Removals Vans

The Commer Furniture Removal Van: Commer's parent, the Rootes Group, was one of several British manufacturers whose commercial vehicle divisions went under as a result of multifarious troubles in their private car sectors. Take-overs or mergers inexorably followed, in this instance the acquisition, in 1967, of the Rootes Group by Chrysler, which already owned the Dodge commercial vehicle marque.

Dodge had a prominent presence in the United Kingdom and logically merged Commer into this operation. The Commer furniture van in the Museum collection is a C type, a range introduced in 1962 and given a new design of cab the following year. The C series bridged the period of the Dodge takeover, continuing in production until 1974 when it was replaced by the Commando series – a title of Rootes origins last used on a 1940s bus chassis.

Powered by the Perkins 5.4-litre diesel engine, 7958 ZJ was new in 1973 to a firm in Dun Laoghaire. It later passed to Corcoran's of Ranelagh, an old-established family business who have since ceased furniture removals. The van had been out of service for some time prior to acquisition by the Museum and still carried an old-style carrier's cast licence plate – a real blast from the past.

The aluminium-cladded body has a Luton head and a dropped floor behind the rear axle. This is a feature of the true pantechnicon – as against the conventional van sometimes pressed into furniture removal work – and usually incorporates portable ramps or slides. Used to ease the loading of heavy items, these ramps normally travel in slots under the floor.

Because of their great size, furniture vans were a godsend to signwriters who made the most of the vast areas available to publicise their owners' names. Striking colour combinations and beautifully executed lettering have made many furniture vans memorable, but some recent research prompts speculation as to whether they ever came into conflict with officialdom. Under the Dublin Traffic Act of 1875 (yes, 1875), the Commissioner of Police made bye-laws or regulations which, among other things, stipulated that "No person using any advertising van in any street shall allow the same to remain stationary for any time, but shall keep  the same continually moving forward at a speed of not less than two miles per hour."

Were it deemed to be an "advertising van" rather than a commercial vehicle even our old Commer might have difficulty maintaining such high speeds in modern Ireland's traffic-laden cities and towns.

© Dublin City Public Libraries

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