The Carchive: The 1974 Bedford Blitz

It’s Friday, and as the weekend approaches with the promise of fun, excitement and joviality, lets take one last gasp of dry, educational tedium. An opportunity to open our collective minds, feed our curiosity and wonder how we did without our new-found knowledge for so long. Welcome back to The Carchive.
Sprechen sie Deutsche? Well, here’s your chance to learn. With tonight’s trip into the pungent wasteland of motoring history, we’re heading to Germany to look at a British built Commercial Vehicle. It remains unsubstantiated that, as Vauxhall became ever more closely entwined with General Motors as the 1970s progressed, a conference was held to ponder German export opportunities for the brand’s van division. And the man at the back said, “Everyone attack”
And it turned into a Bedford Blitz.
Bedford Blitz.


“Bedford Blitz Transporter kommen von der Welt grosstem Nutzfahrzeug-Hersteller. Sie sind weltweit im Einsatz”.
It’s true. Bedford Vehicles, the commercial arm of Vauxhall motors, was based in Luton, Bedfordshire, England. Despite that fact, it was still a major exporter of vans and trucks of all kinds, which served anywhere on the Globe where you could find some kind of track to drive a vehicle along.
The Bedford CF was Luton’s rival to the Ford Transit, and the Blitz name was adopted for those models exported to Germany. The name wasn’t chosen for ironic / hilarious / wholly inappropriate reasons, incidentally – Blitz, or Lightning, was at the centre of the Opel motif, and the CF’s German market predecessor was the Opel Blitz anyway.

“Alle folgenden Punkte treffen – bis auf einige technisch bedingte Details, je nach Modell – auf samtliche Bedford Blitz Transporter zu”
That was certainly true.
The Blitz van could be had in a broad array of lengths and shapes, and as a chassis cab onto which custom bodywork could be placed. There was a factory tipper and an eight-seater combi van/minibus as well as the conventional panel van. Design-wise, there was a lot of common ground between the Blitz and the Chevy Van (in its third generation form, anyway), although the Blitz wasn’t quite a match, size wise.
And power-wise, it wasn’t even on the same planet. Engine choices were a 64bhp 1759cc or 79bhp 2278cc slant-four, running on gas with a compression ratio of 7.3 that was low enough to run on low grade fuel or mullet grease. Top speed? Not really. Oh, alright, 71mph for the smallest and 78mph for the biggest when fitted to the lightest, nimblest van in the lineup.

“Es gibt die Moglichkeit in Zusammenarbeit mit anerkannten Herstellern einen Bedford Blitz Transporte zu bauen, der fur lhre speziellen Transportaufgaben voll geeignet ist.”
Indeed. I’ve little knowledge as to how omnipresent the Blitz was to become on German roads, or indeed anywhere else in Europe or beyond. In the UK, the Bedford CF was wildly popular among utility companies, with British Gas, British Telecom and numerous other public sector organisations stamping their liveries onto huge fleets of the things. Astonishingly, the CF lasted until 1988, by which time the Bedford script and Griffon badge had been applied to the Isuzu Fargo, to become the Bedford Midi.
But the Midi had nothing like the impact on my formative years as the CF did – if for no other reason than that the CF was phenomenally popular among ice cream vendors. Toffee Crisps, Commanders, Calippos, Feasts, Funny Feet, Zzaps, Oysters, 99s (with or without Flake),Screwballs, Mivvis, Mini Milks, Strawberry Splits, Maxibons, Sparkles, Cornettos, Mint Crisps and Fruit Pastille lollies, I have bought or been bought dozens of each from a Bedford CF during my life so far.
And no rebadged Isuzu can match that.
(All images are of original manufacturer publicity material, photographed by me. Copyright, in a bizarre twist of fate, is probably now property of the PSA group. And you just know that I wrote this entire piece purely to capitalise on a weak glam-rock gag)

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41 responses to “The Carchive: The 1974 Bedford Blitz”

  1. SL aachoo Avatar
    SL aachoo

    The Skid Factory
    Barra Powered Bedford Van [EP1]

    1. Batshitbox Avatar

      The “one-slash-two spanner”!

    2. outback_ute Avatar

      As they say Holden put their 2.6-3.3L six in the vans they sold here, and there are enough V8 ones around that I would believe the story about some dealers doing the conversion.
      There are still some around including ice cream vans.
      The replacement Isuzu van was rebadged the Holden Shuttle, and I have seen one turned into a jet powered dragster to really live up to the name!

    3. Tank Avatar

      as soon as I saw this article come up, this was the first thing I thought of

      1. SL aachoo Avatar
        SL aachoo

        Me too. Rushed to post the video. This might also be my first “first” comment, too.

  2. mdharrell Avatar

    “The name wasn’t chosen for ironic / hilarious / wholly inappropriate reasons, incidentally…”
    Fair enough, but it’s probably for the best that it wasn’t offered in the US:

  3. Batshitbox Avatar

    In other news… the VW van in those days was sold in the British isles* as the VW “Lebensraum”
    *excluding Cardiff, where it was the “Llewvenscorgi”

  4. Vairship Avatar

    “Don’t mention the War”

    1. Tank Avatar

      I did once but I don’t think they noticed

      1. dukeisduke Avatar

        “No, you started it – you invaded Poland!”

