Unsung Heroes : Commer/Dodge Spacevan

Mike Humble

The funny looking Commer Spacevan – When did you last see one?

Once upon a time, life was so much simpler wasn’t it? You got your electric from the electric board, your gas from the gas board and yes… you guessed it, your water from the water board. Some of you may still remember a time when possessing a telephone was something of a luxury and having to wait until after 6.00 before you would dare call your mates to ask if they wanted an evening playing Atari after school.

I can just about remember our house getting the phone put in, and I can still remember the model my parents chose – a round dial affair with curly flex in concord blue – we were Darlington 59207. The day the GPO came round was almost like a Royal Visit with my mum dressed in her finest overseeing the installation of said appliance, almost treating the whole affair like the second coming of Christ.

It coincided with a school holiday I remember well, and shortly after ‘switching off the television set to go and do something less boring instead’ (as Why Don’t You used to tell us) the rat a tat tat at the door confirmed that the GPO Telecommunications Dept had arrived. A petrol head even as a very small child, I was more interested in the van they had arrived in, rather the monumental excitement of having a telephone installed.

The van in question was the ubiquitous Dodge Spacevan, you know the type, with its body seemingly much wider than the wheels. Originally introduced way back in 1960 as a Commer, these funny looking vans were the chosen packhorse for most of the public utility firms, eventually earning a non official title of ‘The Telecom Van’.

How most of us will remember the Spacevan – On GPO engineering duties complete with Buzby vinyl on the side.

Once, it seemed they were everywhere be it parked up near railway sidings as a BR crewbus or even parked up down your street on TV detector van duties with a pair of fed up men sipping coffee from a flask whilst filling out their Vernons coupons. Powered by a Rootes-sourced 1500cc (latterly enlarged to 1725) engine and transmission, they were also quite a popular camper van conversion too.

Early versions were prone to engine failure partly due to such a poor top speed that could only just reach 70mp/h, this lead to the larger engine option and the fitting of an electrically operated overdrive device similar to the MGB. The later power units were nothing more than a low compression de-tuned version of the Hillman Hunter unit, but the compact design of the cab lead to major servicing problems.

In order to squeeze every inch of available space from the bodywork, the engine was placed under the floor between the two front seats, routine servicing would be done via a hatch in the floor simply enough, but major attention wasn’t easy. To remove the engine the whole front suspension and subframe needed to be dropped to gain access, but the GPO/BT found that engine changes could be done much quicker by removing the windscreen and front seats, then lifting the engine through the nearside door using a hydraulic engine crane. The vans also tended to be hard on the front brakes and wheel bearings in arduous service, while the lever arm dampers lasted around six months if they were lucky.

A later Dodge branded Spacevan on Payphones duties – oh such happier simple times indeed.

Following the Rootes group being absorbed in to Chrysler in the 70s, the American concern then sold this division to the PSA group and so the title changed again to Dodge. Amazingly, the spacevan lumbered on until 1983 having never being a threat to the Ford Transit or Bedford CF. Once seemingly everywhere and now just a fond memory of a simple British van in a much simpler era when Buzby told us all to make someone happy with a phone call…

Just make sure its after 6.00pm though – its cheap rate then don’t you know?

Mike Humble


  1. Yup they used to be everywhere!I think they used model designation Commer PB? I would like to know how many were actually bought by private companys. They were pretty dire vans. I remember driving a diesel one (Perkins I think) It was dreadfull. Handled like a pig on stilts,
    A strange notei would like to add! I find to the consternation of most enthusiasts, that the Jag E Type styling is a bit fussy. Especially the way the wheels are tucked under the body. Yes it reminds me of a Commer van!

  2. They had such a narrow track compared to the width of the vehicle – worse on camper conversions, with wider coachwork at the back. I wonder what they were like going round corners!

  3. Amazingly I don’t recall these being notorious for rolling over as you would expect such a vehicle to do with such a comparatively narrow track.

    Slow performance and limited space would have meant that these were dead in the water following the advent of the Transit in 1965 but the government, in numerous guises, was loyal to the hilt in their choice of vehicle. Remember the police insisting on buying Maestros in the mid-nineties anybody?

    • The reason the post office etc stuck with the Spacevan, was its much smaller turning circle than the transit.

