1973 Austin Custom Van – Classified of the Week

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By Chris Pollitt

For as long as we have had cars, we have felt the need to modify and customise them. And within that need, there are many different schools of thought. Some are still prevalent, like race or rally conversions. Today’s modified metal will also still favour more power and improvements to the handling. However, within the world of automotive modification, there are peaks and troughs of styles and ideas that come and go. In the case of the UK, the custom car scene of the ‘70s has most definitely been left in the past, which when you consider the work that went into some of the old show cars, is something of a shame. But that’s the problem with modification. It’s great at the right time, but once that time passes, it’s no longer cool. As such, these vehicles either evolve to embody the next trend, or they’re left by the wayside and fall into a state of irreparable disrepair. It is rare then for a custom car of the ‘70s to be alive today, but thanks to the rich and diverse landscape that is Car & Classic, that’s exactly what we’ve found this week. 

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This Austin Morris would have started life as a humble Marina-based 7/10CWT van. It might have been bought by a florist or a decorator, some sort of trade that needed a light, car-like van. It’s commercial life wasn’t one that would last long though, as there is no doubt that the customisation work started in the ‘70s. 

So what’s been done? Well, everything really. There is no trace of the Austin running gear left. Instead, there is a 3.0 Essex V6 from Ford shoehorned into the engine bay. Detailed to perfection, and with all the wiring hidden away, it’s a wonderfully clean and crisp sight. The front suspension has been upgraded to take the weight of the engine, while the rear has been completely replaced with a narrowed IRS unit from Jaguar, complete with inboard brakes. This is a very period mod, and it gives the little van some serious forward rake! Helped in no small part by the deep slot mags and tall, wide, 295/50 BF Goodrich rubber. The stance of this van is truly wild, very Hot Wheels! As is the paint, too. Yes, those ‘70s-tastic stripes are paint. There was no vinyl wrap option back then. We’d also imagine those wild flared rear arches are steel, too. 

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Inside, it’s a vision of blue velvet, with no surface left uncovered. The walls, the floor, the dash and the seats are all so very, very blue. A bit strong by today’s tastes, but very period without a doubt. Sadly though, the driver’s seat does need some love, but given the age of this van, some TLC is to be expected.  

An ex-Street Machine magazine feature car, this brilliant old Austin is a true time capsule of car customisation. Indeed, it was squirrelled away for some 25 years, which is why it’s been so well preserved and why, furthermore, it’s not evolved into a mishmash of styles. This is pure to the ‘70s, and we love it. 

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Since being pulled from storage, the van has had a complete mechanical overhaul and freshen up, and it has 12 months MOT on it. The vendor states that the paintwork could use some love, which isn’t surprising. But even so, the pictures don’t show anything too major. 

We love this van. It’s a bit mad and a bit wild by today’s standards, but it’s also an important wheeled reminder of how we used to do things. And for that reason alone, it’s worth owning. We certainly would if we had the means!

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