A poor photograph, of a Ford Thames van, discovered in a bundle of old family papers set my mind racing back to the old days; Oh not again, I hear you say!
My grandfather ran his own building business; by the 1960s this was becoming a very small operation and was mostly himself and his son, my Uncle Brian. The last vehicle they acquired specifically for the business was a Ford Thames 300E van, presumably acquired second-hand, the vehicle saw out the days of the business and by 1970 lay unused in my grandfather’s garage. By this time the bodywork had rusted considerably with gaping holes along the sills and the bottom of the doors and needed a huge amount of work to get it through an MOT. In reality it was beyond redemption and my grandfather was going to get it taken away by the local scrap dealer but I had another idea.
Back in the 1960s it was common to see old machines of every description to be re-used as children’s playground equipment and one could see old road rollers, tractors and the like at many places. I worked in a children’s home and we already had an old tractor, perhaps the home might like an old van as well? The response was positive although some safety measures would need to be undertaken. Firstly the fuel tank and all associated pipework would need to be removed, as would any doors to prevent jammed fingers, so I set about doing the required alterations and give it a good clean before painting.
The first thing before painting was somehow cover up all the jagged rust holes, the answer was really simple, I just taped over them with a product called “Tuftape”, available in all sorts of widths and extremely adhesive it covered a number of sins. Once painted over, this tape proved very difficult to remove. I chose a colour scheme in keeping with the early 1970s with a bright orange main colour with a purple lower section; flowers in lime green and deep pink with painted exhausts with flames on the front wings completed the “hippy” look. The van was then towed from Bridgend to Cowbridge where it was secured to a pitch in the field by being jacked onto blocks so the weight was taken off the wheels thereby rendering the van immovable.
Needless to say, the van provided many hours of entertainment and amusement for the youngsters and survived for many years and I believe was still in place when the home was closed down in 1974. The tractor we also had in the grounds was sold to an enthusiast for preservation but I guess the van went to the scrapyard where it might have ended up five years earlier.