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Homepage. This page: Fordson E494C 5 cwt vans seen in the 1950s, beloved of hot rod fans today.
Original transport photographs
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1. Ford Thames E494C van

Les, who seemingly has an infinite personal collection of old transport photographs, sent in the first photograph shown on this page, a Thames 5cwt van in use by a showman, presumably in the 50s or 60s.
Ford Thames 5cwt E494C
This is the E494C version of Ford's 5cwt van range, the final incarnation of the sit-up-and-beg style 5 cwt panel van (a pickup version of the 5cwt wasn't offered by the factory) before the monocoque 300E came along a few years later.
The E494C was built from 1948 to 1954, replacing the (very similar) Fordson E04C van. Some had opening windscreens and a wiper mounted above the screen, whereas this one has a fixed screen, with wipers (plural) sited below the screen. Note the 'A Ford Product' badge affixed to the bonnet side grilles, same as those found on Thames-badged E83Ws and some larger Thames lorries, such as the ET6 and 4D. The E494C came equipped with the tiny lamps that were also fitted to the very basic 103E Popular saloons. Bumpers were an optional fitment on these small vans - this one looks to have been fitted with something from a much earlier saloon, perhaps a 7Y 'Eight' or 7W 'Ten'. Examples of the E494C are getting hard to find in good condition. Most were simply scrapped after leading a very hard life, while a small number went on to be preserved. Of these, many - in the US in particular - have been extensively modified into hot rods, with some conversions being more successful than others it has to be said. I wonder what happened to UPD 223? or who actually owned it? Did it end up being scrapped, or hacked about by someone with a penchant for V8 engines and tin snips? In the background is a hefty Scammell lorry, and some gallopers from a fairground ride. Thanks for sending the photograph in!

2. A Fordson 5cwt seen in Australia

In 2007 I received the photo shown below, showing a Fordson that spent its working life in Australia. Dennis emailed it over, asking if I could identify the model of van shown, and also gave permission for it to be shown here - "... my father owned this van in Geelong, Victoria, Australia in 1956-62. Thats me on the right.". Thanks for sending it over Dennis!
Fordson van

3. An 5cwt E494C van in London.

This street scene was captured on film at 3.30pm on 7th September 1954, as part of a review of congestion on London's streets. The location is Beak Street, close to the famous Carnaby Street. Nearest the camera is a 5cwt E494C van, registration NGX 374 (London, late 1952). At first glance I'd assumed this was a 103E Pop, but the small rear windows set into the van's rear doors can just be seen. The second Commercial license disc can also be seen in the van's windscreen, alongside the tax disc. Is that a Vauxhall parked behind the Ford?
The road surface has undergone a lot of work by its appearance, is the surface to the right of shot an example of the wooden block roads that existed in London at the time?
The Ford van is parked outside the Dairy Teas food store, so perhaps the owner has popped in for a few groceries. Alternatively, maybe he had an interest in microscopes, in which case he was no doubt perusing the wares in Deepees, a scientific supplies outlet. Note the hatted chap stood on the pavement near the Ford, perhaps considering a purchase from Dolores' millinery. I doubt that the young chap nearest the camera would have been in the market for a new bowler hat, it would have flattened his quiff.
(Please click the thumbnail to view full-size image.)
Ford 5cwt van in London
Or, perhaps more likely, the owner of the E494C could be found sat in the cafe opposite, downing a mug of tea, drawing slowly on a Churchman's Top Score cigarette, one of the many products on offer at this establishment.

4. A 1953 van, also in London.

This next street scene was captured on film at the same time as that shown above, 1954, in London. Driving towards the camera, presumably at a sedate pace, is a 1953 E494C van, registration NUC 711. Again the twin licence disc holder can be seen in the windscreen. The spare wheel, mounted on the passenger door, is present, as is a full-length roof rack, and what look like wooden strips, fitted to the van's roof, over the vinyl centre section. Parked either side of the street are all manner of now-classic vehicles. A pair of Hillmans are parked on either side of the road, close to the photographer, while further along on the left a curious-looking Riley can be seen. It's registration was PJ 2192, suggesting a registration date of 1931 or 1932. It isn't clear whether this is just a tourer fitted with a hideous windscreen assembly, or a special built up with parts from various sources. Behind the Riley is an L-Type Vauxhall Velox, and a further selection of interesting cars, plus a lone Bedford (?) lorry, parked outside the Curzon Hotel.
To our right, behind the Hillman Minx, is an imposing pre-war Wolseley (with roof rack), with a tired-looking Riley (registration SN 5833) behind that. The Riley was a long way from its original home, the registration suggesting that it originated from Dunbartonshire - note the lack of nearside headlamp lens.
Another E494C van in London

