Home » This Carmaker Sells Vans With Two Front Ends. Here’s What They’re For

This Carmaker Sells Vans With Two Front Ends. Here’s What They’re For

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There’s a photo circulating around the Internet right now and it looks fake, like a glitch in the matrix. If you head on over to Citroën’s Relay cargo van configurator, you’ll quickly spot something that is not like the other. Alongside different chassis cabs is the option to buy two van front ends that are bolted together. Citroen calls this the Relay Back-To-Back and the images aren’t a weird Photoshop. You can buy the front end of one of these vans and it’ll be delivered using the front end of another van as its rear wheels. It’ll all make sense in a moment!

This revelation comes to us from the fine folks of Opposite-Lock. If you’ve been looking for a like-minded car forum that doesn’t have the toxicity of Facebook, I totally recommend joining. The post containing this double-front-end van caught my attention. Was Citroën late to April Fools’ Day?

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Nope, if you click on the site, you can really order the front third of a rebadged Fiat Ducato van. Next, I had to see if these vans really are conjoined and sure enough, I even found press releases about them. Ok, now that I confirmed that these van things are real, the next question was simple: Why?

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If you’re one of our European readers you’re probably laughing at me for learning about something you’ve had in your countries for years. But you have to understand how things usually work in America. If you’re buying a commercial van with the intent of turning it into a motorhome or some specialist vehicle, you’ll usually find yourself buying a chassis cab. Similar to that is the cutaway, but those have no back walls.

A cutaway or a chassis cab gives you the full frame and drivetrain of a commercial vehicle, but with the cab of a van or truck up front. This helps streamline the production of specialty vehicles. A chassis cab vehicle has all four or six wheels plus a long frame. You’re just left to put on the ambulance body, motorhome body, service body, or whatever you’re placing onto the frame. Here in America, you can buy all of the popular vans, including the Ford Transit, Ford E-Series, RAM ProMaster, and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter as a chassis cab or cutaway.

Great For Special Builds

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What you don’t really see in America is what Fiat calls the “Back-To-Back.” If you’re a vehicle body builder in Europe, you can purchase a Fiat Ducato without any chassis or wheels behind the cab. These vans are also sold as the Ram ProMaster, Citroën Jumper, Citroën Relay, and Peugeot Boxer. Fiat and Citroën can do this because, unlike other popular vans like the Ford Transit and the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, the Ducato is front wheel drive.

Fiat still sells the Ducato as a chassis cab and as a similar “Floor Cab” vehicle. However, some specialist builders are going to want more flexibility and freedom than is offered with either of those. That’s where the Back-To-Back comes in.

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Since there’s no chassis or wheels aft of the cab, a builder can go wild. A specialist can have one or both of these partial vans delivered. From there, they can build whatever they want from the B-pillar back, be it a motorhome, a tow truck, or anything else.

So far as I can tell, Fiat has been constructing the Ducato as a Back-To-Back chassis for at least two decades. Before the Back-To-Back, chassis cab vans would be shipped to builders where the chassis would be cut off, anyway. So, Fiat is simply taking that step out.

But that still doesn’t explain the wild images. Why, exactly, are these vans conjoined?

Two Vans In The Space Of One

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The answer to that one comes from a GoAuto.com.au article on the sighting of a Ducato Back-To-Back. The simple version is that bolting two Back-To-Backs together where their chassis end makes them easier to ship. Now, you can fit two Ducatos or Citroën Relays into a space one normal van fits. These vans aren’t driven across the country like this. Instead, a driver puts one end into neutral and then hops into the other end, driving it onto a transport.

From FCA product strategy senior manager Alan Swanson, via GoAuto.com.au:

“I know it looks like it’s a part of FCA’s top secret Transformers project, but it’s actually just the easiest, most space-efficient way to transport these vehicles.

“Specialist coach builders, for example, transform the Fiat Ducato’s cab chassis into motorhomes, among other applications, and this is the easiest way to ship them.”

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East Coast Fiat Brisbane

If you want one of these weirdos and happen to live in Europe, Citroën will sell you a third of a van for £36,018 ($45,130). Toss in a little more than 800 Euros more if you want it with a chassis and rear wheels.

