Moto Magazine

The Grocer's Son

By Gardenamateur
Lots of diecast model collectors have probably watched a movie and noticed some kind of car that pokes the little devil inside them who says "I want one of those". Normally it might be a flash sports car driven by our movie hero (or the baddie), but I'm afraid my tastes are so broad-ranging that anything with wheels on it is likely to set me off. And that's how I began my so-far-fruitless quest for the van driven by the protagonist in the French movie, 'The Grocer's Son'.
That movie van, I have discovered, is a Peugeot J7. Now, Peugeot J7 vans are not quite a dime a dozen in 1:43 scale, but there are dozens of them for sale at any one time on eBay. But they're not the proper Grocer's Son vans by any stretch, and I want one of those. Fortunately, the quest has not been completely without its delights – as I have come across this charming Citroen Type H Charcuterie van.

The Grocer's Son

For this little diorama I have parked the Citroen Type H van of the Charcuterie purveyor
J Morice, of Saujon, outside a charming French country house. Monsieur Morice is doing his
daily rounds, taking his shop to all the many small villages and farmhouses in his area, selling
his hams, cold meats, sausages and other delicious delights of French cuisine. And this is what
the Grocer's Son did in the movie, except he sold groceries of all sorts. By the way, this 1:43
model is made by Atlas, and while it's hard to photograph, the inside of the 'shop' part of the
van model has a nice little decal on the wall of the hams, sausages etc Mr Morice has for sale.

The Grocer's Son

Here's a still from the 'Grocer's Son' movie of the Peugeot J7 in all its glory, and what a
magnificent mobile shop it is, too (although when you see the trailer clip from You Tube below,
you will realise that those awnings on telescopic damper supports are not to be entirely trusted).
However, you can see why Iam holding out in search of a real mobile shop-style Peugeot J7
van. All the other J7 models for sale on eBay don't open and close. They do nothing.

The Grocer's Son

This poster for the movie ('fils' means son and L'Epicier means grocer)
shows the van in folded down mode, climbing its way up to another
tiny hilltop village. The standard J7 Peugeot van is shorter in the tail
than this longer, modified one, but I have seen quite a few of these
J7 vans in full 1:1 size for sale online, and there must have been a
steady trade in custom Peugeot J7conversions for the French
body-building industry.

Now that I have arrived at the movie poster (the movie screened here in Australia in 2009, and was made in 2007), it's on to the trailer, courtesy of You Tube. The van features heavily from about the 18-second mark onwards in this 90-second trailer.
The film itself was one of my favourites that year, and while I won't go into full movie review mode here, it was in part a film about the passing of a way of life. Apparently, these mobile shops are disappearing from the villages of France, and that was one of the themes of this movie, amongst other things. Apparently, most of the crusty old French villagers who got small speaking (and grumbling) parts in the movie were the real-deal hilltop villagers too.
And so, one of these days, I'll come across a proper Peugeot J7 van in 1:43 scale, decked out to take groceries to the old folk in the hills. Both the Peugeot J7 van and the Citroen Type H have an interesting history, and so in honour of good, sensible but hardly sexy vehicle-building, I'll quickly run through the basic facts about them, to finish.
The Citroen Type H (my charcuterie van) was designed secretly by the French during the Second World War, then appeared soon after, in 1947. It used the 1.9 litre, four-cylinder petrol engine and gearbox from the famous Traction Avant front-wheel drive car, and the corrrugated bodywork (which is reminiscent of a Junkers airplane) was simple to press, light and strong. Diesel engines became available later on, and this van, usually made in a drab, grey colour, was produced from 1947 all the way through to 1981. Total production run was just under half a milion (437,289). Got the French post-war economy rolling again, did the Citroen Type H van.
The Peugeot J7 appeared later, 1965-1980 was its run, and like the Citroen it too used car engines (from Peugeots, of course), 1.6 litre petrol engines and 2.1 litre diesels mostly. Like the Citroen Type H van, the Peugeot J7 was also front-wheel drive.

I'll keep on looking for the Grocer's Van. I've got a few eBay searches saved, using different search words, and I see them as being like dangled lines in a fishpond: one of these days I hope to get a nibble from a French grocer-on-wheels, and I'll pounce.

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