Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Citroën H-Type Van

click photo to enlarge
One of the stages of the design process is conceptualization. This results from ideation (idea generation). Looking at modern automobile styling and design you could be forgiven for wondering if there is an agreement that every manufacturer has to use the same half dozen basic ideas. Further, that any resulting car design and styling is not not allowed to diverge from those of their competitors by more than fiver percent. It's got to the point that if manufacturers didn't put a badge on the bonnet or radiator you'd be hard pressed to distinguish one model from another. Of course, where the same model is actually produced by more than one manufacturer - as happens with, for example, Fiat and Suzuki (Sedici/SX4) or Toyota, Citroën and Peugeot (Aygo/C1/107) the confusion is understandable. As it is also when the basic body and internals is used by more than one manufacturer e.g. Opel and Vauxhall Corsa/Fiat Grand Punto or Ford Fiesta/Mazda 2. But even where this doesn't happen there seems to be an enormous amount of design convergence making cars virtually indistinguishable. Kias, Hyundais, Opels, Volvos, Peugeots, Toyotas, etc - who can tell them apart?

There have been times and manufacturers that have bucked this trend. In the past the French firm of Citroën had a name for turning out distinctive cars that stood out from the herd. The Citroën DS, a design produced by the combined talents of the industrial designer and sculptor, Flaminio Bertone and the aeronautical engineer, André Lefèbvre, was renowned for its idiosyncratic qualities. So too was the "umbrella on four wheels", the Citroën 2CV, an economy car that was so successful it remained in production for over forty years, from 1948 to 1990. Citroen's H-Type van (shown above) wasn't produced for quite that span, but it did remain available from 1947 until 1981. It too has qualities that make it stand out from vans of its time and today. I particularly like the flat glass windows and the corrugated metal. Both are chosen for their low cost, though putting folds into metal does, of course, increase its structural strength. The overall aesthetic of the vehicle is utilitarian with a slight hint of the military in the angled faces of the cab. When it was first made it was distinctive: it remains so today. Which is more than can be said for the vans made by the major manufacturers. These are even more clone-like than their cars.

This particular van has been restored and beautifully painted to act as a mobile coffee shop for "Café Classique". It was doing steady business at the Boston Classic Car Club Show, as the smaller photograph illustrates.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo 1
Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 70mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/400 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On