• VAUXHALL MID – EUROMIDI
  • & BEDFORD WFR MIDI
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ISUZU WFR PLATFORM

BACKGROUND:

Ever since the first Chevrolet based Bedford truck was offered for sale in 1931 the commercial arm of Vauxhall Motors grew in size until by the mid-1970s it was the world’s largest producer of commercial trucks & vans. To reach this size took just over 40 years but the collapse occurred in little over 10 years and was largely, but not solely, the result of a lack of investment in new products by General Motors in the late 70s. Leaving aside trucks & car derived vans Bedford also enjoyed huge success with the semi forward control CA Series medium duty vans which were a best seller right up until the mid-1960s until the launch of the Ford Transit. Bedford’s answer was the CF which, although successful, was always number 2 in the selling stakes behind the Ford Transit. The Bedford CA remained largely unchanged from its introduction in 1952 until production ceased in 1969, the CF fared a little better having a mild update in 1976 with a major one for 1980 and then another revamp in 1984 with the introduction of the CF2. However, as good as the CF2 was, its basic design was by then 15 years old and although development of the replacement CG Eurovan had started in 1976 (dealt with in a separate section of vauxpedia) progress was very slow due to the high development costs and a lack of cash generated by Vauxhall Motors as a whole. In the meantime by the early 1980s sales of lighter 1 tonne panel vans, primarily from Japanese makers like Toyota with their HiAce, were surging. At the same time sales of Bedford trucks, despite the new TL & improved TM, were suffering as the world truck market was in a downward spiral. It is against this background that the story starts.

THE MIDI STORY:

In 1983 the Bedford commercial vehicle operations were separated from Vauxhall Motors Ltd and were taken over by GMOCVC – General Motors Overseas Commercial Vehicle Corporation – and reported directly to the GM Truck & Bus Group in the US. The UK operation was run by JT Battenberg III, brought in to “save Bedford” unfortunately he was a man with a big mouth, small brain and of no use to Bedford whatsoever. He later narrowly avoided being convicted of fraud in 1998 for his time in charge of Delphi. At this time General Motors held a 33% stake in Isuzu, the Japanese automotive car, van & truck producer. Negotiations with Isuzu were hastily concluded to enable production of the WFR Fargo under licence in the UK using imported CKD – Crated Knocked Down – kits and would be marketed as the Bedford Midi. This gave the company a quick and “ready to go” answer to the Japanese imported 1 tonne panel vans. It is often quoted, wrongly, that the Bedford Midi was first produced by IBC Vehicles – it wasn’t, it was built alongside the Bedford CF2 until 1987 by the Bedford Division of GMOCVC, it is also wrongly assumed that the Midi replaced the CF2 – it didn’t and was never intended to.

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THE GM - ISUZU IBC DEAL IS SIGNED BY GM CEO JACK SMITH & MIZUSAWA-SAN FROM ISUZU

Isuzu WFR Fargo – The Fargo was the stereotypical Japanese 1 tonne van, designed in the same mould as vans from Toyota, Mazda & Nissan at the time. It was first introduced in December 1980 for the Japanese market and was initially offered with underfloor mounted 1.6 & 1.8litre petrol engines and a 1.8 & 2.0litre diesel engines although the 2.0litre was only offered in the passenger mini bus version at the start.

The Bedford Design Studios, under John Taylor, had no input into the design of the Bedford Midi other than the design of exterior logos & badges. The Midi was first shown publically on the Bedford stand at the 1984 Motor Show with sales scheduled to start in the spring of 1985 in time for the inauguration of the new van plant at Luton. This also coincided with the further separation of the truck and van production operations into two stand-alone units which gave rise to rumours that Bedford would end all van production due to falling sales of the CF2 which were not fully balanced by the additional sales of the Midi.

During 1986 negotiations between General Motors and Isuzu began with Jack Smith representing GM and Miizusawa-San from Isuzu. The plan was to form a new company to take over and operate the van plant, this would be called IBC Vehicles – Isuzu Bedford Commercial – and would be 60% owned by GM & 40% Isuzu. For GM it meant handing over a problem and for Isuzu it was a European manufacturing base they were looking for. It also included the adoption of Japanese style working practices which met resistance from the trades unions at the time, the final vote was on a knife edge – in the end the count was 798 for & 605 against – and as a result the van plant was saved. In October 1987 IBC began production of both the Midi and the Suzuki Carry along with its twin the Bedford Rascal, GM owned a 5% stake in Suzuki at the time.

