Owning a classic car is about expression, it’s about having a vehicle through which you can display your personality, a way to obtain and shout about your uniqueness. So by that logic, a classic van would give you even more metal real estate on which to express one’s self. Or at least that’s our logic and that’s what we’re sticking with. Hence our suggestion of a van for this edition of Project Profile. But don’t worry, and don’t panic when you read the word ‘van’. We’re not suggesting you take up a trade, or start moving people’s sofas on a Saturday morning for £20 (though you could, there’s nothing stopping you). No, this Mercedes-Benz is a van only by definition, because there is nothing in the back of it other than a lot of space. But that’s where you, your ideas and your vanning dreams come to good use.
What is it?
It’s a Mercedes-Benz TN/T1 series van. This one was built in 1982, though the model as a whole was built from 1977 through to 1995 – it was damn good van, so Mercedes-Benz didn’t see the need to replace it for all those years. This was because it was available in myriad configurations, from box, to flatbed, to camper, to ambulance, to, well, you get the idea. It was a van that could turn its hand to almost any job. And do those jobs it did, and it did them globally. The TN/T1 was a huge success for Mercedes-Benz, finding keen buyers both on German soil and soil from around the rest of the globe. Being a Mercedes-Benz, it was a rugged, tough old machine that would run and run in even the most harsh and testing of environments. If you need proof, go to Africa today and you’ll still see these vans plodding along, earning their keep daily.
This van is a 207D model, which means an OM616 four-cylinder 2,404cc diesel engine with a monstrous 65hp. Okay, it’s not nor never was a fast vehicle, but that’s not why you buy a van. You buy a van to be trustworthy and reliable, and the OM616 was exactly that. Many specialists still regard this series of engines as being one of the most dependable to ever be built.
Interestingly, this particular van was actually a camper thanks to a Devon conversion, however, as the current vendor states, the conversion was past its best, and so it was gutted back to being a bare van, leaving us with what we see now.
Why is it a project?
The current vendor wanted this to be a travelling base, and given the previous owner’s receipts for work, it seemed like a good place to start. However, the Devon conversion was, as we mentioned above, rotten and as such, not fit for purpose. The current vendor stripped it out, but in doing so came to the conclusion that to put it right would be far more work than he had anticipated, so unfortunately for him, it has to go.
In the end, the work now needed after his discoveries of rot and the like within the pre-existing camper conversion have now priced the poor chap out of seeing the project through. Understandably, he’s cutting his losses, but those losses could very easily be your gain. And all for just £2,500.
What’s been done already?
The previous owner has done a lot of welding work, so the van is structurally sound. It’s had new front arches and front steps, which is great to know, as they are hot spots for rust. The current owner has removed, re-sealed and re-fitted the side windows, and he has also fitted new Fiamma skylights (though he mentions there is some lock damage after someone tried breaking in).
The main work, however, is the removal of the old and rotten camper framework. This is an arduous, dirty, frustrating job. But it’s a job a new owner doesn’t need to concern themselves with. Instead, it’s now time for a clean-up and a repaint in readiness for whatever my fill that vast, vast space.
Five things you should look for:
While the van does indeed look remarkably clean on solid, there is no escaping the fact that this is an old van. It’s going to have been repaired in the past, so get underneath it and satisfy yourself that those repairs are to a good standard. If not, it could mean the end of the road for this old girl.
The current vendor states that the dash could do with some attention, especially with the switches and the like. Have a good look at what’s needed, as you’re going to have to create a bespoke solution – dash parts aren’t exactly common.
If you’re going to make this into a camper or some sort of activity vehicle, you’re going to need the roof to be weathertight. In fact, you’ll need that to be the case no matter what, so get on a set of stepladders and have a good look at the roof, in particular the seams and joins.
Yes, the OM engine is a trusty old beast, but only if it’s been looked after. Happily, the vendor states that it’s been serviced, it has a new fuel pump and filters, the fuel tank has been cleaned out and even the brakes have been serviced. But still, just make sure there are no plumes of acrid smoke, and check it for general health/leaks/knocks and rattles.
This was a camper, but it’s now not a camper. That means there could be all kind electrical leftovers lurking within the panels of this particular van, and that’s not good. Ideally there should be nothing left from the old conversion.
What should you do with it?
The world, or in this case, the van is your oyster. The only thing that’s limiting you here is your imagination. If it was our van, we’d go for a high-end two-berth setup, fixed double bed at the back, little shower room, a nice space for cooking and maybe a good quality awning on the side complete with LED lighting for those long summer nights. The body looks to be in decent condition, but a respray in a more contemporary metallic hue wouldn’t hurt the look of thing.
And all throughout, we’d go heavy of the insulation and sound deadening, that way this old Mercedes_benz would be the most stug, warm and inviting place in the world after a long day hiking, or surfing on the beach. It could be a magnificent, beautiful home away from home. It just needs your vision.