eBay Find of the Week : A ‘new’ Bedford Astravan

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Craig Cheetham

Every so often, a car turns up that, for some reason, has never really seen the light of day. The 82-miles-from-new Triumph Dolomite, which we featured on here earlier this month, is one such example of that.

Truly astonishing - is there another commercial vehicle in the country that has survived so well?
Truly astonishing – is there another commercial vehicle in the country that has survived so well?

However, this one is something sensational – a workaday commercial vehicle that has never carried a load, nor done a hard day’s work in its entire life. A Bedford Astravan, with a meagre 72 miles on the dial…

The van was bought new in 1989 by a builder in Bedfordshire, who picked it up from Vauxhall/Bedford main dealer Stevenage Car and Commercial and drove it home. According to the vendor, he then went through a sudden downturn in business and quickly changed career, without ever using the van for work.

It may be lined, but this load bay has clearly never seen a load...
It may be lined, but this load bay has clearly never seen a load…

The condition is truly incredible – the front seats still have their original plastic covers and the load bay is completely free of dings, dents or marks.

Still under wraps...
Still under wraps…

Not only is this truly a one-off, but it’s also a uniquely British vehicle. Conceived, designed and built here, the Astravan was created in Luton and built in Ellesmere Port to suit a market very specific to the UK. The model was the country’s most popular car-derived van right up until its demise in 2011, and found fame on BBC’s Top Gear for being named as the ‘fastest vehicle on British roads’, as a nod to the way in which many ‘Ashtrayvans’ were driven.

Early Astravans were, of course, Bedfords, but became Vauxhalls in 1991
Early Astravans were, of course, Bedfords, but became Vauxhalls in 1991

One thing’s for sure – you’ll not find another. Seven grand might seem steep for a 16-year old Astravan, but it’s bloomin’ cheap for a new one…

 

Craig Cheetham

A serial impulsive car purchaser, Craig has had his name on over 200 V5s over the past 20 years. 10 per cent of those have been either 800s or Austin Allegros, with between 10 and 20 cars usually owned at any one time. Started out as a local newspaper journalist then worked for car mags including Auto Express, Classic Car Weekly and Land Rover Owner. Worked inside the car industry for a decade as an employee of General Motors, now works for a news distribution agency. Home based, which is dangerously convenient for further irrational heap purchases. Lover of all makes of car since childhood, with a particular leaning towards Austin-Rover... Father of three boys, so hoping to spread the car love. Other passions include rugby union, travelling and eating out.

31 Comments

  1. Another unique find… usually vans like this had a hard life and didn’t last that long I would guess. A freelance colleague bought an Astravan for his business use like this, in red about the same year. This blue example looks outstanding for 26 years old!

    I remember that shade of blue too… think it was the same as on Astra cars. Shame the Bedford name disappeared from our roads too – like Morris, Austin, Rover!

  2. What an unusual story, buying a van, never using it, but also not selling it, it’s not the sort of vehicle you buy as an investment or as something to look at and admire!

    A perfect vehicle for the Vauxhall heritage collection surely?

  3. A brilliant example for the Vauxhall collection. I remember these as everyday workhorses but the one vehicle that sticks in my mind belonged to a young, wealthy friend. He drove one new of these in that very colour and loved it.His 3 brothers had new a Toyota Corolla twin Cam 16 RWD, new MR2 MK1 & finally a Porsche 911.

    Drove it during the day making money, entertained his girlfriend in the back at night and 50mpg too…..
    Wish I had one then!!!!

  4. It’s interesting when vehicles like this turn up, especially considering most of these have long been run into the ground, even many of the estates seemed to be used for vans & vanished from the roads years before the hatchbacks did.

    • There was a light blue 5-door Astra Mark 1 estate in Cardiff (about 1992) which had a crude timber-built upward roof extension behind the rear seats, as the owner built cots (children’s beds), and delivered them standing upright in the boot.
      He later changed trade to become a painter and decorator, and used his home-made Astramax for that trade also.

      Wrt below, I remember Chevannes. They would handle rather better than Astras, unless you strongly desired massive torque steer and inadequate damping.

  5. Looking at the price of classic cars from the 1980’s this is almost a bargain at £6995. Keep it for another 10 years in it’s unused state, it will probably be worth £14k.
    It must be unique?

    • You must remember this then Gav:

      “Great service you’ll get with your new colour set at Granada”

      Their mobile engineers (and quite a sizeable fleet too) operated the Chevanne – makes sense as the Ampthill Rd HQ was 15 miles up the road from GMs Luton HQ.

      If you are old enough… you’ll be able to whistle the five tone jingle and remember the pom pom wielding cheerleader girls in those old Granada TV rental adverts 🙂

      • There was a Mk.1 Astravan too, but that was very short-lived. I think it effectively replaced both the HA and Chevanne circa 1982-3.