  4. I remember as a young child in the early 70’s my friends dad had a motorhome version if this van after trading in his transit motor home, always thought they looked a bit ugly but still liked going out in it!

  5. I remember our Cub pack hiring a brace of these (Commer version IIRC) in the early 1980’s to transport us from Cambridgeshire to Rydal Hall in the Lake District. It was the most miserable journey of my life, and seemed to go on forever. They only had bench seats (wooden slats) along the sides of the van and no form of restrait to stop you sliding into the cub sitting next to you.

    The Transits that we used in subsequent Scout trips were a revelation in comparison.

    • What you had was a “contractor” van, you could have forward facing seats as well. Our school transit came with those side benches and the had the advantage as not only could the whole rugby team fit in it, but your kit bags could go under the bench.

  6. The Standard Atlas and Morris J2 had the same narrow track and short wheelbase configuration – manouevrability must have been considered more important than stability.

    The 250JU which replaced the J2 and Atlas sorted out the problem with a longer wheelbase and wider tracks, but retained the J2’s rather narrow body.

    The Commer looks to be inspired by Volvo’s 1956 Snabbe light truck – the mad one with the V8 left over from “Philip”, their aborted Kaiser Manhattan clone.

    • It wasn’t a car chassis but used car suspension both ends.. Hillman Minx at the front and the wider Humber Hawk axle at the rear. The handling was better fully-laded as the c of g moved back to the wide rear axle from the narrow front one.

  7. Another problem was the short wheelbase. I once saw a coachbuilt camper fail to gain traction when trying to reverse up a moderate gradient, as the vast majority of its weight shifted to the front wheels. Not sure if a coachbuilt aluminum body was lighter or heavier than standard steel. Either type must have been lethal if you’d braked hard going downhill with a bend or camber to add interest.

    Wasn’t the narrow track a result of penny-pinching by utiliting a Commer Cob axle, or something similar?

    Its natural competitor was probably the BMC J4, but the dreadful Commer/Dodge still appealed to price-driven groups such as schools and clubs after the J4’s demise. In the late 1970s our school held a sponsored walk to fund a minibus purchase. The proceeds fell well short of a CF or Tranny, so instead the local dealer almost gave us the World’s most undesirable landmark from its stock: a pea green Commer-badged crewbus, several months after the Dodge re-branding. Those park bench seats were torture on a short trip, and worse for longer. And the 35ish mph motorway hills meant it was a very long trip.

  8. What was the turning circle like, if the front wheels were behind panelling? Would turning hard while hitting a bump cause the wheel to make contact with the body?

    Did Renault sell them as Dodges for a while after they took over the Rootes/Chrysler van and truck operations?

  9. Like so many vehicles featured on this site the Commer PB/Spacevan’s biggest crime was living far too long. It may look a little unusual now with its enclosed wheels and narrow track but it’s popularity in the early sixties when introduced proves it was an ideal vehicle for the needs of the times, most would be used for town and city duties so roadholding and top speed would not be top priorities. It was also one of the first light commecials (after VW Type2) to feature a huge range of body types demonstated by the numerous Corgi version that were made. The fact that it was purchased in large quantities over such a long period by the utility companies, post office, and police with there demanding procurement processes proves the Commer must have been reliable and right for the times.

  10. According to Wikipedia, the PB suspension came from a Humber car.
    Rolls-Royce Derby used Commer minibuses as an inter-site minibus in the early 1980’s. There were rarely more than three passengers per bus, so they closed the service down.
    #5: Police Maestros: they were largely diesels, and very good cars by then. Probably very cheap, too.

  11. I used to have an ex-BT Dodge version, it was slow and thirsty. Handling wasn’t an issue as you couldn’t get enough speed up to make it dangerous. I fitted a head gasket whilst sat in the drivers seat, most comfortable one I’ ve ever done. I remember that the wipers would bat snow between each other like a slow motion game of ping (pong?) If the suspension was from a Humber luxury wasn’t much to talk about back then.

  12. You can have alot more fun with one of these with an engine transplant. The 1592/1725cc engine was available from 66hp to 107hp (H120 tune) and the more powerful ones will drop right in to replace the anaemic low-compression version of the Audax engine (from memory a measly 7:1).
    Find a Humber Sceptre III with a G-series gearbox and you’ll get a nice close ratio 6 speed to go with – assuming of course than the g’box will fit, some modifications might be required.