  5. Desmo Avatar

    This is somehow confusing stuff. It is a GM product, it even resembles a Vandura/ Chevy van, but it’s not even related to them??? When I was a kid we lived in Germany and I remember both GMC vans and Bedford vans. So GM sold the both of them in Germany, for whatever reason. They were not very common, but then again not rare. Of course vastly outnumbered by VW and Ford.

    1. nanoop Avatar

      The GMCs I remember from the 80ies in Germany were all RVs, evading regular taxation. The plush but relatively small interior and high price made them a rarity on camping sites, but relatively common about 200m off national roads, used by ladies offering certain services that could benefit from plush interiors…

      1. Alff Avatar

        Whores drive Chevy. It’s always been that way.

    2. Maymar Avatar

      Ford and GM both have quite a few Euro models that resembled 8/10ths scale versions of whatever was being built in the US at the time, right?

      1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

        Yeah, the Euro Dodge 50 shared its door pressings with the US equivalent, and it’s possible that the same could be true with the CF and the Chevy Van, but I’ve not found anything to confirm one way or the other.

        1. Rover 1 Avatar
          Rover 1

          No shared parts at all. From a time when countries protected their industries behind tariff walls, the various GM divisions around the world were run as almost separate companies, (Vauxhall/Bedford, UK and RHD ex British territories and Canada; Opel, Europe and South Africa, (rebadged as Chevrolet); Holden, Australia/NZ, but they did borrow bits and pieces and sometimes whole vehicles.
          The US Chev/GMC van was too big and heavy for most of the world and it’s engines certainly were. As American pick-up trucks are today.
          I do find it odd that GM left the Bedford brand to wither and die. As GM’s ‘British Commonwealth’ and European truck and van brand it might have done quite well. The largest truck and van manufacturer now isn’t Japanese, it’s German, Mercedes Benz. The CF’s replacement worldwide is the Sprinter. The Japanese contenders, particularly the Toyota Hi-Ace , were limited, in the end, by being too narrow, something forced on the design by the huge home JDM.
          We saw the CF in NZ, as Post Office and Police vans and with a locally made fibreglass rear, as ambulances. The standard 2.3 Vauxhall fours were swapped for Holden sixes and eights, leaving the 2.3s free to be put into Vauxhall Chevettes to make budget rally cars. The 3.3 Holden Six became a factory option on the later vans and the ambulances. Some of the last CF ambulances in remote areas have only just been replaced in the last few years, long after they went out of production. Until the Sprinter, nothing else was quite the right size. The ex ambulances were quite popular as campervans, and are still seen around.

          1. Sjalabais Avatar

            The Japanese contenders, particularly the Toyota Hi-Ace , were limited, in the end, by being too narrow, something forced on the design by the huge home JDM.
            Is that what killed the Hiace? They did take standard crates/palettes though? The Hiace totally dominated the van market in tiny Norway. When Toyota announced the end of the production run, they added another 1000 Hiace models to a couple of extra shifts in order to satisfy the Norwegian outcry.
            Today, I hear people who migrated to Volkswagen say that they went from an agricultural tool to a driving machine. Sprinter owners say the recognize the instant rust. Ford Transit drivers seem to be the most happy with the transition, at least from what I have understood.

          2. outback_ute Avatar

            The Hiace dominated the Australian market too, outlasting the Mitsubishi and Nissan rivals, athough in more recent times the Hyundai has challenged it. VW does approx 25% the volume of the Hiace still – can’t match the reliability & cost of ownership.
            Perhaps Rover1 was referring to the ambulance market and other uses – to simplify things the van market of the Bedford era has split into ‘medium’ vans aka VW Transporter and larger like the Sprinter. Of course the CF did both – see the 2nd and 3rd photos above.
            Did the Dodge 50 van use basically the whole cab from the US van? Also it is worth noting that Transit came out prior to the Econoline ditching the cabover configuration.

          3. Rover 1 Avatar
            Rover 1

            That’s correct, for ambulance use. In general use, the Hi-Ace replaced everything else, for many years. The reliability of the Japanese vans was such that the Public Service Garages were disbanded as they had no more maintenance work to do.
            The latest Hi-Ace is still available but sales are waaayy down against the Sprinter, the Ducato, the VW Transporter, the Renault Trafic and Master and biggest seller of all, the Hyundai H1. The Hi-Ace is just not as good to drive or, more importantly, it seems, these days, to have a crash in.
            My brother who is a paraplegic is having a mobility van made for him to self drive. Five years ago it would have been a Hi-Ace, now it’s a brand new Sprinter.
            latest model just out on sale this week.

          4. crank_case Avatar

            The Hiace is still going in Japan, and like you say, was still popular until its demise, but the reason it’s no longer offered in Europe was the Yen exchange rate. Technically what we were getting wasn’t a regular Hiace either, but the Granvia, rebadged as Hiace, which is based on the Hiace, but is bigger with a sprinter/transit style front.
            Asian markets were, and still are getting the flat front Hiace.

