MacKay & Company’s 1954 Hotchkiss PL25 Fourgon Meuble (furniture van) is our 31st annual vintage truck – and the eighth model of a European truck; the most recent was our 1958 Citroen HY van, number 29 in our series. While the truck itself is a very interesting example of mid-last century French commercial vehicles, it represents only one of a number of French truck nameplates that have disappeared over the past sixty or so years. Included in the group would be once famous names Berliet, Bernard, Citroen, Peugeot, Saviem and Unic.
Hotchkiss, while a commercial vehicle producer, is far better known as a manufacturer of military armaments. Hotchkiss et. Cie’s founder Benjamin Hotchkiss invented a 37 mm multiple barrel cannon capable of firing 68 rounds per minute, similar in concept to the Gatling guns used so successfully initially in our Civil War – and continuing in use to the Vietnam War. Hotchkiss continued to produce both guns and tanks right up to the point when Germany invaded France in 1940.
After World War II, Hotchkiss became a rebuilder and remanufacturer (from spare parts) of both Willys and Ford Jeeps. The company then began producing new Jeeps under license from Willys, producing over 31,000 vehicles up through 1966, both for the French military and for civilian purposes. Hotchkiss also produced a line of automobiles starting as early as 1903, terminating in 1955 after a merger with Delahaye. The badge on these – and other – vehicles was a pair of crossed cannons, evoking the company’s history as an arms manufacturer.
Hotchkiss also developed the Hotchkiss drive system, a shaft drive system developed as an alternative to chain-drive systems. The Hotchkiss drive system utilized an open propeller shaft with universal joints at each end and was universally used on most cars through the 1970’s. It is still in use on most trucks, SUV’s and commercial vehicles.
The 1954 PL25 is a 2 ½ ton capacity vehicle, in this configuration with a wheelbase of 121” carrying a 10 ½ foot semi-streamlined van body with approximately 320 cubic feet of interior space, with the floor just 20 inches from the ground. It is powered with a proprietary PL50 4-cylinder engine cranking out 70 bhp, rather ideally suited for in-city wholesale and retail furniture delivery work. The last PL-series vehicles were produced in 1970, when the company reverted entirely to ordinance manufacturing.