French concept cars: Homage to Heuliez


How to make a saga on French concept cars without mentioning the Heuliez bodywork, which is very verbose in the matter? Collaborating with several manufacturers, the Cerizay company produced concepts, some of which were mass-produced and others remained conceptually.

Today it is not one, but 3 French concept cars that we are going to discuss. The Citroën BX Dyana, the Renault Super Van Cinq and the Peugeot 306 Shooting brake. Three versions, three visions of the “hunting station wagon” or the utility station wagon.

Heuliez, more than 90 years of an eventful history

Founded by Louis Heuliez in 1920, the company takes over from the family tradition of wheelwrights. Heuliez then produces industrial bodies or buses on the basis of trucks. At the end of the Second World War, Louis dies and Henri takes the head of the company, with his brother Pierre. It is the “belle époque”. The country had to be rebuilt and Heuliez diversified by creating a construction subsidiary of …school furniture, then office! The society BRM was later separated from Heuliez and survived until 2016, when, victim of a scam, she went out of business.

Continuing the diversification of the company driven by Gerard Queveau, Heuliez becomes one of the largest design and construction offices for prototypes and small series for manufacturers. It is the birth of give (Automotive Studies Division) which will become France Design in 1985.

It is especially this key period that is known to the general public. Heuliez has produced more than a dozen concept cars, but also a dozen small series vehicles including the Citroën BX 4TC, the Peugeot 604 limousine of President Giscard d’Estaing, among others. The house of Cerizay et Bressuire has also developed and industrialized retractable roofs Peugeot 206 CC, Opel Tigra Twin Top, and even roofs for Lamborghini.

The end of the collaboration between Heuliez and PSA in 2007 will lead to the decline of the company. The world crisis of 2008 will finish ending it. In 2010, the company was split into several entities. Heuliez-Bus continues its life, Heuliez (industrial subcontracting) has lived, as for the other part, it’s adventure Mia Electric, part based on the Heuliez Friendy.

Citroën BX Dyana – 1986

In 1985, Heuliez launched production of the Citroën BX Break. The sedans are assembled at Rennes-La Janay, but the station wagons come from Cerizay. With the XM Break, the BX Break will give work to the Heuliez workshop for years to come. Starting from the BX Break, Heuliez wanted to develop a hunting station wagon and convince Citroën to put it into production.

For this, a prototype was developed at the beginning of 1986. The front doors were slightly lengthened and those at the back disappear altogether. Two huge windows replace them but Heuliez keeps the checkout line at the back. The rear door pillars are still there. Heuliez the masks on the outside by a silkscreen printing on the glass. The protective strips are thickened and lowered compared to the station wagon. They incorporate the horse-drawn carriage, the Heuliez logo, in honor of the family’s wheelwright past. The roof bars disappear, but the latter retains its “dent”.

The tailgate remains the same. However, Heuliez painted the beginning of the body in black to visually enlarge the glass part. Thus was born the Citroën BX Dyana. Why Dyana? Because it is a hunting brake and the goddess of the hunt in Roman mythology is Diana. Dyana’s “D” represents a bow and arrow. Moreover, Heuliez produces photos of its concept car with hunters.

To convince Citroën of the interest of the project, Heuliez is considering different configurations. With a bench, simple two utility seats, or even with an additional bench for children (the ancestor of the current 7 seats). The concept car built receives leather seats, and thick carpet in the trunk, and aluminum rods. The car was presented at the Paris Motor Show in October 1986.

Citroën will not follow up and the BX Dyana will remain a concept car. In 2012, during the liquidation of Heuliez, the prototype (in working condition) was awarded 10,127 euros with 35 km (!) On the clock.

Renault Super Van Five – 1985

Do not confuse… In 1979, Renault was still present in the USA. The Renault 5 has been sold there as Renault Le Car since 1976. Heuliez has the crazy idea of ​​offering the Renault Le Car Van. The entire rear of the Le Car is dressed in polyester panels with small windows. The interior is lined with thick red carpet kitchissime. a “baba-cool” rainbow surrounds the car. A spare wheel is added to the tailgate, American van style. It will be produced in (very) small series.

