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Concept Car of the Week: Heuliez H4 (1972)

Fri, 21 Jun 2013

With the H4, Heuliez set out into unexplored territories by offering a concept tailored to the needs of taxi drivers. If today's minivans are an integral part of our daily lives, this Peugeot 204-based H4 should be placed back in its original context in the early ‘70s, when this monovolume architecture still belonged to science fiction.

Its dimensions are comparable to a Renault Modus although it's shortened by 140mm. It innovated by facilitating ingress/egress with generous rear doors and through its huge interior space packaged within very compact dimensions. The secret was its windscreen placed far forward to very nearly line up with the bonnet. As a result it benefited from an unusually large glazed area on the windscreen and on the sides. The French minicab was also equipped with a transparent glass roof, an innovation that would become available to the masses 30 years later.

The lower portion of the car was painted in a dark blue, creating a loud contrast with the disco orange applied onto the rest of the body and the wheels.

Inside, the entire dashboard and the seats were trimmed in a heavily textured beige carpet – as you would expect to find on the floor of 70s British bathrooms – combined with a few orange accents to visually connect with the exterior. The rectangular speedometer was pushed back into the IP and hidden behind a layer of neon green Perspex. Three passengers could seat at the back, and under their feet they would find a layer of dirt proof brown rubber that looks like it's made from chocolate Lego blocks.

Just like the Austin London taxi, a glass screen separated the driver from the rest of the cabin. The area near the driver could be used either as luggage space or as a folding seat to accommodate a fourth passenger.

Heuliez envisioned to develop the van and a pick-up version, but the concept seemed to have been ahead of its time and did not exceed the prototype stage. Looking back at the success of the Espace, Twingo I and Scenic, it seems that behind the playful colors and trim exercise lay a very clever idea.

First seen 1972, Salon Automobile de Paris
Designer Yves Dubernard
Length 3,650mm
Width 1,700mm
Height 1,600mm
Wheelbase 2,530mm
Engine 1,130cc, 60bhp

By Flavien Dachet