Mid-Engined Big Block! 1961 Ford Thames 800 Van

The seller claims this cool, unrestored Ford Thames 800 van gets more attention when it’s out on the road than his shop’s six-figure hot rod builds. That’s entirely believable because this Chevy 454-equipped shagging wagon looks very appealing in its original psychedelic paint scheme and wicked hot tod stance. The van is not without some issues, mostly of the rust kind, and while it does run and drive, the seller indicates it will still need fairly extensive restoration work before it can be considered road-ready. Though the differences are subtle, a classic in-period hot rod wagon that also happens to be a British market utility van makes for a fairly epic combination. Find the V8-equipped Thames van here on eBay with bids to $6,800 and no reserve.

Thanks to Barn Finds reader Larry D. for the find. The Thames stands out for its unique taillights, but it took me more than one glance at the front to realize this wasn’t a standard-issue U.S.-market utility van. The paint job looks like it could be found on any number of vehicles wearing a Dodge, Chevy, or Ford badge, but perhaps the original builder thought it’d be entertaining to eschew the mainstream and use a more compact British-market model as the basis for his build instead. He certainly didn’t waste any time with a dinky powerplant from a British Ford; no, the visionary behind this project opted for a built Chevrolet 454 engine installed mid-ship, and paired to an automatic transmission with a 7.3 positraction rear end out of a 1957 Pontiac.

The seller confirms he has the truck running and driving but mentions that as long as you “….expect to replace everything then you won’t be disappointed,” a descriptor that made me laugh a little at its honesty. That’s the best way to sell a vehicle like this, in my opinion, is to simply tell potential buyers that they should expect to replace everything. Even though it may not come to that, it keeps expectations low and people off your back who want to ask a million questions about every little part replacement. The seller mentions they cleaned up the fuel system and brake system so that it runs and stops, but it sounds like that’s as far as they went.

The seller also mentions that the next owner may want to install wheelie bars to handle the thrust provided by the beefy V8 once it’s running at maximum health once again. The next owner will not only get the chance to sort out the mechanicals, but also the interior which is a blank canvas at the moment. Some bodywork needs will have to be attended to as well, as the seller notes that the front footwells have rust issues as does the lower front apron where the aftermarket bumper attaches. Still, for a van with some stories, this once-homely Thames is in very good shape and an excellent platform for a careful rebuild that improves reliability and resolves the rust while preserving the epic paint job and powerful drivetrain.


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  1. Howard A Member

    Don’t this beat all, I had a Thames van like this, technically called a “Tems” Freighter 400e. Not sure how the “800” designation fits in, anyone? I know, what next, but it was one of the more obscure vehicles we had, and never drove it. It was in a warehouse my old man rented, and the owner was going to junk it, we took it, and made a storage bin out of it. Me and my brother grew up, and moved on, and the old man junked it, but it was one of the few I wished I’d have hung onto. This is obviously radically altered from stock, but the Thames Freighter was one of the original vans, I think only the Fiat Multipla preceded it. It went on to be the inspiration for the whole US van scene to the heights the British never imagined. Cool find if you’re into wild rides.

    Like 11
    • CraigHD

      In the UK the Thames vans were known as the “400e”. Here in the States they were “800”s. I’m looking for a window van, but it’ll have to wait until I finish the ’29 Tudor AV8 hot rod I’m building. Got to keep the Self Preservation Society going to match my Morris Mini!

      Like 2
  2. sir_mike

    Sorry but why a chevy mtr,?? It’s a Ford product.

    Like 7
    • Chris Webster

      Cheaper bang for your buck. More options with the Chev.

      Like 8
    • john

      a Chevy engine makes any Ford OK

      Like 13
    • BigBlocksRock

      Ford owners been doing that forever…
      when they want to go fast.😉

      Like 6
  3. Gary

    Sir Mike , I agree, it should have had a 428 in it . People always gravitate to the cheapest thing and in the auto world that is a Chevy. When I was 17 I answered an ad for a 392 Hemi, being the Chrysler man that I am. I went to look at it and he said ” It’s out back in the old van” I went out and saw no motor and as he came up I said “Someone stole your motor” he laughed and said “No, it is powering the van” Sure enough a 392 was powering a 62? Ford Falcon (Econoline) van. He said it scared the crap out of him and he only drive it a couple of times. I wish I had bought it but I had to many cars at home and my mom as complaining about them.

    Like 7
  4. Gary

    I’d love to own this

    Like 2
  5. jerry z

    Now that’s a paint job!

    Like 2
    • Gary

      That is a real old school paint jod for sure! It would cost 10k to duplicate it I’d bet.

      Like 1
  6. Steve Clinton

    IMO, the paint job is as ugly as the van.

    • EdCasala

      So ugly its cool though.

      Like 1
    • Peter Starkey

      AH! yet beauty is always in the eyes of the beholder remember.

  7. Lowell Peterson

    ’70’s Vantasmic paint? Dosen’t get any better! Great paint work to have held up this long. We all would have loved to run a ford in the ’60’s no aftermarket, ’70’s…..SAME, oh and the ’50’s SAME! FORD DIDN’T CARE! GM did! Questioning it just means YOU WEREN’T THERE DOIN’ IT!

  8. losgatos_dale


  9. Oldfordman

    My first thought was to repaint it like the mystery machine, I might just have to buy it and so that

    Like 1
    • $ where mouth is

      Once again, and for all !!
      The mystery machine was a 67/68 Chevy van.
      NOT a Ford, not a Dodge, not any ol van.. SPECIFICALLY a 68 Chevy van.
      PLEASE people, just cause its a van doesn’t make it a mystery machine.
      Ironically the same folks doing this would be all over someone if they called a 72 Torino a Starky, or a 70 Charger a ‘Gen Lee’ … eye roll, deep sigh, release

      Like 1
      • Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

        A couple clarifications– when people talk about the Mystery Machine they are most likely saying the vehicle as SOMETHING SIMILAR or a good candidate for a tribute. Don’t get all upset about these comments. Secondly, there was a huge discussion on this forum a few years back regarding whether the animators of Scooby Do had any source vehicle in mind — collectively, this BF audience determined that the Machine was closest to a 67-68 Chevy Van. However, there was evidence that a foreign made panel van came closer in execution, and pictures were shown. In the end, it’s all in the eyes of the cartoon audience who this many years later should be thinking about more important things. Third, the Torino was a 1974 Gran Torino used by Starsky (and Hutch).

        Like 3
      • DON

        With the flat grilless front end and a spare tire on the front I always thought it was a cartooned VW bus

  10. chrlsful

    now here’s one I could USE. o0OP, big engine in the way.

    Yup, any square box (1st gen Xb, the lill Subie, kei Vans, anglia, thames, multipla, autobanchi baianchina as the furgoncino (hi roof or low my fav – all the pre-mini vans, Eagle summit, honda RT 4 WD, toy’s civic 4W, the mutsubishi expo and dodge vista, nissan stanza). Like this one the less hood the better …

  11. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    I could see the Fab Four piling into this van with all their gear and their “roadie” Mal Evans behind the wheel, driving them to far-reaching destinations away from Liverpool.

    Like 1
  12. Rex B Schaefer

    The rear end is a Pontiac 9.3 drop out !

    Like 1
  13. DayDreamBeliever Member

    SOLD for $7,877

    Someone is going to go places in a big hurry when they get it sorted…

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