One Of A Kind – Well, Almost
Classic Van & Pick Up|October 2017

Bernard Holloway encounters a rare and charming ex-RAF Standard Vanguard ute.

AT the end of the Second World War in 1945, the country entered into what has become known as the Age of Austerity and a return to peacetime production posed considerable problems for manufacturers because of a lack of trained workforce and materials and worn-out plant and equipment. The Standard Motor Company was no exception, but at least it had maintained wartime production of its Eight and Twelve models, albeit in limited numbers, and that helped with vehicle production after the conflict was over.

Managing director Sir John Black wanted a new car to replace the catalogue of postwar vehicles and under his “one model car” philosophy, sanctioned the development of the Phase 1 Vanguard, launched in 1947. Various derivatives, including vans, estates and pick-ups, were developed with most of the commercials finding their way for export as completely knocked down (CKD) kits for assembly in their country of destination. Some commercials were ordered directly by the Ministry of Defence and this brings us neatly to the Phase 1a Vanguard 12cwt ute, jointly owned by John Shearman and Phil Gates.

During its production run, the Phase 1 underwent several modifications, including a slight lowering of the bonnet line, shorter doors to allow separate sills to be fitted and repositioning of the column shift from the right to the left of the steering wheel. These changes were incorporated in the Phase 1a, including a simpler grill design readily identifying it from its predecessor.

At the time of writing, this ute was being looked after by Standard Motor Club member Paul Robins, who helped the owners (also club members) with the finishing touches of this sympathetic restoration, as their aim is to keep the Vanguard as original as possible with some concessions to modern-day requirements and safety, more of which later.

The number of Standard utilities produced for the RAF is not readily available, although John says it might be possible to compile a list if you had the time to examine records held for the vehicles by the British Motor Museum, Gaydon, and check the number of utilities listed with RAF livery. A daunting task. As far as is known, only two other examples exist. One is a static exhibit at the Royal Air Force Museum, Duxford, Cambridge, and the other a Phase 1 owned by a well-known Vanguard collector.

John heard about the vehicle through word of mouth and went to see it in July, 1983 in a north London garage in Crouch End. At about the same time, he inspected a similar vehicle stored in a Brent ford vehicle dealer’s yard, which we now know to be the Duxford exhibit, GSU 584 (it was earlier registered 448 BGF and carried commission number V 158881 PU).

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