Panel van

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2001 Citroen Berlingo (M59) van (24101619705).jpg
2001 Citroën Berlingo
Austin 35 Van (12502675953).jpg
Austin 35 panel van

A panel van, also known as a blind van, car-derived van (United Kingdom) or sedan delivery (United States), is a small cargo vehicle utilizing a passenger car chassis, typically with a single front bench seat and no side windows behind the B-pillar. [1] Panel vans are smaller than panel trucks or cargo vans, both of which utilize body-on-frame truck chassis.


As they are derived from passenger cars, the development of panel vans is typically closely linked with the passenger car models upon which they depend. North American panel vans were initially based upon the two-door station wagon models, while Europe's narrower roads dictated that panel vans utilize the smaller donor chassis of subcompact cars in that market. In Australia, panel vans were a development of the ute, a small pickup truck based on a passenger car chassis, e.g. Chevrolet El Camino, often using the longer wheelbase of a station wagon chassis. [2] [3]


1931 Ford Model A Sedan Delivery 1931 Ford Model A Town Car Sedan Delivery.jpg
1931 Ford Model A Sedan Delivery

Panel vans were a well-established body type by the end of the 1920s. [4]

Panel vans have experienced divergent evolution in America, Europe, and Australia, as a result of the different passenger car platforms upon which panel vans are based in each region.

North America

1940 Ford Model 01A 78 De Luxe Sedan Delivery.jpg
1940 Ford De Luxe Sedan Delivery
2015 Ram ProMaster City Tradesman Cargo Van, rear left.jpg
2015 Ram ProMaster City Tradesman Cargo Van

A panel van is often known as a "delivery" or "sedan delivery" in North America. It's an older term that usually only applies to station wagon-based vehicles (sedan deliveries/delivery wagons) such as the Chevrolet Delray and Ford Courier, [5] or pickup-based vans (panel deliveries). [6] Large, boxy unibody vans based on truck platforms (such as the Ford Transit, [7] Ram ProMaster, [8] and Chevrolet Express [9] ) as well as smaller unibody vans (like the Ford Transit Connect [10] and Ram Promaster City [11] ) are usually referred to as cargo vans or just panel vans. Larger vehicles built on a chassis cab with a custom cargo box are usually called box trucks or moving vans.

In the late 1920s, Ford produced "Town Car Delivery" and "Wood Panel Delivery" as part of the Ford Model A model range. [12] Later Plymouth produced a sedan delivery from 1935 until 1941. [13] Pontiac produced deliveries until 1953 in the U.S. and until 1958 in Canada based on the Pontiac Pathfinder. [14] Sedan delivery models were usually produced in small quantities of 200 or less, for example 449 Canadian Pontiac sedan deliveries were built in 1958.[ citation needed ]

1971 Chevrolet Vega Panel Express 71 Vega Panel 2.jpg
1971 Chevrolet Vega Panel Express

From 1959 on, the sedan delivery was no longer practical; it was phased out in 1960 as a Chevrolet model, so the requisite Chevrolet body was no longer available. [15] With the growing sales of the Volkswagen Type 2 and the introduction of compact vans, sedan deliveries faded from the scene. Chevrolet dropped the body type after 1960, while Ford moved it to the Falcon line-up until 1965. [16]

In the 1970s, Chevrolet and Ford offered subcompact sedan deliveries with the Chevrolet Vega Panel Express and the Ford Pinto Panel Wagon. The Vega Panel Express was introduced in September 1970 and it was Chevy's first sedan delivery in ten years since the final full-size model was offered in 1960. [17] The Vega Panel Express body style accounted for less than 2% of the total Chevrolet Vegas produced during the 1971 through 1975 model years. [16] First-year sales of the Vega Panel Express peaked at 7,800 units and after leveling off to 4,000 units per year, only 1,525 were sold in 1975. [18] The Pontiac Astre Panel, Pontiac's version of the Vega Panel Express, was available in Canada in the 1973–75 model years and in the US for 1975. [14] The Pinto Panel Wagon was introduced in 1976 and was offered in both a commercial and a "factory customized" Pinto Cruising Wagon version that featured a round porthole style window on each side. [16] The Ford Courier name, previously used for Ford sedan delivery vans, began to be used with Ford's import pickup truck line. [19]

In 2002, Chrysler showed a concept car edition of a panel van based on the PT Cruiser at the North American International Auto Show, but it was not manufactured. In 2007 Chevrolet released a panel van version of the HHR, marketed as the HHR Panel. [20]

The small cargo vans currently sold by American manufacturers are from their overseas divisions, for example, the Ford Transit Connect and Dodge Ram ProMaster City.


