How to buy an H van

  • How I bought an H van
  • 1980’s TV references
  • Points to consider


Like Scrooge McDuck in the opening titles of a much loved 1980’s cartoon, I had dived straight into a new business venture and committed fully by investing my money into this iconic vehicle. I purchased it from my most local specialist, 2CV City in Bradford. After my first tentative exploratory enquiries I had picked my vehicle online and had put my bartering hat on to do business! A brief conversation ensued which highlighted the fact that these vehicles are in demand. The van I wanted was on a container ready to be shipped to Australia and the next one in the garage was bound for Japan. My bartering position had diminished significantly. “I’ll have the next one please Tony, here’s a large amount of money as a deposit.”

Just like when you adopt a dog from the RSPCA, I went down to visit the van a couple of times and loved it. 2CV City did a great job getting it roadworthy and looking good. Regular updates kept me informed of progress and after a while it was done and ready to come home, except I needed a kitchen fitting in it.

Tudor Catering Trailers were recommended and my van was despatched down south for fitting.

When the day came, I flew down to Bristol (literally) with a load of welly-clad hipsters on their way to Glastonbury and arrived at Tudor where I  set my glassy eyes on the H-van. At last, we were together.

After a quick once over around the kitchen (beautiful job by the way Tudor), the keys were thrust into my palm, my back was slapped and I was ready to go.

Or so I thought.

I’d never driven it before.

It had no power steering, a manual choke, three gears, left hand drive, a speedo in kilometres and a switch that, to this day, no-one knows what it operates.

I expected to be home in about 6 hours. Pick-up at 4:30pm, home by 10:30pm, cup of tea then bed.

After being advised to rest the van every second service station and to not thrash the engine, I quickly realised that this was not going to be a short hop home.

I drove through the night, stopping for a nap every hour or so, at a steady 60 km/h. I would have liked to have listened to some carefully selected podcasts but the engine was too loud.

I got to bed at 7am the next morning.

Aside from getting lost in Derby, it was one of the most enjoyable drives of my life.

Points to consider before purchase:

  • They are a French vehicle and are available to buy cheaply in Belgium and France but they’ll likely be in a bit of state and require a lot of paperwork to get over here and convert. Whilst not impossible, I’d always recommend using a company that specialises in this so that you get a great, expertly renovated, UK road legal vehicle. It may cost more but you’ll have less worries and a point of contact in the future.
  • Always test drive it if you can. Not necessarily to test the vehicle but your ability to drive it. Steering a heavy vehicle without power steering may seem like a great upper-body exercise but it’s novelty can wear off.
  • These vans were not designed for long journeys. They were intended for village to village jobs, delivering items and selling directly from them. If you’re planning on going all over the country in yours, you’ll not only end up with forearms like Popeye but it will take you a long time. Take note!
  • They’re a thing of beauty. No matter what you do with yours, people will stop and stare, take photo’s and just want to be near it. If you don’t mind playing second fiddle to a car (think David Hasslehoff in Knight Rider, another 1980’s obscure reference) then this could be the vehicle to suit you.

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