          5. Sjalabais Avatar

            We have to trust the OEM’s decisions on whatever they do, but I don’t see why this wouldn’t sell – even at a premium. Some utility buyers – not leasers – are interested in vehicles that’ll do service for more than a decade. You don’t buy a Volkswagen then.
            The same pattern applies to the private market. Small seven seaters are almost gone, or follow the same basic recipe no matter what brand, in Touran-sized shapes. When I got a chance to talk to a senior guy at the company that imports Honda to Norway, he said he had driven the Jade in Japan – a car I’d really like to check out. He wanted it in Norway, too, but that just didn’t happen.

          6. crank_case Avatar

            I get what you’re saying – there is a cult following for the Hiace here too, but these people are not the bulk of who buys new vans. I think most businesses buy this stuff on the view of it being a depreciating asset that is expected to give about 5 years service, or the amount of time it takes to write its full value off against tax. Businesses do care about reliability of course, but mainly that it will keep running during this period and they won’t lose too many business hours.

          7. Sjalabais Avatar

            Yeah, pretty sure this is the standard approach. But I also know a guy who runs hos own business, bought a Vito, and that crapcan had a ridiculous downtime. Every issue you can imagine – mechanics, electrics, rust, whatever – he went through in two years. He complained so much, Mercedes went back on the purchase and essentially gave him a new one. That was barely better. He is the kind of person, burned enough, to prioritize reliability before anything else.

          8. nanoop Avatar

            “From a time when countries protected their industries behind tariff walls”
            I can’t believe these are recent designs…

          9. Alff Avatar

            As an American, let me just say everything old is new again.

  6. nanoop Avatar

    I’ve driven the predecessor, the Opel Blitz B, and own the successor, the Opel Vivaro (although facelifted).
    The Opel Blitz B was the fire engine of my home village, equipped with a front-mounted pump, somehow seating driver and eight firemen (wooden benches, no belts), and a lot of equipment in the rear, including another “portable” fire pump with a 2-cylinder VW engine. Over-loaded at the very moment a person entered the vehicle, it still met the minimum acceleration of 0-60kph within 40sec. I drove it twice, once within the village, and once on a mission (we tackled the burning haystack, thank you). I remember the huuge play in the steering wheel (three hands wide) and the sad drum breaks, squealing for nothing but quite on par with the acceleration performance.
    The Bedford Blitz here never took off in Germany: VW’s T2 was the Beetle in van world, and the T3 (Vanagon) continued that success. The Ford Transit was excellent for what it was, too, and also was an established player in the field.
    After the Bedford Blitz, GM/Opel didn’t offer a transporter, and picked up only in 2001 by hopping on the Renault bandwagon called Trafic. Those sold really well though, over a million throughout the years.

    1. crank_case Avatar

      Given that PSA now own Opel/Vauxhall, that’s only going to continue. I wonder do they own the rights to the Bedford name? Bring back the Rascal! (Suzuki are still making Carrys right?)

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        You bet they do. If you want to keep a heritage line to GM, get it as a Chevrolet Damas:

  7. sunbeammadd Avatar

    As a 1970s kid I well remember Myer-liveried Bedford CFs running around (Myer being an Australian department store). No doubt all their deliveries would be outsourced nowadays.

  8. Manic_King Avatar

    In the Northern Europe at least that van was in many cases perfect basis for proper shag carpeted, wood panelled luxury van, like US vans were in NA. One below is from NZ, comes with a history lesson+pics:

    CF Bedford Van–SY0/VaaxmEUucpI/AAAAAAAAhT8/Bzu64ywOHKo/s1600/43860871.jpeg

    1. nanoop Avatar

      That grain in picture #1…
      and a lot of questions, bear with me, NZ is 1/2 globe around for me…
      What is “CF Bedford”, there is also mention of a “CA [the CF replaced]”. Is it just [model][make] instead of the regular [make][model]?
      What are “slotted mags” or “big mags”?

      1. Manic_King Avatar

        First photo is probably from the UK, and these rims are “slotted” type (design) ( ‘Mag’ = alloy/magnesium rim, so big mags are just bigger rims/wheels compared to factory versions.
        As for van generations:
        I think the blue one on the photo is from NZ.

        1. nanoop Avatar

          Thank you, “mags” was pretty much unknown to me. Since etymology is a thing, is this short for “magnesiums” or something?
          On the CA: wow, that’s a commercial vehicle that’s really suffering from it’s duties….

          1. Manic_King Avatar

            Looks like something Soviet design bureau would create, that CA.
            Also, CF vans made into poor man’s A-Team van!

  9. Alff Avatar

    I thank God for living in a place where the V8 came standard.

  10. Toaster Avatar

    Not being metric probably didn’t help them in the German market.

  11. salguod Avatar

    Came for the Ballroom Blitz reference. Was not disappointed. I am surprised that no one has posted a video of it. Allow me.

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      As a Millennial (just about), it’s Tia Carrere for me.

  12. dukeisduke Avatar

    It’s quite a mashup – the overall shape is a lot like the late ’60s Chevy Van / Handi-Van, and the grille has a definite Holden vibe.