Citroën HY-vans are wonderful, charming, garden shed-like workhorses, and while now they tend to be most often seen as twee coffee and food trucks, they have a long history of doing Real Work, and, sometimes, that Real Work required some modifications. Those modifications often made an already flexible and useful vehicle into something even more clever, but this 1970 modidied HY van that’s for sale now takes it to an entirely new level.
This van, for sale on Hemmings, was used by the French fire department as a mobile field hospital from 1970 to around 1999 or so, when it was sold to a Spanish company that seemed to want to use it as some kind of vending truck, which is when that pop-open counter area was added.
But, before that, this thing was a hardworking mobile hospital, a job which, as you can imagine, both interior space and easy, rapid maneuverability would be incredibly important. That’s why this particular modification is so perfect and incredible.
The bodywork was done by a company called Filca France, a company known for their novel approach to modifying vans, using technology that seems to have been borrowed from the dresser drawer industry.
Filca would take Citroën vans, convert them into pickup trucks, then build van-like rear modules that the pickup would slide in and out of. These modules would have an extra axle at the rear that could be locked so the truck part could slide in and out, and the module could be left in place while the truck did other stuff—say if you were setting up a fruit vending stand at a market all day.
It’s sort of like having a truck and trailer, but even better, especially when it comes to driving around in tighter urban environments.
Look how cool these things are! Look at this version above—you can have this cool little stumpy pickup that slides into a camper/van module or slides out and has its own canvas top for the rear, which has seats in the bed area! I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like this!
Back to this mobile hospital, though.
It’s a little different than the usual Filca build becuase the base vehicle isn’t a pickup truck design, but an enclosed van in its own right, and it’s the rear module that kind of sleeves into the front van module in this case, creating a sort of telescoping-like mechanism.
The result is a van that can have a staggering amount of interior volume when parked, while being a very manageable size when compacted into the driving configuration. Look how much room is in this thing when all expanded:
That’s a lot of room.
It’s for sale for $45,000, and while it’s still got plenty of patina in the body, all of the mechanicals have been gone over extensively, so it should run well, at least if you can get your brain to wrap around this mirror-universe shift pattern:
HY-Vans are so unashamedly mechanical and straightforward, which is what I love about them. Every fastener is on display, every seam and support and component is right there for you to inspect and understand.
It’s one of those rare cars that has so much style as a result of zero attempts to style it at all. It’s a metal expression of French engineering logic, rational and clever and weird all at the same time.
Someone should get this and make it into an amazing camper, or a mobile...well, anything really, just get it out there in the world and find reasons to drive it and park it and expand it and use it as much as possible.
Why spend $45,000 on some overdone F-150? This is a way better use of your money.