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THE FIRST BEDFORD MIDI PRODUCED BY IBC ROLLS OFF THE LINE AT LUTON 10.87

The Midi was originally launched as a panel van and passenger vehicle with the option of a 1.8litre petrol (4ZB1) and a 2.0litre diesel (4FC1) engine both came with a standard 5 speed overdrive gearbox with a steering column mounted change. Available in short wheelbase (2.35m) or long wheelbase (2.69m) versions, later a high roof option became an option on the LWB version. The interior was well finished for the price with an option for a second passenger centre seat. In February 1986 the Midi received a mild facelift with larger headlights and a revised dashboard, at the same time a new cheaper variant of the Midi was introduced called Fleet which deleted items such as cloth seats, radio, cigarette lighter & tinted glass. In May 1988 a 2.0 Turbo Diesel (4FC1-T) was introduced and in August 1993 a 2.4litre version (4FG1-T) was added depending on the selling market. At the start the CKD manufacturing meant the Midi was nearly 100% imported, however over the years the level of locally produced components grew including body panels pressed at the Luton plant. The Midi was well liked by the commercial vehicle press and in 1988 won the Commercial Motor Van of the Year award. In October 1988 a 4x4 version of the Midi was introduced at the motor show, at the same time the Midi received another mild facelift in 1989 which featured further dashboard changes, new seats & door trim and a new front end panel. In 1990 the Bedford name was dropped in the UK and the Midi became a Vauxhall. In export markets the Bedford name was retained for Portugal where it was sold a Bedford Seta, in the rest of Europe it was sold initially not only as a Bedford but also as an Opel, GME, Euromidi and even Isuzu Midi. In Australia it sold as the WFR Holden Shuttle. Between 1983 and 1988 Industries Mechaniques Maghrebines (IMM) produced the Isuzu Midi at its Kairouan - Tunisia manufacturing facility. No further major changes were made to the Vauxhall Midi until production stopped on 23 May 1996 (chassis number 830528) although sales continued into the first quarter of 1997. The Midi was replaced by the Vauxhall badged version of the Renault Traffic called Arena although this was fully imported from France and never assembled at Luton.  

PRESS RELEASES:

BEDFORD MIDI 4 X 4 PRESS RELEASE 05.10.1988

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BROCHURES:

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BEDFORD 1985 RANGE BROCHURE INC MIDI PREVIEW B2175 10.84

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BEDFORD MIDI PRE LAUNCH BROCHURE B2178 09.84

BEDFORD LCV RANGE INC MIDI B2198 12.84

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BEDFORD MIDI LAUNCH BROCHURE B2201 01.85

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BEDFORD MIDI LAUNCH MAILER BROCHURE B2202 01.85

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BEDFORD MIDI LAUNCH MAILER BROCHURE B2203 01.85

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BEDFORD MIDI SPECIFICATIONS BROCHURE B2198 01.85

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BEDFORD MIDI ACCESSORIES BROCHURE SPA 132 01.85

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BEDFORD PRICE GUIDE INC MIDI B2134 02.85

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BEDFORD MIDI FLEET BROCHURE B2267 02.86

BEDFORD MIDI & CF2 BROCHURE B2247 09.85

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BEDFORD LCV COLOUR CHART 1987 5904E

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BEDFORD LCV RANGE INC MIDI BROCHURE B2242 10.86

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BEDFORD LCV RANGE INC MIDI BROCHURE B2242 06.87

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BEDFORD MIDI MAILER BROCHURE B2006 06.87

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BEDFORD LCV RANGE INC MIDI BROCHURE B2339 09.87

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BEDFORD LCV RANGE INC MIDI BROCHURE B2242 10.87

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BEDFORD MIDI TURBO DIESEL BROCHURE B3052 05.88

BEDFORD MIDI SALES PERSON BRIEFING B3045 05.88

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BEDFORD VANS 1989 MODELS BROCHURE EDITION No1 B3071 09.88

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BEDFORD MIDI 1989 MODELS BROCHURE EDITION No1 B3078 09.88

BEDFORD VANS 1989 MODELS BROCHURE EDITION No2 B3071 02.89

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BEDFORD MIDI RANGE MAILER BROCHURE 10.89

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BEDFORD LCV RANGE 1990 MODELS BROCHURE EDITION No2 B4163 02.90

VAUXHALL MIDI '90 BROCHURE B5019 07.90

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VAUXHALL MIDI PASSENGER RANGE BROCHURE 1ST EDITION B5001 09.90

VAUXHALL MIDI 1991 MODELS BROCHURE EDITION No1 B5002 10.90

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 VAUXHALL MIDI 1992 MODELS BROCHURE EDITION No1 B5091 10.91

VAUXHALL VANS 1992 MODELS BROCHURE EDITION No2 B5005 01.92

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 VAUXHALL MIDI 1992 MODELS BROCHURE EDITION No2 B5091 02.92

VAUXHALL VANS 1993 MODELS BROCHURE EDITION No1 B5005 10.92

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VAUXHALL MIDI 1993 MODELS BROCHURE EDITION No1 B5091 01.93

