I've been interested in E83Ws since 1989 when I bought my first example, from an overgrown field in Wales. Since then I've looked high and low for period photographs of these Fordson (later Thames) 10cwt rated vans, most of which have ended up on my E83W site. It seemed high time that a period picture of an E83W should feature on oldclassiccar too.
The E83W van shown here is an early example - time to don my vanorak!! First giveaway that this is an early van, is the tiny headlamp fitted to this example. Only some pre-war, and immediate post-war vans had these fitted as standard, later examples having the larger lamps also fitted to the E494A Anglia saloon, and some Fordson tractors. Interestingly the very first 10cwt brochures, from 1938, feature the van with much more bulbous headlamp lenses than even the post-war examples had. Later Thames examples also have a badge on the bonnet sides. The vast majority of E83Ws that survive today have the solid bonnet pulls, whereas this one has the ring-pull catches, as also seen on the smaller 5cwt Fordson E494C type (as on these examples of 5cwt van). Early front wings didn't have a heavily beaded edge, but were prone to splitting in the event of a minor bump, so later E83Ws had a revised and strengthened wing edge.
Although not entirely clear in this photo, I think it has the early pattern grille - ie with just one starter handle hole. The engine in these semi-forward control vans (and pickups) is offset to the passenger side. Therefore RHD UK market vans would have the starting handle hole over to the passenger side. Early vans just had this single aperture, but later examples have two starter holes, presumably when they were marketed overseas, sometimes in LHD configuration. Rather than have two different grille panels in production, it made sense to have a 'one fits all' approach. The grille on this example is slightly bent, a common problem with E83Ws, and it doesn't have the stainless trims fitted either, perhaps a concession to the war and blackout restrictions? If this had been the case though, I'd have expected to see a mask on the visible headlamp.
But back to the van. It has the correct 18" diameter rims (larger than on contemporary Ford saloons), fitted with tyres not overly burdened with tread. Although not obvious from this view, this van may well have had wind-up door windows. Examples from the 1940s and onwards (the E83W was built from 1938 to 1957) would have pull-up side windows, although the windscreen would open on all E83Ws produced.
Just visible in the screen is the Commercial user's 'C' licence, a requirement on commercial vehicles at the time. A close look at the photograph above also shows another giveaway of the early van. The rear arch shape is different. On this van, the arch drops straight down behind the roadwheel. Later examples would flare out and back more, to lessen the chance for mud and road dirt to splatter onto the van's coachwork. The photo of a similar van, at the foot of this page, shows this better.
Talking of coachwork, the E83W was produced in a number of guises at Ford's Dagenham plant, to maximise its flexibility, at a time when there were many coachbuilders in business. A standard van and wooden pickup was offered, and these would be joined by factory produced steel bodied pickups, estate cars, tippers and other variants in the Ford catalogue, as time went on. The E83W could also be ordered in chassis/scuttle form, ie with just the front end panelwork, to be bodied from the screen rearwards for whatever application was required (eg as an ice cream van, or mobile canteen), or as a chassis cab, so that bespoke bodywork could be mounted on the 10cwt chassis, rear of the factory cab. This flexibility lead the E83W to be used in many different trades, and ensured that sales remained strong right into the 1950s.
The E83W was finally pensioned off in 1957, the flat fronted 400E taking over where its pre-war predecessor left off.
All light commercials were worked hard, so it is highly unlikely that this van, registration LRE 431, is still around. The RE registration code was used by Staffordshire County Council, so there is a fair chance that this photo was taken in the Staffs area. The picture below shows a similarly-aged 10cwt van, photographed I think at the Dagenham works. Note the front bumper painted in white, and lack of window winders in the doors. The profile of the early type rear arch profile is clear in this shot. For comparison, a side-on view of a later E83W estate car has been included, featuring the later rear arch profile.
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