An unbelievably rare piece of automotive and Southwest history will be part of the 2018 Frontier Days Parade on June 30.
Tony Hill from Lucky Lake has painstakingly refurbished a 1953 Morris J-Type Van to running condition, and many of the original parts have been restored in order to maintain an authentic look to the vintage van. The vehicle was used as a delivery van by Pioneer Co-op in the late 1950s, and it was subsequently sold to a private owner in 1959 and repainted red before literally being put out to pasture.
Hill found the vehicle near Lucky Lake in 2007, where the rare van had been sitting in a field near Demaine for almost 50 years.
A total of 47,000 Morris J-Type Vans were built by the British automaker between 1948 to 1961, and it is estimated that less than 300 remain.
However there are two additional unique features to this particular vehicle that make it even more unique. It is estimated to be one of just seven left hand drive models remaining in the world. Records also show it is one of just two remaining J-Type Vans with the unique pedal position of the throttle being situated between the clutch and the brake. The only other vehicle of this style exists in Denmark.
“I’ve spent all winter on this, cleaning the interior, getting the inside done,” Hill explained of his restoration efforts. “It’s just been such a cool, cool project. And it turns a lot of heads. It would in Swift Current especially.”
The four cylinder engine is accessible from the middle consul of the interior, and the 1489 cc flathead side valve engine is in original condition. The three speed transition which powered the vehicle was badly rusted and the gears had to be rebuilt by hand.
In April 2014, Hill contacted the Booster about the mystery following the find of his Pioneer Coop Delivery Van, and he was searching for someone who could provide him with some background on when the vehicle was used in Swift Current.
He was successfully contacted by former employee Phil Schlamp who drove the van between 1956 and 1958, who confirmed the era the vehicle was utilized in.
The duo sat down earlier this month for a visit and Schlamp had an opportunity to get behind the wheel of the van for the first time in six decades.
“It’s quite something to see it in running condition,” Schlamp admitted.
Schlamp drove as a Pioneer Co-op delivery driver for four years, and he also worked at the Farm Centre part-time.