HERITAGE: Thames 307E
Classic Fords restored: After giving up on finding someone to rebuild his Anglia van, Nick Horridge realised the old adage of, If you want a thing done well, do it yourself, was the only way to go.
Classic Anglia commercial restored.
C lassic vans are becoming increasingly popular as promotional tools and it’s easy to see why. Any driver of a classic car these days will have noticed necks craning for a good gawp as you drive past. So it only makes sense to advertise your business on the side of its commercial equivalent where there’s plenty of space to include those all important contact details.
Popular tourist spots seem to be littered with Citroen H vans or a similarly aged counterpart converted for the vending of ice cream or exotic food these days, so much that they’re hardly a rare sight. In fact, it would be easy to believe there are more Citroën H vans around today than were actually built by the French company! We suspect someone must be knocking them up in a shed somewhere!
Back in 1991, Nick Horridge had just taken over the running of his father’s business, Newford Parts which since 1974 has specialised in the supply of new-old stock Ford parts to the public.
Nick was keen to have a van with the company’s name and contact details signwritten on its flanks, but rather than splash out and buy a van ready to use, Nick decided to find a vehicle in need of some restoration being carrying out. The perfect candidate would be an Anglia van or a Thames 7CWT to give its proper title.
Having passed his driving test in 1977, Nick is from a generation lucky enough to remember the cars — and vans — we now consider as classics when they were parked on dealer’s forecourts.
“My first Ford was a 1966 Cortina Super Estate, which incidentally wasn’t my first choice as I was 17 at the time,” Nick laughs. “My father purchased it from the Ford main dealers in Southport for £15!”
Cars back then were cheap, but not normally that cheap and the reason for the relatively youthful Cortina’s bargain price was because
“RATHER THAN SPLASH OUT AND BUY A VAN READY TO USE, NICK DECIDED TO FIND ONE IN NEED OF SOME RESTORATION...”
came without an engine or gearbox. “It did have all the running gear and four brand-new crossply tyres, but when we went to collect it the following week, we discovered thieves had put the car on bricks and taken all four wheels.” And from this point on began Nick’s career in car mechanics.
“It was my job to fit the engine, gearbox, suspension and electrics before preparing the Cortina for an MoT,” Nick recalls. “The shabby paintwork was a single tone burgundy and maroon and was past its best, so I asked my Dad if he knew someone who could repaint my car.”
John told his son he’d have a word with someone then on return from college one day, Nick was shocked to see his Cortina sat on the drive now resplendent in brilliant red. Unfortunately, there was a suspect mix with the cellulose and within three months, the weather had turned the Cortina bright pink. Van hunting Nick has always had a particular passion for 105E Anglias, so the search was on to find a suitable van to use as a promotional tool. After some searching Nick managed to locate a 1964 Thames van that was reasonably solid, but still needed work.
“I bought the van from Tony Warr, who ran a small business called Classic Traffic. It had been used for lighter duties so was in fairly good shape,” Nick remembers.
Rather than tackle the restoration himself, Nick decided to have the work carried out for him, but the finished result was far from perfect,
“I ended up having it restored four times in total, but I was never happy with it, I spent seven years trying to find someone who’d do a proper job,” he recalls. Eventually, Nick lost patience and attacked the increasing amount of paint bubbles with a screwdriver, ensuring something then had to be done. “I went back to my roots and came to the conclusion the only way to do a job properly is to do it yourself.”
The van was then stripped completely and all exterior panels replaced with the exception of the offside rear quarter panel and roof, meaning all doors, front wings, inner wings, front panel, bonnet and nearside rear quarter panel had to be sourced and replaced! Written up Luckily, Nick had help from a colleague in the paint trade and in total the bodywork and Ambassador Blue paint complete with period signwriting took around three months to complete.
Once content with the van’s exterior, the rubber mats and grey vinyl door cards could be refitted to the interior. Compared to its saloon and estate sisters, the Thames van is even more basic inside if that was possible, its specification being functional rather than aimed towards luxury, a far cry from the Transit of today.
“OVER A PERIOD OF TIME, NICK REBUILT ALL OF THE VAN’S RUNNING GEAR”
“I had to replace the seats in the end,” Nick recalls. “The ones in there now came from another van which I bought, which turned out to be an unviable restoration project. The seats were actually black in colour but with a little soap and hot water, I managed to bring them back to life!”
Over a period of time, Nick replaced or rebuilt all of the steering, suspension, and running gear, too. The Pre-Crossflow motor is surprisingly sprightly, especially without any parts in the back, while the four speed gearbox with first gear synchromesh takes some getting used to. Like its saloon sibling, the suspension centres around coil springs up front with hydraulic dampers and leaf springs at the rear, and the 5.20x13 crossply tyres offer little grip compared to today’s standards.
Since its completion, Nick has attended many shows with his van and it’s worked as a great publicity tool too. He’s also recently completed a concours-standard 1962 105E saloon and when parked together they make quite a stunning pair!
Interior is nicely original and in great shape.
The Pre-Crossflow has been carefully rebuilt. Period-style Lincoln battery is a nice touch.
The seats were black when Nick bought them, but a deep clean saw them returned to their original colours!
Now it’s complete, the 307E is a great rolling advert for Newford Parts.
Standard, skinny steels were refurbished.