A lone Mini-Van and a Morris Mini Traveller were imported by BMC Australia in 1962 for evaluation. Not surprisingly, the Pick-up was never considered for the Aussie market.
Given the Australian tendency toward large station sedan cars (effectively four-door estates) and BMC’s own recent foray into the market with the Austin Freeway station wagon (ADO40/YDO3), the estate version of the Mini was also deemed not suitable for local production.
However, with no comparable small van available, other than BMC’s own Morris Minor and Austin A30/35 vans, the Mini-Van was considered worthy of local production and the earlier versions phased out.
In order to keep production costs as low as possible, as much commonality with the saloon as practical would need to be retained. Having decided to commence local pressing of panels from 1964, the Mini-Van was slated for release as early as possible in that year.
With a suggested volume of only around 6,000 units per year (which turned out to be well in excess of actual figures achieved), it was calculated that importing the necessary unique panels for the van would be cheaper than pressing them locally.
Although the van’s wheelbase was 10cm longer than the saloon, engineers at Zetland devised a clever extension to lengthen the standard saloon floorpan. This meant that only the panels and parts from the B-pillar back, and above the floorpan, needed to be imported from the UK. These were the roof, sides, cargo floor, outer sills, rear beaver panel, rear doors and hinges, roof vent, taillights, fuel filler recess, fuel tank and numerous smaller items.
The rest of the van, including all front panels, grille, bonnet, floorpan, seats, trim, windows and the doors would be made locally and in common with the Morris 850 saloon.
Former Product Development Manager Peter Davis, who was responsible for drawing up the Knock Down Allocation Schedules (lists of parts needed for CKD) said that the earliest Vans assembled in Australia used complete bodies brought from the UK, and that it was not until early 1965, that the Australian floorpans were used.
Peter Davis recalls a later trip to the UK; “I went to Longbridge, to Cowley, and Castle Bromwich – where they were building the Mini vans and utes, and that’s where I told them about the floors. They asked me why we didn’t order the floors and I said because we use the saloon floor. They said it couldn’t be done because they were a different length, and I told them we made up and fitted these extensions. They said they had completely re-tooled for the van, from the grille to the back doors. You can imagine the extra cost in doing that.”
However, an Australian 850 Van, chassis number 1064, being restored in New Zealand has the Aussie floor. Going by production of around 200 per month, as will be explained, this Van would have been built mid to late 1964.
Where the original Drawing Office number for the Mini was ADO15, the van was ADO15V.
The Australian Morris 850 Van (all Minis were still known as Morris 850s at the time) was released to the public on 27 April 1964, at only £725 including sales tax.
Few car magazines carried stories on the Van, with the exception of Wheels and Modern Motor, and I could find nothing on the release in any of the major newspapers.
There was, however, a large spread in that month’s BMC Rosette, with the van featuring prominently on the front page.
A major improvement with the Australian-built Vans is that, like all cars built at Zetland, they received the Rotodip pre-treatment process. The UK Vans, on the other hand, being built at Castle Bromwich, did not go through the Longbridge Rotodip.
The most obvious difference from the UK van, though, was the saloon front-end.
The Aussie van also had chrome trim around the wheel arches, where the UK version had body colour, and there were no front wing mirrors like on the UK vans. A driver’s side door mirror was available as an optional extra, but soon became a standard fitting. The front passenger’s seat was also standard, but of course it could be easily removed.
Like the sedan, the Van was only sold in Australia as a Morris. Although it had the sedan front, instead of the integral grille, it was still designated ADO15V in the factory.
Vehicle identification plates carried the model type as YJBAV1.R – where Y stood for Australia; JB – Morris commercial; A- 1/4 ton; V – van; and 1 – 1st model in series. The R is for right-hand-drive, and could be replaced with L (for LHD) on export models, but does not contribute to the model identification as such.
As with all BMC cars, the chassis numbers started at 501, the body numbers at 001.
While numerous publications list the Morris 850 Van as YJBAV2R, this is not correct. Proof of this is in the various ID plates on the vans photographed for this feature, and seen elsewhere.
The engine was the venerable 848cc with the “magic wand” gear selector. The engine was identified as type 8Y/U/H, where 8 was for 848cc; Y for Australia; U for centre-exit gearbox; and H for high compression. Engine numbers began at 1001.
Interior appointments, for what they are, were identical to the front of the saloon, except that only one sun visor was fitted, and the interior parcel shelf light was deleted, while the load area was bare painted metal with no trim.
The roof headlining only covered the front passenger area, and the interior light was fitted in the centre of the roof, above the driver’s head.
Where the UK Van at the time still had pull-cords to open the doors, which it retained for many years, the Aussie version always had proper door handles.
Interestingly, the interior photo of the Van from the BMC Rosette, shows the optional passenger sun visor fitted, and close inspection also reveals the parcel-shelf light.
Although the ID plates list this first model as Morris 850 Van, BMC Rosette continually refers to it as the Mini Van - even though the models Mini-Minor and Mini De Luxe would not be released for another year or so.
If you would like to read the rest of this story, order your copy of Issue 21 of The Mini Experience. <plumshop>30</plumshop> <plumshop>29</plumshop>