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See Homepage. This page: Looking back at an unrestored Ford 7cwt van, found at rest in a lockup garage.
Barn finds - hidden classic cars

Ford 7cwt van "find".

Having an interest in old vans, when I heard of a firm of solicitors preparing to advertise a Ford Thames which needed restoring, the sensible thing to do was follow it up. This was a few years ago, and some of the finer details are a little sketchy now, but the gist of the story was that the company who was disposing of the van were dealing with it as part of a deceased estate. The chap to whom it had belonged had owned the Ford for many many moons, its later years spent sat quietly, out of use, in a concrete garage at the bottom of his garden. There was also a car in the adjoining garage, of which more anon.
A plan was hatched therefore for some friends and I to go and have a shufty at the garages' contents. No photographs of the vehicles were available, so we headed off with no real clue as to what we'd find, other than the briefest of descriptions given over the 'phone. Sandwiches were packed, and flasks topped up, and off we set.
I don't remember exactly where the van was located, but it was adjoining an active RAF airfield, and it took a good few hours to get there. Once introductions had been made, we trudged down the garden to go and inspect the contents of the garages. While perhaps not of the magnitude of Howard Carter and George Herbert's discoveries, we were excited about what we might find once the up-and-over garage door was raised. We were not to be disappointed, for there, blinking in the sunlight, was one of the most original little vans of the 1950s I'd ever seen. Speckled with rust it may have been, but what a little cracker nonetheless.
Unrestored Thames van
Evidently, this was quite a rare vehicle, especially in such magic un-touched condition. Between us we were already hatching plans for how it could be restored to the road, preserved as a time-warp example. Unusually for one of these 1950s Fords, it was too badly corroded. There were a few bubbles here and there on the upper surfaces, and the rear arch was a little frilly around the edges on the driver's side, but the panels that typically succumb to rot - for example the sills and the front suspension mountings - were as they'd left the factory. Certainly none of the panels would need replacement, just some gentle TLC and the attentions of an oily rag or two.
We rolled the two-tone van outside to have a better look, and it just looked even better. No gaping holes to be seen, even the gutter area was as perfect as you could hope to find on a van in such "barn find" condition. The old roof rack was a nice touch too. The tax disc in the window dated to the early 1990s, confirming that the van had been out of use for some time. I assumed that the late owner had fitted the 100E Prefect grille, in preference to the original item.
Frontal view of the Ford
So what to do? I seem to recall making an offer for the van, but as is often the case when dealing with solicitors, who are mindful of acting in their clients' best interests, nothing would be straightforward. They were not in a position to accept offers for the van, instead they insisted on a sealed bid being left. We took this as a sign that presumably other parties were interested too. I left a bid, somewhat over the upper estimate that the solicitors had in mind, hopeful that the day's trip wouldn't result in no van to bring home. With the bid left, we headed for home and waited for news.
Alas the bid I'd left wasn't sufficient, and someone else grabbed the van for themselves. Hopefully it went on to be preserved rather than restored to as-new condition, but one way or another hopefully it's still around, and back on the road again. (Period photos of vans such as this one can be found on this page, in the gallery section of the site).
The car in the neighbouring garage was, I believe, entered into a local general household auction (again they wouldn't take an offer for it). Quite what the regulars at the auction made of a barn-fresh Mach 1 Ford Mustang being parked alongside old wardrobes, china figurines, and boxes of fish knives, is anyone's guess.
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