Rare Citroën BX Service van
Posted by Chris Graham on 2nd May 2023
Russ Harvey tracks down a very rare Citroën BX Service van from the early 1990s that’s still surviving in Wales.
All photographs copyright of Russ Harvey, unless stated
The Citroën BX was launched back in 1982 under the Eiffel Tower. It was the successor to the GS/GSA and remained in production for 12 years up to 1994, with nearly 2.5 million BXs (in all forms) being produced. The angular hatchback was designed by Marcello Gandini of Bertone, it was designed to be lightweight with many features that set the car apart from its rivals, such as the Citroën Hydropneumatic self-levelling suspension, the extensive use of plastic body panels (bonnet, tailgate, and bumpers) and disc brakes all round. The BX didn’t arrive onto the UK right-hand-drive market until August 1983. However, it was some four years later, 1987 when the BX Service van began to be marketed.
I dropped in on Andrew Weston at ‘Citroën independent specialist’ located in Cambridge, Gloucestershire, which is where I first encountered one of these very rare commercials. Since then contact has been made with the owner Hilary Stone in South Wales.
Citroën BX by Heuliez
The BX range was extended by Heuliez; it built the BX Service van as you see featured here, based on the BX Dyana, which was a hybrid design that could be a van, an estate and even a saloon it was a two-door hatch-back with glazed sides. The front seats tipped forwarded allowing superb access to the rear cargo area as well as the large tailgate. Worthy of mention by Heuliez is also the BX Buffalo Break, like the Dyana but a four-door hatch, and in my opinion, it looked awkward, having the five doors a true estate though. Heuliez was a French company created in 1920 by Adolphe Heuliez that worked as a production/design team for various manufacturers. It specialised in producing short runs for niche markets, many BX were converted to ambulances by the company and there was even a six-wheeled version converted in Belgium by coachbuilder, Pijpops!
Marketing began in 1987
A different van version was marketed in the Republic of Ireland, although some are thought to have made it to the European market, most notably France. It was based upon the shape of the BX Dyana, but this time being supplied without the glazed side windows and, of course, no rear seats – a true commercial. It was produced in low numbers, perhaps as low as 100, and all were diesel. The BX ‘Entreprise’ was a van generally sold on the European markets but had windows in the rear, as well as opening rear passenger doors, the Irish van didn’t have these features for taxation reasons. This Citroen BXTD van was only sold in Ireland, however, don’t be misled, the ‘TD’ doesn’t denote turbo-diesel, it was the normally-aspirated version that was fitted.
Marketed extremely well, its sales blurb stated: it combined generous load space and economical running costs with Citroen’s legendary comfort, handling and roadholding. In addition to the durability and reliability you expect from a commercial vehicle, the BX Van also shares the distinctive good looks of its estate car counterpart. I think you will find it is exactly what it says, up front was the highly efficient 1.9 (XUD 9a) diesel engine (1,905cc), it produced 71hp that delivered an outstanding 58.9mpg. It had lively acceleration plus it benefited from a cavernous cargo space boasting some 64cf storage space, another marketing ploy was ‘Space to Spare, None to Waste’. The payload was 536kg (10 cwt) and the useable space was fully carpeted, too! So, no matter how bulky or awkwardly-shaped the load, the BX could swallow it up. Access was easy, too, via the wide tailgate and low loading lip. Whether the van was fully laden or empty, it maintained a constant ride height thanks to Citroën’s self-levelling suspension.
The all-round disc brakes, provided effective stopping power, it was shod on 165/70 R14 tyres and, once you sat in the cab, you could have been in saloon, with its plush Mosaic cloth seating, clear instrument panel with conveniently-located controls, not to mention ample stowage space all contributed to a well-appointed cab. The BX 19 TD van was well stocked with a 52-litre fuel tank, it came with a heated rear screen, stereo, wheel trims, headlining in the loading area, front seats came with height-adjustable head restraints, carpeted floor and side protective strips all as standard. There were some optional extras such as roof bars, rear window wiper and power steering.
Citroën ‘BX Van’ in Finland
A special version of the BX that came with an extended GRP roof, no rear seat and was simply called the BX Van was produced in Finland, based on the five-door estate. At this time in Finland, commercials had to pay a smaller registration tax than passenger cars, so people wanted to be able to register the BX as a van. However, the regular BX estate couldn’t be registered as a van because Finnish law required vans to have a cargo area of at least 130cm in height, plus a rather confusing calculation with the length from the tailgate to the steering wheel. To get around the taxation, the roof line was extended by simply cutting off the original steel roof and replacing it with a large box made of fiberglass. The BX ‘Van’ conversion was quite popular and over 2,000 of them were produced.
Hilary Stone. from Ebbw Vale in South Wales, is the owner of this BX van that I saw, originally the van was dark grey, it arrived in the UK 2003 but dates from 1992, it now carries a UK age-relation registration. He purchased the BX van in 2015 and had it sprayed to the red it carries today. It is rare and is thought to be one of less than a handful in the UK; this one has had a few modifications along the way. While chatting with Hilary, he confirmed it’s a petrol engine in his, that pushes out some 160hp. The dash and interior were all upgraded from a donor BX, in fact, from the B-pillar forwards it’s a BX 16V including dashboard, seats, brakes, suspension, bumper, engine and gearbox!
Sincere thanks to Andrew and Hilary for assisting with this feature, and for allowing me access to the BX van. These are extremely rare commercials in the UK so, if you’re lucky enough to see one, take some time to stand back and admire it!
This feature comes from the latest issue of Heritage Commercials, and you can get a money-saving subscription to this magazine simply by clicking HERE