Not A Westfalia! 1970 Commer Van

After spending some years in the UK growing up, versions of these Commer vans were a regular sight for me. This particular version was originally a camper, and it needs some work, but it’s hard to argue with the opening price here on eBay of $500 with no reserve. The van is located in Grants Pass. Oregon.

You are correct if you’ve looked at that top and deduced that it will pop up. There’s a couple of different types, but here’s a picture of one you may want to take a look at to see what they look like. I’ll be honest, I’ve only seen a couple of these vans in the US, and I think it could be a really cool camper. The vans of this type were actually produced from 1960 to 1983, with many of the last ones becoming telephone service vans in their homeland. The somewhat narrow track is due to it being based on (despite the forward control layout) the Hillman and Humber sedans produced by Rootes UK. As Rootes was purchased by Chrysler, Commer vehicles were later badged as Chryslers and Fargos.

Unfortunately, all is not rosy with the Commer. As you can see, there’s some…okay, a lot of issues on the right side. And it doesn’t stop there.

The inside, well, let’s just say it’s awful. I don’t know what happened to the original interior, but it should look something like this. On the other hand, that means you have a blank slate, right?

The dash, however, looks fairly intact. The Commer is a four speed manual.

The 1725 cc four-cylinder would be familiar to any Sunbeam Alpine owner, although it’s not as aggressively tuned. Just like the Westfalias, the Commer is not going to be the fastest vehicle around, but I don’t think that’s the point with an RV like this anyway! What do you think?


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  1. johnnyb

    I have a couple Commer Vans in my Corgi collection from my childhood, so these have a place in my heart. Might be neat to have a big kid version, but this one needs a little too much work and, perhaps thankfully, more money than I have at the moment.

    • David Smith

      My friend has a commer van for sale at the right place in Devon if your intrested it will need a poss full res

  2. Adam T45 Staff

    This post is causing me some rather hideous flash-backs to my youth. When I was a kid (there were two boys and two girls) my parents found that we seemed to finish up with a growing number of ring-ins (mainly friends of my older sisters). They made the decision to abandon their ’57 Customline (aarrrrgh!) and buy one of these. It was painted powder blue, and had a bright red mural of Jimi Hendrix on the passenger side! It didn’t have any fittings or seats in the back, so we used to sit on bean bags and mattresses! It was loud, it was slow, it was uncomfortable….but the upside was that the engine used to boil at the slightest provocation. My one fond memory of this (apart from the day that they sold it!) was when we moved house. We relocated to a very small, VERY conservative country town. We pulled up in the Main Street of this town and all piled out: Mum, Dad, a total of seven kids, four dogs and four cats. The poor locals had no idea what had hit them!!! As an aside, we remained in the town for 21 years, so we can’t have been that bad.

  3. John

    Love these vans!

  4. Skloon

    I slept a few weeks in one of these in 84 with some unwashed youth, I remember being glad for the fresh air coming in through some rust holes I think I’ll pass on this one

  5. Reedy

    Seriously, why would anyone punish themselves with this debacle!

  6. boxdin

    Not fun to drive w overhang in very direction, even early econolines and G10 vans were much more sure footed.

  7. Nick G

    Hmmmmm. Let’s see now. A 289 fit in place of the 1725 in the Alpine…..

    • Adam T45 Staff

      I dare you Nick G. It would certainly accelerate better and have a higher top speed, but this just means that the inevitable accident is going to be that much bigger. However, if you do give it a try, I really want to see the results.

  8. Peter Pentz

    OMG this such throw back to my childhood …..
    The Bedford Commer had an earlier sibling that had sliding front doors. Every Plummer, Baker, you name it, in the UK owned one.
    Bedford was famous for producing midweight trucks with flat nose mid chassis trucks, that were available in 4 WD versions that the British and other “Colonial” countries purchased by the dozen. I drove many during my military service in the Rhodesian armed service.
    Back to my childhood ….
    My parents decided they wanted to tour Europe in a “Conversion Van”. My Dad was an Austin man not a Commer / Roots group or a VW Combi Van, and he had a Touring Van built by one of the better UK companies, and we toured Europe in that van in 1960 for 9 months (!) in that van with my parents in the Austin based equivalent of the Bedford Commer and VW Camper.
    I have the most vivid memories of this trip as an 8 year old – enough to write a book about it .
    Gee Mom and Dad – another Damn Castle – really !
    They are very happy memories though of our Austin Camper nicknamed “Bertha”, similar to this Bedford Commer.

    Somebody take this old Auntie home and restore her to her former camper glory !
    I have too many other Brit projects to deal with right now …….

  9. Martin Horrocks

    Paint scheme is authentic- and the same as my Corgi model. These are terrible vehicles, dangerously inadequate even for the times.

    Maybe best kept as a cosmetically restored, non-running food truck, if anyone wants to buy British food…….

    @ Peter Penz There is no connection with Bedford (GM) and Commer (Rootes, later Chrysler). Bedford was a similar vehicle, much less bad.

    My school had a sliding door Bedford minibus, on hot days (rare in Manchester-not-by-the -Sea) you could lock the doors open (losing schoolboy passengers on roundabouts). When I say “lock”, under heavy breaking, the locks would fail to hold the heavy mass back and the doors slammed shut (losing schoolboy passenger limbs, etc).

  10. Dean

    I drove one for work about 35 years ago. No redeeming features except the hand break engaged on the front wheels, which let you to spin the rear tyres when it was on.
    Another funny story, we were heading back from a job and the spare wheel fell off from its bracket underneath the van between the front and back wheels. The van leapt on to two wheels for a time after the rear wheel ran over the spare. After it came down on to 4 wheels again we pulled over and fell out of the van laughing.
    Terrible vehicle but good times.

  11. Donek

    Decades ago I shared such a Commer van one with two friends, to move car, boat, fishing and climbing stuff around and go for trips. Really not that worrying to drive, once we got used to the pedals (which I remember as floor-hinged). Not fast but strong, simple and (quite) dependable. Quite prone to rust (but what wasn’t in those days?). Working on the engine could be a bit of a challenge.

  12. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    Sold for $1,100!

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