general interest of the event.
Other classic Citroens including examples of 2CV, DS, SM and TA models were arranged around the perimeter. High above in the grounds of the chateau there was a fascinating and ever-changing display of other French classics including Simca, Panhard, Renault and Peugeot mostly restored to the highest standard.
We were positioned close to the bar and catering area which suited us well. A supply of reasonably priced, cool beer within close range was especially welcome as the temperature rose to the mid 30’s during the day.
There was a wide range of Type H vans in attendance, mostly presented in excellent condition. A little cluster of fire service and an ex-police Type H van displayed together with a police liveried Citroen Visa and an AZU fourgonnette were eye catching.
There were a few delightful genuine coach built camper vans alongside some later conversions of standard vans.
My favourite van because of its originality was a late 1950’s split screen van painted brown and cream and sign written in the livery of its owner “Vetements Evrard”. I also noticed on display a wonderful archive photograph of the van dated 1959 with it parked alongside a Citroen AZU van and an articulated unit all in the same livery. I do particularly favour originality and correct period detail in a vehicle and this one had it in plenty.
Many of the vans attending the event are shown in the photographs found by following this link http://citroenhy.free.fr/photo
Citroen themselves had kindly supported the event loaning three fascinating vehicles from the Citroen Conservatoire. These were the Citroen TUB (reputedly based on the Traction Avant car) that was the direct predecessor of the Type H van: the prototype Type G van that was a scaled down Type H though it never went into production and finally the futuristic Citroen Tubik concept vehicle. Deservedly all three attracted a considerable amount of attention over the weekend.
An interesting interloper was a Citroën C35 light van that had travelled from Switzerland to take part. The C35 was the direct successor to the Type H van and according to the Citroenet website ‘is a light commercial vehicle developed by the Sevel joint venture between Fiat and PSA Peugeot Citroën. The vehicles were produced in Italy from 1974 until 1987 with Fiat engines, and then in France by Chausson, when Fiat discontinued its version. Citroën retained the model until 1992’.
The Saturday evening dinner provided, perhaps, the highlight of the event. Several hundred people sat down, in the vaulted Orangerie, to a four course meal accompanied by speeches, musicians, singers and an excellent conjurer who toured the tables. Each table had been attractively laid with white linen table cloth and every setting had an identical tin-plate model Type H van as a souvenir of the event. Altogether most spectacular.
We had taken the precaution of returning my van to the hotel prior to the dinner and instead had the VeloSolex as our means of transport. We made our somewhat uninhibited way back on the bikes across the town well after midnight, much to the confusion of the few late-night revellers we encountered.
Another highlight was the Sunday morning 2CV road run. When we arrived with the van, the site was awash with 2CVs and other Type A derivatives lining up for the start. We couldn’t get the van to its allocated space until the 2CVs had departed. As it happened we had plenty of time to admire the rows of 2CVs of every variety which was a treat being the carer/owner of three 2CV variants myself (my wife’s 1986 2CV6 Special and my 1976 435cc AZU fourgonnette and 1963 AK350 Carroserie Commerciale pick up).
My favourite 2CV at the event had to be the fire service pick up based on an AZU fourgonnette. I think it was intended to be a hose carrier probably for use in fighting forest fires as it carried several long flails and had storage space for many lengths of hose. I had seen photographs of similar vehicles in the past but never guessed that I would ever see one in reality. How I would like to own it to accompany my own ex- fire service Type H.
The 2CVs departed from the site in small groups, immediately crossing the wide
valley of the river Thouet on a high single lane steel girder bridge, where we were able to enjoy that unique 2CV sound.
The rest of Sunday was spent watching the ebb and flow of interesting vehicles on display at the rally.
We eventually left the rally site after a memorable weekend. We were in need of a meal, though as is the way in rural France on a Sunday evening, virtually everywhere was closed. We eventually found La Pataterie, a chain restaurant next to a McDonalds, on an out of town industrial park. It was open and decided that would do. We should have considered first, why the McDonalds car park was full, whilst the only car outside La Pataterie was a run-down Rover 45. In short and to spare you the details, I can assure you that we had the most dismal meal either of us have ever consumed in our lives that evening!
We did however, console ourselves after with a long ride on the VeloSolexs out in the warm air of the evening. We followed the course of the river Thouet past one idyllic water mill after another. The ride along country roads, with hardly another vehicle encountered, soon put all thoughts of the dreadful meal to the back of our minds.
