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LOADS OF FUN Published: 12th Feb 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Commercial Vehicles
Commercial Vehicles
Commercial Vehicles
Commercial Vehicles
Commercial Vehicles
Commercial Vehicles
Commercial Vehicles
Commercial Vehicles
Commercial Vehicles
Commercial Vehicles
Commercial Vehicles
Commercial Vehicles
Commercial Vehicles
Commercial Vehicles
Commercial Vehicles
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Bored by classic cars? Then take a commercial break advises Andrew Roberts. Here's his reasons, together with some prize picks for happy hauling

Have you noticed the increase in vans and lorries at classic car events during 2013 and the interest they generated? Perhaps cars like MGs and TRs and even E-types are all becoming a bit familiar and enthusiasts are welcoming something different?

Like the classic cars we now aspire to due to past links, many vans and lorries are now coveted by owners who used them in the past for their work and as a result they can bring back just as happy memories as any Ferrari can.

There’s a practical side to them as well which goes unnoticed and that’s the fact that commercial vehicles can also be put to use and work for their keep, coming out of semi-retirement as and when necessary.

Or, if they are up to it, they can be put back to gainful employment full time as a local working tool where their sheer distinctiveness gets them – and your business – noticed!

Perhaps you fancy taking a commercial break? If so, here’s a rundown of the most popular vans and lorries around to whet your appetite. Values are difficult to predict, especialy lorries, but you should be able to find something within your modest budget. Most marques have excellent enthusiastic owners’ clubs, too.


Offering the same payload as the Morris Minor and a load capacity of a mere 60cu ft, the 803cc A30 was replaced by the A-Series 948cc A35 in 1958 and remained in production for a further nine years. It became the MkII in 1962, and MkIII the following year with the larger 1098cc engine. Two points to note – firstly, there was a short-lived A35 Coupé-Utility introduced in 1958 with no tailgate but an external rear seat. And secondly, vans converted to estate cars can usually be distinguished from the standard Countryman via its roof-top air vent.


Until circa 1985 it was obligatory for all market gardeners to have at least one A60 van or pick-up. Throughout its very long production run BMC considered replacing it with LCVs based on the A60 Farina and the Landcrab. Until its demise in 1972, it retained steering column gear change of the A55 Cambridge. The main mechanical change came in 1962 when it received the 1622cc engine of the A60 ‘Farina’ and this model – distinguished by its full width radiator grille – was also available as the Half Ton in parallel with the Austin.


British 2CV Camionettes fall into two separate categories. The first phase is the 1955-1960 Slough-built 425cc vans that were just too radical for 1950s Britain and only found a niche market with the Royal Navy. The second, and far more common, 2CV van is the 602cc 2CV6 van that was listed in the UK between 1979 and the end of 2CV production in 1990. By that stage the great British public had become attuned to the virtues of a light commercial that had a top speed of over 75mph, overall fuel economy of over 50mpg and suspension that allowed the 2CV6 van to carry crates of eggs over a ploughed field. It was replaced by the similar-looking C15.


Back in 1954 the 300E’s contemporary appearance was a radical departure from the outgoing E83W range. The 1172cc engine was the same as the Anglia/Prefect 100E but the wheelbase was shorter and the original 5cwt model was soon augmented by the 7cwt in either De Luxe (poverty spec) or Standard (misery spec) forms. All three were replaced by the 105E derived 307E in 1961.

Performance was never exactly sparking but the 300E was capacious with 66 cu ft of space and very durable. N.B. As with all post-war Ford commercials until 1965, the 300E was sold as a ‘Thames’.


Known as the Thames 5cwt and the (marginally) more luxurious 7cwt van on their debut in 1961 and the Anglia van after March 1965. On the very early models power was from the 105E 997cc engine in either low (35bhp) or high (40bhp)compression format but 1962 saw the option of the 309E fitted with the Anglia Super’s 1198cc unit.

