Real Life Transformer: 1970 Citroën HY

Citroën has always had cool and quirky vehicles, and this unibody, front-wheel drive, manual, corrugated steel cargo van with innovative independent suspension is no exception. Those aren’t even the coolest or weirdest aspects of this, either, but more on that later. Citroën made the H Van in some form or another for over 30 years–from 1947 to 1981–relatively unchanged throughout. You don’t mess with perfection. Its low center of gravity, independent suspension, light weight, and front-wheel drive meant that not only did it have nimble handling for a van, but it also had a low floor and a wide range of bodies available, making for a particularly practical and adaptable commercial vehicle. You can find this one here on Hemmings for $40,000. Shout out to Boot for letting us know about this unique French hospital.


Yes, hospital. The seller’s write-up on this particular HY tells its story, and how it was originally commissioned to be used as a mobile field hospital. Its party trick is that it’s transformable, à la the Plymouth Voyager III. The back of it can telescope out, basically doubling the interior cargo/work space. The seller suggests it would make for a fantastic food truck, and I have to agree there. The unibody is clear of all rust, and on a vehicle whose stability rests on two separate pieces, that’s vital. If you wanted to use it as a hospital again, you probably could. I get the feeling that hungry people in parks would probably appreciate the quirkiness of a transforming French cargo van more than people in need of a hospital.

The seller lists all sorts of things done mechanically to it, and it sounds like they’ve basically completely restored it. The exterior and interior have a patina to them, but underneath it’s pretty much brand new.

There’s not much of an interior to speak of. After all, this is a cargo van built in 1970. Radio? What’s that? Air conditioning? Why? You got windows that can open. The plus side with the simple interior is that you can build it to your heart’s content. This would make a fantastic camper van or food truck, sure, but why not go all-out and be as weird as Citroën was in 1970? Make it an all-in-one drive-in movie theater for your friends and neighbors. Put an electric motor on all four of the rear wheels and make a stealth 6X6 solar-powered hybrid overlanding rig. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination and bank account.

Fast Finds


  1. Pierre Cardin II

    Zees ees an outrage !

    Like 2
  2. Ralph

    Yeah this is beyond cool.
    40K is a lot of cash but the possibilities with this truck and limited by your imagination and budget.

    Like 9
  3. Steveo

    Food truck? You could have a restaurant on wheels with this. Kitchen and dining area.

    Like 6
  4. Jay E.

    Not sure how you install anything useful in the slidy section?

    Like 3
  5. bobk

    Uber cool. I only wish that I had a use for it.

    Like 2
  6. Natec

    This would be one awesome tailgating van! A little on the expensive side for tailgating but cool nonetheless!!

  7. Phil

    To quote a show with William Shatner – “Weird or what.” I actually like this a lot. Does it have Citroen’s iconic hydro-pneumatic suspension?

  8. Martin Horrocks

    This is not a factory vehicle, but a coachbuilt variation which I have seen before (usually at 25% of the asking price). They are rare, whether any good or not., I couldn´t say. Perhaps static use as a food truck is for the best?

    The rear end is just like a trailer unit, fixed onto a SWB H van front. Most were used for market vehicles, but as you could get a LWB version of the H van from the factory, maybe this is the answer to a question no-one had asked?

    Like 1
  9. johneng

    these folks offer a ford engine or electric conversion.

  10. Terry

    Escargot To Go

    Like 4
  11. DonS

    The husband and wife team on the show “Escape to the Chateau” convert one into a bar. The show is a hoot. I’d love their bar to roll up to my house tonight for a couple drinks with the neighborhood!

    Like 1
  12. Tracy

    Another truck I so want but can’t have. I am in Virginia and would be happy for those too far away for an assessment to go to Maryland for them. I am a mechanic and vintage owner and enthusiast.

  13. charlie Member

    Friends bought a used one (the basic – no stretch out unit) in France to tour Europe in, had a great time, imported it through Providence RI, got held up by Customs due to drug sniffing dog finding traces of pot under the floorboards – it had a wooden floor above the metal one. Me, a lawyer then, got the charge reduced to “failure to declare an illegal imported agricultural product” with a $100 fine. It took 2 months, but since the vehicle was impounded, it suffered no harm, and they eventually got it back. Before the internet, so parts were hard to find, but they kept it for a number of years.

    Like 2
  14. BR

    Light duty Murty.

  15. João Antonio Pinto de Carvalho

    Os pneus traseiros, devem ter um desgaste bem acentuado.

    • BR

      Não creio que seja conduzido com o corpo estendido.

  16. mr r

    mobile vaccine clinic

    would help covid

  17. Willowen Member

    AAaarrrgggg! Too many boxes on back! Okay, I’m not really in the market anyway, but the H vans have been on my Dream List for a very long time, starting with the one a Citroen-loving friend bought at a farm auction out in Woodside CA. That one was a horse van, with a beautifully made wooden box that showed no sign of unhappy-horse occupancy, if you get my drift. It was not at that time for sale, which was just as well as I was barely keeping my Austin Mini in gas, but true love is not about ownership … or something like that.

    Everybody I know who’s driven one of these says they are not really any fun at all – heavy controls, crude handling, and NO they do not have the very cool hydraulic/gas-sphere suspension. They are also not what you’d call lively in any sense. But I can’t help thinking about one like today’s example, only with just a single section of that cargo box – or none, since they’re both attachments – and I think I could tolerate driving it the hundred miles or so to my semiannual group campouts, assuming those finally start happening again. Especially now that my old Forester is getting less and less comfortable to sleep in …

    • Derek

      They’re very simple. There’s also room to stand up and room to lie down in one, so if you want to use it as a mobile dormitory you can!

      They’re also quite slow. 2CVs will overtake you.

      Like 1
  18. Willowen Member

    I have been inside of two – the horse van and a SWB all-steel one getting refurbished up at Shin Yoshikawa’s studio some years back. I know that the engines in these are in front of the drive wheels, but are basically the same as the DS and similar units, so I’d think a later, larger DS could be made to fit. Not much hope for an SM, though!

  19. freakinutz Member

    There is one of these, without the add on trailer, sitting in front of a bike shop in the Cow Hollow neighborhood in SF. It has been cut in half and expanded into a parklet/coffee spot. They are interesting vehicles. I remember reading an article a bit back about someone restoring these and bringing them into the States. It’s French; it has to have great seats!

  20. Willowen Member

    Alas, freakinutz, European commercial vehicles in general are built by people who don’t believe in coddling truck drivers. Citroen and Alfa Romeo are two of my favorite car builders, but Alfa’s long-time workhorse, the Forgone (or something like that) is reportedly a real pig to drive despite its using the classic DOHC 4-cylinder engine. That, like the H-van’s, is turned around and driving the front wheels. I have not sat in an H-van’s driving seat, but those I’ve looked at don’t make me want to try’em out.

  21. t-bone BOB

    Located in Mount Airy, Maryland

  22. Bill McCoskey

    I’m in the general area where this car is located, should a potential buyer be interested in having someone [who knows what they re looking at] check this vehicle out.

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