1958 Morris Minor 1000 panel van (22876769077).jpg
1958 Morris Minor 1000 panel van
2016 Renault Kangoo (X61 Series II) van (2017-01-30) 02.jpg
2016 Renault Kangoo
2017 Ford Fiesta Base TDCi Van 1.5.jpg
2017 Ford Fiesta Delivery

European panel vans of the 20th century include the Citroën 2CV Fourgonnette, Citroën H Van, Citroën C15, Ford Escort, Morris Minor, Renault Estafette, SEAT Inca [21] and more recently the Renault Kangoo and the Opel Combo. [22]

From the 1950s onwards, a larger alternative to the panel van was the van (based on a commercial vehicle chassis instead of a passenger car chassis), such as the Volkswagen Type 2, the DKW van and the first-generation Ford Transit in 1965. [23] [24] [25]

In the United Kingdom, panel vans benefit from having lower taxes than station wagons [26] and do not have the speed restrictions which apply to larger vans. [27] This has given rise to some anomalies. Authorities and dealers are not always certain on what qualifies as a car-derived van. [28] SUVs and crossovers are also popularly turned into light commercial vehicles without rear seats. [29]

Examples of panel vans from the last 30 years are the Renault Kangoo (1997), the Fiat Doblò (2001), Opel Combo (2001), Ford Transit Connect (2002) or the Volkswagen Caddy (2004). They are also purpose-designed to be utilitarian base model MPVs / people carriers, for a range of such vehicles. Since the 1980s, most manufacturers have offered light van versions of their small hatchbacks, sharing bodywork with the regular passenger version. These versions have the rear seats removed and may have blanked rear windows, depending on local regulations.

As of 2019, the market consists of the following models and many more:


1940 Chevrolet Delivery (15808413981).jpg
1940 Chevrolet Pullman panel van
1980 Holden HZ Sandman Panel Van (14069705280).jpg
1980 Holden HZ Sandman panel van
1998 Ford Falcon (XH II) Longreach GLi Tradesman 1 Tonne panel van (2015-06-18) 02.jpg
1998 Ford XH Falcon panel van

The first Holden panel van produced in Australia was the FJ Holden, which was released in December 1953, [30] although many manufacturers offered panel vans in their range prior to this. [31] [32] [33] [34] [35] [36] [37] [38] Like many Australian panel vans, it was based on a corresponding ute model, with additional body work at the rear. In May 1961, Ford Australia released a panel van version of the XK Falcon, marketed as the "sedan delivery" body style. [39] The first panel van by Chrysler Valiant was part of the CL Valiant model range and was introduced in April 1977. [40]

Panel vans' combination of cargo space and customisable interior in a relatively compact vehicle made them attractive to painters, electricians, general labourers and film crews. [41] Australian police forces also used panel vans (nicknamed "divvy vans" or "paddywagons"). [42]

1953 Holden FJ panel van Holden FJ Panel Van.jpg
1953 Holden FJ panel van

Early Australian panel vans used swing-down and -up tailgates and a standard roof height, due to their ute origins. Some later models offered horizontally opening rear doors (nicknamed "barn doors") and a higher roofline.

By the early 1970s, when panel vans were in decline in America, they had become cultural icons in Australia. [43] The most popular model was the Holden Sandman, which was marketed to surfing lifestyle. [44] [45] The first Sandman was built in small quantities in 1974 in the HQ model range, but the model's popularity greatly increased in the subsequent HJ generation, which was released in October 1974. [46] [47] In the 1979 movie Mad Max , a modified 1975 HJ Sandman model was one of the vehicles driven by the lead character (played by Mel Gibson). [48]

Ford's competitor to the Sandman was the SurfeRoo, which was introduced into the XB Falcon model range in 1973. [49] [50] In 1977, the SurfaRoo was replaced by the more popular Sundowner, in the XC Falcon range. [46] [44]

In 1976, Chrysler released a similar model called the Drifter, which was part of the Chrysler CL Valiant product range. The Drifter ceased production in 1978.