    • Hmmm

      H120 from a Rapier would add speed, but having been in one of these doing an emergency stop while doing its 70ish top speed it may not be something you want to do.

  13. I “had” one of these when I was 19. Mine belonged to the school meals service and I delivered dinners from a central kitchen to small village schools.

    Great job – my own company car! But it was a shocker to drive. It drank petrol – in the middle of one of the 70s petrol shortages and bits broke, like the clutch, wheels studs came out when changing a flat etc. I suppose as it was needed 5 days a week there was no time for maintainable.

    Shocking handling although a box back with metal roller shutters and meals for several 100 probably didn’t help.

    As I remember it it did have a good turning circle.


  14. I remember on the way home from school circa 1977 seeing one of these things make an emergency stop when an errant cyclist pulled in front. The rear wheels left the ground then crashed down filling the interior of the van with dust! Later during my British Rail days they had a fleet of these all on S plate. Rumour had it that the vans where originally a consignment destined for Iran. The Iranians took one look at the poor build quality and refused to accept them. BR then supposedly picked them up for next to nothing.

    • I doubt it, the Iran was busy building the Hunter at the time, might have more to with the growing political unrest before the Irainian revolution.

  15. To say that the handling wasn’t great is an understatement. As a BT trainee, I nearly scared myself to death going round a left-hand corner in the wet and dropping the NSR wheel into a drain cover, what with the rear track being wider than the front. I thought I was a gonner.

    They were ‘optimised’ for 3-abreast seating, and with the gear lever being very close to the dash, I remember frequently cracking my knuckles putting it into 3rd. And then there was the handbrake which I seem to remember was to the right hand side of the driver’s seat. It would nearly castrate you as you got out if you forgot it was there, and on one occasion, catching it thus caused the handbrake cable to snap. Facing downhill.

    My friend drove a (fibre-glass extension) high roof version. Just what it needed, an even higher centre-of-gravity.

    Just being reminded of these vans fills me with emotion. Mainly hate for the flipping things!


  16. Until I saw this I’d forgotten all about the Commer.

    What a childhood memory – they used to be such a common sight!

  17. I recall them being used as postbuses – I actually had a postcard of one in various UK locations. I was aged 8 at the time, I should add!

  18. There was an early one at the NEC classic car show a couple of years back. It was done out in Rootes livery. I think it was an ex Rootes group rally support vehicle :0

  19. I recall them well, in my eyes they looked kinda neat back then and better than the Bedfords and BMCs they competed against. All this changed when I borrowed our company one to drive about 60 miles up the M5 to collect some special DIY stuff from Brum. Would have been mid 70s. I think the best way to describe it would be pedestrian. Admittedly I was not familar with van driving and the experience is indelibly written in my memory. Progress was dictated by three things. Power/Gearing, Noise, and Wind direction.
    Seemed very low geared (OK around town……but not for M.Ways). To keep moving meant maximum revs, which just made a noisy cab noisier. I recall regular downshifts being needed even when empty on the M.Way. Aerodynamicsof a brick, I dodnt think I have ever driven anything that was more wind affected, gusty head winds felt like hitting a wall. Crosswinds and trucks rushing by were a real adventure. The journey seemed to go on forever, I think touching 50 was a real adventure and limited by noise tolerance, gradients and wind.

    But it did the job and I still think it was the best looker of the time.

  20. Great article.

    So evocative of times past – an era with 3 tv channels, spangles, raleigh choppers and Wimpy bars.

    Give me my Starbucks, smartphone and, If I need a van, a Transit or Vivaro anyday

  21. The church I was part of in the 70s had a couple of K reg versions of these as minibuses. To be fair to them they were pretty reliable, and most of us on the youth group had happy memories of them. Yes, they would bunny-hop on heavy braking when empty, and the road holding was naff. One of ours had wider tyres which helped but they did rub on full lock. I remember my first drive of one when I was old enough. I just couldn’t get on with the through-the-floor pedals.

    What relief when the church replaced them with series 2 transits. From the ridiculous to the sublime.