So, there you have it. Fiat and Citroën will happily sell you roughly a third of a van and they’ll ship it to you bolted up to another third of a van. Obviously, this works best if you’re a specialty builder. Then you just buy both ends and separate them before you build your motorhomes, tow trucks, or whatever. Still, I love to think about owning a pair of these, finishing the middle, and just having a van that goes both ways.

(Images: Stellantis, unless otherwise noted.)

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Silent But Deadly
Silent But Deadly
1 month ago

I would just like to point out that the Transit is also available in FWD as well as RWD. Though clearly not in North America.

Phuzz
Phuzz
1 month ago

And 4WD!

Jj
Jj
1 month ago

Where’s the fuel tank?

Neil Hall
Neil Hall
1 month ago
Reply to  Jj

Under the cab, below the seats

Diana Slyter
Diana Slyter
1 month ago

VW delivered Transporters back to back like that to Winnebago’s factory in Iowa.

DriveSheSaid
DriveSheSaid
1 month ago

It’s the Lawrence Welkmobile… a van and a two!

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
1 month ago
Reply to  DriveSheSaid

COTD, with the understanding that only Autopians Of A Certain Age will even get that reference.

MikuhlBrian
MikuhlBrian
1 month ago
Reply to  Geoff Buchholz

I’m not even of that age, but I get it only because of Fred Armisen on SNL. Those Lawrence Welk skits with the Maharelle Sisters are hilarious!

DriveSheSaid
DriveSheSaid
1 month ago
Reply to  Geoff Buchholz

I know that Torch didn’t write this article, but he should have a pretty good idea who I am!

James Davidson
James Davidson
1 month ago

It’s Dr. Dolittle’s Pushmi-Pullyu in the form of a truck!

https://youtu.be/5qUr96HmUTw?feature=shared

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
1 month ago

Can you give imagine the burnouts you and a codriver could do in one of these?
A special gymkhana event for two ended trucks?

Given the Citroen safari 2cv I assumed the you were supposed to drive it like that. Or at least like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GuQotvstOAw

Brau Beaton
Brau Beaton
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

A Hoon-Me-Hoon-You!

Bendanzig
Bendanzig
1 month ago
Reply to  Brau Beaton

I had a dream, I had an awesome dream
People in the park hooning together in the dark
And what they hooned was double that day
And from behind the walls of doubt
A voice was crying out

A hoon-you hoon-me.
Two cabs together. Naturally.

Last edited 1 month ago by Bendanzig
The Clutch Rider
The Clutch Rider
1 month ago

so, you get one with some miles on it, and the other with negative miles. Ferrari, you don’t need a tool to roll back the odos.

DrClaw
DrClaw
1 month ago

Reminds me of a 2-sided Saab 900:

https://www.saabmuseumusa.com/collection/1988-900-2-sided-2-0l-4-cyl-turbo/

Sadly not a bi-turbo…

Kalieaire
Kalieaire
1 month ago

I actually would love a vehicle like this. Try hauling a 40-foot Conex container through a single lane mountain road, and one would immediately appreciate this.

It would be instantly possible to reposition the near 52-foot through narrow roads.

MrLM002
MrLM002
1 month ago

Would

Honestly I’ve thought about taking the SWB Ram Promaster chopping out the section where the sliding door goes, and welding the two ends back together to make a modern shorty van, and considering it is FWD it should be both “easy” and fairly safe for a shorty van.

This would be a cool way to make a SWB pickup variant.

Hell, you could turn it into a 3 wheeler and have it be a motorcycle (legally speaking in the US at least).

Mr. Fusion
Mr. Fusion
1 month ago
Reply to  MrLM002

You can outfit a ProMaster chassis cab with a pickup bed or stake bed. My question is…why doesn’t anybody?! I am always hearing people lamenting over the disappearance of 2-seat, short cab/long bed work trucks in the USA, yet nobody seems to be going for this practical alternative. Of course it doesn’t appeal to the weekend warrior truck bros, but fleet operators and tradespeople care more about utility than “image”. Or at least they’re supposed to.