Younger drivers were especially attracted to panel vans, not least because of the ease with which a mattress could be installed within the cargo bay. Consequently, panel vans also attracted nicknames such as "sin bins," and "shaggin' wagons". [51] [52] During the 1970s many Australian panel van owners took to applying airbrush mural art to the sides of their vans, paralleling a similar trend in America. [53] Along with Volkswagen Kombi micro-busses, panel vans were popular with surfers, who could sleep in the cargo bay while carrying surfboards on the roof.

1977 Chrysler CL Valiant Drifter panel van 1977 Chrysler CL Valiant Drifter panel van (15650267232).jpg
1977 Chrysler CL Valiant Drifter panel van

By the end of 1979, the Sandman had largely lost its place in the contemporary Australian youth culture – order figures were down and many of the vehicles were now being sold with the stripes and tailgate logos deleted. The final Sandman was in the Holden HZ series and featured V8 engines only, along with a four-headlight grille and under bumper front spoiler. In 1979, a basic HZ Holden panel van was priced at A$6,076, with the Sandman option package an additional A$1,700. If a buyer selected every Sandman extra, which would cost in excess of 50% more than a basic HZ panel van, Holden would include a velvet mattress with the Holden logo embroidered. The Sandman ute and panel van were phased out in October 1979, with the end of the HZ series. [54]

Panel vans generally declined in popularity through the 1980s. Holden's last panel van, the WB, ceased production in 1984. [55] Ford was the last manufacturer of Australian panel vans, until production of the XH Falcon, ceased in 1999.

In 2000, Holden unveiled a retro-styled Sandman show car based on the Holden VU Ute. While this Sandman was never released, an canopy or "camper shell" featuring the same styling was made available as an A$6,150 accessory for Holden utes from 2003 through 2006. Installation was complicated, however, and the rear window and cab wall of the ute were retained, preventing movement between the cargo bay and the passenger cab as was possible in purpose-built panel vans. [56]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Station wagon Auto body-style with its roof extended rearward

A station wagon, also called an estate (UK) or simply wagon (US), is an automotive body-style variant of a sedan/saloon with its roof extended rearward over a shared passenger/cargo volume with access at the back via a third or fifth door, instead of a trunk/boot lid. The body style transforms a standard three-box design into a two-box design — to include an A, B, and C-pillar, as well as a D-pillar. Station wagons can flexibly reconfigure their interior volume via fold-down rear seats to prioritize either passenger or cargo volume.

Ford Ranchero Motor vehicle

The Ford Ranchero is a coupe utility that was produced by Ford between 1957 and 1979. Unlike a standard pickup truck, the Ranchero was adapted from a two-door station wagon platform that integrated the cab and cargo bed into the body. A total of 508,355 units were produced during the model's production run. Over its lifespan it was variously derived from full-sized, compact, and intermediate automobiles sold by Ford for the North American market.

Ford Falcon (Australia) Motor vehicle

The Ford Falcon is a full-sized car that was manufactured by Ford Australia from 1960 to 2016. From the XA series of 1972 onward, each Falcon and range of derivates have been designed, developed, and built in Australia, following the phasing out of the American-influenced Falcon of 1960 to 1971, which had been re-engineered locally as the XK to XY series for the harsher Australian conditions. The luxury-oriented Ford Fairmont model joined the range from 1965. Luxury long-wheelbase derivative versions called the Ford Fairlane and LTD arrived in 1967 and 1973, respectively.

There are many types of car body styles. They vary depending on intended use, market position, location and the era they were made in.

Ford Australia

The Ford Motor Company of Australia Limited, known by its trading name Ford Australia, is the Australian subsidiary of United States-based automaker Ford Motor Company. It was founded in Geelong, Victoria, in 1925 as an outpost of Ford Motor Company of Canada, Limited. At that time, Ford Canada was a separate company from Ford USA. Henry Ford had granted the manufacturing rights of Ford motor vehicles in the British Empire, to Canadian investors.

Ford E-Series Motor vehicle

The Ford E-Series is a range of full-size vans produced by the American automaker Ford. Introduced for the 1961 model year as the replacement for the Ford F-series panel van, the model line is currently in its fourth generation.

Ford Courier Motor vehicle

Ford Courier is a model nameplate used by Ford since the early 1950s. First used in North America for a sedan delivery, the Courier nameplate has seen use worldwide for multiple types of vehicles. The Courier nameplate was also used by Ford for a series of compact pickup trucks and would also see use by Ford of Europe denoting a Fiesta-based panel van. Ford Brazil used the nameplate for a Fiesta-based coupe utility pickup marketed across Latin America.