  22. Eww, I’ve never liked these. They used to freak me out as a kid, because with those half hidden wheels, they scurried around like cockroaches!

  23. I have a couple of memories of these vehicles.
    1) As a child I was a keen collector of Corgi toys (I thought they were so much better quality than Dinky). One year my Dad bought me a Corgi Converter Set which was based on the Commer van. There were two chassis/cab units (one white & one red if I remember correctly), then (I think) four alternative backs, a milk float, a pick up, a plain panel van and (I think) an ambulance which could be fitted to either base.
    2) The second memory id from the late 1970’s when I was out in the snow thih my mate in his Hillman Imp Californian. We rounded a corner to find a Yellow British Telecom Commer van planted firmly in the ditch. We stopped to check that the driver wasn’t hurt, but found the van empty. Back into the Imp and around the next corner and we found a Transit ambulance nose down in the ditch! They’d picked up the poor BT employee but only got as far as the next corner before binning it! The ambulance driver made the excuse that the (3 litre V6 & automatic) Transit was difficult to control in these conditions wearing wellingtons!
    Fortunately, enough by-standers turned up and we managed to lift the ambulance out and send them on their way…

    • I have that same Corgi set, plus a Corgi Film van, with a roof mountable man and camera.

      I also have a matchbox milk float in herited from my dads model railway.

  24. I remember taking a camper conversion of one of these out for a test drive after it had been (bizzarly) taken in as a PX at the Rover dealer I worked in the early 90s. As a student at the time I thought it might make a cheap and fun vehicle to travel round europe. My distinct recollection was that the steering wheel was not mechanically connected to the front wheels and the performance was hopeless (not that you wanted to drive it at any speed with such vague steering). This 5 mile experience made me instantly abandon any thoughts of buying it!

  25. When I was a little boy, maybe 3 or4, there was no profession more glamourous than to work for Post Office Telecommunications, drive a Commer van, and spend my days doing mysterious but technical things in a stripey red and white tent or in holes in the ground.

    I later had experiences of being transported in Commer minibuses- I still remember the noise which was peculiar to that van (and not the Hillman cars that also used that engine). These vans seemed rather dated even by mid 1970s standards, and were not reliable, but I don’t recall them being any more uncomfortable than the rather loud and crashy Mk1 Tranny 1.6 SWB that I also got to ride in- that van was excessively noisy when you consider that unlike the Commer, the engine was not mounted within the passenger envelope. That Tranny wasn’t any faster either, as staff were instructed not to take it above 45mph!

    I wonder if the Spacevan had any commonality with a very similar looking contemporary Peugeot van, so beloved (well, probably not) of the French Gendarmerie?

  26. A red one appears at Dover Eastern Docks in Diamonds Are Forever, the scene where Miss Moneypenny is dressed up as a customs officer. Presumably this is not the mode of transport Bond used to drive from London to Dover.

  27. Whilst on our annual holiday to Skye back in May, we saw two camper versions of the Spacevan. One a two tone white over yelloe. The other a ‘battleship’ grey. Both on the M6 travelling south. The one appeared to have no trouble cruising in the 60’s.

  28. Back in 1983, I was given a ‘new’ Bedford HA van. When I went to pick it up it was leaning to one side, resplendent in a Yeading respray in glorius yellow. The ‘Yeading’ respray was a large BT owned garage facilty nr Heathrow where it was reported that a complete blow over would be internally charged at £80.

    The wheelarches would be sprayed silver, including grass, mud and oil. The entire outside would then be painted yellow, and then the bumpers would be brush painted silver over the yellow overspray..or in the case of the newer Maestro vans, black.

    Anyway, this HA was deathtrap, and luckily I managed to explode the gearbox at around 75mph on the downhill M25 ramp at Reigate.

    So I was given a Commer PB minibus. This was marginally better than the HA.

    The PB Spacevan was a time warp, just like the HA. As discussed earlier, the gearlever used to end up chafing your knuckles on the dashboard when going into 3rd.

    Never do a handbrake turn in a Spacevan – it works on the front wheels.

    We used to race our Itals, HAs and my Spacevan to cafe every morning. The Ital drivers always won, the HAs always got there in time for lunch.

