When it comes to cars, they naturally fall into the territory of being a classic. We bond with our cars after all. They become members of the family, and as such, we develop a need to care for and look after them. When looking to buy a classic, we consider rough and ready examples because the road to restoration will be a fun journey. We add to the tapestry of the car’s existence. It’s all very ‘connected’ with us as people. We don’t, however, seem to have that outlook when it comes to old vans.
Maybe it’s because vans are tools rather than things to be enjoyed. But in being tools, are they not as, if not more, important than cars? Vans deliver, they serve workmen, they are the busy bees of industry, so we should celebrate them. Plus, any van, new or old, is a useful thing to have. Maybe you don’t need to move anything too heavy or dirty, maybe you sell things from classic car shows, or maybe you have a garage that restores and maintains classic cars? What better vehicle than a classic van. Not only will you be keeping an old, often forgotten vehicle on the road, you’ll also have a cool bit of advertising.
With that in mind, this week’s project of choice is well worth considering. Parts availability is excellent, the load space is huge, and it’s a bit of an icon thanks to being based on the mighty Minor.
What is it?
What we have here is a 1972 Morris Minor van, which is special as it means it was one of the last – the Minor ended production in ‘71, whereas the van finished in early ‘73. If you want one of the last Minors, this is it. What’s also interesting is the design of the Minor van, which was somewhat ahead of its time with the ‘box on the back of a car’ look. By making the ‘van’ area bigger, it of course meant the Minor was infinitely more practical than other vans.
Of course, the big attraction to the Minor van was the fact it was indeed a Minor. The car-derived van was still a new thing when this van was launched. Prior to this, vans were rough and ready, borderline agricultural things that while useful, were anything but pleasant to drive. The Minor wasn’t though. It was all standard car stuff from the B pillar back, and that meant it was a fun, comfortable, rewarding little thing to drive. It also means that here in 2020, parts aren’t hard to find to keep them running.
Why is it a project?
According to the vendor, this 1972 Morris Minor van was in use up until “a few years ago” which seems about right, given that it hasn’t fallen into complete disrepair. In fact, the vendor goes on to say that it does run, drive, start and stop, which is pleasing to know. It looks to be complete too, and also seems to be free of any major dings or dents, which is impressive for what is at its core a commercial vehicle.
Of course, this is a British van from the 1970s, so there is one issue that needs to be addressed, and that is of course the dreaded rust. The vendor states that it will need welding to the arches, the sills, and “other parts”. The best way to approach it would be to treat it as a vehicle that will need to be completely stripped down before any repair work can start.
There is a picture showing a rather unpleasant hole in what looks to be one of the arches, and you can bet that there is going to be plenty of other rust to contend with. However, don’t be put off. Panels are readily available, at least for the same parts shared with the car. For van-specific parts such as the roof, sides and rear doors, some fabrication is going to be required. So do prepare yourself for that.
Five things to look for:
There is going to be a lot to contend with, but don’t forget, this is pretty much the car with a box on the back, so parts are easy to get. Check the chassis, the sills, the bulkhead, the scuttle, the doors, the wings, the inner wings… you get the idea.
Again, this is something you need to check for rust. But also you need to check it for poor repairs from the past. As a working vehicle, it may have been patched over several times just to keep it earning.
The engine, an A Series unit, is a hardy lump and is common. However, it never hurts to check the condition of what’s there. Look for leaks, look for signs of heat damage, listen for any knocking or chugging. If you don’t need to replace it, that’s more money to spend on the body!
Yes, rust twice. This time, check the van bits. The sides, the load bay floor, the roof and the doors. There looks to be some significant corrosion around the roof seams, for example. How bad is it? And can you fix it, or will it need a specialist fabricator?
The van lived some of its life in Ireland, and as such, wears Irish plates by the looks of it. Does all the paperwork match up, can it be registered in the UK without too much issue? These are things you need to check.
What should you do with it?
If we were buying the van, we’d go for a sympathetic and honest external restoration, but with all new, modern mechanicals. The van would be a brilliant promotional tool, but in order to do that, it will have to do lots of driving. As such, we’d chuck the A Series and fit a more modern K Series unit, along with a five-speed manual transmission. Better cooling, bigger disc brakes and a modern, bigger fuel tank would all find a home in the Minor, too. We’d lower it ever so slightly, and fit some of those cool deep-dish steel wheels from Weller. Finally, we’d get a professional signwriter to paint on our livery of choice. Period cool looks, modern drivability. Perfection.