Right after having written the report about the C5 AirCross, we were totally charmed by the news that Italian coachbuilder Caselani has harnessed the wave of the vintage trend, which is well-established in the Italian car culture.
Here he made a conversion performed on Berlingo, a reinterpretation that draws on the success of a pioneering van and the success of Berlingo Van itself, a major player on its segment in Europe since its launch in 1996, as all three generations of which have sold more than 1 891 196 units. Did you know that at the end of August 2022, it was the second most successful vehicle in its segment in Europe, with a 17% market share?
Caselani entrusted this restyling exercise for Berlingo to David Obendorfer, renowned for having previously styled the Type H based on Citroën Jumper in 2017 and the new Type HG for Jumpy/SpaceTourer in 2020. This completes Citroën’s range of Caselani-designed vans.
Caselani designer David Obendorfer explains: “The design specifications did not involve simply copying the forms of the old van in the strictest sense. Instead, they involved going back in time and bringing its unique charm to 21st-century vehicle. As a distant descendant, Berlingo was completely designed as a tribute to the Citroën 2CV of the 1950s. It was an exciting challenge because the original van had completely different proportions. It had very short front overhang, nice long bonnet and visually stand-alone load compartment, very different features from those of Berlingo. So I focused more on an overall evocative aspect of the original vehicle rather than straining the individual design elements to make them look like the 2CV Fourgonnette.”
CHARACTERISTIC STYLE ELEMENTS FOR A NEO-RETRO PERSONALITY
The Berlingo 2CV Fourgonnette draws inspiration from the legendary 2CV AU (“U” for “utility”) launched in 1951 – which proved hugely successful in its time with nearly 1,247,000 units sold – and its descendant, the 2CV AZU launched in 1954. The timeless codes of the original van have not been forgotten:
The Berlingo’s front end panel has been completely overhauled, revealing the features that were so characteristic of the old 2CV from days gone by. The grille, bumper and wheel arches have been replaced by new fibreglass components adapted to the frame, which integrates clips and bolts for attaching them. All of these components are assembled at Caselani’s workshops in Lombardy, Northern Italy.
The V-shaped domed bonnet narrows towards the lower section – it “pinches”, to use the designer’s own jargon – just like before. The famous embossed striated coat sit in the centre of the front-end panel, extending over almost the whole of it.
The round headlights are partly detached from the bonnet, fitting into it as they extend back – unlike the original ones which were completely offset. A more modern interpretation with components which fit in with the rest of the vehicle.
The low-relief grooves at the top of the wheel arches featured on the old 2CV and were used to ventilate the engine.
With its concave-cut upper section (or M-shaped, flared towards the top), the grille is attractive and distinctly Citroën, emblematic of the 2CV AU. The large chrome-plated chevrons – the brand’s signature – are highlighted, positioned right in the centre of the grille and overlaid on it, further emphasizing them. The imposing grille is highly arched, integrated into the front end, and forming one with the bonnet as at the time. It extends downwards from the bonnet, giving one the impression that the wheel arches are floating – fitting into this key component. The line above the fog lamps, which stretches over the vehicle’s full width, further amplifies this effect. It gives stability to the front face and widens it, reinforcing its robust character.
Visually, the front bumper is lower than on Berlingo. While the 2CV’s bumper was chrome-plated, this one is painted white, contrasting with the body. This emphasizes the protective nature of the component, while at the same time investing it with a certain modernity.
The sides, rear doors and roof have all been given a second skin, topping off Berlingo’s bodywork. These fibreglass components all pay homage to the 2CV’s highly distinctive corrugated sheeting. But on this vehicle, they are purely decorative. Originally, they had an actual purpose – they were what gave the whole structure its rigidity. These striated components and the reworked – raised – roof – are a deliberate attempt to create a style whereby the vehicle’s passenger compartment section is separated from its cargo section. This was already a feature of the old van.
At the rear of the vehicle, a small vertical window that is rounded at the top and bottom features on each of Berlingo’s rear doors – a further tribute to the 2CV. For a more modern feel, the very thick black seal around the windows has been removed. As for the vehicle’s stop and reversing lights, their perfectly round shape is brought to the attention by their sheer size. They are surrounded by red trim, making them even more visible and giving them a more contemporary feel.
Various key locations on the vehicle are chrome-plated – another nod to the details that the 2CV sported. This applies to the headlights, the bonnet’s central ridge, the grille with its chevrons and contour trim, the original hubcaps (which are still manufactured to date) and the chrome-plated handles on the headlights which were used to open them (for replacing the bulbs). Only the handle for opening the bonnet has not been included in this new version.
We certainly love the styling of this car, being more “Citroën” than ever… more Citroën news soon!
Hans Knol ten Bensel