Citroen and the Financial Times

Way back in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s, (long before I had ever thought of owning a Citroen) driving home out of Dartford one evening, I saw two very strange vehicles standing parked nose-to-tail outside a Bed-and-Breakfast in Hawley, on the outskirts. I had never seen anything like them before; very long, with six wheels, and gothic lettering sign-written on the side, “Hollander”. I may even have seen them more than once; and a fellow club-member confirmed recently that he too had seen them parked there.

Many UK Citroen club members may be unfamiliar with the six-wheelers. French coachbuilder Pierre Tissier started the idea using the DS as a base vehicle; the two I saw were CXs. M.Tissier carried out the conversion by cutting the car in half, making a new chassis with steel girders, and new rear bodywork using glass fibre. The vehicles were used for delivery of goods where high speed was essential, and in particular for overnight delivery of newspapers and magazines; after all, you’d be waiting a long time for your morning paper if it had to come several hundred miles by H-van!

(Note the icicles and spotlamps!)

 Typically they loaded up late at night with 1 ton or more of newspapers (hence the need for the extra pair of rear wheels) and sped at over 100mph from one European capital to another, or to the provincial towns of France, to distribute their load in time for the morning paper-round. They were driven hard, and worked long hours; some worked on a regular nightly trip, others weekly, and not many have survived. With the advent of downloading from the Internet, newspapers can now be printed locally and the need for high-speed delivery over long distances has gone, so we no longer see the six-wheelers on the road…except that is for the few survivors, in the hands of enthusiasts. M. Tissier also built ambulances, several of which have been successfully converted into high-speed campervans; and stretch limousines, 11-seater airport transporters, etc. Other coachbuilders also built six-wheelers, notably M. Pijjops in Belgium, who used alloy panelling for his vast vans. The name given to these vehicles, incidentally, was Loadrunner, and they were just about all turbo-diesels.

Another version of the Loadrunner was also built using a different technique; the Safari was sawn in half as before, but the subframe was untouched, and a second Safari rear end was welded onto the back, plus the extra bit of subframe and two wheels, giving an all-steel six-wheeler which looks just like a Safari, but longer and with the two extra wheels. The beauty of this conversion is, you can’t see the joins! – it really looks as if it was designed by Citroen at the same time as the standard 4-wheeler.

So, what were those two Loadrunners doing parked in Dartford? I called at the B&B recently to inquire, but the ownership has changed since my sighting and the new owner has no information. But my guess is that they were staying overnight before going to the printworks in London to pick up a couple of tons of the FT! 

Thanks to AAGarage and Amicaletissier for the photos.