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Commercial Vehicle

The most brilliant vans in the world

Thursday, 28 May 2015 GMT
Author: Staveley Head

It’s a testament to a good idea that it can be taken, swapped, chopped, and changed yet still keep its integrity. The size, resilience, and simple design principle of the van means they’re extremely easy to customise and make your own. Sure, they do a stellar job helping the country get work done, but it’s what the more creative among us do with them that really proves their worth.

Vans, being the vehicle of choice for everyone from builders to pest exterminators, can travel around our cities mostly unnoticed. And this is something that the police, private detectives, and security agencies of the world soon realised.

Above you can see the Ford E350 Surveillance Van. Inconspicuous on the outside, high tech – for 1995 – on the inside. So what was once good for shifting furniture now lets the owner learn everything about their target without anyone noticing. Put a few stickers on the side for local businesses and you blend even more into the scenery.

Of course, there’s plenty more you can do with a van. You can also get people really drunk and make some money in the process.

Standing out on the streets of Bangkok is pretty difficult, but that converted VW Campervan does the job rather well. With custom lights and a sound system to add to the bar, you’re offering your customers more than a Mr Whippy. Mind you, knowing Bangkok there are probably vans offering that, too…

How about something a bit closer to home? Well, here’s one of our personal favourite variations right here, van slash bar from Shropshire, but there’s another custom job we see all over Britain. And we’d all feel like something was missing if they disappeared from our streets.


The Great British burger van comes in varying shapes and sizes and levels of hygiene (probably). You’ve got the straightforward and simple, like the above, to the more complex catering van/trailer types – the swanky sort that provide posh food at film shoots. Either way, what would a boot fair or industrial park be without them? They might be gourmet, but some of them are actually quite organic, stylish and brilliant. And when it’s midwinter and you’re either weaving home from a club, stuck at the roadside or shivering at a market, you can’t beat the smell and taste of a classic burger cooked on wheels.

Going a little more Cannes than Canning Town, you can even use your van to carry your other forms of transport:


That’s right, you can now buy a Boaterhome. Drive down to the quayside in your stretch van and slide the cruiser bit into the sea. Sorted. And if boating isn’t your thing, then vans can also be used for another purpose: accommodation.

We’re not talking about just a holiday homes or campervans either. There’s a small section of people who live out their entire lives in their van. Known as ‘vandwelling’, it usually involves converting the vehicle into a living space with all – or most – of the essential amenities. For some it’s out of necessity, while for others it’s about freedom. No mortgage, no rent – just petrol costs and the open road. Although in some cases, the paranoia comes as standard:


This is just a tiny selection of the imagination, love, fun, madness and sheer originality people put into making their vans their own. And bless the lot of ‘em.

So what would your perfect van be? What would you turn yours into if money were no object? Let us know over on our Facebook page.

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