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Voiture Balai Centenary
Introduced to the Tour in 1910, the year the race first went into the Mountains, the voiture balai or broom wagon follows the last rider on the road. If the balai catches struggling riders they must climb off and retire, handing in their race numbers. The van literally sweeps the remnants of the peloton off the road. Until 1992 the balai always had an old-fashioned broom strapped to its roof, although rumour has it that a broom can still be found inside the modern balai.
The most iconic voiture balai is the Citroën H Van, which became the broom wagon post World War II. This was then superceded by the Citroën HY in 1958 until Renault took over in the early 1960s. A total of 473,289 were produced between 1947 and 1981 in factories in France and Belgium.
The Rapha H Van
The distinctive corrugated or 'rippled' body work was inspired by Junkers (German Aircraft), these ribs added strength without adding weight. M. Franchiset, who had worked for Citroën since 1922, designed the body. He was the inventor of these lightweight corrugated panels and the pinless "clasp hands" used on the doors. This front-wheel-drive vehicle also features a front sub-frame that carries all the mechanical parts.
Standard production models included the fourgon (van), betaillere ("beast carrier") and plateau (pick up). Customisation of these vans was common, such as camper-vans, fire engines or even mobile laboratoires, such customisation can be seen in the classic vehicles of the Tour caravan.
H Van graphic by Samuel Huddleston
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