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Mike Pugh's BWM/ Thames Van

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Joined: 03 May 2007
Posts: 1526
Location: Olympia, Washington

PostPosted: Thu Aug 16, 2007 7:48 pm    Post subject: Mike Pugh's BWM/ Thames Van Reply with quote

This story was sent to me by EFONA member Mike Pugh from North Carolina. Pretty unique! -- Michael

2002 Panel Truck Project
this story actually begins about 9 years earlier when I was 14. With a tidy sum from my lawn mowing business, I bought my first car, a 1959 English Ford Anglia sedan on which I proceeded to rebuild the engine, brakes, etc. By the time I got my license I had it on the road and my then girlfriend (and now my wife) used to drive to school and on dates in it. Soon the little flathead 4 cylinder was not enough and I moved on to the world of late 60’s muscle cars, which would occupy my obsession until a fateful day in 1976. My addiction to BMWs began when a friend decided he wanted to sell his 1969 2002 for the tidy sum of $2002.00. After a test drive of the little car, with about 100k miles on the odometer, we knew we had to have it. My fate was forever sealed, I was now a genuine 2002 nut. Over the years I have owned/restored over 30 of these fine little cars, including several to this day.

But back to this focus of this story. One day in 1979, my Dad and I were at Martinsville Speedway at a NASCAR race and in a field near the track was a small house and right outside was parked a 1959 English Ford panel truck, aka as a Thames. After knocking on the door and tracking down the owner, who actually lived in the next state, I was able to acquire the little truck. At this point, my addiction to 2002s was in full strength and so I big dreams of making this little truck run like a 2002. But, work and family took rightfully took priority, and so the little truck was relegated to my father’s barn in Virginia where it would reside for 24 years, eventually become a popular resort for the local mouse community. Through out all of these years, the little truck stayed in the back of my mind, I wanted to make it run like and 02, but the heart and soul of the little cars is more than just the engine, its also the suspension and brakes and balance. Finally my father thought I needed some motivation and hauled the little truck down to me and said “You really should do something with this thing”. So into my barn it went and sat for another year or two.

On day as I was parting out a 2002, one that had been seriously damaged and had all the classic rust that these little cars can ‘acquire’, as I was about to start cutting it into small pieces for the metal recycler I decided to measure the width of the car at the rocker panels and compare them to the those of the panel truck. To my amazement, they were only about 1/16” difference. Well, the wheels in the brain started turning and before you know it I had hatched a plan: Why not graft the body of the panel truck onto the lower part of a 2002? Well after more measurements, trial fit of the front fenders to make sure the track of the BMW wasn’t too wide, I proceeded with the project.

The first order of business was to remove the ‘body work’ of the 2002 while retaining the ‘tub’. Next on the agenda was to shorten the tub to accommodate the shorter wheel base of the panel truck. This turned out to be almost exactly one foot. Now the fun could begin. I brought the panel truck up from the barn, removed all of the suspension and doors and began to brace the body internally so that I did not lose the shape as I was getting ready to remove the entire bottom of the uni-body, leaving just the sides and the top. Then the body was suspended with a hoist from the ceiling of my garage and I began to carefully cut away the floor, firewall and; did I mention the little truck was rusty? After much trimming and planning I was finally ready to make the critical cuts needed so that the two ‘halves’ could be brought together. On my birthday in April of 2005, my Dad came down to have a look see and gave me the confidence and thumbs up on what I was about to do. In short order, the cuts were made and viola, the two cars were now together, albeit with a lot of work yet to do. For some reason, I think I know what the BMW engineers must have been thinking when they were redesigning that British icon, the Mini. Here I was, improving another English car with German technology, well, at least that is how I looked at it .

The next 8 months were spent grafting the concoction together. A lot of planning occurred as I fabricated, mounting the panel truck front end, replacing the bottom of one of the truck’s doors, a BMW gas tank pickup/sender was modified to fit the modified panel truck gas tank and so on. Shortening the driveshaft was easy for the machine shop but you cannot buy exhaust for a BMW power English Ford anymore so I made one by cutting apart an ANSA system and welding it up to fit. The rear wheel arches are from a 2002. A small Mazda Miata battery solved one problem, a wiring harness from a BMW another. The dash from a 2002 was used as were the gauges and console.

Finally, after 5 pounds of MIG wire and two bottles of welding gas, a half gallon of bondo, the body work was nearing completion and I had to finally make the decision on what color to paint the truck. After much consideration, I opted for New VW Beetle yellow but with a flattening agent added for a sort of ‘rat rod’ look. My wife Eileen came up with the idea of putting a smiley face on the rear door. All of the running gear and suspension has been renewed and is pretty much stock except for the weber carburetor and sport springs. Actually, it is very fitting that the motor is from that very first 2002 of mine.

So how does the little truck drive? Like a short wheel based 2002, what else? At about 1600 lbs, it is about 500 lbs lighter than an 02 and even with the newly rebuilt stock motor, it has more than enough power but corners like a 2002 race car. Sort of like a 25% horsepower gain.

The little truck made its public debut in May of 2007 at several shows in NC with the highlight for me being its outing at the Vintage at the Vineyard, an event for vintage BMWs largely attended by 2002 enthusiasts from all over the east coast.

A project of this magnitude could not have been completed without the help and support of a number of folks. First of all I would like to thank my wife Eileen for all of the support she has given me over these many years, despite this ‘addiction’ that I have. My friend Gary, a professional body man of considerable talents guided me along the way with helpful suggestions and an awesome final paint job. Doug and the guys at his shop provided significant help in the way of parts and machine work as did my 02 buddy Bill. My dear friend Humberto offered so much encouragement, especially during some very trying times for me personally. Scott for his encouragement and graphic mockups. In memory of my Dad, Mickey Pugh, who taught me the skills, gave me the confidence and provided help and encouragement throughout my entire life.

Additional information and pics can be found at:

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Joined: 12 Jan 2008
Posts: 1
Location: South Orange NJ

PostPosted: Thu Jan 24, 2008 8:46 am    Post subject: Thames Reply with quote

I am also the proud owner of a 59 (or so) Thames which spent many years in a barn. I have had it since about 1992 and drove it for a few years with the original flathead. It is currently engineless and without a front suspension.

Waiting to be installed are a Ford 1600 crossflow, a Merkur 5 speed T9 and a Cortina Mk2 front suspension.

Although mine won't be quite a 2002 Thames, your photos and story were quite an inspiration to me.
1959 Thames Panel Van "Truckster"
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Joined: 18 Jan 2008
Posts: 3
Location: Raleigh NC

PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2008 7:57 am    Post subject: If You Need Front Suspension Let Me Know Reply with quote

I still have the original from mine along with dash and assorted stuff I also have the rear springs with an MG Midget rear end mounted All can be had very cheaply I am in Raleigh NC About 6 south of you

Good luck with your project, years ago I was going to put a Ford 1600 in mine but never got around to it.
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Joined: 08 Apr 2008
Posts: 1
Location: Tustin, CA

PostPosted: Wed Apr 09, 2008 12:06 am    Post subject: 2002 Thames/BMW Reply with quote


Love the van, you kept it looking original and upgraded it at the same time. Did you have a hard time finding parts for it. I have one that is stock, and i can't seem to find a good source for original parts via the web.
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Joined: 18 Jan 2008
Posts: 3
Location: Raleigh NC

PostPosted: Sat Apr 19, 2008 7:06 pm    Post subject: Kip Motor In Texas Is Good To Deal With Reply with quote

I got the rockers and most of the rubber from them. They have an extensive online catalog and are really nice folks Since the running gear is all BMW I do not have any trouble with parts from that perspective
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