A piece of newspaper and transport history is up for sale.
A roll-top delivery van from the 1930s, decked out in the livery of the Kent Messenger newspaper, is being placed on the market through a specialist car dealer.
It is based on an original Austin Seven chassis, but the body has been faithfully re-created by restoration enthusiast Ken Kimber, from Boughton Monchelsea, near Maidstone, who was working only from a couple of original photos of newspaper vans from period.
The Austin Seven was the first “modern” car which began to bring motoring to the masses in the UK.
Between its appearance in 1922 and the end of production in 1939, more than 290,000 were made.
The vehicles had what quickly became the conventional design of a four-cylinder, four-stroke, water-cooled engine, with rear-wheel drive.
They were designed as four-person family saloons, but were also adapted to many other uses, including as taxis, tractors and lightweight delivery vans.
The newspaper industry found them particularly useful when dropping off bundles of newspapers to corner stores and street sellers and they were used by the likes of the Derby Evening Telegraph, the Lincolnshire Echo and the Leicester Evening Mail.
The van, which cost in the region of £180, had a 7hp engine. The roll-top rear door was a distinctive feature, replicating a popular piece of furniture from the period – the roll-top study desk.
Mr Kimber started his four-year restoration project with a bare 1930 chassis and a 747cc engine.
The end result boasts an “uncluttered” dashboard with a speedometer, ammeter and a clock.
A period trunk in the load space houses the tools for any necessary roadside repairs.
One thing which modern drivers may find difficult to adjust to is the fact there is no driver’s door. As a result, the driver has to squirm across to the passenger side to get out.
The design was a leftover from earlier models which had the gearstick and handbrake on the driver’s right, which then meant that getting out on the left was easier. But actually, this vehicle has a central gearstick, making exiting a bit of a pain.
It is actually that which has caused Mr Kimber to put his creation up for sale.
“I’m 81 now and clambering in and out was becoming a bit difficult,” he said.
Mr Kimber completed his restoration in 2018, but admitted: “It is a bit of an anachronism because although the Seven’s were popular with many local newspapers, the KM itself didn’t use them.
“But as I was born and bred in Maidstone, in Barming in fact, and as a former pupil of Maidstone Grammar School, I have always been an avid reader of the Kent Messenger.
“Even when I went away to college in Bath, my mother used to post me a copy every week, and I still read it today.
“So naturally, when I wanted to give the van a newspaper livery, I thought of the Kent Messenger rather than some northern paper.
“Geraldine Allinson, who was chairman of the company at the time, kindly gave me permission to use the paper’s logo, so the style and typeface are authentic.”
Mr Kimber’s restoration may be a replica, but it is believed to be the sole remaining example of a roll-top newspaper delivery van in the country.
The vehicle is on sale through Robin Lawton Vintage and Classic Cars, based near Alton in Hampshire.
Mr Lawton said: “This little van is a delight in every detail and is unique as no originals are known to have survived."
“She is provided with a large photo album showing all the stages of the build from the chassis upwards.”
Inquiries for the vehicle can be made to 01420 474919 and the asking price is £14,500.
The Kent Messenger has been the county newspaper for Kent since 1861, and was founded two years earlier as The Maidstone Telegraph. Today it is part of the Iliffe Media Group.