      • A mate’s dada was one of the Granada staff, with such a hard-worked Chevette estate. Once I travelled in it as the sixth occupant (all males of at least average height), in the days when it was acceptable for youths to ride in the boot.

        Some of them carried registration numbers local to their area, and the 3-door eversions sometimes carried removable plastic covers over the side windows, to promote the business in the week and allow them to be used as estate cars at other times.

        I always assumed the song was written just for the advert, then cringing when hearing it quite recently on Classic FM sung as apparently a traditional Spanish folk song.

        Prior to then, Granada ran a fleet of HC Viva estates for the same purpose. I wonder if some nepotism had occurred in Bedfordshire local business circles?

  6. What a bonny thing this really is.

    Interesting how they got the “Top Gear” effect by becoming the worlds fastest vehicle.

    My old firm bought one brand new years ago and I was dispatched to fetch some vital parts from Plaxtons Coachbuilders in Scarborough. I only had about 3cwt of payload on the return and it wouldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding going uphill.

    That said, it looked better and had a far more user friendly dashboard.

  7. Yep I remember the Chevanne too. At the time I owned an HC Viva, my Employer’s had one Chevanne, in light blue. I borrowed it a couple of times for my dept.s business. It drove OK and felt similar to my own Viva. A colleague had a Chevette Estate.

    They weren’t bad looking cars & vans.

  8. “The model was the country’s most popular car-derived van right up until its demise in 2011, and found fame on BBC’s Top Gear for being named as the ‘fastest vehicle on British roads’, as a nod to the way in which many ‘Ashtrayvans’ were driven.”

    Strictly speaking, “the fastest vehicle in the world” was and always will be, the Ashtraymax Van; not this effeminate wannabe!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0New3Thw8yA

    PS: I know, I had one. 1.6 petrol, 5 speed, with afterburner! 😉

  9. I “owned” (well it was the company’s) Astra Van Mk1 1.6 normally aspirated diesel from 1993-1995. In which time I did 65,000 miles. The Mk1 Astra was a fine machine, 0-60 allegedly in 19s but I used to cruise it up and down the M1 at an indicated 80mph between Newbury and Leeds at which speed it would potter along happily all week. Handling? Oh yes, even on 155 section tyres it was a hoot. Load bay? Well we (self and girlfriend of the time) camped in it when the rain was too heavy to pitch a tent, lets put it that way.

    When I left the company, I bought a Mk2 Astra hatch for myself. It was comfortable, spacious and economical but the handling was a complete letdown afte the Mk1. To give you an idea of the economy, I managed 70mpg from the non-turbo D on several occasions on the motorway and regularly cracked 50mpg in mixed driving.

    On the down side, the doors were flimsy and could be dented by pushing them shut with your bum whilst holding an arm full of shopping. The interior was fine, except when some scrote broke into it and did £700 of damage to nick a £100 stereo. No standard alarm in those days, and many Astras died at the hands of twockers, and sadly the Mk2 Astra’s handling was pretty poor, to the extent then the back end could snap out very unextectedly, or else terminal understeer set in.

    As for this van, wow, what a find.

    Now if it was a Mk1 in Post Office red I would be straight round with my cheque book.

  10. I remember a programme (I think it was Classic Trucks) which had a look at Royal Mail vans, & featured a collection of them in a hanger, which included a Mk1 Astra van.

  11. My word! I once had the Vauxhall equivalent 3 door estate version in the same colour and it was an absolute shed!
    That though needs to go to a museum to preserve it.

  12. It’s done 72 miles overall but 84 is showing on the trip counter? The 7 also doesn’t look like it’s lining up correctly…

  13. TBH, If I owned it, I’d want to use it as a daily driver just for the fun of it.

    Certainly has more personality then modern stereotype minivans.

  14. I know someone with a Mark 1 Astra van they have had from new this also ahs very low mileage and gets hardly any use with under 30000 miles from 1982!

  15. I remember the Astramax, they were built for a time after the Mk3 came along, I remember seeing an L reg one locally a few times.

  16. Nice! and I still have a set of brand new grey rubber body side mouldings for one of these still in their wrapped up plastic!.

  17. We had these “ye olde-wolrdly diesel monstrosities” at work … , post-privatised British Rail, the vibration of the engine into the cabin was so appalling you risked the fillings in your teeth falling out!

  18. As an Astramax, with a 1.6 petrol and a 5 speed ‘box, it was no slouch! Rumour has it that, around 1986, it was easily capable of holding a 100mph cruise for long periods of time, on closed racing circuits (naturally); doing such things, even on the pre-camera M25, would not only have been illegal, but grossly irresponsible too and cannot be condoned..

    Oddly, the last time I heard, the very same van had been retrofitted with a 1.6 diesel engine. Sacrilege!

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