For our return journey, we decided to take a different route back to Caen and instead went via Saumaur, Le Mans, Alencon and so on, using the “old” main roads. These have now, mainly been bypassed by new dual carriageways. Unlike the UK, where the use of the old roads tends to be discouraged by the creation of traffic calming measures, those in France remain untroubled by such nuisances, so we are able to make good progress. We did learn though, to avoid the ring roads that had been built around most towns, as the extra distance, at the speed we were travelling, easily outweighed the use of the direct route through town. It did, however, mean that we had to navigate the “heritage” cobbles and flower planters designed to give pedestrians an even chance with the remaining traffic.
We arrived back in Caen by mid-afternoon giving us enough time to investigate the guided light transit system mentioned earlier. This system, has the superficial look of a tramway. It has an over-head line supplying the traction current via bow collector to the vehicles running on the street level track below. However, the vehicles, though looking like modern three section articulated trams, are in fact hybrid trolley/motor buses running on pneumatic tyres. There is a single, central steel guide rail that directs the tram via steel guide wheels underneath each vehicle. The ride is not dissimilar to a conventional tram, with the steel guide rail providing the metal-to-metal sound of a steel tram wheel on rail. Acceleration is extremely rapid, catching out the unwary if they are not holding on tight!
I believe that the vehicles are fitted with an auxiliary diesel engine and conventional steering that allows them to run, away from the fixed infrastructure, back their depot. There are several lurid photographs, to be found on the internet, of vehicles having lost contact with the guide rail and crashed off into the surroundings with spectacular results.
The existing vehicles are unique to the system and the sole source of replacements is Bombadier who developed the system in the first place. The cost of replacement vehicles is said to be prohibitive whilst conventional trams are made in considerable numbers, by three or four well established manufacturers across Europe. Indications are, that the system is due to be converted into a conventional tramway system at great expense.
We rode on Line B into the centre of Caen with the aim of finding a good restaurant to counteract the unsatisfactory experience the night before in Thouars. Fortunately, that objective we met in full.
Our final day consisted of an early ferry from Ouistreham to Portsmouth. This journey was uneventful, other than the quayside policeman at Ouistreham wanting to photograph the van on his smart-phone and the lady on the ferry car deck, handing out location tickets, trilling ‘I so luuve your car’ – all rather touching.
We were hoping for a clear run home from Portsmouth to round off a successful trip. That was not to be, as we spent about 90 minutes stop-start along the M25 around Heathrow. The weather was hot and I was worried that the engine might start to overheat. However, the van retained its composure to the end and got us home without any problems at all.
Overall, we agreed that the trip was a great success and had exceeded our expectations. It was, entirely worth making the effort to get to the 70th anniversary rally.
Finally, here is a photo of my van in France a few years ago when I took it back to Bonneval, Eure et Loir where it was based during its working life. The trip to Thouars this year was its fourth visit to France in my ownership.
Great article David many thanks for that. Well hopefully next month I should have some news about the Kettering Steam Rally where we have a small gathering of H Vans set in a small corner of a field. So if you are about that way pop in and say hi. We'll be waving the flag for the Citroen H Van. Enjoy the pictures of Davids time in Thouars, and the National.
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Martyn Brown (H Van register)
I've had emails from Ray Wilkinson. (no not that one) He 's keen to sell a Citroen 350 pompier he writes :-
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Finally got to send Martyn the photographs I took at this years 70th Anniversary meeting at Thouars in western France.
Felt a bit miffed when I found out the northern anniversary meeting was at the same time we were at our place in the Charente, I knew it was a long haul I didn't fancy driving having just done the 740 mile journey a few days earlier to department 16!
Anyway luckily i got some wifi at Leclerc whilst shopping and via our clubs website found the western event mentioned.
I don't know how I managed to talk her indoors to a 4 hour round trip on a blisteringly hot day but she came along for the ride and said she thoroughly enjoyed it!
The setting was perfect outside of the old Chateau orangerie high above the river Thouet.
We counted approximately 26 H vans, there were 2 Citroen SM's that have the Maserati V6 engines installed. The two vehicles that really stood out were the concept van and the wooden 2CV!
Noticed one British registered Pompiers fire truck but never managed to see or chat to the owner. (That belongs to David Ross. Martyn)
Underneath the orangerie in the stone vaulted ceiling cellars was a display of vintage photographs and a massive model collection of new and old vehicles. I had been hoping to see lots of trade stalls but not to be, the only two there mainly had spares for anything but H vans.
Bought the T shirt and the cup!
Wonder if I'll be around for the 100th celebrations?
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June 5th 2017
I've had one registration this month and some interesting pictures from Jeff Winterman. Also some updated pictures from Peter Mitchell.