A pick-up was offered by Kennex from 1961 and in full production from Martin Walter from 1964 onwards. Production ceased in November 1967 and today any ‘Anglia Van’ is a stylish and practical – 61 cu ft. load bay – classic commercial. Good ones are making serious money so be warned.


The Transit’s immediate ancestor, now nearly extinct on British roads but a once ubiquitous sight. Launched in 1957 the 400E’s running gear was from the Mk2 Consul, mounted on a separate chassis for ease of body panel replacement, in either van, estate car, ‘Express Bus’ or drop-side pick-up formats. The choice of payload was 10cwt or 12cwt but one problem, rectified with the Transit, was the narrow track.

A chassis-cab option made the 400E a popular coachbuilders’ choice and finding a motor caravan conversion is now easier than coming across an original van. 


The 307E/309E’s successor retained the same rear doors but all else was different, including the 1,298cc ‘Kent’ engine from the Mk2 Cortina De Luxe. The Escort came in 6cwt and 8cwt forms and although the rear suspension was strengthened the saloon’s decent road manners remained largely unimpaired. The Mk2 van of 1975 had a new grille and a new name – “Escort 45” – but from the bulkhead back it was the same as the Mk1. The 45 was replaced by the FWD Mk3 in 1980 and 34 years later the RWD Escort vans still have a certain verve and appeal as their values prove.


The 400E’s replacement was the first ever joint project between Dagenham and Cologne. Unlike its predecessor, the Transit boasted live axles front and rear, plus the wide track gives excellent car-like handling. Ford offered an incredibly elaborate model line-up – two choices of wheelbase and bodies that included a crew-bus, pick-up and minibus. Initial choices of engine were the 1.7-litre and 2.0-litre Essex V4, joined by a diesel option and even the Zodiac V6 for police spec models. When the Mk2 was launched in early 1978 and now Pinto-powered the Transit was the definitive van for fleet buyers and bank robbers alike.


Much too good for hippies. The original split windshield was made between 1950 and 1967. Pre-1956 models being known as ‘The Barndoor’ because of its vast engine cover and a handsome pick-up version was also offered. The early models’ 1131cc engine was replaced by 1.2-litre power plant in 1953. The 2nd generation T2 dispensed with swing rear axles and the two piece windscreen and post 1972 models were fitted with the Type 4’s pokier 1.7-litre or 2.0-litre engines. European T2s were replaced in 1979 but production continued in Brazil until the end of 2013!


Despite its long life span and high profile fleet use by British Telecom and BR few HA vans survive – their working lives were hard and customisers often raided them for the transverse-spring front cross-members. There was never an HB or HC Viva based van but Vauxhall’s first post-war light commercial remained competitive for 19 years. Early models were powered by the 1159cc engine, later replaced by 1256cc, whilst Martin Walter also built a tiny amount of pick-ups.


Sixty two years ago, a new Bedford CA was an absolute state-of-the-art 10/12cwt SWB or LWB van, offering saloon car manners thanks to its independent front suspension and reasonable performance from its 1.5-litre Vauxhall Wyvern engine. The single piece windshield débuted in 1958 and a 15cwt in the following year. The 1964 the Mk2 CA gained a new radiator grille and later examples had the 1595cc Victor engine and a four-speed transmission option. The availability of a chassis-cowl meant that the CA was often the base for pick-ups, motor caravans, ice cream vans and ambulances. Quaint and desirable.


Luton’s CA replacement was its answer to the Transit with a similarly vast array of body and engine choices – van, minibus, chassis/cowl and chassis/cab, short or long wheelbase, four payload options. Engines ranged from a 2.5 diesel to the OHC Victor petrol units; 1972 saw them in 1.8-litre and 2.3-litre forms and a 1980 facelift was marked by a new front grille. Disc brakes and a rare 4WD version were offered in 1984 before production ceased in 1987. Apart from its driving position, the CF is as good as a Transit.


