Something about the European vans of this era make them really appealing to me. Probably because they’re so different to the Econolines and Ram Vans that dotted the streets of North America before the age of global vans like the ProMaster/Ducato and the Transit. Like this Mercedes T1. Completely function over form. And that’s what makes it great.
There was also the VW LT, which was like a giant Vanagon. It was also front engined, unlike the Vanagon. Also unlike the Vanagon, I don’t believe you could ever get one with an air cooled engine. Interestingly, the LT and T1 were actually replaced by the same car, the Sprinter for Mercedes, and the related Crafter for VW.
There was also the Iveco Daily. Which, from 1985 onwards, you could get with a turbo, which was still quite novel for a van.
The Daily also came in several other flavours. There was the Fiat Daily, and the Alfa Romeo AR8. Alfa actually had a long history of making commercial vehicles, but after the AR8 (and it’s smaller Fiat Ducato-based cousin, the AR6) that history was to end, with only Fiat and Iveco making commercial vehicles until Fiat purchased Chrysler back in 2009.
And finally there was the Freight Rover Sherpa. Like the similarly named Land Rover range, the Freight Rover brand was created by, well, Rover. This time to make commercial vehicles that weren’t trucks (those were for Leyland) which are also known as vans. Freight Rover became Leyland DAF in 1987 after the Dutch truck manufacturer purchased Rover Group’s commercial vehicle business. Leyland DAF later became LDV after DAF self destructed (although they were saved by PACCAR, most known in North America and Australasia too as the owners of Peterbilt and Kenworth) , was bought by the Russian company GAZ in 2006, and then subsequently went bust in 2009.
These days, they’re owned by the Chinese (SAIC to be specific, the same people that also bought MG Rover, although they can’t use the Rover name because of BMW), and they’re back selling vans in countries like the UK and Australia. Although this time around they’re also selling pickups and an SUV, the D90. So in a rather weird turn of events, what became of Freight Rover is now basically directly competing with it’s former companion brand Land Rover.
Funny old world we live in.