Dad’s Army van back on duty in Thetford thanks to Ford apprentices
Don’t panic! Jonsey’s Van is back with the Dad’s Army Museum after a three-month restoration at the Ford plant that built it 80 years ago.
Corporal Jones’s butchers van, a 1935 Ford BB truck, made its debut in the first colour episode of the comedy on September 11, 1969, as the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard’s transport.
It is back on screen in the new Dad’s Army film, which came out on Friday, alongside Sir Tom Courtenay, Toby Jones, Bill Nighy, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Sir Michael Gambon.
The Thetford museum paid £63,100 for the van in December 2012 and early last November it went back to Ford’s Dagenham plant beside the Thames in Essex.
There a platoon of Ford apprentices, under the command of Ford’s heritage vehicle technicians, have helped repair its running gear in the same building from which it would have left the plant, more than 80 years ago.
Though the museum had done an extensive cosmetic restoration, Ford’s apprentices’ work, paid for by the company, included a full engine rebuild, replacement clutch and new wiring looms.
The Ford BB truck was among the first commercial vehicles made at Dagenham, which started production in 1931.
Stuart Wright, chairman of the Dad’s Army Museum, said: “This vehicle has a special place in British entertainment history, and is enjoyed by the many visitors to the Dad’s Army Museum.
“It’s fantastic to see the van operational again and we hope it will capture the imagination of the younger visitors less familiar with Dad’s Army, as well as triggering happy memories for the older generations.”
Ford Dagenham is now responsible for engine and transmission design and engineering, building up to one million diesel engines a year for the global market. It has its own rail system and a jetty.
Paul Neighbour, Ford Dagenham Engine Plant manager, said “It has been wonderful to see the van back at Dagenham after all these years, and we’re delighted that our apprentices have had the opportunity to get involved with getting such an iconic vehicle back on the road.”
The Dad’s Army Museum, in Cage Lane, is open every Saturday from February 27 , but Jones’s Van is on show at the Charles Burrell Museum in Minstergate, from Easter Sunday until the end of October.