    I remember racing behind another Commer one morning when he slid sideways and just touched the kerb. The van instantly flipped over on its roof, and proceeded to barrel roll across the road. The ladders on the roof bent in the middle, all the glass popped out and there were cable clips everywhere.

    Many Commers ended their days on their roof. Another friend clipped a kerb and nearly tipped over – but by seesawing the wheel managed to get it on all four wheels.

    In the old days (!) overhead telephone wires used to be uninsulated pairs slung across the road. There would be insulator pots on the house and the pole, and a ‘pair’ of wires would be separated by a 3-4″ airspace.

    In high winds these could all get tangled up, causing crossed lines. The prescribed way of dealing with this involved climbing poles dropping wires, relaying them etc etc. one of my colleagues on maintenance had a much quicker way. This would involve the only part of a Spacevan that was worth having. A predecessor of now well known Hope Safe T Bar, BT Commers were fitted with a massive chequerplated step bumper.

    He used to reverse his van into the telegraph pole at speed, causing a massive twang in the wires. A few goes and it was usually sorted, and 10 hours booked.

    The most irritating thing about the Commer was the stink of petrol in the cab, especially just after the engine was turned off. Why anyone would want to restore one of these heaps is beyond me. Even when they were nearly new, 18% of the fleet was off the road with rust problems.

    There was one upside, their round shape made them ideal to paint with a roller. Our local BT workshop used to paint them with one, but always in a different shade of yellow. BT was like that, they couldn’t even buy their own paint in the right colour.

  29. I had three of these one a petrol and two diesels over a period of about five years and back then when fuel was a lot cheaper i just loved them , Had a CF2 after which was ok with an opel engine , then in 95 i went and purchased a brand new smily grill tranny and i can only say that yellow tranny was the worst van iv ever bought .Althogh iv had trannys after and now into a movano.

  30. I am surprised by the negative comments. We drove ours twice round. the clock including many trips to Poland. I am 6’1 and my wife is 5’0 and yet you didn’t have to move the driving seat. The steering was light and precise compared to the Bedford Dormobile that it replaced. Changing engines was no problem at all. Lift off gearbox from beneath and then lift out engine with a crane through the passenger door. Yes, the handbrake worked on the front wheels which gave you a powerful brake even when there was no load in the back. The reason for the narrower track at the front was that when reversing you never got stuck against the kerb. If it hadn’t rusted irreversibly I would have kept it for ever. We put in lots of sound insulation and centre seat (with seat belts) at the front. We also towed a trailer everywhere. Sure if you accelerated hard when on full lock you could lift an inside rear wheel but I find it really difficult to accept that it was unstable at all. For a short while we then had an Austin J4 for which I will never forgive BL. The heaviest steering of any vehicle ever made.

  31. I was in a rock band in the early 80s and the space van took us everywhere..so many stories but great if unreliable van!

  32. I used to drive one of these for PO Telecommunications in Edinburgh and they were so much better than the Morris JU diesels we had previously

  33. The ‘Spacevan’ name only arrived with the Dodge branding and plastic grille.. There was never a Commer Spacevan, Commers being called by the model code, PA, PB etc.

  34. I learned to drive in a commer version in 1965, it had a very odd gear change that involved twisting the gear lever to get third gear.A lot of crunching was involved.

  35. Had a few in the past and I would like to have one today. Had no problems, unlike what has been mentioned above. The 1725 engine and gearbox was bulletproof. One frost plug was leaking one day, but to take the engine out it was easy. Just let the engine down to ground. Not up, that is a crazy idea. It didn’t use muck petrol either but I did mostly keep under 60 miles/h.
    Anyone who know about a good one?

  36. Last Saturday evening I saw ‘Lady In The Van’ – one of the vans she had – and the one she died in – was a Commer . ‘ Brought back memories for me as I had one C. 1969 – 1979 – the only vehicle I purchased new for myself – from ‘Keith Steel Motors’ in Bronte Road, Bronte (Sydney Australia). The main attraction was – it seemed to me at least – the best looking vehicle available at that time(including the sun shade over the windscreen) + as far as I remember, the only van of that style available then with automatic transmission. The low loading floor was also ideal, enabling large and heavy items (e.g. large refrigerator size) to be tilted and lifted in by one person(I traded in a Mini Minor van – a disaster of a commercial vehicle)

    It drove well enough and the narrower front wheel base was only a problem once – a narrow drive between 2 buildings had a channel to guide vehicle wheels – helpful for a conventional vehicle but …….. The body required a high lift to remove the wheels but the supplied jack was excellent.