Jim Zavist
Jim Zavist
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr. Fusion

The biggest reason FWD. Adding more weight, in back, reduces the available traction, in front. (Plus, 4WD seems to be a requirement for many truck buyers.)

Art of the Bodge
Art of the Bodge
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Zavist

Pickup versions of the transit or sprinter are incredibly common. Most of them even tip too.

MrLM002
MrLM002
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr. Fusion

I think it’s the lack of 4WD, and the lack of an extended cab option. While I do like single cab trucks I think most would agree that extended cabs are much better than single cabs.

Also the lack of a factory bed likely has something to do with it.

That being said I have been saying for a while that Ram should make a factory pickup out of the Promaster Chassis Cab variant.

I wonder how similar the drivetrain out of the Pacifica Hybrid is to the Stock ICE V6 and 8 speed auto (dimensionally), as a PHEV Promaster pickup would be really cool (as would really any PHEV Promaster.

A while back I though of making a flatbed towtruck out of a Chassis Cab Promaster, sadly I don’t have a practical use for said towtruck.

Clupea Hangoverus
Clupea Hangoverus
1 month ago
Reply to  MrLM002

There is a double cab available, with up to 3+4 seats. The fwd is less of a problem when the wheelbase is long, as it typically is with these. Of course slippery surfaces may be an issue in some situations, but fwd vans work just fine in winter. Not sure if factory bed is available, but the aftermarket beds are simple designs, similar to trailers.
The real issue is probably the looks. They look dorky. Also there is very limited private second hand market for fugly worn out trucks, which may limit the commercial appeal as well.

MrLM002
MrLM002
1 month ago

Sadly they don’t sell that variant in the US. Odd, doesn’t a longer wheelbase give more leverage to the payload resulting in less weight over the front (driven) wheels.

I think if they made a BEV chassis cab variant with a factory bed option it would sell well enough, with PHEV variant in the works as well. The looks are not great, but I’d argue that a BEV pickup variant and or a PHEV pickup variant using the drivetrain out of the Pacifica PHEV would be the best city pickup on the market. One thing FWD vehicles do extremely well is give short wheelbase vehicles much more practical and for the same bed size a Promaster pickup will be much shorter than any other pickup in the US.

Speaking of they need to sell a Chassis Cab variant of the 118″ Wheelbase Promaster in the US.

Clupea Hangoverus
Clupea Hangoverus
1 month ago
Reply to  MrLM002

Regarding wheelbase – short overhang in the rear compared to wheelbase. Which is one reason they look different compared to rwd vans. Ofc depends how the load is placed, but a 6 m long ducato has less than 1 m of rear overhang and 3.7 m long cargo area.

Mr. Fusion
Mr. Fusion
1 month ago
Reply to  MrLM002

The PHEV Pacifica powertrain does fit into a pretty small space, so maybe it is possible that it could fit into the similarly small Promaster. But the Pacifica has a planetary gearset rather than a torque converter automatic.

I believe the upcoming Ramcharger has the exact same powertrain, so it seems that it can handle truck duties.

[Edit: Not exactly the same, since presumably the Ramcharger will have the engine longitudinal.]

Last edited 1 month ago by Mr. Fusion
Andy Individual
Andy Individual
1 month ago
Reply to  MrLM002

Technically these are 4WD. Also, 2 cabs are better than one extended cab.

GenericWhiteVan
GenericWhiteVan
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr. Fusion

Local car lot in PA had this for $17k last year:

https://i.postimg.cc/vB58Xq1D/pmpickup.jpg

Aluminum bed with drop sides, air helper springs, I can’t remember if the bed was 12′ or 16′. Seats 3 in the cab.

It took a while, but it finally disappeared from the lot.

06dak
06dak
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr. Fusion

I think it’s cost. Why buy the Promaster when the regular cab truck is cheaper, less odd looking, and more common/easy to sell?

Mr. Fusion
Mr. Fusion
1 month ago
Reply to  06dak

Maybe, but if the solution is that easy, then why do people whine so much about the disappearance of single-cab pickups from the market?

06dak
06dak
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr. Fusion

I don’t think actual buyers do – just those that like cheap beaters 15~20years later.