5. Another '53 Fordson.

Emails containing interesting old photos continue to arrive. This next shot, kindly sent over by Law, shows his 1953 Fordson registration RKX 212. Modifications include an extra spot lamp fitted to the front wing, and "Noddy" turn signals, fitted to either side of the roof, just behind the doors (such lamps are often seen on 103E Pops also).
1953 van photo
Law adds:
"Can I say how interested I was to come across your website on the old Fordson vans. They formed a great part of my early life as I worked for a precision automobile engineering firm in Brighton from 1957 to 1964, who reconditioned engines and had a lot of experience in white-metalling the old Ford con-rods, re-grinding cranks, re-boring etc.
"I also learned to drive and took my test in the company E83W van. The examiner sitting on an un-fixed seat next to me and sliding into the windscreen when I did my emergency stop! but I still passed.
"My father also owned 2 E83Ws, one of them with a centre accelerator pedal which took a bit of getting used to! I went on to own a Fordson 5 CWT van RKX 212 (shown above). During the time I had it I had to re-condition and fit another engine due to the original one suffering a failed cam follower. My girlfriend (now my wife of 50 years) and I had many happy trips to the west country and other places in it, and look back on it with great affection.
Thanks for sending the photo and memories over :-)
Several more photos of Fordson & Thames 5cwt vans appear in a section of my 10cwt van website: www.e83w.co.uk

6. Ford van in Malaysia.

Yuan contacted me, hoping to discover whether the 5cwt van used by his family in the 1950s survives. Does anyone in Malaysia reading this recognise the van, or know of a way to establish whether it survives? The three photographs shown below reveal that it bore at least two different colour schemes in its life. In both cases, the signwriting is fantastic, and must have looked very eye-catching indeed. Its registration was A 9025.
The E494C van was in great condition at the time of this picture being taken.
E494C Van in Malaysia
Next, a head-on view of the van. The driver's side door mirror, twin semaphore indicator units mounted externally, and - unusual for a van - the chrome-plated front bumper, are clearly shown.
Front view
Finally, the same vehicle albeit in a totally different livery. It appears to be promoting a similar product or service to those in the first two photos. The open screen suggests a particularly hot day.
If anyone can help with the search for this van, please drop me a line. Thanks for sending the photos over.
Side view

7. An E494C van in The Netherlands.

Thanks to Ad in The Netherlands for the following photograph. His father bought the green E494C Fordson new in 1950, the year of this photograph. Shown in the photo are Ad himself (b1945), his younger sister Ella Fahner (b1947), and their mother Nanny Fahner-Veldhoen (1923-2000).
1950 Fordson van

8. And another, this time in Dun Laoghaire.

I'd love to have seen the entire 5cwt van in this photo from Dun Laoghaire, not far from Dublin, but alas only the rear quarter is visible. Still, there are a few details to make out. The Ford's owner ran a business in the town itself, and their name ended in "PES". A close look at the scan, shows that the centre section of the "E" in "PES" is forked like lightning, which makes me think that whatever they supplied and/or serviced, was probably electrical. The street they were situated on ended in an "s", most likely George's Street having checked on a map. Perhaps someone who grew up in the area, say during the 1950s or 1960s, can help pin an identification on the van's owners?
An E494C in Ireland

9. En route home from Wales.

Ford Thames E494C registration OVP 624 was captured on film by Stuart Marsh, en route home from a holiday in Barmouth in 1958. He posted these on Facebook, and with his permission I'm adding them in here too. The first captures the Pop-like frontal styling of the E494C van. OVP is a 1954 registration series from Birmingham, putting this Thames-badged van at about four years of age, at the time.
Ford Thames E494C van, 1953
The second shot shows the parked Ford close to an RAC road sign, announcing that England had been reached, and the Shropshire town of Shrewsbury was but 22.5 miles away. A dropside lorry can be seen wending its way past The Bridge Inn, hopefully avoiding the stationary Austin A35. Numerous pubs of this name are dotted about the locality, although most likely this building is the (much altered) Bridge Inn situated on the Chirk Road, close to Chirk Castle, to the west of the A5. Thanks for the photos Stuart.
Rear view of the van

10. A van at Cheddar Gorge.

Graham kindly emailed over the following snapshot of his father, stood with the family's Fordson van in Cheddar Gorge, during a holiday back in the 1950s. Observant viewers will spot the fixed windscreen, and two screen wipers mounted below it (some had an opening screen, see further up this page). Not all of the Fordson's registration plate is visible, although "UM" does signify that it was first registered in the Leeds area. In the background are a pair of Austin A40s (possibly with non-factory coachwork), and a lone Ford Pop. Graham first contacted me as he's writing a spy novel set in WW2, and was keen to establish the starting procedure for the larger E83W van. Having owned E83Ws myself, this was no problem.
Fordson 5cwt van at Cheddar Gorge
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