Welcome to 2016!
With all our experience of these super vans, we are in a very good position to advise potential new H van buyers, so, please find below, some hints and advice.
Firstly, all these vans are old - some over 60 years, but all are over 30 years. So, do not expect that a professional looking, sound and reliable van will be cheap. That simply isn't possible.To enable a van to be reliable enough to use for a business, you first need a really sound example from which to start your project.
Once you have a sound van, you must go through the brakes, engine, gearbox, electrics, steering and suspension. Add in sundry new parts like tyres, exhaust, radiator, and you have racked up quite a cost, not to mention a great deal of time.
Next, you must go through the body either straightening old dents or replacing panels as necessary. Then a new coat of paint and finally an MOT and UK registration. So, for all who ask if they can get a reliable van for £10,000 or less, the answer is no! Double that amount and then some.
That is the truth. We are constantly being asked to revive some old van that has seemed cheap on Ebay....
As we all know, you get what you pay for and starting with the best that you can afford is a sensible and very old adage. It is exactly the same in the classic car world - a rough car will, in the end, cost you more than getting a good example in the first place. The only exception may be if you are able to do all the restoration yourself - you then have the saving of all labour cost.
So, rule one, buy the best that you can!
We are getting more and more people asking about replacing the original engines with later engines. This largely comes about because of misguided writings on the internet. Why do you buy an H van? Simple; either you want to promote or sell something, or you simply love them. No matter why, one thing is sure - you definitely do not buy one to race! Top speed is 55 - 60mph, but that is plenty for a catering or promotional van. But, as we have already mentioned, these vans are old, so, what you must do is ensure that the engine is in good health. If you do that, there is no reason at all for spending money on engine transplants. In period, these vans ran the length and breadth of France for many years, far more miles than anyone is ever going to do in a catering or promotional van! But, the engine must be properly rebuilt with all new ancillaries related to it (radiator/fuel pump/hoses/petrol tank etc). These stories arise because people have tried to operate an old van on a day to day basis without properly reconditioning it. Not sensible or fair at all!
Finally, before leaving this subject, consider the implications of a different engine on your insurance and on your safety - were the brakes/steering/handling built to take greater speed or more power?
From time to time, we do find a modification that, whilst not essential, can be sensible or may simply enhance the driving experience. One such is power steering. Not at all necessary if you live it a rural area, but as anyone living in a busy city knows, manoeuvring an H van in a very tight space can be hard work! In this case, a proper power steering system, built specifically for an H van, can be a very pleasant addition! We can fit this whilst building your van if you wish. We have also found that for vans that can be parked up for periods of time, the fitting of electronic ignition can aid starting. Less necessary for a van that is on the road every day, but handy for static catering vans, for example.
Another worthwhile update is to fit modern door locks. The locks on an H van were conceived very nearly 70 years ago - they are not high tech items! If you look around the internet, you will find a number of companies that specialise in fitting stronger locks to all types of van.
As with anything, if the subject is new to you, ask the experts.