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Surrey Vintage Vehicle Society caters for veteran cars, vintage cars & classic cars, as well as commercials and motorcycles.

:: [  Morris 10cwt Martin-Walter conversion "Utilevan"  ] ::

Ian Moreton advises he has a Morris " Utilevan" . It was bought by his grandather in 1948, possibly new, and has been in the family ever since. On the certification plate it is a Morris 12/4. The manual that came with it refers to it as a Morris Y Model 10cwt van. It was modified by Martin Walter of Folkestone to having fold down seating to seat up to 7 people, or still be able to be used as a van. It also has side windows. His father tells him that two people had recognised it as a "Tilly", as used by the RN during WW2.

We can advise that Martin-Walter were founded in 1773 making harnesses and later coaches and carriages. They then became a vehicle coachbuilder making bodies for prestige motors and special bodies for differing applications. In the 1950/60s Martin-Walter became a prolific converter of vans to estates.

(Webmaster: In my youth I had a company " Beagle " which was a conversion of a Bedford into an estate car with windows and foldaway seats. (Wikipedia Quote: The Bedford Beagle was an estate car conversion of the Bedford HA 8cwt van, which itself was based on the Vauxhall Viva HA. The conversions were undertaken by Martin Walter Ltd. Whilst the vans were very common at one time, the Beagle was altogether rarer and there are very few left today. Introduced in 1964, originally with the 1057cc engine, the Beagle was basic, with drum brakes all round and minimal interior trim. Later engine upgrades arrived in 1967 (1159 cc) and 1972 (1256 cc), bringing the top speed up from 72 mph to about 80 mph, but the Beagle was finally discontinued in 1973. It was more or less replaced by the superior Viva HC estate cars.)

Martin-Walter were most famous for their range of "Dormobiles" which were caravan camper conversions of standard vans. Many makes carried Dormobile bodies including Bedford, Ford, Volkswagen, Land Rover, Mercedes Benz etc, and were exported all over the world.

The Utili... prefix was used on many M-W conversion vehicles; Utilecon on a Ford, Utilibrake on a Bedford, Utilicon Junior on a Morris Minor... and this one a Utilevan on a Morris, some featuring Utilafold seats. 

When the craze for campers was curtailed by the advent of foreign holidays, Martin Walter changed to making mini and midi busses. Due to cashflow problems the company closed in 1994.

We are not very familiar with the intricacies of Martin-Walter ranges, and our records and researches do not feature a "Utilevan", although the name would seem to be in the family group. Morris did have a working relationship with Martin-Walter but we have no record of a conversion on the 12/4. 

It seems that Series Y Morris 10 cwt vans were made between 1940 and 1949 and were derivatives of the Morris 10 car car rather than being a purpose designed commercial vehicle. If the vehicle is based on the Morris 12/4, then the production years were 1937 -1939. During this period, 1936-1939, Morris made the Series II Morris 10 cwt Van, presumably based on the 12/4. If the vehicle is based on the Morris 10, then the build years were 1939 to 1948. Morris 10 cars are also sometimes called the Morris Ten Four, Series M.

It seems that Morris made Model Y Ambulances cca 1941 and Martin-Walter were also putting special ambulance bodies on Fords around 1948/9 called The 'Utilecon' Ambulance. The Utilecon ambulances were used by the Navy and the other Forces. 

What does appear to be the case is that the origins of the term "Tilly" were not connected with Martin-Walter's "Utili......".  It is our information that "Tilly" was a forces pet name for the military " Morris 10 Utility " vehicle, a much smaller normally khaki pickup-type vehicle with a canvas back. This got the shortened nickname "Tilly".

Ian Moreton subsequently advised further details of the vehicle. On the car's production plate is stamped: "Type 12/4. Car no. SY/TWV20044. Engine No. 69704". The book that came with it refers to it as a Morris Y Model 10 cwt, and the picture on the front of the book only shows a chassis with engine cowling and steering wheel. The brass plate inside on the dash states: "Designed and Built By Martin Walter of Folkestone.  Utilevan, All purpose conversion. Serial no 11113". 

Ian has recently obtained via EBay a pamphlet from Autolit in New York on a 1951 Bedford Utilevan. It is an original sales brochure. The interior and side windows are exactly the same as his. Part of the pamphlet is shown below with the photos.

As there are a number of inconsistencies in our research, we would be most grateful for any help from Morris or Martin-Walter aficionados who could help to clarify them. Please drop us an email with any info, however insignificant. It can all help in building up the picture.

ADDITIONAL October 2006 from Ian Moreton:  I've just read the input you guys have put on my van. FANTASTIC ! I can add a bit more now. I have purchased a set of original 1946 sales papers from Martin Walter. There are 2 pages each for the Morris, Austin, Ford, and Bedford Utilecons. This is slightly different to the reference about only Ford's being referred to as Utilecon's. It would seem that they were all called Utilecon's up to about 1948. After that the same vehicle was called a Utilevan. I have dated mine via the generator date stamp. August 1949. The purchase date has been altered on the original papers so it seems now that May 1950 Was the purchase and reg date. I find the comments about the dates of manufacture of the 12/4 interesting. I have also been sent a set of copies of Morris sales pamphlets for the Utilecon. They refer to it as being now made available to the general public having previously been supplied to the various arms of the military. I have not been able categorically substantiate this yet, but I'm working on it. Thank you so much for your efforts. Regards Ian Moreton

ADDITIONAL December 2007 from Ian Moreton:  Bozi, I had an email from David Tapley (80yr old) son of Arthur Tapley who owned Martin Walter when my vehicle was built. He sent me some photos of the factory but couldn't give me any specific details of my van except that the name-change from Utilecon to Utilevan occurred around 1949 because in Sth America the word Utilecon had some sort of sexual connotations. I also have copies of a Dover Kent Paper with an article about the manufacture of the utilecons and in it they are referred to as Tilly'S as used by the services during the war. They were originally produced solely as war transport. According to David Tapley there were about 4000 units built, mainly Ford and Bedford with about 5% eing Morris and Austin. This would suggest there may have been as few as 100 Morris's built. Hence it's rarity. 


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