Sunday, December 7, 2008
It Started With A Whimsical Ambition
People ask me why I wanted a J van. I don't have a good answer. The one I commonly give is that the van is a metaphor for Britain in the postwar era. The nation was substantially broke and liquidating its empire; the "world's" surviving capital economies were Australia and New Zealand, Canada and the United States. Britain aimed to export and rationed materials for those enterprises that were most aligned with the national imperative. Thus we have the J van which, for some reason, someone though people Canada and the US (long mountainous distances, severe weather conditions) could use for hauling -- uhm, substantially nothing of any weight. To me, the van seems ideal for the uses that it was ultimately used for in Britain. But postwar designers were still thinking idiosyncratically; they needed to know their customers and the van demonstrates that they didn't. It's the commercial equivalent of the Austin Atlantic IMO. Besides that, Roly Turner said it best one day when he described that van's appearance as "quirky". Yeah, that's it. Whenever I show people photos of it their reaction is always giddy. I expect that this is especially so over here because nobody here has ever seen one before.