    Going down hill on a busy curved road on a wet day and braking inappropriately caused a calamitous spin but although it could probably happen to any vehicle – it never did for me but then I learnt better techniques.

    The vehicle somehow survived though had a nasty habit of regularly blowing head gaskets and the first engine broke a con rod > punching a hole in the block. The transmission also failed fairly early in its life and the repair lasted much longer than in its first life.

    At one stage the van had to be fully inspected at the government vehicle inspection station – I was asked to drive the van and successively – originally 2 runs – requested to apply the foot brake and then the hand brake – I was made to do the latter 3 times and the tester got angrier with me each time – the vehicle ‘dipped’ oppositely to a conventional rear hand brake vehicle. I then explained the front wheel hand brake (actually the Australian Standard refers to this as an emergency brake.) The bigger problem was an oil leak between the engine and transmission – originally causing test failure – after cleaning the whole assembly I stopped just before returning to the inspection station for a re-test and gave it another wipe over – it survived. The steering wheel horn button failed early and I had mounted a new one to the dash – that also caused much rule referral and head scratching before being passed.

    From memory there was a crank handle aperture in the front bumper and scuttle (?) to pass a crank handle through and the engine was equipped with the appropriate ‘dog’ – unusual for a vehicle of that era – although a crank handle was not supplied. (I remember seeing people crank cars in the 1950’s – occasionally breakages occurred – arms that is.) On the other hand the transmission – a Borg warner unit I think – (uniquely ?) enabled the engine to start when run down hill at a good speed. The selector lever was on the dash – very convenient – but its cable linkage to the transmission was troublesome. The side cargo door had substantially protruding hinges which occasionally ‘caught’ inappropriately.

    I had a third seat in the middle and lifting it facilitated engine access even when moving.

    Many were used as bread delivery vans in Sydney and Gilbert and Barker – who I worked for in the 60’s had a big fleet of cab – chassis units fitted with a mobile workshop rear – used primarily when their Gilbarco petrol bowsers were converted to decimal. I hadn’t seen one for several years but recently came across a camper version in Bondi Beach.

    I guess fleet buyers chose and checked carefully but on the whole I found the Commer van unreliable. What a contrast to vehicles today which seem the opposite.

    Stuart Fox

  37. They had Hillman Hunter tail lights, just placed vertically, as I recall. Did a HG on Commer van about 1990, the gasket was only tin! No other material on the gasket. The engine was the Rootes CI headed 1500/1725 of course out of the Hunter. Was the alloy headed 1725 ever used on them? That may have given a Transit a scare.

  38. Oh and the name change to Dodge was not a PSA move. Chrysler dropped the Commer name about the same time they dropped the Hillman make. Was the same with the Simca vans, got rebadged as Dodge. Hard to say what was more ridiculous, a Dodge badge on a Simca or a Commer. The Simca vans ended up with a Talbot badge in the end.
    For all of Chryslers efforts in Europe they only got the Chrysler name on their products in the last couple of years (apart from the C180/2l), the most laughable was the Chrysler Hunter, for one year only then PSA ended the flight of the Arrow.

    Its a wonder Chrysler UK didn’t make a van out of an estate Hunter, seems strange. I guess they had the Simca vans to sell, not very well though.

  39. @Pat

    The Hunter / Avenger estate being a 5 door did not lend itself, I understand an Avenger van was planned as one of the many spin offs in the late 60’s but killed when Chrylser stopped investment in the UK in 1970.

    The better solution would have been the Pick Up developed for Iran, although looking at the one I saw in Coventry Museum it had many rust traps that probably was not an issue in that market.

    They did have in the late 70s and early 80s, a Sunbeam with a Simca like van box grafted on the back running out of whitley, but I guess if it ever did get off the ground was killed by the PSA take over.

