The apprentices worked under the command of Ford’s heritage vehicle technicians in one of Dagenham’s original buildings, which remains in use today as Ford’s heritage workshop.
The original Dad’s Army television series ran from 1968 to 1977, and 'BUC 852', the van’s registration, made its screen debut in September 1969 in the first colour episode. This month it appeared in the film version of Dad’s Army with stars including Sir Tom Courtenay, Toby Jones, Bill Nighy, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Sir Michael Gambon.
The van, belonging to local butcher and home guardsman, Jack Jones, is known for its role as a support vehicle for the Walmington-on-Sea branch of the Home Guard. It is now owned by the Dad’s Army Museum in Thetford, Norfolk.
Although it has undertaken extensive cosmetic restoration, Ford, together with a team of its apprentices, was tasked with returning it to operational duty. This included a full engine rebuild, replacement clutch, and new wiring looms.
Stuart Wright, from the Dad’s Army Museum in Thetford, said: “This vehicle has a special place in British entertainment history, and is enjoyed by the many visitors to the Dad’s Army museum. It’s fantastic to see the van operational again and we hope it will capture the imagination of the younger visitors less familiar with Dad’s Army, as well as triggering happy memories for the older generations.”
“It has been wonderful to see the van back at Dagenham after all these years, and we’re delighted that our apprentices have had the opportunity to get involved with getting such an iconic vehicle back on the road,” added Paul Neighbour, Ford Dagenham engine plant manager.
Today the Ford Dagenham estate is responsible for powertrain design and engineering, and manufacturing up to one million diesel engines a year for the global market. Ford Dagenham also plays a vital logistical role in the movement of vehicles and parts through its own internal rail network and jetty as well as on road-going transporters.