The registration is from Martin Thomas who has a 1973 Hy 1.9 petrol engine blue and white van, its past history is that it used to be a French Outdoor Broadcast Vehicle. Martin says "This is my HY in its current state. I've old pictures of it before I owned it and before the restoration started but I thought I'd share a true representation of it. It's been like this for about 6 months now."
Well thats all for now folks and hope to see you in Princethorpe. Keep sending your articles in. Tube it don't lose it.
8th May 2017
A lovely looking van and unusual to see one in the postal colours. The second registration is from Daras Rich who says :-
I have just bought a 1965 LWB HY72. Although it’s been in the UK since the early 1990s, it’s still on French plates: 355MV54. I bought it from (Ex 2CVGB Chairman) John Blakely but I’m not sure whether or not it’s on the register. I’ve got it mot’d and will be getting it UK registered shortly.
I have no history from its time in France but it seems to be an ex fire department ambulance. From looking at similar spec vans on the internet, I believe it’s probably a Filca France conversion, (judging by the half-frosted windows, type of rear doors, etc). I’ve attached some photos of my van.
Many thanks Daras, I will be doing an article later on in the year about Filca France conversions.
Simon Saint dropped me a line saying :- I thought it was about time that I made contact. You might have read snippets about Henry the H over the last two years but, to my shame, in all that time he has not been on the road. However I have been doing a bit of necessary body repair prior to taking him for an MOT and that has involved crawling around underneath. This activity reminded me of something that I already knew, that the many 50mm diameter 'access' holes in the box section chassis have mostly lost their blanking plugs. At least I assume that they are meant to have blanking plugs because a few still do. I have been checking some suppliers' parts lists on line and have made a couple of phone calls but so far I have drawn a blank. So my first question is whether you know of any supplier of these parts. It seems to me that it would be a good idea to close up these holes to stop the road rubbish and moisture getting in.
It would be a great idea to blank up the holes, as chassis box section can be very hard to come by and repair. Hopefully Citroworld has helped you out and it would be great to see it back on the road.
Continuing with the H Van changes through out the years we are at 1951, in Jan. A new flexible oil gauge with a rubber seal peplaces the rigid gauge. Feb. The steering wheel is made of molded plastic instead of ebonite. June the gearbox receives a positive locking of 2nd and 3rd gear controlled by the clutch pedal. Sept. A new type of lock system on the rear lower doors is intruduced. The starter motor changes the brushes from a postive to a negative. In Nov. a bodybuilder ironicaly called The Bastard changed a fleet Modalux Cafe H Vans with an enlarged grille an enveloping bumper and headlights that look like something from a science fiction movie.
Well thats all for now folks, keep sending stuff in.
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April 3rd 2017
I wonder whether you have H meetings like we have in Switzerland with our H van interest group ("IG HY").
I will send a copy of the list of our meetings to you, as soon as it is finalised. We had our annual discussion about when and where recently.
It starts off with Easter weekend near Colmar, Alsace, and ends the last September weekend in Ticino, where it is still warm at that time.
My own van is not a HY, it is a HIN because of the Diesel engine. It is the yellow CW-HY 52 on the picture of the meeting near Berne on the long Ascension weekend.
I had 2CVs for 35 years, but in the moment I only own the HY. I am looking for a 2CV, but haven't found one. Of course there are offers, but either they are very well, then they are quite expensive, or they are in bad condition, then they have to be cheap (and quite often they aren't even then).
I've had an email from John Sobey who says :-
Lets hope for a good turnout.
Birth of the HZ its trade name is Pick-up 850kg its technical characteristics are identical to those of the H except for the useful load reduced to 850.
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5th Feb 2017
As you are all aware this year is the 70th anniversary of the H Van, so each month I'll be adding a piece about the changes of the H Van thoughout the years. So we'll start at the beginning. In June 1947 the H Van was launched, CEO Pierre Boulanger drafts the specifications: a unibody, front-wheel drive adopting lots of features from the four-cylinder Traction Avant with strong rear suspension. The main aim is to carry over as many parts as possible from the existing brand model. The picture shows the launch of the Citroen H.
Distinctive features of the early H are, flat foot steps, chrome insert around the windscreen rubber also the front bumper had the Citroen logo on it.
Our latest registration is from Roger Hoskins who says :-
The website is up and running and I've received a great response, it still needs to attract people to use it and get involved in the Forum, time will tell. Our latest
addition to the register is from Paul Walters who wrote :-
- Written by Martyn Brown