Van Hool

Koningshooikt, Belgium.
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The Van Hool Company was founded in 1947 by Bernard van Hool and started constructing bus bodies in 1957 with Fiat mechanical components. These buses were very successful in Belgium, Holland and France and are still in business today.

van hool emblem

Van Hool emblem. (source: Radiator Emblem Collection)

Bernard Van Hool was born in Koningshooikt. He started a diamond cutting factory in 1928, but the talk about the imminent crisis that ultimately was to come in the thirties made him look for another product (luxury products would be the first to feel the negative effects of a shrinking market). He started a company in brooding machines.

World War II broke out and the company was destroyed. Starting up the business again during the war would have been pointless. Bernard Van Hool found a new challenge in the transport sector: almost all rolling stock had been requisitioned by the occupying forces, and transport was badly needed. He managed to lay his hands on a number of lorries and, with the help of a mechanic, he managed to get them roadworthy again. He started up a modest road haulage company together with his youngest brother, Jozef.

Even after the war Bernard Van Hool continued his transport company during the 1940s. But he did not consider transport as his final goal. His ambition was to build bridges and roads. As a would-be building constructor, he had already purchased a lot of machinery and tools. The only thing that he was lacking, was a vehicle needed to transport his men to the works. He found an old bus in very bad state of repair and practically a whole new body had to be built. This would ultimately be the impetus to go in a completely new direction. He would build coach bodies and later on complete public vehicles! After all, there was an acute shortage of touring coaches.

In 1946, the workshops were prepared for the building of coach bodies. The road haulage business was converted into a coach tour operating company. Their first vehicle, the rebuilt coach, was named “De Trekvogel” (Bird of Passage). Brother Jozef ran the business and Bernard became a bus builder and designed the first Perfecta Car.

van hool de trekvogel 46

1946 Van Hool De Trekvogel. (source: Van Hool)

At the start of company in 1947 there were 22 employees and 6 family members, and the first coaches were a big success.The first exposure to the market was at the Brussels Car Fair in 1948, a head-on confrontation with other coachbuilders. Product and name recognition were needed for the big breakthrough.

van hool brussels 48

Van Hool at the Brussels Car Fair in 1948. (source: Van Hool)

The first coachwork was sold abroad: to Jean Ross in Luxembourg in 1949. In 1951, the first order for the public sector, namely for the “Buurtspoorwegen” (10 bodies), with tender specifications and technical standards entirely different from the private market.

The foundation stones were laid for a cooperation agreement that would lead to Belgian bus manufacturing technology with international standing. The first really substantial order was obtained for 105 mobile workshops for the army and the state police, setting a firm foundation for the future volume manufacturing of commercial and industrial vehicles.

In 1952, a CIS (Special Commercial Coachwork) department was created to provide work during the months of low demand for buses and coaches.

Due to a decline in the market in the early fifties, Van Hool looked at the Belgian Congo in search of new business. Starting from 1954, regular shipments of Van Hool coachwork were made to Leopoldstad, mounted on a Brossel-chassis. The first coach bodies were delivered to the Netherlands, slowly but surely becoming a home market, and in 1955, the construction of a new factory on the other side of the road, now called the "Bernard Van Hoolstraat" was built.

(source: Van Hool)

van hool ad

Van Hool ad.(source: Radiator Emblem Collection)

Van Hool   Official Site.
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