Having earlier today profiled an all-American and Broughamtastic Lincoln Mark V spotted on the highways of the Southwest on a tour of America’s national parks, in the name of balance, here is something completely different spotted on those same highways doing the same thing: a Peugeot J7 van, a polar opposite of a Lincoln Mark V.
A small (length 4,740mm/186.6 inches), boxy van with front wheel drive, powered by four cylinder gas and diesel engines, it was similar in size and configuration to the front wheel drive Citroen H Van that had been introduced in 1947, and was a successor to the front wheel drive Peugeot D3/D4 vans of 1950-65 (originally produced by Chenard-Walcker with a two cylinder two stroke engine in 1947-50). Produced from 1965 to 1980, the J7 was never sold in the United States, so sighting one near the Grand Canyon is as likely as finding escargots on the menu at a roadside diner.
The title makes a reference to Monty Python because a side view from a distance had me thinking that this small European van would be a Bedford, an early Ford Transit, or of some other mildly familiar British make. Instead, a closer look revealed a Peugeot badge and a Swiss license plate, along with side windows and fittings indicating a mild camper conversion. The TG code on the plate indicated that this Peugeot J7 was registered in the canton of Thurgau, a mostly German-speaking area in the northeast of Switzerland on Lake Constance.
Based on these details and conversations with Paul, what we had here was most likely a Swiss citizen who came to America for a road trip adventure with a vintage Peugeot van up to half a century old, a well kept or restored example converted for long distance travel. Assuming that the journey began at a port on the East Coast and ended on the West Coast, it would have been approximately 3,000 miles, probably with much of it spent with the sliding driver’s door slid open for ventilation — the best way to stay cool in the hot Southwest with no air conditioning. It is a distinctly European way to see America that few if any Americans have ever experienced.
The back-sliding door is a perfect solution. Makes you wonder why nobody else did it. Front-hinged doors on a FC van are wildly inconvenient.
The Bedford CA van did it, and I know from a hot Saturday morning in the 60s, filling in for a sick driver, that it is a nice way to travel.
Sliding driver’s door was quite common on UK vans. I remember Royal Mail Freight Rovers/Leyland DAFs in the 80s & 90s and possibly later having them, and I seem to recall it was an option on some Transits in the early 90s.
You would see the postie driving short distances between drops with door open and no seatbelt.
Well would you look at that, Margret. Someone has put wheels and an engine on their garden shed.
WOW, that is one incredibly brave owner/driver. Driving any vintage vehicle several hundred miles knowing that any spare parts that might be needed won’t be easily sourced…..but this person is apparently driving several THOUSANDS of miles.
I drove my Fiesta from California to Texas without benefit of A/C, no fun except after sundown. Still, a neat van and I’m a sucker for oddball vehicles, I’m halfways thinking of taking a similar roadtrip.
Apart, perhaps, for the horizontal ribbing below the waist it doesn’t really shout ‘French’. Indeed, without those ribs it might almost look like a mildly updated, larger version of the BMC J4.
Living and road-tripping in the Desert Southwest, I see an inordinate number of Euro-plated camper vans. All flavors, from modern Mercedes and VW to vintage rigs like this.
It makes me stop and wonder how well-off the owners must be, to afford round-trip ocean shipping for their rigs, in addition to taking the several months off work to make a trip like this worthwhile.
That makes it all the more weird to see a vintage rig like this, because if they can afford all this, I want to assume they can afford a more modern camper.
Well, I saw a Harley with French plates in Milwaukee once, he could probably have flown Paris to Chicago and been chauffeured to the Harley museum, but that might not be his thing. 😉
I’ve looked into shipping costs UK-USA and it isn’t necessarily prohibitive, and through work I meet people who are vacationing in Scotland from all over the world. Several times I’ve heard conversations between Aussies and Americans where the Aussie asks “Is it just a short visit?” and is told “No, we’re here for ten days.” The American’s jaw then drops when the Aussie explains that they are in Europe for 3 months and a big chunk of that is paid vacation.
I also meet people who don’t consider themselves rich but spend huge sums on relatively brief and mundane vacations – I reckon the driver of this Peugeot can do it without spending a fortune if he is smart. The time off work is another matter – it may be a question of opportunity, or just one of priorities.
