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.