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Homepage. This page: A classic barn - or rather garage - find, in the shape of an Austin A35 van (AV5 series).

A one-owner A35 van.

Old commercial vehicles, both large and small, have always appealed, so when news of a one-owner-from-new Austin A35 van arrived, it definitely sounded like something to follow up. Even better, the van was stored just 10 miles or so from here. The lady who contacted me had tried offering it to various clubs, but she'd had no reply (how often have I heard that one!), and was therefore happy for me to go over and have a look. The A35 had been bought new by her uncle in 1959, and it had been in his ownership until his death a few years ago. His sister, who lived at the same house that the van had been delivered to 50+ years earlier, had hung on to the van, leaving it in the old wooden garage it had always known.
In the years since the wooden garage had been built, an extension had been added to the house, blocking the garage from the road. Access to the old garage was through the garage in the new extension - fortunately doors had been fitted to both ends of the new garage. Drive by and you'd never have known that this old garage was even there, hidden as it was away from sight. The A35 was last on the road in the late 1980s, confirmed by the tax disc in the window.
The A35 van as found

First look at the Austin van.

On arrival at the house, I was led around the back to the old, original, garage, from where the back end of a faded green A35 could be spotted. Time for a poke around all the usual A35 grot-spots (my now-wife ran an A30 some years ago). The spring hangers seemed good and sound, the bodywork had very little rust on it, and even the front ledge below the grille looked to be in good, sound order. The floors were like new, as was the boot floor and the front wings. A few areas of surface rust were obvious, and a couple of pin-prick-sized holes in the rear arch lip, but nothing at all to worry about. A peer underneath confirmed that the A35's owner had been a stickler for spraying everying in old oil, and it had obviously done the trick.
Invoice from Charles Clark of Shrewsbury
I wasn't able to fire up the engine, but I was told it had last run a couple of years earlier. The family had moved it out, in readiness for a club member to visit and check the van over. Sadly he didn't show up, so the car was driven back into the garage, where it remained. The 948cc engine turned over ok on the handle, so that was good enough for me. The interior was in amazing condition, hardly used in fact, suggesting that the mileage of 46k was probably genuine. From new, this van had been converted into an estate car, and the original purchase figure for the van in 1959 included the fitment of a rear seat conversion, in matching upholstery to that in the front. Again, this seat was in great condition, and I even found the original tailored covers for this extra seat - a real bonus, as is the decent condition of the original rubber floor mats. Although it would have been an even better "barn find" had the rear windows not been installed, this conversion makes it a more usable vehicle, and easier to see out of when reversing. A tired but original set of BMC mudflaps were still in place.

Inside the house, I was shown the paperwork that still survived for the A35. This included the original purchase invoice for the van, from Charles Clark & Son Ltd of Chester Street, in Shrewsbury, so it had always lived in the north Shropshire area. The purchase price for the basic van was 368 10s. The number plates were an extra 2 5s, and the rear seat conversion 6 15s. The optional heater added 11 to the price, as did delivery (4 5s) and licence (4 7s 6d). The total came to 397 2s 6d, paid for on the 1st September 1959. The address on the invoice was the address I was now standing at. A receipt, perhaps for the last service carried out on the Austin, was dated September 1985, and a V5 was also present.
We discussed a price, and I returned home while the owner gave it some thought. A few weeks passed, and then the news that they'd agreed to sell me the van. I'd almost given up hope on hearing about it to be honest, and I went and bought a Standard Companion, only then to be offered the A35 van, so I ended up with two classic estates.

Collecting the A35 from its long-term home.

With the help of friends locally, a plan was formed to retrieve the van. Armed with various tools, a battery, a footpump and one of those 5 tyre compressors, we set forth. All the van's tyres were on the soft side, but fortunately none of the brakes were sticking, so pushing it out into the daylight was no real problem. This enabled me to have a better look over the van, and fortunately it looked just as healthy as it had in the gloom of the garage. A few areas of paintwork had been attended to over the years, but no more than you'd expect to find on something this old.
Pushing the van out of the garage
Being such a light car, it didn't need much effort to roll it onto the driveway. With the Austin outside, I had a look around inside the garage for any spares that would suit the van. There weren't too many Austin parts, but some old BP Energol oil bottles were found amongst the stuff stored away in there. These will be preserved with the van.
On the driveway

Safely back home.

The A35 Van back home
With the van back home, it was possible to give it a quick wash, and then spend some time having a proper poke around to see what work will be required. A 12v battery confirmed that most of the lights still work, and it didn't take long for a spark to be present at the plugs. A drop of fuel and up she started, albeit briefly as I was using a temporary fuel feed. The pick-up pipe in the tank appears to be blocked. I dropped the tank off - none of the bolts were rusted fortunately - but I've yet to find a suitable way of clearing the obstruction in the pick-up. Compressed air hasn't worked, so it may require a hole cutting into the tank, in order that the pipe end can be accessed.
At some point in its history, the van has been fitted with reflective number plates - probably a period option in the late 1960's, but a bit modern for this old van I think. Fortunately one of the original, silver-on-black plates was found in the back, and it didn't take long for that to be re-instated. It even has the badge for the supplying dealer still on it, I just need to buy a suitable replacement for the front now. Another update is the fitment of flashing indicators, I think I'll leave them in-situ as they've been on it for so long now, plus the semaphore apertures have been blanked off.
A 1959 Austin A35
Update. In the end, a lack of time meant that a friend of mine took on the light re-commissioning that this little van requires. It was a shame to see it go, and even worse, I'll see it whenever I visit his place...
Click here to see some of the other old crocks I've had over the years. Original photos of a similar Austin A35 van, back in the 1960s, can be found here in the vintage photo gallery.

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