Holden Kingswood Motor vehicle

The Holden Kingswood is a full-size car that was manufactured in Australia by Holden, from the beginning of the HK series in 1968 through to the conclusion of the WB series in 1984. Prior to 1968, the full-size Holden range of family cars comprised the Holden Standard, the Holden Special, and Holden Premier models. Initially, the HK range of models included the basic Holden Belmont, the Kingswood, and the luxury-oriented Holden Premier, all of which were manufactured in a choice of sedan and station wagon bodies. Commercial variants were offered in three types: coupé utility, panel van, and later from 1971, a heavy-duty Holden One Tonner cab chassis. The utility (ute) version was originally marketed in both Belmont and Kingswood configurations. However, after the Belmont name was deleted from commercials at the end of HQ in late 1974, the base model commercials were sold only with the "Holden" badge.

Panel truck Van based on the chassis of a pickup truck

A panel truck in U.S. and Canadian usage is a small delivery truck with a fully enclosed body. It typically is high and has no rear windows in the rear cargo area. The term was first used in the early 1910s. Panel trucks were marketed for contracting, deliveries, and other businesses. Often described as a small van used mostly for delivery rounds, the British equivalent is a "delivery van."

Ute (vehicle)

A ute, originally an abbreviation for "utility" or "coupé utility", is a term used in Australia and New Zealand to describe vehicles with a tonneau behind the passenger compartment, that can be driven with a regular driver's license.

Ford Falcon (AU) Motor vehicle

The Ford Falcon (AU) is a full-size car that was produced by Ford Australia from 1998 to 2002. It was the sixth generation Ford Falcon and also included the Ford Fairmont (AU)—the luxury-oriented model range. The AU series replaced the EL Falcon constructed on the new at the time EA169 platform, and was replaced by the updated BA series.

Holden HQ Motor vehicle

The Holden HQ series is a range of automobiles that was produced by Holden in Australia from 1971 to 1974. The HQ was released on 15 July 1971, replacing the Holden HG series. It was the first ground up redesign of the Holden line since its original release in 1948, and included an all-new body, chassis, and suspension. The HQ was later developed into a series of successor models, finally ending production when the WB series was discontinued in 1984.

Holden HJ Motor vehicle

The Holden HJ is a series of automobiles which were produced by Holden in Australia from 1974 to 1976. The HJ series was released on 4 October 1974 and was an improved and facelifted version of the superseded Holden HQ series which had been in production since 1971.

Holden HX Motor vehicle

The Holden HX is a range of automobiles which was produced by Holden in Australia from 1976 to 1977.

Holden HZ Motor vehicle

Holden HZ is a full-sized automobile which was produced in Australia between October 1977 and April 1980 by Holden in a variety of equipment levels and in several different body styles. It was also assembled in New Zealand.

Holden WB Motor vehicle

The Holden WB series is an automobile which was produced by Holden in Australia from 1980 to 1984. It is a facelifted version of the Holden HZ series, which it replaced. Unlike the HZ and every other full size Holden series before it, the Holden WB was only offered in commercial vehicle bodystyles with no sedan or wagon passenger car variants. The long-wheelbase WB series models were marketed under the separate Statesman marque, absent of all Holden branding.

Ford Falcon (XH) Motor vehicle

The Ford Falcon (XH) is a commercial range of vehicles that was manufactured by Ford Australia from 1996 to 1999, as an upgrade to the XG series of utility and panel van models which were derived from the XF full-size car and had been marketed along side the new series sedans since the EA26 project release in 1988. The XH incarnation brought closer levels of technology and comfort in comparison to the current sedan range on offer (EL), and was also the first Falcon utility vehicle to offer a V8 engine option in approximately fourteen years.

Coupé utility Automotive body style

A coupé utility is a vehicle with a passenger compartment at the front and an integrated cargo tray at the rear, with the front of the cargo bed doubling as the rear of the passenger compartment.

National Motor Museum, Birdwood Automobile museum

The National Motor Museum, Australia, is an automobile museum in the Adelaide Hills in the township of Birdwood, South Australia. Established in 1964 and opened to the public soon afterwards, it is Australia's largest motor museum, with close to 400 vehicles on display.


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