Curbside Classic: 1977 Bedford CF Cab Chassis – Trying To Keep Up With The Transit

Bedford CF cab chassis 1

I’ve come across this Bedford a few times in the same industrial neighbourhood in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, so it must belong to someone working in the area.  This type of vehicle has always appealed to me as a Goldilocks ‘just right’ vehicle in size and capability, but not necessarily as they came from the factory.

First Bedford CF van

The Bedford CF was released in August 1969 to replace both the smaller CA and larger TJ vans, and updated its CA predecessor’s setting of the modern van layout (ignoring fwd) of a front-mounted engine, the historic cab-over van setup, passenger car front suspension (GM stablemate Vauxhall Victor in the case of the CF) and drivetrain for good drivability, by replacing the separate chassis with a robust van unibody.  Ford had a march on the van market at this time, not only with the October 1965 Transit, but in North America the front-engined Econoline was launched over a year earlier (January 1968 as a 1969 model).  Both Chevrolet and Dodge would debut their front-engined vans for 1971 in the US, while Dodge never did replace the old cab-over Commer in the UK.

Bedford CF ex ice cream van

The CF van came in 106″ (2.7m) and 126″ (3.2m) wheelbases and GVM ratings from 4816-7280 lb (2185-3303 kg), giving load space from 201-268 cu.ft. (5.7-7.6 m3) – less 16 cu.ft. if you added the optional passenger seat!  The longer wheelbase van had dual rear wheels giving a load capacity of 4021 lb, quite an increase on the entry level 2039 lb!  Engines were 1.6L & 2.0L Vauxhall gasoline or 1.8L & 2.5L Perkins diesels, which would be upgraded over the years.

CF pickup frame2

Picture from

Like the Transit the CF was available as a cab-chassis should you want something other than a plain van.  As you can see the chassis had ‘top hat’ sections that I assume were added to box in the standard chassis rail sections that would normally be welded to the floor of the van.    Load capacity by the time you added more than the most basic tray was probably slightly lower than the van; base kerb weight was only 300 lb lighter.  The cab-chassis was available in the same weight ratings as the van, however from the examples I’ve seen the 35 cwt model seems to have been much more popular than its smaller brothers.

Luton Peak CF

Picture from flickr user Jamie-A

The CF was also available as a “cowl chassis” or even a bare chassis in the UK.  As a piece of trivia, the town of Luton in Bedfordshire where Bedford was located had already given its name to the Luton Peak style of van body, which extended over the cab as seen above.  This was developed to provide more volume for carrying straw hats, that were a traditional product of the town.

1973 Aust CF Brochure

From 1973 Holden dropped the 75 hp (56 kW) Vauxhall 2-litre four in favour of their own 173 cu in (2.8L) 6-cylinder with 112 hp (83.5 kW) and 160 lb-ft @ 2000 rpm (217 Nm), still in gross power ratings at this time and in Low Compression form to run on Standard grade petrol.  I imagine that this would have involved extending the ‘doghouse’ rearwards for the extra two cylinders; by comparison Ford Australia used the existing extended-nose diesel bodywork when they slotted the Falcon’s 6-cyl into the Transit.

Transmission options were 3 or 4-speed manual depending if you bought the short or long wheelbase, or a 3-speed automatic.  In 1978 the larger 202 cu in (3.3L) six brought the option of some extra power and torque.  Final drive ratios were raised (!) to 4.625:1 on short wheelbase models and a tree-climbing 5.222:1 on the long wheelbase.  Later this changed to 4.1:1 standard or the 2.75:1 “highway” diff – you can imagine this was a pretty important choice to get right!  Brakes were power-assisted four wheel drums.

Picture from

Picture from

Of course there were those who wanted more, and more than a few CF’s have had a V8 slotted (and hacksawed and ground and bashed) into the engine bay, usually the Holden 253 (4.2L) or 308 (5.0L) because they would drop straight onto the original 6-cyl engine mounts at least.

The Bedford CF van ran until 1981 in Australia, which meant it did not receive the 1980 facelift nor was it replaced by the second generation as per UK models which ran through to 1987. Instead the Bedford name was dropped completely and an Isuzu-based Holden Shuttle van took over, and since 1991 Holden is no longer in the commercial van market.  Isuzu trucks had also taken the place of the larger Bedford trucks.

Bedford CF cab chassis 3

You can see the large LPG tank in this shot; a dual-fuel setup was and is a very popular option to reduce running costs, and as a bonus it would probably double your range.

Picture from

Picture from

As a car nut, the thought of a dedicated hauler has some appeal, and is how I would want to own a CF (with V8 on LPG).  This example has the 140″ wheelbase version available on the Cab Chassis from 1975, which is probably not necessary for the small cars I’d put on it. Note the recess in the centre of the floor to allow clearance for low exhausts or similar.

Movano carrying vintage Vauxhall

Ironically the modern equivalent of this truck, the Vauhall Movano (here in quite a nice press photo) or its Ford Transit, Mercedes Sprinter etc competitors are a good deal taller (12″+) and longer than the CF, making them that much harder to live with and house.  The bumper-to-back-of-cab dimension of the Movano is over two feet longer than the CF; for quite good reasons (cabin space & crash safety) if you drive one commercially! But for a hobby hauler for smaller cars, the demands are not the same.

Bedford CF cab chassis 2

Ironically when looking up information on CF’s I actually came across this very vehicle for sale on Gumtree!  You have missed it though, the asking price of $2,990 must have been snapped up last October, so it looks like I won’t be seeing it around any more.


Further Reading:

CC Outtake: 1966 Bedford CA Ice Cream Van – The Sun Always Shines in England  (the predecessor to the CF)

Storage Field Classic: Vauxhall Victor 101 Super – Almost Mine (source of the engine and front suspension)

Curbside Classic: 1969 Ford Econoline – Ford Builds a Better Box

CC Outtake: 1972 Ford Econoline 200 – Big White Generic Box (this one contains a great shot of the first and current Transit, I don’t think anybody has done a CC on that yet)

Cohort Capsule: Ford Econoline Euro-Style Truck  (a US equivalent of this truck)