Everyone remembers the glory days of small single cab manual trucks but no one remembers how much they sucked to live with every day.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
1 month ago

In the US we call this an ElephAss. One half pulls right and the other pulls left.

Twobox Designgineer
Twobox Designgineer
1 month ago

I’d like to see three of these put together on an equally-spaced Y-shaped chassis. Sort of like the Yamaha company logo. It would require three drivers, with two of them going mostly-backwards with their wheels at 60 degrees right and left in order for the third to go straight forwards. But it could do some crazy ass stuff if they coordinated their actions right.
I challenge Torch to come up with “racing” event for this class of vehicle. Maybe more like an obstacle course.

Last edited 1 month ago by Twobox Designgineer
StillNotATony
StillNotATony
1 month ago

I knew I couldn’t be the only one who saw these and immediately thought “these should be raced!”

Twobox Designgineer
Twobox Designgineer
1 month ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Like an automotive three-legged race, only worse!

Alexk98
Alexk98
1 month ago

I’m really enjoying the thought of all three turning their wheels to full lock in the same direction and just ripping the fastest tank turn possible, and given they’re all in theory equally powerful with the same transmission, you can have each of the three drivers mash the gas in unison and se how fast you can spin until something breaks.

Twobox Designgineer
Twobox Designgineer
1 month ago
Reply to  Alexk98

Especially if the front end suspension/steering were designed or modified to allow super tight wheel angles. And even then, the wheels could never hit 90 degrees, so it could be a massive spinning six-wheeled burnout. Like a fidget spinner gone insane.

Last edited 1 month ago by Twobox Designgineer
D-dub
D-dub
1 month ago

But what if you just want one?

Chris D
Chris D
1 month ago
Reply to  D-dub

That’s what I was thinking – the two-cab vehicle shows up, drops off one half, and drives away… with no rear wheels, James Bond style??

Querty
Querty
1 month ago

It’s the van version of CatDog

Nic Periton
Nic Periton
1 month ago

I really really really want there to be a an advertisement for these with Rex Harrison explaining things;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NGBpYkGCIQ&t=25s

OverlandingSprinter
OverlandingSprinter
1 month ago

I would like to see Ford or Mercedes (the vehicle manufacturer) do this one cool trick with their vans.

TheWombatQueen
TheWombatQueen
1 month ago

Or Mercedes the person, that would be cool too

Eggsalad
Eggsalad
1 month ago

“buying a chassis cab, also called a cutaway.”

Sometimes I hate being so pedantic, but these terms are NOT interchangeable. A chassis cab is just what is says on the box – a chassis with an enclosed cabin. A cutaway isn’t that. It’s like a chassis cab, but the back of the cab is… wait for it… cut away.

So if you want to build a rollback wrecker, you start with a chassis cab. If you want to build an ambulance or a motorhome – where access from the cab to the box on the back is required, you buy a cutaway cab.

Scoutdude
Scoutdude
1 month ago
Reply to  Eggsalad

There is also the Cowl and Chassis which stops at the door jamb often used to build a bus or a Stripped Chassis which doesn’t include the front end sheetmetal for building a walk in truck.

V10omous
V10omous
1 month ago

Italian Quadrasteer = guy in the other cab turning his wheel.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
1 month ago

FIATAIF

Chi_spotting
Chi_spotting
1 month ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

FIATAIꟻ

VanGuy
VanGuy
1 month ago

looks like a fun way to figure out which of two engines has more torque, without a dyno

JKcycletramp
JKcycletramp
1 month ago
Reply to  VanGuy

Or, it’s the venue for a tire testing bracket championship.

Vicente Perez
Vicente Perez
1 month ago

This did not go where I expected!

I remember reading a while back (maybe even Torch wrote about it?) about a Citroen 2CV with two front ends used in France for forest fires. Why? Because you can go up a narrow road and quickly rush back even if you can’t find a spot to turn around.

https://flickr.com/photos/eggsngrits/3498860810

Last edited 1 month ago by Vicente Perez
LTDScott
LTDScott
1 month ago

Fiating back and forth, forever

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
1 month ago

Common sense solutions are always so awesome. 🙂

Albert Ferrer
Albert Ferrer
1 month ago

I am a European and was unaware these existed… ????

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