Citroën Berlingo Grand Angle by Sbarro

Car of the Day #111: 1997 Citroën Berlingo Grand Angle by Sbarro

Citroën Berlingo Grand Angle by Sbarro
Citroën Berlingo Grand Angle by Sbarro • via Sbarro

If there's one thing you should do today, it's to take 10 minutes and head over to, say, Jamey Price’s Instagram feed and familiarize yourself with the art of photography dedicated to auto racing. And hold that thought, because…

…a trackside shooter is not necessarily the type of photographer Citroën had in mind when it reached out to Espace Sbarro, the automotive school / design house run by visionary automotive builder Franco Sbarro. 

(To announce the then-new Berlingo, Citroën asked a number of companies to create something special using its new van, and the results ranged from a 6x6 Berlingo-based off-road rig to a Berlingo that was treated to a number of very strange promotional photos…IYKYK.) 

Anyway, for taking shots of lions, sure, the Berlingo Grand Angle would work nicely. 

Citroën Berlingo Grand Angle by Sbarro

You may have noticed its crow's nest-like perch that raises a photographer into the air with ease—this was first developed, apparently, for falconers in the Middle East. And in a nod to making sure the shooter will always get the scoop, Sbarro took the liberty of installing a 3.0-litre V6 engine with 200 horsepower — surely enough to keep up with your migrating herd of choice.

For most photographers, who are not needing to sit down for hours at a time, I do, however, think the Grand Angle is overkill.

To start with, the seating platform is mounted on a large, upright ‘slide’, severely limiting interior space. Why not a simple folding latter, flip hatch, and reinforced roof?

(If you go looking, I’m sure a #vanlifer has sorted out a rooftop photography platform for less than $34.)

Having an unobstructed 360° view would be the way to go for the lifted platform — in my opinion, a belt clip-in and a waist-high brace with some USB outlets and small cooler would be nicer than a fixed car seat. 

Truth be told, earlier in my career I did do a fair amount of racing photography, and I could have benefitted from the Grand Angle’s built-in sun protection.

Finishing the exterior was a subtle silver body kit, lower windshield cowl, and blacked-out glass. Inside, a mobile office was built into where the rear cargo section would have been fitted, to help reporters on the road file their stories on time. 

In 1997, this was kitted out with state-of-the-art equipment for — you betcha — the nascent discipline of digital photography. 

Here’s the thing: the Berlingo Grand Angle NEEDS to be resurrected.

Today, an electric Ford e-Transit would be a useful alternative to the Berlingo Grand Angle, wouldn't it? Pop a flat, reinforced platform up top, add in a drone launchpad, and perhaps Ford itself can spend a few years parking a branded fleet at world-class venues and renting out space to photographers hoping to capture new angles of their favourite motorsports events.

Pikes Peak hillclimb, anyone?

What about rally recce-spec Volvo EX30s with beefy roof racks, ready to follow rally rounds in North America as official support cars for photographers parked trackside? 

A Ford Lightning with a large rear flatbed, swiveling rear-facing racing bucket seat(s), roll cage and provisions for Speed Rail or similar — the ideal track-ready photography rig?

Electric Fiat 500e drop-tops with small platforms for Milan Fashion Week photographers? No? Why not?

I’m not talking series production for any of these — simply make a small batch and offer a set of user or upfitter plans for profit$.

*le sigh* But what do I know? Cars? Photography? Social media? Marketing? Nah…

Speaking of ‘profit’, the Grand Angle was sold from Citroën’s collection at an auction in late 2007, hammering for just €8960 — not quite as good as finding a lightly-used Leica in a thrift store Sale bin, but well-bought despite its quirks.

Read next: Citroën Grand Angle by Sbarro, but really, the entire, long-running ‘Sbarro, another vision of car’ website run by Phil Calvet.


Thank you to my supporting members: Ben B., Brad B., Chris G., Daniel G., Damian S., Daniel P., Drew M., Ingrid P., Karl D., Luis O., Michael J., Michael L., Michelle S., Mike B., Mike L., Mike M., Richard W., Sam G., Sam L., Wiley H.