As bought and partway through! The extent of metal fabrication required is obvious here!

Excerpts reproduced with kind permission of Custom Car magazine.

Nigel Stanley admits to cruising around in a MkIII Cortina with bubble arches and the ubiquitous 'Wolfies' in his youth, and has harboured a desire for a hot rod ever since, but only acted on his ambition when he needed a van for his business. "I didn't want to be white van man, and wanted something to promote the business. I saw the J van in Street Gasser, the NSRA magazine, although I didn't know what it was!" Trekking down to Poole in Dorset he fell in love with the shape and the period look, not even noticing the fact that it was a "moss covered rust bucket, with the doors and motor not fitted."

It turns out this a particular van had already been through a few incarnations, and back in the 70's when Nigel was tolling around in his MKIII, it had sported a mid-mounted Chevy V8 and a pair of gullwing doors. Hey, it was the decade taste forgot remember! Someone had started a rebuild, installing a Sherpa rear axle and a subframe to support the floor as the original was long gone. A 2.8V6 came with the van, and the doors had been hinged almost conventionally, though originally they were designed to slide, as they do again now. "It was disgusting," reports Nigel, "It was two feet in the air with wide wheels and General Grabber tyres."

Burnham Autos was contacted with a view to resurrecting the van, and Nigel has nothing but praise for the company. "They built my idea, although a couple of things changed along the way, such as the paint scheme and wheels. It drives like a production car. The power steering gives superb driveability and it really holds the road." It's also got air bag suspension, something Nigel decided upon when he took the van to Burnham Autos and saw an installation in the workshop. "I thought, 'That looks like fun,' and though I originally wanted them for a bit of a gimmick so I could lower the van for custom shows and raise it for classic shows (full suspension height is the same as stock ride height - Ed) they're superb. It's also useful for hauling things to the van, as I can lower it for loading then adjust the ride height to compensate for the weight in the back!"

Granny Annexed

With the van in Burnham Autos workshop down in Kent work began on the transformation. The original chassis was retained, along with the 2x2in subframe and Sherpa axle, though a MKII Granada front clip was grafted in, complete with power steering. Once the rack was turned and remounted so it lined up with the almost vertical column, an early Morris Minor spoked wheel was added.

That Sherpa axle was deemed suitable for re-use, though it is now mounted on a pair of long triangulated trailing arms - an idea pinched from a '63 Chevy pick-up - solid mounted to the axle and pivoting on '59 Chevy bushes at the forward end, chosen for their size. A Panhard rod keeps lateral movement in check.

At the front the Air Ride Technologies air bags locate where the springs used to be on the A arms, with the shocks relocated to the rear of the lower arms, while at the rear the bags are mounted on top of the trailing arms, the compressor and tank living under the floor to one side of the propshaft.

A Granada was relieved of its 2.8L engine and autobox, the cylinder heads treated to an unleaded conversion and the top end rebuilt, before a fresh carb was added. Essentially stock, Nigel now finds himself shifting through the gears and is after more power, though there's just no room for a bigger engine. The guys at Burnham Autos fabricated a super-snug engine cover that really couldn't fit any better, but Nigel still finds people saying they expected him to have one leg when they see the legroom round the pedals!

Note how the interior side panels echo the shape of the exterior, not only the two tone but also the curve in the lower section. Nigel uses the van for work, including hauling furniture for his other business, an interior design company. Needless to say, the cargo space is covered in thick cardboard first to prevent damaging the carpet or vinyl side panels.


These were made in-house on an English Wheel. New sills, deepened by 2in to visually lower the van, were fabricated and the B posts were moved forward 2in to their original locations, as they'd been moved rearwards to enable the doors to be hinged.

All four doors were re-skinned once the frames had been repaired and a longer, lower rear valance now lives below the rear doors, complete with frenched licence plate recess. The rear arches were originally lorry arches, modified and skirted until the shape looked right for the van. More metalwork was involved in the new floor, new dash, the previously mentioned engine cover, and a scratchbuilt fuel tank, as well as an overhead console that houses the air gauges, stereo, and wiper mechanisms from Pop Brown's. Even the steel roof insert required repairs, though the bonnet is original!

It's quite easy to see how some people mistake the Morris for a Renault or similar French van. After all, they're not exactly common sights on the road these days.

It's a tight squeeze and legroom is somewhat cramped to say the least, but a carburetted
2.8 V6 and autobox from a Granada just fit on made-to-measure engine cover. Now he's used to it Nigel would like something bigger, but where'll he put it? Later model 2.9i may be on the cards.

With the suspention dropped the Morris couldn't be mistaken for a stocker, through raising it gets Nigel into classic shows without a problem. The headlights came with the van, through whether they're original is open to debate. Real steels, trim rings and caps lend a hot rod look to this daily delivery.

Baines Rubber in Tonbridge supplied all the new window rubbers, while aftermarket rear lights now live on custom mounting plinths on the rear corners, replacing the VW lights that were on the fenders when the van was purchased. A pair of London taxi bumpers were used to make the front bumpers, the remaining corners used for rear quarter bumpers, all re-chromed of course.

Nigel had originally planned to finish the Morris in dark blue and cream, but one day by chance spotted a VW van painted in two-tone cream and decided his van would look much better in these colours, turning the bare metal van over to CC Racing, who are conveniently located almost next door to Burnham Autos, for the paintwork, before having it sign written in a period style by someone known only as Andy to advertise his business. And yes, that is his real phone number! Once the colour scheme had been changed Nigel decided his original choice of billet wheels wasn't going to suit the van, and as he'd always wanted it to have a hot rod style, steels and whitewalls seemed the natural way to go, though even this wasn't easy. Because of the track width a very specific offset was required, which couldn't be supplied, so a set of Stockton Wheel Company steels were purchased, the rims cut from the centres and moved by 5/8in to achieve the offset,aided by some modification to the centres of the wheels around the lug nut holes. North Hants Tyres had no problem supplying the whitewall radials.

Two-tone trim

Burnham Autos was also responsible for the interior, but not before insulating the entire inside for warmth and to reduce drumming. After all the van was intended to be, and is, a daily driver and business promo vehicle, so needs to be warm in winter. To this end, a pair of Mini heaters were installed, one on each side of the cabin, for 'proper nice warmness', according to Paul Burnham, with scant regard for grammar!

Two-tone vinyl covers the interior, the split between the colours echoing the exterior paintwork on the side panels. The headliner is also cream vinyl. A pair of Granada electric seats on Bunham-fabricated risers takes care of seating arrangements, while the floor and engine cover are covered in beige carpet with bound edges. This latter includes a map pocket for usability, the same reason there are compartments like glove boxes in the door steps. New glass was fitted all round by Site Glass (01474 815254), with early Mini latches used on the sliding door windows.

But what do the public, customers and show goers think of the Morris. "I've been totally amazed by the response," says Nigel, "because it's a commercial vehicle, it's sign written, and I didn't build it myself. When I won Best Show at Drayton Manor it blew me away - there was a tear running down my cheek I was so knocked back by the roar of the crowd when I drove into the arena. Even restorers love it. A couple came to one classic show specifically to have a go at me as they'd heard what I'd done, but changed their mind when they saw it! And customers just love it. It definitely works as a promotional vehicle, better than I could have hoped for. It's also fulfilled a boyhood dream to have a Custom Car feature too!" Well, we aim to please Nigel!

New very early Mini white faced gauges were sourced through Europa to complete the custom dash, and a Lokar shifter now selects gears. Note the speaker grilles in the upholstery on the dash, as well as individual heater controls for each side of the cabin!