I know I use the term “weird” a lot, sometimes on vehicles that don’t deserve it. I’m using it again today, but I think you’ll agree that its use is justified this time. In the 1950s, a Paris tour operator took some Citroën U55 trucks and had them built into quite possibly the wildest buses to have ever existed. These are the Citroën U55 Cityrama Currus.
Last night, my future wife and I wound down the weekend with YouTube and pizza. While flipping through videos we visited the channel of one of our favorites: The Tim Traveller. Tim treks the world documenting obscure places and really neat public transportation. This time, however, he has a real treat. Back in the 1950s, Paris tour company Groupe Cityrama commissioned wild buses that have seemingly since been lost to time.
There is amazingly little information about these buses that is easily accessible. A number of small personal blogs have covered it as well as Tim up there, a model car magazine and weirdly, a UK-based insurance company. We touched on it 12 years ago, too.
As the story goes, Groupe Cityrama launched in 1956 to provide tourism to Paris, France. Now, since Paris is a big tourism city, Cityrama was entering into a competitive market. Cityrama’s plan to be different was to go big and bold. The tour group’s sightseeing buses would be like nothing ever seen before or since.
Cityrama chose the Citroën Type 55 utility truck as the bones for its buses. These workhorses featured either 4.6-liter gasoline sixes making 73 HP or a 5.2-liter diesel six producing 86 HP. Launched in 1953 and produced all of the way to 1965, these trucks were the backbones for fire engines, flatbeds and these five to ten strange buses.
Cityrama took these trucks to coachbuilder Currus, which turned them into the buses you see here. As Tim notes, the design goals were to make a double-decker, mostly glass bus that looked like nothing else. Well, mission success. Take a look at this thing.
There’s so much going on with this Cityrama bus. It looks like it has a boat hull up front, there are tail fins in back, and the red character line turns into a massive wing above the second deck. Oh, and yes, that’s a spear pointing off of the front. The roof on the second deck was also removable for sightseeing tours on warm days.
Both Tim and Model Auto Review Magazine note that the bus wasn’t just weird but innovative, too. Each seat got headsets that broadcast commentary of the scenery in a number of languages.
The Citroën U55 Cityrama Currus became an instant hit with tourists, and they were so popular that they were featured in local movies. There are few images out there of these buses, so they’re preserved largely in media.
One popular film to feature these buses is Zazie dans le Métro:
Unfortunately, the distinctive buses did run into some issues, notably with their engines overheating. Over time, Cityrama had second and third grilles added plus an oil cooler. If anything, the addition of the grilles just made the buses look even more silly.
Ultimately, as the Model Auto Review Magazine notes, the buses were retired in 1980 and replaced by normal sightseeing buses. Not much is known about what happened to the handful of buses produced.
One found its way into a circus. Another was found in a sad state in 2008.
It blows my mind that something so cool was produced with so little evidence of its existence. If you know anything further about these buses, especially where one of them might be, send me an email. I’d love to continue shining a light on one of the wildest buses ever built.