When I was a lot younger and in the Navy I got to travel all over the globe, but when I was out of the United States I rarely “vacationed” for longer than a week. I don’t know about other people, but I would get bored in 1 location if I stayed longer than a week.
But now that I’m semi-retired, I dream of visiting Australia (have never been there), or re-visiting Japan (was stationed there 3 different times for 5-6 months at a time)….or Ireland (never been there, but my Mom’s parents were Irish). I think I could stay longer than a week anywhere at these places.
I think the Australian attitude is that if you are going to spend the money and time it takes to get to Europe, then you want to make it worthwhile!
My trips to the UK/Europe and the USA were both ‘long’, and included a few years worth of accumulated annual leave. On the other hand a friend who was working in Sweden at the time returned home for a wedding, traveling roughly 72 hours for 12-18 hours in the country.
Yup, we’re on the list of must-see places, and rightly so. I have photos of this one parked in Saguaro National many years ago… http://www.campervagamondo.it/
Great photos of a van I’d not seen before. I’d have one, esp if I could drive with the door open. I miss my step-van mostly for that reason.
I drove across the US both ways this summer, in my own truck. I priced a small motor home and Jucy/Escape van rentals and when you add the mileage charges, it was very expensive for just one month: several thousand dollars for the minivans and low 5 figures for a mini-motor home (Sprinter based). Shipping over a vehicle from Europe which also uses less fuel could be a wise financial decision as well as a sentimental one.
Great find in the US, but still a familiar sight in France. No market is complete without at ;least one.
Sliding doors were an optional feature on most vans into the 1970s – ideal for tight spaces, frequent access but limiting the possibility of a sliding door on the side.
Wow, did not know this existed. Given its chronologic overlap with the 504 I wonder how many parts were interchangeable? Same engines?
Engines in Peugeot sedans were inclined, but they are level on the J7. So tthey’re the same block but with a few modifications.
J7s had several engines (petrol & Diesel) over time. They had the 1.5 (403 engine), 1.6 (404 engine) and later 1.8 (early 504 engine) and the Indenor XD 1.9 (Diesel 404 and 504 LD), 2.1 (504) and, after 1977, the 2.3 (504).
Saw a sprinter rv with German plates parked horizontally in a space in the parking lot at work the other day, I assume the owners were sleeping in it. It was gone when I came back from lunch.
I don’t think it would be any more surprising to find it being driven by a man with three buttocks. Great find!
Or a Lumberjack….. with a silly walk.
OK Francophones, what’s the size cutoff when a fourgonette becomes a fourgon? I would have thought this one would be a fourgonette.
I don’t know if there’s an “official” size / weight cut-off with these denominations, but I would say that “fourgonette” would typically haul less than 800kgs and would usually have the front sheet-metal / cab and engine of a small car. Think Citroen 2CV/Acadiane or Simca 1100.
A “fourgon” would haul at least 1000kgs and have a more utilitarian body (with a 1.5 to 2 litre car engine), such as this J7, Citroen H van or the Renault Estafette.
There are still quite a few of these in France. It may not be my vehicle of choice for a trip across America (I’d much rather settle for something lower, wider and with twice as many cylinders), but heck, why not?
The sliding door I most remember belonged to an early Transit. Following said Transit, in a then-new borrowed Falcon some 25 years ago, down a long grade on the south coast of NSW I moved out to overtake. At which point I was confronted by the driver’s door of the van which chose that moment to part company with the rest of the body. I have no idea how it missed the Falcon. I soon passed and have a final image from the rear view mirror of a door cartwheeling along the road.
The destination that day was an old time wrecking yard in Pambula, clinical hoarder that I am I still have the photos taken that day. This CC affliction has been around a while.
These were also very popular in Israel back in the day but since then become almost fully extinct.
Hot town summer in the city, me singing, well singing; behind the wheel of a J7 Diesel, with the door open and the little chain as a guard to prevent you from falling out.
The distinctive Indenor Diesel rattle.
I drove a long- superlong- version and delivered slot machines and pinball machines to snack bars and bars and cafés.in the area.
Every now and then a 30 mile trip, wow a feast !
The van was called the dachshound but, all Rosetta one arm bandits would politely nodd when a 19 year old kid pushed the J7 hard through a curve; they’d never fall over these were stable vans loved for small cattle transport as well.
Actually the best van one could imagine for stuff like slotmachines, low loading ramp and hig very high and roomy on the inside.
Summer in the city……..