'66 Commer Walk Thru Project

ADMS

New Member
Hi all, thanks for having me on your forum.

We run a full time garage repair workshop in South Wales and we never normally entertain work like this, but we had an intriguing email recently from an up and coming company in our area that owns a 1966 Commer Walk Thru. It's a real head turner, so they plan to use it to travel all over the UK to festivals/shows etc to sell their wares. The only thing is, is that it's not built for today's spoilt motorist so the owner wants to mod it up to make it more encouraging to drive because its currently a ballache to travel just a couple of miles.

This 3.0 litre straight six won't go quicker than 40 mph (it takes forever to get to 40 mph too), the handling is dreadful, the drum brakes are lethal - you need to plan your braking via telepathy, he'd like power steering, central locking and all that jazz but the easy, cosmetic stuff is for later. Firstly, I want to get the van moving quicker (and obviously, safer)

Why am I getting involved?
1) I've never really done this sort of work before in my career, but it's sparked an interest inside me
&
2) We've got until early Spring 2017 to get it sorted

So why am I posting it on here?
1) Being the tender age of 41, I was hoping I could tap in to the knowledge of some of the more 'mature' members of the forum
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for any advice during this challenge, whether it be technical or even parts identifying/sourcing.
2) I'll keep the thread updated as a blog type affair that might provide you with some light reading as the weeks/months go by - It may even cheer you up if your having a bad day knowing there's always a poor bugger having a worse day than you
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So here's the beast in question, I'll keep this updated as I figure out my next steps. Feel free to leave your comments (and insults) below...

IMAG0096.jpg IMAG0097.jpg IMAG0098.jpg
 

colinthefox

Well-Known Member
Welcome to this very friendly forum. I'd be very interested in seeing your progress with this one. It looks like quite a tidy van too.

We hired one of these to move house in the 70s, and yes, it was slow!
 

Panky

Administrator
Staff member
Hi Russell and welcome to the madhouse:D That's a big beautiful beast you have there:cool: I wonder if they do any 'special' mixes in the vaps:D
It's a monster of a thing to be hauled around by even a 3 litre lump but that engine is huge (and rather asthmatic) so there should be plenty of room to get something more modern in there. One of our number, a certain Super Smooth Bernie Booth, fitted a 2 litre Merc engine to his Super Snipe (same engine as in the big green beast) and it goes very well, but I think it would struggle in your application. Maybe a Lexus V8 or big BMW straight six, unless you go the whole hog and convert it to FWD and use the subframe and engine out of a modern van. Food for thought.
 

PaulJL

Well-Known Member
I'm looking forward to seeing the progress. Personally I would go for a diesel, possibly a Volvo 7oo or 900 series engine and box.
 

ADMS

New Member
IMAG0091.jpg IMAG0092.jpg IMAG0091.jpg IMAG0092.jpg Thanks for the welcome :)

I was mulling over what engine/trans combo to put in on the agonising drive from the owners premises back to our workshop, but I thought I'd have a quick look at what I'd got first before going any further.

The points were closed up (and well pitted), the distributor cap was poor and the ignition leads were falling apart so I've replaced all these, played with the carburettor, adjusted the ignition timing by ear (as I don't have the actual ignition timing spec for this) and not only does the engine sound beautiful, it pulls much much better. I think I'm going to keep the engine/trans original and see what I can do to increase its capabilities.

First up is getting rid of the fixed rad cooling fan and maybe rig up a viscous fan or better still a Kenlowe electric fan?

The exhaust manifold is badly cracked IMAG0091.jpg and the rest of the exhaust is in poor condition. I'm toying with the idea of getting a manifold fabricated, plus a nice stainless (bigger bore) exhaust system.

The solex carburettor IMAG0092.jpg is a joke. I'm thinking if I get at least a twin carb setup on this, the power will increase drastically. I think this could be one of my larger headaches so any input here would be appreciated.

All this said, the back axle is bugging me. Even if I were to use a donor engine or power increase through modding this engine within an inch of its life, will the axle ratio hold me back?

I'm off for a cuppa :cool:
 

Panky

Administrator
Staff member
Sounds like a plan. The cracked manifold is a common fault on these engines so a fabricated one would be a good idea. Have you considered a nice big 2" SU conversion. We recommend an 1 3/4" conversion on our 1725 engines and the difference is amazing so a single 2" on the big six might work. nice and simple too.
 

ADMS

New Member
Have you considered a nice big 2" SU conversion. We recommend an 1 3/4" conversion on our 1725 engines and the difference is amazing so a single 2" on the big six might work. nice and simple too.

Sounds good. Will definitely look into this.

Something I've been looking at today is the wheelbase/axle handling setup on this van.

I've been to the local weighbridge to get my head around what I'm working with and this van is coming in at 3540 kg :eek:
The handling is awful and I've noticed that the rear axle is narrower than the front! Is this normal?

This is a brief sketch I've done of the wheel pan layout...
IMAG0131.jpg

It seems like its missing a couple of rear wheels :D Should this have been a twin wheel rear axle or has someone replaced the axle at some time in its life?

Whatever happens, this will have to be addressed to stabilise the beast!
 

