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Homepage. This page: Two original sepia photographs of a delivery driver with his 1930s' three-wheel van.

Three-wheeler delivery van.

In the late 1920s and well into the 1930s, a number of pint-sized three-wheel delivery vehicles were on sale, aimed at small-business owners looking to make low-cost local deliveries to their customers. Another advantage of these lightweight machines was that 16-year-olds could drive them. Two of Gregory Jackson's family photos show just such a machine, and with his permission I'm featuring them here. The first clearly shows the motorcycle-derived running gear on this particular vehicle. I'm inclined to think that it's an early example of a Raleigh three-wheeler van, the shape of the cab matches others I've seen photos of, alternatively it may be a Reliant.
(Please click the thumbnail to view the full-size image.)
The driver sat in his van
The registration, NJ 2019, was an East Sussex number dating to about 1933. The van looks to have lived a little by this point in time, suggesting that the photo dates to 1935 or thereabouts. The weather protection was minimal, but was still far preferable to pushing a hand cart around, or using a bicycle, to make deliveries from.
(Please click the thumbnail to view the full-size image.)
Rear view of the same delivery van
A young lady is shown in the above ageing photograph, which also features the compact van with both doors open. The circular window incorporated into both rear doors can just be made out, as can the tiny stop/tail/numberplate lamp, fitted alongside the registration plate. The payload of such a modest vehicle was in the region of 5cwt, so not a great amount but plenty adequate for most small businesses, looking to deliver products to outlying properties.
Perhaps the main rival to the vans of Raleigh and Reliant, was the James Handyvan. More information, and scans of a period James brochure, may be found on this page on OCC, while a photo of just such a machine - in use by a coal merchant throughout the 1930s and photographed early in WW2 - can also be seen here.
Return to Page 19 in the photographic archive, or visit the main index here.

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