But here it is Renault Super Van Five referred. We are in 1985 and the Renault 5 gave way to the Renault Super 5 a year ago. At first, the Supercinq was only available in 3 doors. Heuliez rushes into the breach to offer a Renault concept car with a sliding door at the rear.

Starting from a base of Super Five, at Heuliez we cut the city car and we lengthen the wheelbase a little to have more room for the passengers. On the other hand, Heuliez cannot be satisfied with putting two “vulgar” rear doors. The company is therefore basing its engineers on an innovative solution that would bring a plus. The objective is obviously to be entrusted with the production of the car by the Renault management, even if the latter size massively in the expenditure under the impetus of Georges Besse called to save the diamond.

The Super Van Cinq will only have one door on the left, and two in the back. The roof is raised slightly to accommodate the rear door opening mechanism. As we have said, the latter is sliding. Heuliez is inspired by buses built nearby and retracts the opening arm in the roof. The bottom of the door is guided by a rail hidden in the side member, the middle rail is integrated between the body and the bumper. Virtually invisible.

Once closed, it’s hard to think of a sliding door. The advantage is that it gives off a wide opening to get out of the rear seats. In addition, it minimizes the space required to open the door. Convenient in town. Finally, to install the children in the back, the wide opening is very practical.

Inside, Heuliez takes advantage of the trunk to integrate two retractable seats. You will notice that the belts are missing. They will only become compulsory at the rear in 1990 (!) As we recall. Heuliez replaces the bench with two armchairs in the back. Note that it is indicated 2/3 places. The middle square looks rough.

The spare wheel is placed inside, on the left side of the rear passenger. The whole is dressed in a beige velvet “top moumoute”. Ah the 80s. The car was presented at the 1985 Paris Motor Show. Heuliez already saw it in a Taxi, or in a discount vehicle (!). Or when the city flea plays limousines. Alas, it will remain a concept car. The prototype (dummy taillights, no registration, etc.) was sold € 5 957 in 2012.

Peugeot 306 Shooting brake

Peugeot has become the specialist in concept cars serving as a showcase for the presentation of a technology, or just a style. This earned him a reputation as a creator of “Concept cars that never see the light of day in series”.

Unfortunately, the Peugeot 306 Shooting brake is one of them. At the end of the 90s, Peugeot will launch its new diesel engine, the HDi. To provide it with a setting worthy of this novelty, Peugeot wants a concept car. The 306 has been in its second phase for 2 years, and sales are running out of steam. Peugeot wants to relaunch them. The 306 will therefore be the basis of this concept car.

The car is completely recarrossed. The windshield is more inclined, the front doors elongated and rounded. As for the roof line, it is also lowered and elusive at the rear. No C-pillar on the Peugeot 306 shooting brake. Heuliez even retracts the central upright and you have the impression of having a huge glazed area in one piece.

At the front, the windows are without upright but retain a system of classic handles which denotes a little. The lights opt for a “smooth” glass, as on the Peugeot 406 phase 2, it also unveiled in 1999. At the rear, farewell to the ugly standard lights. They are replaced by very stretched horizontal lights. They resume the lights of the great Peugeot 607 still for the year 1999. The tailgate is smoothed and cut in the lower part to leave the bumper in one piece unlike the series station wagon.

The body is painted a color iridescent pearly. The latter changes color according to the reflections of the light. Inside, Heuliez calls on its saddlers. Brown leather, blue carpet, wood. The two rear seats fold down to have a huge trunk. The inspiration of materials and colors is suspicious on the equestrian side. The entire dashboard is wrapped in leather. Undoubtedly a little “too much”, but the important thing is to impress.

Impress for the “jewel” contained in this superb case. The all new 90 horsepower HDi 2.0 liter diesel engine. High pressure common rail direct injection, Peugeot is catching up with diesel and wants people to know it.

This Peugeot 306 Shooting Brake has nothing to envy to the creations signed by Pininfarina for the Lion. Unfortunately, the 306 is coming to the end of the race and at Peugeot and the design is evolving under the paw of Gérard Welter. This magnificent hunting station wagon will remain a beautiful setting for an engine that is too commoner to be honest.

Illustration: Heuliez, Artcurial

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