Officially known as the Morris O-Type, the 5cwt Minor Van gave commercial buyers almost all of the saloon’s virtues together with load capacity of 76 cu ft. The pick-up version was even more versatile and BMC also offered a chassis-cab version – ideal for coachbuilders. 1961 models lost their trafficators, 1962 saw a choice of 6cwt or 8cwt payloads and for the last eight years of production power was from the 1098cc engine. Early GPO versions had rubber front wings and one strange late derivative was the 1968-1971 Austin 6/8cwt, built to satisfy BMC’s rival dealership chains!


Now finally being seen as an interesting classic commercial, the Marina van and pick-up debuted in 1972 in either 7cwt 1.1-litre or 10cwt 1.3-litre forms. BL semantics meant that the original Morris badging was shortly replaced by ‘Austin-Morris’ logos which in turn was succeeded by rename as Morris 440 and 575 in 1978, the last-named having ‘Marina 2’ black bumpers. The A+ A-Series plus engine was a very worthwhile improvement in 1980 and two years later the range was face lifted as the Ital prior to its replacement by the Maestro in 1985. Any version is guaranteed to turn heads at shows.


Pay attention, as this can be confusing. The first J4s were separately badged as Morris or Austin, and highly popular due to their 160 cu ft load capacity. The payload was increased to 10cwt in 1961 and this was replaced by the 14cwt 180J4 and the 20cwt 200J4 in 1968. The J4 range was rebadged as ‘Austin-Morris’ from 1969 and replaced in 1974 by the longer wheelbase Sherpa, which lost the forward control layout and gained even more (190 cu ft) space. The last Sherpa badged commercials were made in 1987 (some with a Rover V8 option) but the shape continued as the LDV Pilot until 2006!


In 1960 the van was the first Mini derivative and its 5cwt payload combined with 46 cu ft load capacity and brilliant road manners made it the commercial du jour. A pick-up was introduced in 1961 and the 848cc engine was augmented by the 998cc unit in 1967. Morris and Austin badge engineering ceased in 1969 and the range was face lifted as the Mini 95 nine years later. 1980 saw a return to the Morris badge and in this form the range was replaced by the Metro van, still wearing its sliding windows.


A van seemingly straight from the pages of a Ladybird book, the Husky was a short wheelbase utility version of the Minx Estate powered by Rootes’ antique 1265cc engine and with a floor gear change instead of a column lever. A version with a rear seat and side windows badged as the Hillman Husky was also offered and 1958 saw the arrival of the ‘Audax’ Cob/Husky, based on the ’56 ‘New Minx’ with power now from a (detuned) 1.4-litre OHV engine. For someone seeking more driver room than an equivalent BMC commercial, the Cob is a good option.


A truly delightful light van, the 1965 Commer Cob was designed by Rootes so that a milk churn could be stood upright in the load bay. Unlike the saloon, the tyres are cross-ply and the engine a 36bhp low compression version of saloon’s plant but it is still utterly enjoyable to drive. But sales were low and a facelift in 1968 as the Hillman Imp Van MkII did not boost sales. Production ceased in 1970 – perhaps it was just too radical a vehicle to appeal to traditionally minded Minx-Cob buyers…


When the Commer FC 1500 first appeared Rootes claimed that its wheels would give “Enhanced Handling”. The original 1494cc engine was replaced by the 1592cc Minx plant in 1962, and the 1725cc unit was fitted in the alternator-equipped 1967 PB version. The ‘Spacevan’ name was introduced in 1974 and three years later the range, now re-badged as a ‘Dodge’, gained a groovy new black radiator grille.

Production finally ceased in 1981, leaving a generation of van owners with happy memories of having to remove the windscreen and use a crane through the passenger door to effect any major engine repairs – but its heat kept you warm. 


The first Matador appeared in 1937 and in the following year the War Office ordered 200 models. By the end of WW2 nearly 9000 had been built for the armed forces, serving with the RAF as a flatbed load carrier, in the Army for towing guns and, in six-wheeled Matador Major form, a refuelling tanker. In peacetime the Matador’s combination of 7.6-litre diesel engine four-wheel drive and robustness saw demobbed examples used by timber firms and as breakdown wagons well into the’70s.


