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The Carchive: The Bedford HA Van

Chris Haining April 8, 2016 Cars You Should Know, The Carchive 4 Comments

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With the sun ploughing through solid diagonal bars of rain like some great biblical battle of the elements, It’s time to sit in my steamy old Audi and ponder once again on the subject of cars long forgotten. Welcome back to The Carchive.

Last week we were looking at a product of Chrysler Europe, seasoned with a tang of North America. Today’s effort, also a van, is entirely home-brewed. And you’d really never mistake it for anything else. It’s the Bedford HA Van, seen hear in a gossamer-thin but informative pamphlet.

Images are clickable for a more visceral, immersive viewing experience

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The HA series Vauxhall Viva sedan, though well-regarded, was an entirely unremarkable car. Entirely orthodox in appearance, engineering and concept, its job was to provide average transport to average families the lengh and breadth of Britain. As the 1960’s went on Vauxhall found their customers developing slightly more refined tastes, and the Viva received updates, being first replaced by the HB and then HC.

This wasn’t true of the van version, though. The utilitarian nature of the HA Viva lent itself perfectly to becoming the basis of a simple, dependable, honest small commercial vehicle, so that’s exactly what General Motors UK based Bedford Vans division did. And they kept building it for twenty years.

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It became the mainstay of many of the nationalised utilities companies local fleets, hardy enough to take the punishment of urban streets and surviving infrequent maintenance.

A quick look at the image above shows exactly how much of a driver’s machine the HA was intended to be; by 1977 the venerable 1256 OHV engine had been made available with an “economy” engine, its constant-depression carburettor sipped on dishwater-grade petrol and wheezed out an unedifying 24.4hp. The regular version, with 42.5hp was a dragster by comparison.

After the HA was finally pensioned off in ’83 it was indirectly replaced by the Bedford Astra Van and then the Astramax, which never really captured the imagination of the public-owned corporations in the same way. It seems reasonable to assume that HA’s actually ended up being replaced by Ford Transits and Bedford CFs. Those which remain truly have survived against all odds.

(All images are of original manufacturer publicity materials, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of General Motors. Carchive will return on 21st April, it’s temporarily closed for fumigation and underpinning)

  • texpat

    Back when I started work in 1988, the company I worked for had an Astravan. That thing was faster in the twisties than an Astra GTE, at lowish <60mph anyway! Impressive for a tinny old van.

  • boxdin

    Unremarkable ! I don’t think so. The big deal about vans is that you could sleep in them! Be a real bum, hang out at that concert in style bumming food, sex, and rock & roll.

  • Maymar

    Why can’t we get work vehicles with plaid seats anymore? Just so much disappointment.

  • cronn

    I love how it speaks to the fleet managers, about the economy engine. So what if half the horses are gone as long as that makes it cheaper to run. They’re not going to be the ones driving it anyway.