These proved to be another good money-spinning sector for the British motor industry, with most of the major manufacturers and several smaller companies producing vehicles of this type. The load-carrying capacity of these small vans began at a quarter-ton or five cwt (250kg in today’s terms), and was slowly increased to six-, then seven and eight cwt (400kg) as better and more powerful small engines came into production. In the parlance of the time they were known as eight-horsepower (RAC rating) vans. Just above the 8hp vans came the 10hp ranges, with a little more power from engines around 1125–1200cc, usually still side-valve. They had slightly longer wheelbases, a bigger van-type back end and were rated at 8–10 cwt carrying capacity.

1956 Morris Oxford 1/2 ton van

This time we’ll look first at the small post-war quarter-tonners. They weren’t new at all, just pre-war designs rushed back into production in 1945–6 for the civilian market. Based on the small saloons built pre-war, they used side-valve engines of 900–1000cc; typical of the breed were the Austin Eight vans with the 900cc side-valve engine, which Morris countered with the 918cc Z-series van, based on the pre-war Series E version of the Morris Eight saloons.


Ford’s product was the 933cc 7Y van version of the pre-war Anglia, which used the Fordson and Thames (from 1948) marque names, as did many of Ford’s commercial vehicle products. Austin, Morris and Ford slogged it out for major market share, with healthy sales, with the Morris Z vans for example clearing 50,000 sales. These vans actually developed somewhere between 15 and 22kW, and had to be very low-geared to be able to haul their quarter-ton payload, and were very slow in terms of on-the-road performance.

Austin A30

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