was a large television rental organisation named Domestic Electric Rentals Ltd which
was part of the Thorn Group, that traded from Apex House, Twickenham Road, Feltham,
Middlesex. Besides the fleet of vans the company ran for the delivery of larger rental
items such as washing machines, there was also a fleet of estate cars that were supplied
by Ford, Vauxhall, and BMC in the shape of the Escort, Viva, and 1300 respectively.
During the week, an employee would use the "van" as his office,
however the "vans" were slightly more up market than your normal van. The estates
were fitted with DER signs at the front and rear at the car, and lettered paneling
over the side windows by the load carrying section of the vehicles. Clips and other
fastenings were used to hold all motifs to the vehicle, and at weekends the employee
could remove these and use the "van" as a family car. Most DER 1300 estate cars were
supplied in Tartan Red, while cars assigned to Thorn Group were painted white and
the roof was painted black.
Besides the clever marketing setup, security was a top priority given that colour
television sets were still not common place at this time. Heavy duty doors locks were
fitted, along with a number of anti-theft devices.
So why did DER choose the 1300 Estate? At the
time the group were looking to purchase vehicles, there was a strike
at Ford. This meant that the supply of vehicles needed to be
diversified to enable to company to meet consumer demand. Many have
argued that the 1300 was an ideal candidate because the rear
doorway was wide enough to easily fit colour television sets
still packed in their cardboard containers, this wasn't
possible on the Vauxhall Viva models because of the
clearance between the high sill and the top of the doorway.
Although the estate cars cost considerably more to buy than vans, on the whole
the re-sale value remained higher, cars were more practical for employees and some
suggested that the engines were better when comparing with a van.
Whilst reviewing this article, I began to consider that this "revolutionary"
idea is now common place. A number of large companies, still use this setup now.
Vans are used, for example, in the initial installation phase of say an alarm system.
Service calls are made by personnel equipped with an estate car, carrying just the
basic tools to enable them to effectively service the alarm.