Thursday 4 August 2022

Citroen HY

Observant and knowledgeable readers must have wondered why I haven't had a model of the iconic Citroen HY on the Nystrup Gravel layout, particularly because I have several other French cars on my model railway. It has not been for lack of trying and after several years of hunting I'm finally in possession of a silvergrey HY. I did have to accept a compromise thoug, as the van is in 1/21 scale rather than the usual car scale of 1/18. My model will later get the usual treatment of detail painting, adding of Danish markings, license plates and moderate weathering.

Left side of my new HY-model. Classic lines and looking pretty much like the prototype van.

The model is a Solido 1/21 Citroen HY 1962 model with short wheelbase and short body overhang - exactly the type I was after. Most available HY models in my scale are 1969 models with one-piece windscreen or 1963 models covered in advertising markings. On top of the model being the right type, I even managed to acquire the model for an attractive price as its box was damaged. This isn't the first time I have won online auctions because collectors aren't interested in models with faulty or missing original boxes. I just need the car inside!

The split windscreen is a definate give-away for a pre-1963 HY. Does the van seem a little under-size comppared to a 1/19 figure? See below for scale measurements.

The top part of the rear door opens to provide a view of the cargo area fitted with 8 seats along the sides. The left rear wheel have suffered some damage and I will have to do a little work to persuade the wheel into a more realistic angle. 

Both front doors on the model opens. They are of the classic suicide door-type, that one should be careful not to open while the car was in motion.

With the scale of 1/21 printed on the underside of the model I took a few measurements to establish the degree of conflict with 1/19 scale that I'm modelling in. The Modelu figure in the images aboveis 91 mm in height corresponding to 172 cm in real life. (The average Danish male was 173,9 cm in height when conscripted into the military in 1949).

The wheelbase of a short wheelbase HY is 2558 mm. On the model the wheelbase is correct for 1/21 scale (121 mm) while it should be 134 mm in 1/19. The height of the van's vertical side is 1545 mm which I measured as 81 mm on the actual model - correct for 1/19 but a little on the large side for 1/21 scale. The sliding door height is also correct for 1/19 scale. The backdoor width of 1310 mm is 64 mm on the model which is slightly larger than correct 1/21 scale but a little too small for a correct 1/19 width of 68 mm. The same goes for the width of the van - a little too large for 1/21 and a little too small for 1/19.

I draw the conclusion that the van is a bit too small length- and widthwise for 1/19 scale but spot on the prototype measurements for two major height defining objects. The model fit within the rather generous envelope of margin that I have always been working with. In my old modelling scale of 1/35 I also used parts and models from 1/32. With careful selection and positioning of parts and models that doesn't have to detract from a realistic impression of a layout.

Leaving the subject of scale, the HY, like my other French cars (e.g. the Traction Avant and the Chenard & Walcker) has a character of its own as well as being an example of one of the most technical innovative vans of the last century and in an industrial design admired by many. The design is still popular and many HY's are today used as stylish food trucks. 

As recent as 29 June before the Grand Depart de Tour de France in Copenhagen I spotted several HYs serving as food trucks. Here is one of them: from Paridan serving ice creams, desserts and cakes.

The van was originally called H-type, and during the production run, a number of versions were produced, yet HY was by far the most popular. For this reason, most of these vans are referred to as HY, even if it is not always technically correct. The van had a flat floor very close to the ground, and 180 cm standing height. Loading was by a combination of an upward-hinged tailgate with lower double half-doors at the rear, or through a sliding door on the side. There were short and long wheelbase models, and choice of short or longer rear overhang. The HY was  produced from 1947 through 1981. Externally, only minor changes were implemented during the lifespan of HY – most notable were the changes of Citroën chevron logo on the grille and single piece windscreen from 1964.- If you read Danish I can recommend the article by my railway modelling fellow blogger on the Sundborg-blog.

The HY van has a special place in Danish history and culture as it features on several occasions in the movies about Olsen-banden (the Olsen gang). A HY van is used by the gang in several scenes in the movies and by the Danish police as well. The movies are probably not widely known in the English speaking world, but they were a massive succes in the communist DDR, probably due to their discrete critical characteristic of people in powerful positions and a clear sympathy toward the 'little man' in society. Some of the most devoted fans of the 'Olsen-bande' are actually Germans and just recently a German group that traveled on the heritage line I vounteer on had brought Danish flags with the writing 'Freiheit für Egon Olsen' (Freedom for Egon Olsen) on them.

Egon Olsen chasing a HY used by his gang in the movie 'Olsen-banden deruda' from 1977. Note the non-standard rear doors.

The HY van from 'Olsen-banden in Jutland' (with the correct rust patterns and yellow zinc chromate paint repairs) was even made available as a model in 1/87 scale from German manufacturer Busch. I can't expect such service in 1/19 scale!

Every Olsen-bande movie begins with a scene where Egon is released from prison (only 600 m from where I lived for 19 years with my parents). At every release from prison Egon has a new cunning plan: steal a huge sum of money or something valuable, usually from an absurdly rich capitalist organisation with a touch of Germanic or über-European look to it. Egon Olsen's criminal trio always gets itself into unlucky, comical situations when executing Egon's genius plans. In every movie the gang fails and Egon goes to jail, only to get released in the beginning of the next movie and try again and again for 13 movies in a row.

With opening doors and nice representations of the simple seats the Solido HY will fit many scenes on Nystrup Gravel. Don't expect my van to end up looking like a van from the Olsen-bande movies!

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