11 April 2019

More than an old car #100: Citroen HY

Many of you would be familiar with the concept of food trucks, as they are a staple in almost every large-scale carnival in Singapore. Sometimes if you are lucky, you can see the renowned VW Kombi too. Let me introduce you to this 1970 Citroen HY Van, a food truck that you would not see before!

The Citroen HY, also known as the Type H/H Van, was a panel van made starting from 1947. Pierre Franchiset, who was working in the body development department, is credited for coming up with this innovative design. Its name is derived from it being the 8th project that Citroen worked on, and eventually decided to produce it. Taking cues from its Traction Avant range of cars, it featured a uni-body design and had its engine pushed all the way in front, a feature that was unique compared to vans of that time. Furthermore, the wheels had independent suspensions, enabling it to take more weight than expected.

As with the 2CV, the HY was designed to be durable yet cheap for the masses. For example, the windshield was made in 1 complete piece as it was cheaper to do so, and the distinctive corrugated body work was inspired from the Junkers Ju bomber planes: the ribs added strength without adding weight, even to the point that a horse could be loaded into one! Its remarkable height of 1820 mm also enabled one to stand inside the van, which proved useful if one wanted to load/unload goods. Most HY vans were powered by a 1911 cc 4-cylinder engine, which allowed it to reach a top speed of 78 km/h. It was 4270 mm long and weighed around 1500 kg.

Production ended in 1981 with 473,289 made, remarkably over a long period of time. This unit is a post-1969 facelift model due to the squarish rear fenders, compared with circular ones before that. HY vans have entered cult status just like the VW Kombi, and it is very common to see them being converted to food trucks selling all kinds of "hipster" foods. However, none made it to Singapore originally, since practically all of them were in left-hand drive.

This unit, with its engine removed, was imported from Sweden and has found a new life becoming a coffee van. I believe most of you would not be familiar with this since none existed here previously, despite it being well-known in Europe. It's pretty unique to see something not so common, and do check this out if you have the time!


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