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Austin 8 Van.

Bob Glaister kindly permitted me to include this great old photograph of his father, who worked for the RAC (Royal Automobile Club), and his trusty 6cwt-rated Austin 8 van. The photo is believed to date to 1952 or thereabouts, the Austin 8 replaced an Austin 7 tourer. Bob's father (on the left) worked across south west Scotland, tending to RAC members' vehicles that had expired, either through mechanical malady, or perhaps due to an accident. The arrival of the van must have been a real godsend, given that it could carry a great many more tools and spare parts in its 82 cubic ft load area, than the previous Austin tourer. Rather than being signwritten, instead small signs indicating that it was an RAC Road Service vehicle, have been screwed to the van's side panels. It would appear that another small sign was also fitted over the windscreen. Note the "Town and Country" extra-grippy tyres fitted to the rear, driven, wheels.
RAC patrol drivers in the early 1950s wore uniforms such as this, complete with peaked hat. Given that these small vans wouldn't have been fitted with any form of heating as standard, I'm sure that this heavyweight attire would have been very welcome during the colder months, although must have restricted movement somewhat in the Austin's compact driving compartment, and when working on a stranded motorist's motor-car, especially in the remoter parts of Scotland.
Roadside call boxes would still have been the main method of communication at this time, in the days before mobile radio installations, mobile phones, and sat nav. Interestingly, it was in 1952 that rival breakdown service the AA, began to introduce two-way radio communication to their breakdown and service vehicles. It wouldn't be until 1957 that the RAC caught up with the AA in this regard. Motorcycle & sidecar patrols were also still common throughout the 1950s and well into the 1960s.
(Please click the thumbnail to view the full-size image.)
RAC Austin 8 van in the 1950s
Many thanks to Bob for permitting me use of his photo on the site. It's interesting not just because of the rarely-seen-nowadays Austin 8 van, but for the design of uniform that RAC employees were equipped with in the post-war years. I plan to add a page looking at the different types of RAC badge that have been issued over the years in the future.

Austin 'Eight' Van sales leaflet from 1945 (Publication no.1802).

This single-sheet flyer is from my own collection, a hand-written note in pencil dates the pricing update to mid-1945 - ie just as WW2 was coming to an end. Quite how available new vans would have been to potential purchasers at the time is questionable to say the least, but clearly Austin was quick to resume promotion of its vehicles.
Austin 8 van sales leaflet
The van was priced at 210 GBP, although a pencilled note mentions that a percentage reduction would be available to fleet owners. This price is typed onto a piece of paper stuck over the original price that was printed on the leaflet. A price of 250 GBP had been inked over. Hold the sheet up to the light and the original price of 120 GBP can be seen. I had thought that this might simply be a pre-war flyer that had been updated for use post-WW2, but in that case it wouldn't have had the following section: a printed note in red lettering advises that "owing to difficulties in obtaining supplies of certain materials due to the war, we are unable to guarantee the weight of this van to be under 12cwt, and within the 10 GBP tax." Either way, the price had almost doubled between whenever this was printed, and the date of the amended price (July 1945). Issues with the supply of raw materials may well have influenced the price difference. While aluminium was readily available after the war, steel - as used for the Austin's bodywork and chassis - was in much shorter supply.
To qualify to buy a new vehicle of any kind at the time, you had to prove an urgent need, otherwise you were left with the option of dusting down your pre-war vehicle, or trailing around the "bomb site" used car lots, to buy something to get you on the road, fuel rations allowing of course.
By the time the following fold-out brochure was produced, which incidentally folds out into a fantastic poster showing both 8hp and 10hp vans, the list price for the 8 van had risen to 245 GBP. These prices were for the 1947 model year. The slightly larger Austin 10 van was priced at 310 GBP.
Austin 8 & 10 van sales leaflet
The Austin 8 van measured 11' 10" in length, 4' 9" in width, and 5' 7" in height. Its 900cc sidevalve four-cylinder engine produced 27 bhp at 4,400 rpm, fed by a single Zenith downdraught carburettor. The gearbox was a four-speed unit, with synchro on the top three ratios.
A quick search using the site search below will turn up quite a few references to Austin 8s (and the related 10) across the site. These include the following pages which may also be of interest ...
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