Myth Buster

Bed­ford CA

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week - Giles Chap­man

De­bunk­ing the most com­mon old wives’ tales 1 IT WAS A TYP­I­CAL 1950S VAN

The CA, launched in 1952, was rolling ev­i­dence that Vaux­hal­lBed­ford had lis­tened to what op­er­a­tors ac­tu­ally wanted. The trend at the time was for sim­i­larly­sized vans to be ‘for­ward-con­trol’ – with the driver and pas­sen­ger sit­ting on top of the en­gine at the very front of the ve­hi­cle. This was fine for en­sur­ing that most of its space was given over to cargo, but it was un­com­fort­able and cum­ber­some for users, and terrible for me­chan­ics, who found un­der­cab en­gines dif­fi­cult to work on. Most of the CA’s en­gine was ahead of the cab, and a short bon­net im­proved access for ser­vic­ing.

2 IT OUTSOLD FORD

The Bed­ford CA be­came such a com­mon sight on Bri­tain’s roads in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s that its revo­lu­tion­ary na­ture was of­ten over­looked. In­deed, it was a rare case of General Mo­tors out-sell­ing Ford in Bri­tain. When the Da­gen­ham ri­val launched its Thames 400E in 1957 to re­place the old E83W model that had been around since 1938, it was yet an­other for­ward-con­trol-for­mat tin box, even if the in­de­pen­dent front sus­pen­sion was fairly ad­vanced. Bed­ford CA sales shot ahead and would con­tinue to do so un­til Ford copied the CA’s lay­out for its first Tran­sit eight years later.

3 IT WAS VER­SA­TILE

Ac­tu­ally, with its slid­ing side doors, the CA was bril­liant for city streets. The 1.5-litre driv­e­train was shared at first with the Vauxhall Wyvern, and later the con­tem­po­rary Vic­tor, with a three-speed and later a four-speed gear­box. The CA was es­pe­cially no­table for turn­ing vans into leisure ve­hi­cles af­ter coach­builder Martin Wal­ter launched two af­ter­mar­ket con­ver­sions: the Tail­race estate car aimed at big fam­i­lies; and the Util­i­con minibus. It then de­signed ‘Dor­matic’ seats that turned into beds be­fore, in 1957, launch­ing the first com­plete CA Dor­mo­bile. This com­pact camper be­came the cor­ner­stone of the rapidly grow­ing Bri­tish mo­torhome in­dus­try of the late ‘50s and 1960s, mean­ing that many an un­com­plain­ing for­mer car owner ended up driv­ing a CA as an ev­ery­day set of wheels.

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