  40. Regarding the Transit ambulance in the ditch: I once delivered a similar machine to Blaenavon in South Wales. After I delivered it, I was told that the speedo’ under-read by 15%! Clearly illegal, and a great help for visiting ditches…

  41. I worked for British Rail (Saltley MPD) in the early 1970s driving these as traincrew buses around the Midlands. I loved them. However, in the summer there were always few takers for the middle front seat (on top of the engine)! Gear lever seemed about 10 feet long and selecting a gear often involved swinging the lever around and praying. Handbrake on the right – often caught your trouser pocket as you exited the drivers seat. But I remember a robust engine; precise steering; a very reliable and practical vehicle. Looked bloody horrible tho!!

  42. @Pat

    I believe the later Petrol Camper Vans used the 1725 engine out of the Hunter GL (single carb).

    I have red of projects putting in the Holbay engine out of the Rapier 150 / Hunter GLS.

  43. I never saw the police use these Commer vans, even if they were cheaper than Ford and Bedford vans. Maybe the terrible handling, complicated maintenance, awful performance and lack of reliability put them off. I do recall a Dodge version being used on a school trip to the Lake District and it was a noisy, uncomfortable heap that struggled above 40 mph. Mercifully after this experience, the school always insisted on Ford, Bedford or Leyland minibuses.

  44. I remember as a boy in the late 80’s a Luton version speeding down our road. The horrid kid next door but 1 kicked a football in its path, the driver slammed his brakes on and it actually did an ” endo” rear wheels lifting off the Tarmac! That is the truth

  45. Hi just come across this site…
    I remember driving one these as a company fleet vehicle (DODGE face lift)for a local building firm,this was fitted with a diesel engine and would cruise comfortably at 70-80 MPH mine at done at least 200,000 before retirement(yes same engine/same driver) as we had our own fitters work shop being a large builders I recall at least 30 or so Commers/Dodge vans/Mini buses on the fleet anyone from luton will recall the Grey Handshake vehicles.
    This vehicle passed on to private hands.. Regular oil changes was most important in these vans due to oil sludging.
    Yes it was possible to brake and get the rear wheels of the tarmac,i managed it a few times my little trick was to put cement bags over the arches,this did help and recall ripping the pockets of my trousers on the right handed handbrake also can anyone remember the cold start light on diesels you had to wait up to 10 seconds before you start it and to stop the engine the little pull lever lower left to engine bay,these later on change to electric cut out but always failed after a while so our company would then replace it with the manual cut out..I then went on to BEDFORD CF2 and then the FORD Transit…
    But the PB being HAPPY MEMORIES….

    Thanks for taking time to read this as I enjoyed reading the replys and thought I would like to tell you of my experience of this vehicle…

  46. I had three of these vans in the 1980s 2 Dodge 1 Commer in my opinion great vans far superior to the Ford Transit I had which had very heavy steering.

  47. There was a Talbot van in the early eighties that was based on the Simca 1100 and a few were bought by the local council as they were cheap and the local dealer did them a good deal. Also Copeland Borough Council used bright yellow like British Telecom, although they never used Commers. ( Their fleet was quite interesting in the early eighties, as I used to take my bike into Whitehaven to look into their yard. Along with a couple of Talbots, they had Morris Marina pick ups, Mk 2 Escort vans, Ford Transits and a mayoral Austin Ambassador).

  48. In the late 60s/early 70s I worked in a filling station that was an AVIS truck rental agency and we had a few of these Commer vans. House movers loved them for their low loading heights and the side doors which the equivalent Fords and Bedford’s didn’t have.

  49. In a Leyland-Rootes merger scenario, it would have been fascinating to see whether they could have developed a similar low-cost Sherpa analogue out of the Commer FC / Spacevan, Standard Atlas and any other available parts from the combined passenger car range.

    Did wonder though whether Rootes on the own (as opposed to the later Simca Alpine-based 1975 Simca Van / Fourgon project by Heuliez) had any plans to develop a suitable replacement for the Commer FC from either Arrow/Hunter or the Avenger, outside of the planned Avenger van and Hunter-based pickup.

    The same goes with Standard-Triumph’s own pre-BL merger plans to replace the Standard Atlas, drawing upon the mechanicals of either the FWD 1300/1500 or RWD Toledo/Dolomite and 2000/2500.

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