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Carchive: The Citroen C15 Champ

Chris Haining October 21, 2016 Cars You Should Know, The Carchive 9 Comments

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It’s Friday night in Mistley, Essex, where we’ve polished off the Shiraz and are now moving on to coffee. Tonight’s classic DVD has been Volcano, released to variable reviews in 1997, which is coincidentally the year of this week’s classic brochure. After last week’s Daihatsu Hijet, inadvertantly I’ve allowed a theme to break out, having uncovered a rich seam of pamflets for lightweight commercial vehicles. Boy do you have a treat in store.

Tonight it’s the turn of Citroen’s loveable and slightly eccentric C15 van. The Champ, or so they claimed.

All images become more legible on the click of an enlargative mouse.

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“Whatever the business, the C15 Champ is your van for the job. Whether you’re routing involves intensive urban working , or long distance motorway trips, the C15 Champ is built for cost effectiveness”

Ah, the C15. At one moment they were all over the place in suburban England, the next, nary a sign of them. It’s almost as if they all suddenly succumbed to rust, mechanical failure or neglect and were crushed, shredded and recycled into Chinese toaster ovens.

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“The C15 Champ is purpose designed to accept large loads. The body has a loadspace volume of 2.66 cubic metres that puts it amongst the best in its class”

The C15 Champ was one of the last of the properly charismatic little vans of recent time. A pretty long-lived design the C15 was the successor to the Citroen Acadiene which combined the front half of a Citroen Dyane with a small corrugated iron farm building.

The C15 found its basis in the car that never quite managed to succeed the 2CV. Well, that’s not strictly true – the Citroen Visa effectively replaced the Citroen Ami which we featured not too long ago. The Visa was one of the most interesting of all the late ’70s hatchbacks, and translated well to a light commercial vehicle, albeit one using the rear axle from a Peugeot 305 Estate. By 1997 the C15 had long been equipped with the facelift Visa dashboard, saw no longer featuring the designed control ‘Satelliltes’ that characterised earlier models.

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“The C15 Champ has a comfortable and well equipped cabin that ensures a relaxed working environment”

Key to the success of the C15 was that it didn’t cost very much to get your hands on. It was way cheaper than a Ford Escort van, and probably a little less than the Fiesta based Ford Courier. It was also mechanically simple to the point of being primitive.

In the year of this brochure the C15 used the PSA group’s extraordinarily rugged XUD7 engine, a 1769cc diesel that rattled out 60hp and would probably run on paraffin, coal dust, wood or gravel if you asked it to. This game, hardy little unit thrived on mechanical ignorance and was probably key to the survival of so many examples long after more complicated rivals had expired.

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“When it comes to moving big payloads, the C15 van is the Champ.”

The base model van could carry 600kg and you could order an uprated version that could manage 750kg. It was a willing and very reliable little workhorse, and became beloved with small independent traders all over the Europe. In Britain it’s popularity was no mean feat with such a strong ‘buy British’ mentality prevailing for at least part of the 21-year production run that the C15 enjoyed. My best mate had one once and I have literally no idea what happened to it. I should have paid attention.

Citroen called it a day with C15 finally in 2005. Its place Citroen’s model range is now taken by the Nemo, a small van which is really individual in name only. With Citroen far from the brilliantly quirky, stubbornly eccentric brand it once was, the Nemo is the right van for todays more sophisticated commercial tastes.

(All images are of original manufacturer publicity materials, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of Citroen, from whom we’re still waiting for a 2CV replacement. Get on it, tout suite.)

  • Rover 1

    We see the Nemo and it’s sisters here now, but we never saw these.
    A friend did have a Visa GTI.
    And Holden Combos are not uncommon


    On a trip to China I did see some even rarer Buick Sails

    • It’s rare that you’ll ever see a MkI Vauxhall* Combo here without the panel above the windscreen totally rusted out.

      A long time ago I used to deliver frozen food for a living using a refrigerated Combo. It had the naturally aspirated 1.5D and is the only vehicle in which I’ve had to abort an overtake because it was taking too long.

  • crank_case

    Was it directly replaced by the Nemo? There was the Berlingo inbetween, which if I remember correctly was sold side by side with the C15 for a bit, with the C15 as the budget option. The Berlingo wasn’t as quirky, but thanks to its Peugeot 306 basis was a decent steer and could be turned into a proper sleeper with a 306 GTI-6/Mi16 front clip/engine/box

    • Rover 1

      That 306 16 v idea is right up there with jacking up one Nissan and sliding another’s (Pulsar/Sunny GTiR) running gear in and making a SSS-Cargo.

    • The Berlingo was a size up. It’s still sold today, playing the role of Ford Escort against the Nemo’s Ford Fiesta van. And it’s disappointing that they never did make a GTI-6 version….

  • theskig

    Good old diesels.

  • duurtlang

    Interestingly (to me at least) I spotted one this week. It was dark metallic red and looked pristine. It had UK plates. Which is odd, as I saw it in the Netherlands.

    A few years ago I was a passenger in one. It smelled like ‘old car’ in the good sense of the word (oil, not mold), it was loud, crude and it had a gazillion kilometers on the odometer. It was a charming little van, which isn’t something you can say about most newer vehicles.

  • 993cc

    The 305 estate rear suspension, which these shared, was amazing in its compactness and wheel travel.

  • SlowJoeCrow

    I like the Romahome camper version

    although not as much as the legendarily dinky Bedford Rascal based Romahomes, or a Toppola.

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