These types of vans came in several shapes and sizes, and large numbers were sold, with all the major British firms having a stake in the market. A chance encounter with one a few weeks ago, snappily painted to advertise a local business, brought them back to mind, and I recalled that I actually owned one of them myself, drove another as part of work routine, and hired several others as I moved flats in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch!

Ford’s E83W Fordson or Thames van, 1938-1957

Most of them used some or all of the running gear of the various corporate mid-size saloons. However, you would never have known it to look at them; the vans were built to maximise load space and carrying capacity, with the engine and transmission usually tucked away somewhere up in the front half of the vehicle, in the cab, or underneath the front seat area. The good point of these vans was that they certainly could swallow a load, and quite a heavy one at that. It was what they were designed for, and that part of the design process was done OK.

And, to be fair to the British manufacturers, or some of them at least, from the late fifties onwards, some attempts were being made to improve the product, with useful improvements in load capacity, roadability, performance and economy, and comfort for the driver.

Thames (Ford) 400/800 vans, 1957-1965

Crossing the Thames


To read this and other articles on the Classic Driver website please click here to sign up for a membership. Once a member and logged in, you'll be able to read all the articles on the site. If you are already a paid up member, please log in, using the Log In link in the menu at the top of the page.