We’ve lately had some fun Citroën times here at Rare Rides, with the most recent entry being a custom-built and luxurious ID19 coupe. Today’s Rare Ride is not quite as luxurious, and there’s certainly nothing bespoke about it. But it is interesting, and it also looks like a corrugated shed on wheels.
Say hello to HY.
The HY was a successor to Citroën’s very first utility van, the TUB. Introduced in 1939, the TUB (Traction Utilitaire Basse) was derived from the front-drive, unibody Traction Avant sedan. Citroën’s co-manager, Pierre-Jules Boulanger, reached out to customers to see what they wanted in a utility van, then set strict requirements for the new offering. Load carrying capacity needed to be greater than other car-based vans. There also had to be more space for cargo, and the cargo area was to be tall enough to accommodate standing in it. As well, drivers needed access to the rear cargo area without exiting the van, and there was to be a door on the side for curbside loading.
The costs of the project were kept low by using the Traction Avant’s platform, and the front-drive layout allowed for a flat cargo area. While the van was a success upon its introduction in 1939, it was short-lived due to the start of World War II.
After the war, Citroën started on a new van design. The HY entered production in 1947, using the same front-drive unibody format as the TUB. Independent suspension meant the loading floor was closer to the ground, and an interior standing height of 6 feet was maintained in the new model. The composition and design of the HY’s body was inspired by German Junkers airplanes. Citroën fashioned a simple pressed-steel body made of ribbed metal to add strength without additional weight. There were structural supports on the inside of the cargo area, while the welded floor could hold the weight of a horse.
Mechanically the HY was related to Citroën’s passenger cars, borrowing de-tuned engines from the Traction Avant and the DS. The 1.9-liter four-cylinder engine was always mated to a three-speed manual transmission, and HY vans had a top speed under 60 miles an hour. The HY remained in production with few changes for decades, only making way for a new model after 1981. While Citroën sold them all over the world, the Chicken Tax removed new HYs from American roads after 1962. Sadly, the HY’s replacement in ’81 was a rebadged Fiat Ducato. Today it’s called the Citroën Relay, but you call it the Ram ProMaster.
The 1972 example presented here is for sale in Texas. In clean, original condition, it asks $29,900.