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Six Of The Finest Ice Cream Vans

Decent weather is final upon us (at least it was when I wrote those words!) and, as the cinema adverts used to claim back in the 1960s, now is the time for ice cream. Highly decorated and still a part of the motoring landscape, the ice cream van is a very welcome sight at the end of a long summer’s day so here are six classic examples.

P.S. Yes, that is a pre-Bond George Lazenby in the Lyons Maid Parfait ad!

Morris J

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Back in the days when skiffle was all the rage and having a ‘fridge was a luxury, the appearance of a Morris J ice cream van was as much a highlight of the weekend as the latest copy of The Beano. Dairies found that their compact size was ideal for working in narrow streets and many would carry a display board which stated that the product was ‘freshly made for you’, as dairies would make a fresh batch in the early hours of the morning and this would be stored in the van’s insulated cool box. But all this was soon to change…

Commer Karrier BF – Mister Softee

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In 1958, one of the attractions of the Commercial Vehicle Show was the first sighting in the UK of the Mister Softee brand from the USA. As backed by the mighty Lyons organisation, Britain's original mobile ice-cream factory in a specially converted Commer Karrier BF with a body by Smiths Mobile Shops. A new Mister Softee unit would have set an operator back some £3,200 – or the price of two Jaguar 2.4 but by the end of the 1960s, the blue and white vans were a ubiquitous sight. Today, Ian Smith of http://www.mrwhippy.co.uk/index.html in Leeds is the proud owner of a 1959 version that is the oldest surviving example – and is still used to sell the finest ‘soft ice cream’.

Commer Karrier BF – Mister Whippy

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The first major rival to Mister Softee, backed by Walls and with a pink and white livery.  Mr Whippy vans were first seen in 1959 and as with the competitor, the BF’s chassis was chosen to cope with the weight of the freezer and other equipment. Those of us of a certain age can still recall being distracted from their geometry homework on hearing that Greensleeves chime.

Ford Thames 307E ‘Anglia’

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I’m not quite of an age to have seen these Martin Walter conversions in their heyday but they were once as essential an aspect of a summer day out as a party of youths attempting to tune into Radio Caroline on their Dansette transistor The Anglias were left-hand drive so that the operator could easily exit onto the pavement and as for its bill of fare, who could resist 6d worth of Walls’ Sky Ray, as demonstrated in this awesomely tacky commercial or even blowing an entire shoiling on a Cornetto?

Tonibell Bedford CA and CF

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You can glimpse a Tonibell Bedford with the distinctive roof-mounted cow in so many pictures of London taken in the 1960s and 1970s. The early models were finished in blue and this was subsequently replaced by the famous Tonibell pink livery around 1969. My own memories are of their CFs, Bedfords seemed to be far more popular for ice cream van conversions than Transits or BLMC J4s, and how their Miniball contained a gobstopper as a special added attraction.

‘Batmobile’ Mini

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Any Mini pickup is a light commercial of great charm but with the addition of a GRP ‘Batmobile’ body by Cummins of Crewe, it is instantly transformed into possibly the most dynamic ice van ever glimpsed on the mean streets of Fareham or Gosport. It also had two main advantages over the car used by the Caped Crusader on television, one, it offered far greater fuel economy and two, Batman rarely sold 99 Flakes at just 20 New Pence.

With Thanks to:

Ian Smith 

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