The Ford Thames 300E is a car-derived multi-purpose van manufactured by Ford from 1954 to 1961. The Thames name was given to all available sizes of commercial vehicle produced by Ford in Britain from the 1950s through to 1965.
The 300E was introduced in July 1954 and based on the Ford Anglia / Prefect 100E saloon range. It shared its body shell and 1172 cc side valve four-cylinder engine with the Ford Squire estate car versions of the line.
The body shell was optimised for use as a panel van rather than an estate with its two short passenger doors and shorter overall length than the saloons. Initially produced only as a single model with 5cwt (560 lb) load capacity, the range was later expanded with the introduction of Standard and Deluxe 7cwt (784 lb) variants. All three offered the same 66-cubic-foot load volume.
Before production ended in April 1961, an impressive 196,885 Ford Thames 300E vans were made, of which 139,267 were of this 5cwt example.
If you’re of a certain age (as I am), you may recall (as I do) the array of light commercial vans of the 1950s and 60s…the ubiquitous Morris Minor Van, the Hillman Husky and of course the Vauxhall Viva-based Bedford HA – workhorses and ‘Builders of Britain’, one and all. Perhaps eclipsing each of those was the Ford Thames 300E van, a fine 5cwt example of which is offered here.
One of the last of its kind to roll off the production in early 1961, 8919 PU received its first registration in January of that year and has been kept by just three owners in the past 60 years. The first owner had it for 28 years and put only 33,000 miles on the clock during that time.
Its second keeper (not owner, as no new registration was made) was Ford main dealer Gates of Woodford, who acquired the van in the early 90s and after conducting a full nut-and-bolt restoration, deployed the van for promotional purposes. A comprehensive photo album depicting all the stages of the restoration is available, a selection of which are in the accompanying photographs.
The current and second registered owner acquired the van 22 years ago in December, 1999 and has also deployed it as a promotional tool in recent years. Thanks to more modern times, all of the signage is vinyl and may easily be removed by the next owner.
Along with the V5C (which records just one former keeper), the car comes with a box-file of paperwork covering its provenance over the years and a photo album detailing the comprehensive work painstakingly undertaken by Gates of Woodford during its restoration.
Much service and maintenance work has been carried out over the years by its current owner to keep this iconic British workhorse in tip-top condition.
Intended to transport goods from one locale to another, the utilitarian yet functional interior presents in very good condition, considering its restoration was performed nearly 30 years ago.
The instruments are original and in working order. The seats, sun visors, door cards and brightwork fittings are in very good condition, as is the durable and full-width rubber matting.
The exterior paintwork again presents in very good condition and is finished in cream and blue, reminiscent of the mid- 20th century.
All of the van’s brightwork is in good condition. However, some pieces are experiencing light pitting which could be expected of any vehicle as it stares its seventh decade dead in the eye.
The front, rear and side sills of the van are blemish-free, as are the under-sills of the doors. Its overall condition highlights the attention to detail and quality of finish given at the time of its restoration.
A cursory glance down each flank of the van reveals no evidence of damage and the front number plate and valence – for all their vulnerability – remain blemish free. Both front and rear light lenses are clear and show no hint of the sun-bleached fogging usually associated with a vehicle of this age.
There are a few rust bubbles under the right rear rain channel and it must be noted that the pair of rubber door seals are no longer fit for purpose (pictured) and require replacement. They are inexpensive items and may be obtained at Pop Parts Plus, Alfreton, Derbyshire.
At the photo location, the van started at the first task and once steady, ticked over sweetly with that age-distinctive four-pot burble emanating from the exhaust.
Repositioning the car for these photographs, the van started first and every time, the gearbox engaged smoothly and the clutch transferred power with no drama, requiring a just gentle rev to get underway.
Online records show that the van underwent its last MoT in September, 2008 at 37,115 miles, which it passed with one minor advisory. In the last 13 years, the van has been driven just over 1,600 miles.
For those wondering why the van has a tow hitch fitted, the owner used to tour with a small promotional trailer. So, now you know.
For many years, owning and maintaining small commercial vans was a particularly niche pastime within the ‘old-vehicle’ community. However, in recent years, things have changed somewhat and interest in light commercial vehicles has increased exponentially as more salvaged examples come to market. Amongst a myriad of reasons, rarity is likely the leading cause.
Few light commercials get treated well when new and many rarely survive into middle age, let alone old age as with this fine Ford Thames 300E 5cwt example.
With more than 139,000 models manufactured, you are sure to find a tangible number of Ford Thames 300E 5cwt vans scattered around the British Isles. However, after more than 60 years since it rolled off the Dagenham production line, it is most unlikely that you will find one in such remarkable condition as offered here.
G’won, pop in a cheeky bid – you know you want to.
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1961 Ford Thames 300E 5cwt van
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