Photos courtesy Bonhams.
The more unusual the vehicle, the more likely it will be put to unusual purposes, a maxim perfectly applicable to one of the last remaining 5-ton BMC transporters, a vehicle that has served as mobile driver’s training classroom, as a sales office for a travel agency, and as a stand-in for a torched production mate, all on its way to crossing the block this weekend.
Though based on a British Motor Corporation bus chassis, the automaker never intended the vehicle now known as BMC 25 to haul passengers. Instead, in 1959 chassis number 5KCFECDE389926, complete with its 5.1-liter six-cylinder diesel and five-speed manual transmission, went to Marshall SV in Cambridge, a commercial vehicle coachbuilder that largely built bus bodies, to have a Pininfarina-designed aluminum body fitted to it. Up front it included seating for the driver and a few passengers, then behind the bulkhead door it featured a number of benches, shelves, and cabinets used when the transporter traveled the country, visiting BMC dealers to show their mechanics how best to work on the recently released Minis.
According to a 1965 issue of “Safety Fast,” the transporter also (presumably once all the mechanics in the country had the hang of working on Minis) supported the BMC Advanced Driving School, which existed “primarily to train BMC employees who drive the faster cars in the line of duty to do so safely” and to instruct newcomers to heavy truck driving.
While BMC had at least 20 such transporters built, some for use overseas, not all of them bounced from dealership to dealership. At least one, BMC 34, was built with extended rear bodywork capable of swallowing two Mini Coopers and transporting them to races across Europe. BMC 25 even got conscripted for race car support duty in Australia toward the end of its term with the company. Upon its return to England, BMC sold it for £1 to Birmingham University, which later sold it to Harris Holiday Travel, which used BMC 25 as a booking office. Sometime after Harris no longer needed it, BMC 25 made its way to a field, presumably to rot away.
That was until Paul Stanworth, a vintage racer with a passion for BMC vehicles, came across BMC 25 and drove it back out of that field with plans to use it as the basis for a replica of BMC 34, which arsonists had destroyed in the 1990s. That meant extending the rear bodywork, using only photos of BMC 34 as plans, and adding a fold-down ramp in place of the picture window that previously spanned the rear of the transporter.
Following the conversion and restoration, Stanworth used BMC 25 to haul around his ex-works Minis and Team Broadspeed cars. It then went to auction in September of 2014, selling for £91,100 (about $148,000 at the time) at the Bonhams Goodwood Revival sale. Now, two years later and sporting a fresh refurbishment, BMC 25 will return to the Bonhams Goodwood Revival sale with a pre-auction estimate of £80,000 to £100,000 (about $110,000 to $130,000).
The Bonhams Goodwood Revival auction will take place Saturday. For more information, visit Bonhams.com.