The TK’s shape is still such a familiar sight that it is incredible to think that they were launched 45 years ago. As an army vehicle, a fire engine or basic haulage wagon the TK was one of the definitive Lorries of the 1960s. But it failed to keep pace with the needs of long distance hauliers and by the late 1970s the lack of a sleeper cab option was a real problem. The face lifted TL of 1981 failed to really improve matters and the Bedford name was sold to AWD in 1987. TL production finally ceased in 1992 but thousands of the 4x4 MK derivative are still used by the armed forces.


In the 1950s Foden made the very radical step of dispensing with their established timber frame and aluminum cabs in favour of an all-new GRP design in order to remain competitive. The S21 was known as ‘Mickey Mouse’ to drivers and ‘Sputnik’ to the trade press. Between 1962 and 1967 Foden offered the S24 ‘Sabrina’ (named for the nom-de-film of the model Norma Sykes) tilt cab whilst Norman Wisdom was nearly run over by a Tate & Lyle Foden in A Stitch In Time – such was the ‘Sputnik’s impact on the general public.


Just as the Transit became synonymous with middleweight panel vans the D-Series dominated Britain’s middle-sized lorry market of the 1970s. Devised to replace the Thames Trader and take sales away from the Bedford TK, the D Series was less visually striking than its predecessor but it offered hauliers a vast choice of wheelbase lengths – four-wheelers came in five forms and six-wheelers in four – and at its peak the former Hurricane factory at Langley was making 750 chassis per day. When production ceased in 1980, 540,000 Ds had been made, beating all previous British Ford lorry sales.

Piaggio Ape, evolution rather than revolution reckons Angie Voluti

How about this for the most unusual classic commercial ever? No it’s not Del Boy’s Reliant Regal (not Robin Reliant!) but another three-wheeler.

The cheeky little three-wheeled commercial vehicle that Enrico Piaggio (son of Piaggio’s founder Rinaldo) adopted from its inventor, aircraft designer Corradino D’Ascanio at the end of WW2. Original Apes were nothing else but a Vespa motorcycle (‘Wasp’, in English) with two wheels attached to the rear and a flat cargo bay behind the driver. Hey presto, such contraption fulfilled many small businesses’ concerns and worked hard (bee-like) for its upkeep in Italy’s post-war years. It cost 170,000 lire (£60) at launch.

It was only later then a cab was added to protect the driver against inclement weather, and over the last sixty years not much has changed in terms of original design, although efforts have been channelled towards improving reliability, performance and safety. 

It is a fact that the ever-industrious Ape is known and loved by millions of Italians, who still use this Latin ‘Del Boy’ three-wheeler regularly as a workhorse for their small businesses, but curiously the vehicle is overlooked by the more conservative European neighbours…

It is a simple design, and straightforward engineering: the engine is a proven and reliable unit, a single cylinder, two-stroke affair.

The Ape A (a series which lasted five years, 1947-1952) had a 125cc engine and a wooden cargo bay. The engine grew to 150cc in the Ape B (1952-1956) and the commercial was lighter, with its cargo bay made of steel panels. The Ape C (1956-1957) sported, for the first time, a closed body, with doors as optional. Today, the Ape comes with a small 50cc, 2.5bhp engine, like the 1969 ‘Apino’ (small Ape). 

It is a testament of its sturdiness that so little has changed in the Ape over the years. Specialist Max Machu ( offers this advice.

• Earlier points-equipped engines suffer from wear; electronic ignition advised.

• Tyres wear out far quicker on an Ape than on a similarly-equipped scooter.

• As with all two strokes, piston “nipping up” can become a problem if tweaking is pushed too far; carb jetting and ignition timing are critical.

• The clutch can slip if the gears are not used correctly, the mechanism is a little crunchy and hard to use. The clutch also tends to slip excessively in gears that may be too high. Racing clutches can be fitted, at a very reasonable cost, thus improving longevity.

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