Panky

Administrator
Staff member
Just did a quick Google image search and there were twin wheeled chassis available
 

jimberlake

Well-Known Member
defo manifold and SU\twin su as its a 6 pot should make a good difference and electronic ignition for reliability is a must for me. Maybe for the rear - think about banding the rear wheels, only £50 a piece and fit wider tyres and coupled with some stiffer shocks, another option is fitting additional air bags as many coach built campervans tend to do for this very reason.
finally but probably less effect some head work while the manifold is off...a polish and three angle valve cuts...pretty cheap to get done though not 100% sure of the benefit on this machine?
wouldn't want to be going above 60 in this tbh!
 

colinthefox

Well-Known Member
I think that engine may be similar to the one fitted to my (now departed) Commer Q4 truck. In which case it is similar to the Humber Super Snipe engine but a low compression version, designed to run on old fashioned two star petrol. If you could find a high compression cylinder head, maybe it would go a lot better. I seem to remember the low compression version used to pull the Q4 with a Fowler Crawler tractor on the back, and at more than 8 tonnes, it was smooth as silk and went pretty well.
I'm not sure if you could skim the head? Nothing to lose.

How about just fitting an separate overdrive unit in the prop shaft. That keeps everything original and saves re-engineering the whole thing. It keeps the hill climbing ability, but would give you longer legs on the flat.

Just a thought.:)
 
hi
99% sure that is a derivative of a commer q4 engine which as colin says was built to run on any old crap the army could find lying around they are low geared but produce horrendous amounts of torque. Our old q4 with 4 wheel drive used to pull loaded cement mixers out of holes when we were renovating our farm and im virtually certain a commer q4 holds the pulling record at the great dorset steam fair. So there never ever going to be quick.
Your weight at over 3.5T means your only ever going to legally be able to do 56 mph so top end is not an issue.
Walk thru's have the aero dynamics of a house brick with a parachute attatched aswell so that wont help.
However the Q4 engine is a bored out version of the humber super snipe and later imperial versions which ran twin 175 stromberg carbs and our imperial will happily do 80mph but its an automatic. manual with overdrive is hard to find and was for the supersnipe but will fit.
Your biggest problem is going to be the back axle. it may be worth a trip to your local van/commercial breakers and have a look at the twin axled Iveco vans that alot of the utility company's use and see if you could swap the axle from 1 of these. Or even possibly the entire engine and drivetrain.
 

colinthefox

Well-Known Member
If you could put up some pics of the back axle with any identifying marks etc, I might be able to put you in touch with someone. I have a hunch that it is similar to the Karrier Bantam item.
Seems that the specs for the axles were:-
Petrol 2540kg (that will be single wheels)5.57:1
Diesel 4064kg (that will be twin wheels) 4.875:1
The axles look like they were dimensionally the same, but fitting single wheels resulted in the layout you described.


Also I found this link https://www.flickr.com/photos/56252091@N03/8254815906/in/photostream/
which has the specifications, and a photo and story of an identical van.
 

Van-Dug

New Member
Hi there,

any progress with this Commer? I've also been contemplating re-powering my 2.2 petrol Walk-Thru to make it more useable.

I think the van you have may be close to its maximum weight as it stands (or even over if it's a 3.5 tonner). They did make a petrol 3.8 tonne version with single rear wheels. Depending upon the gvw and the current use of the vehicle it may need testing as a goods vehicle not a class VII mot, and that may even require a tachograph. One thing to noite is the van can legally do 70mph on the motorway, it doesn't need a speed limiter as it is under 7500kg and was first used befor 2001.

As regards an alternative engine/box I was tempted by the iveco daily route especially as they are fairly straight-forward & cheap and gearstick would probably come through the floor in a similar location to the existing one. Also there are several power options available and other components like the axles may be useable. Alternatively find a Dodge 50 series with good running gear (Perkins diesel) as there are similar drivetrain components used as it was the replacement for the Walk-Thru, so may be an easier conversion.
 

CommerWalkThru

New Member
Hi there,

any progress with this Commer? I've also been contemplating re-powering my 2.2 petrol Walk-Thru to make it more useable.

I think the van you have may be close to its maximum weight as it stands (or even over if it's a 3.5 tonner). They did make a petrol 3.8 tonne version with single rear wheels. Depending upon the gvw and the current use of the vehicle it may need testing as a goods vehicle not a class VII mot, and that may even require a tachograph. One thing to noite is the van can legally do 70mph on the motorway, it doesn't need a speed limiter as it is under 7500kg and was first used befor 2001.

As regards an alternative engine/box I was tempted by the iveco daily route especially as they are fairly straight-forward & cheap and gearstick would probably come through the floor in a similar location to the existing one. Also there are several power options available and other components like the axles may be useable. Alternatively find a Dodge 50 series with good running gear (Perkins diesel) as there are similar drivetrain components used as it was the replacement for the Walk-Thru, so may be an easier conversion.
 

CommerWalkThru

New Member
Hi.
I've finally joined up after many years of following the site.
I finally managed to buy a Walk-Thru after years of looking...mentioned my love of them to a friend I've known for years and would you believe he knew of one that has been sitting for 5 years...deal done and im now the proud owner of a 1962 Flat fronted single wheel panel van...complete with a load of new and old spares, but unfortunately its not been turned over for a good few years so I've left diesel down the plug holes last weekend in hope of freeing her off. I've been informed its a 1600 Petrol and logbook etc backs this up...just wondering if any of you would be able to confirm this type engine does exist...? Know the usual petrol and diesel engine sizes but kind of come up with a blank when looking into this engine.
Thanks for listening and look forward to any answers you may have and hopefully being on the road in the near future.
Paul.
 

Panky

Administrator
Staff member
Hi Paul and welcome to the Madhouse:D
Great to hear you've finally got a van, but a 1600 in one of those beast:eek: It would be grossly under powered - the 2.2 Humgber engined ones struggled as it was. Could you post a pic so we can try and identify you engine please.
 
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