VAUXHALL MIDI 1994 MODELS BROCHURE EDITION No1 08.93

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VAUXHALL LCV 1995 MODELS HIGHLIGHTS BROCHURE B5183 08.94

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VAUXHALL MIDI 1995 MODELS BROCHURE EDITION No1 B5187 09.94

VAUXHALL MIDI 1996 MODELS BROCHURE EDITION No1 B5187 10.95

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VAUXHALL MIDI 1996 MODELS BROCHURE EDITION No1 B5187 10.95

VAUXHALL ALBANY

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A FACTORY PRESS SHOT OF THE ALBANY GIVING AN IMPRESSION OF A "LIFESTYLE" VEHICLE, IT WASN'T

During the late 1980s the Renault Espace, after a dissasterous start, had become very popular all across Europe and was the top selling MPV at the time with very few competitors to get in the way. Renault had taken a gamble on the car at the design stage because it created a completely new sector of the market. Up until this time anything with seven seats was usually a mini-bus which basically meant a van with windows and seats fitted, they were fine as a short journey vehicle (for schools etc) but as a large family transport they were far too crude.With this background, Vauxhalls decision to try and break into the MPV market with a posh, and very expensive, 7 seat version of the Midi panel van was all the more surprising, although the advertising and brochure put business uses above private ownership as a family vehicle. On paper it was quite highly specified with amongst other: Tinted glass, twin removable sun roofs over the first and second rows of seats, power steering with leather covered steering wheel, wood veneer inserts to the dashboard, 4 speaker radio / cassette, 

fully reclining front seats with head restraints, electric front windows, seperate rear heating and extensive sound insulation. The trouble was it was still based on a van, a Midi van that was starting to show it's age as a commercial panel van let alone as an MPV pretender. The handling, ride and performance were crude, the only engine option was a 2.0litre 82bhp unit which, with 7 people on board, would struggle to maintain the 70mph limit on a motorway.

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A BROCHURE PUBLICITY SHOT OF THE ALBANY AS THE IDEAL FAMILY TANSPORT FOR A PICNIC, WHICH ALL SOUNDS VERY COZY BUT AS FAMILY TRANSPORT IT DIDN'T CUT IT, THE IMAGE WAS STILL VIEWED AS JUST A POSH VAN WITH WINDOWS

ABOVE: VARIOUS PICTURES OF THE ALBANY INTERIOR WHICH WAS ACTUALLY WELL SPECIFIED AND COMFORTABLE

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ABOVE: ANOTHER SHOT OF THE ALBANY INTERIOR SHOWING AMPLE ROOM FOR PASSENGERS AND CONFORTABLE SEATING

The Albany was first announced at the October 1990 Motor Show to a pretty much underwhelming press reception. Sales were equally unimpressive with just over 300 being sold before it was withdrawn after just over a year on the market. A large number of these were registered by Vauxhall themselves and also by dealers, less than half were actually sold to customers and as of 2012 there were only 3 left on the road.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Production:                            September 1990 to July 1991


Prod No’s:                              Total = 304                                                        


Factory:                                 Luton IBC Van plant


Base vehicle:                         Vauxhall Midi (aka Isuzu WFR Fargo)


Engine ID:                             Isuzu 2.0L 4ZC1 SOHC 1994cc


Bore x Stroke:                       88 mm x 82 mm, displacement: 1,994 cc


Power & Torque:                   82bhp (net) @ 4800rpm  111.3lb-ft @ 2600  Comp Ratio = 8.3:1

                                                                              

Transmission:                       5 speed floor change


Final drive ratio:                   4.55:1


Front suspension:                 Independent wishbone arms with coil springs with anti-roll bar


Rear Suspension:                  Semi-elliptic alloy steel 4 leaf springs


Steering:                                Recirculating ball with power assistance


Turning Circle:                      9.6m                         


Exterior Dimensions:            Length       = 185.0ins
                                                Width:       = 67.0ins
                                               Height:       = 67.0ins

                                               Wheelbase = 106.0ins

                           

Curb Weight:                        1,554kgs


GCW:                                      3500kgs


Fuel capacity:                        60litres


Wheels & Tyres:                   5.0Jx14 steel wheels with 185Rx14C Radials with full cover plastic trims


Colours & trims:                   Bordeaux Red Pearlescent or Westminster Blue 2 coat metallic with Rainbow

                                                                                                                                                                    cloth trim

Fuel consumption:                Urban simulated = 18.7mpg

                                               Constant 56mph = 31.0mpg

                                               Constant 75mph = 19.8mpg  

PRESS RELEASE 03.09.90

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BROCHURES:

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THE DEALER LAUNCH GUIDE FOR THE VAUXHALL ALBANY 09.90

THE ONLY BROCHURE ISSUED FOR THE VAUXHALL ALBANY B5038 09.90