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Homepage. This page: Classic black & white photos of different A40 panel vans in 1950's England.

Austin A40 Devon Van.

Nicely signwritten light commercial vehicle, early 1950s.

Another photo from Les' infinite archive of old vehicle images opens this page, featuring the 10cwt panel van version of the popular Austin Devon. The basic A40 chassis was used across a number of A40 derivatives - A40 Sports (convertible), Dorset (2dr saloon), Devon Van / Pickup / Countryman / Saloon / Convertible, and went on to be used under the later A40 Somerset's bulbous coachwork. All Devons are rare now, and vans are keenly sought after for their advertising potential, even 50+ years after they were built at Longbridge.
A40 Devon 10cwt van
In the 1950s, coachbuilders really put their creativity to good use with their novel ideas for advertising on commercial vehicles. Nowadays, vinyl cut lettering is all the rage, but back in the days of black & white and powdered egg, it was the combined efforts of coachbuilders and gifted signwriters that brought colour to the roads of an otherwise grey era, a time when Britain was putting itself back together after having been nearly flattened by the Luftwaffe.
This A40 shown above has been liveried in the colours of Fibrosine, a cream aimed at those suffering with rheumatic woes. In addition to the smart signwriting, an enterprising type has fitted a tube of this handy balm on the A40s roof to really catch the eye, and passing bluebottles no doubt. Early Devon vans had the enclosed rear spats over the back wheels as found on early factory pickups, whereas they later went over to this shape of rear arch, reminiscent of the style that would be adopted by the designers of the later A55/A60 commercials. More information on A40 vans can be found in the classic vans section.
If anyone has more old photographs of fabulous signwriting applied to vans, please send them in and I'll feature them here too. Hopefully, images like this will help to inspire people restoring old vans to paint them in a similarly elaborate way.

2. Another late example of A40 van.

The second A40 van photo again features a late example of the type, although unlike the van above it doesn't sport an interesting paint job - although it does appear to be finished in a three-tone paintscheme. PGC 306 was first registered in the London area, some time after June 1954, which tallies with the rear arch design evident in this picture. According to a note on the rear of this photo, it was "Charlie's van" and dates to 1962. I wonder who the lad in the background was, and what he was up to? Many A40s soon developed "droppy Devon doorhandle syndrome" and this one is no exception, despite being only a few years old. Note the 17" Town and Country tyres fitted to the rear rims.
(Please click the thumbnail to view full-size image.)
Another 10cwt Austin A40 van

3. Austin van being unloaded from a ferry.

Peter kindly sent this next scan over, found while rooting through some of his father's old negatives. It shows a 1950's A40 van (with windows added) dangling mid-air, while being loaded onto, or unloaded from, a car & passenger ferry at Mallaig in Scotland. The bulbous rear wheel spats usually found on early A40 commercials have been removed for the loading, yet despite this the cables are still shown pressing against the Austin's side panels. The heavy-duty wheel rims fitted to the commercial variant of the Austin A40 can clearly be seen in this shot.
An A40 being loaded onto a ship in the 1950s

4. A late A40 van and other classic motors.

Now, a riverside scene that sees a line-up of 1950's classics including a late example of Austin A40 van, identifiable by its later rear wheelarch style. The cars are parked up at J.Cooper's boat hire business, offering "Boats, Punts and Motor Punts". Brownie points to anyone who can identify the other cars in view - the nearest looks like a Rover, while the others remind me of 1930s/1940s Austins.
Another A40 van plus other cars
Return to Motoring Photographs Page 2.
More information on A40 Devons can be found here.

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