Cohort Pic(k)s of the Day: GM Vans: Bedford-Blitz CF280 and GMC Vandura – Guess Which One Came First

(Update: this is actually a Bedford-Blitz, with some added Vauxhall badging)

We’ll do something a bit different today, combining shots from two different Cohort posters because of the subject matter. I’ve long noticed how very similar the Bedford/Bedford-Blitz CF vans (posted by Corey Behrens) are in appearance to the Chevy/GMC vans (posted by William Rubano). I just naturally assumed the American versions came first. Was I right or wrong?


Wrong. The Bedford CF arrived in the UK for 1969, and the Chevy/GMC vans for 1971. And no, they’re not related otherwise except for their styling.

That’s probably because the CF’s predecessor, the Bedford CA, was getting mighty old. It first arrived in 1952, and became quite a legend in its own right. But curiously enough, it has the same basic configuration as the CF, with a short hood and the engine tucked mostly under it, just like the CF.

Quite unlike the Chevy van’s predecessor, which had the engine between the front seats. But both needed to be redone for a changed world. It’s a bit hard to see the Bedford still being sold in 1968.

I shouldn’t really bring the Opel Blitz into this post, as it’s long overdue its own day in the CC sun. Its history goes way back to 1930, but it was a bit bigger, one step up class-wise, from the more compact Bedford. And it always had its engine out front. I bring it up here because this ’68 Blitz double-cab truck also shares some very obvious styling cues with the Chevy/GMC trucks from the 1960-1967 era.

I will show one more Blitz, another Bedford-Blitz from 1980, actually, just because this angle really makes it look like the American GMC/Chevy vans. These were sold for some years in certain markets including Germany, and is of course just a rebadged Bedford.

But I will make one more comment on the Blitz: GM made a big mistake killing the Blitz and getting out of the van market. That has become the most profitable sector in Europe, with 10+% profit margins. It is absolutely the key reason why Ford has not sold its European ops, even though most of the lines except the vans are not making any real money. Opel started selling rebadged Renault Master vans in 1998, called the Movano. But selling someone else’s’ van (or car or truck) means there’s no real profit in it. It’s done purely as a defensive hedge. If GM had kept the Blitz line, Opel might well still be a GM division.

Before I forget, the Bedford CF came in three wheelbase lengths: 106, 126, and 140″. That corresponds quite closely to the Chevy/GMC’s 110, 125, and 146″ wheelbases. But there’s nothing shared anywhere: the Bedford/Vauxhall is narrower, uses a beefed up Vauxhall Victor front suspension, and of course much smaller four cylinder engines. The gas engine was the Vauxhall “slant four” in 1.6, 1.8, 2.0, 2.25 and 2.3 L forms. Diesels were from Perkins, either a 1.8 or a 2.5 for the bigger vans/trucks. After 1980, the Opel 2.0 and 2.3 L diesels were used.

Vauxhall pulled the plug on the CF in 1988. it was replaced by the Midi, which of course was a re-badged Isuzu Fargo. Yes, Fargo, How they ended up using that name is a good question, but it was not used by Vauxhall, as I suspect in Europe the Fargo name was still very much taken. The irony is that the Midi/Fargo was of course retrograde, with its engine between the front seats, just like the original Chevy van. But this was a first for Vauxhall, as their vans had always had their engines out front.

After 1994, Vauxhall sold versions of the Renault Traffic under various names. Given that Opel/Vauxhall are now owned by PSA, that’s changed over to rebadged vans made by Peugeot.