Automotive

Classic Morris J-type van reimagined as a modern carbon fiber EV

Classic Morris J-type van reim...
From this photo we see the JE has the hoodless face and curvy roof of the original J-type, and it looks like it also has some well-defined front fenders
From this photo we see the JE has the hoodless face and curvy roof of the original J-type, and it looks like it also has some well-defined front fenders
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From this photo we see the JE has the hoodless face and curvy roof of the original J-type, and it looks like it also has some well-defined front fenders
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From this photo we see the JE has the hoodless face and curvy roof of the original J-type, and it looks like it also has some well-defined front fenders
Morris teases the JE ahead of a launch in the next couple months
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Morris teases the JE ahead of a launch in the next couple months
Original J-type minibus
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Original J-type minibus
J-type work truck
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J-type work truck
Morris J-type Owners Club shows off its lineup of delightful Morris J-types at Australia's Motorclassica 2018
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Morris J-type Owners Club shows off its lineup of delightful Morris J-types at Australia's Motorclassica 2018
A particularly impressive J-type project van, this one has a 350 Chevy V8 squeezed between driver and passenger, replacing the much smaller 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine
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A particularly impressive J-type project van, this one has a 350 Chevy V8 squeezed between driver and passenger, replacing the much smaller 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine

As the world waits for the return of the beloved Volkswagen microbus in the form of the all-electric ID. Buzz, another badge is poised to beat VW to the punch in the classic vans reborn as EVs game. A startup with serious brand history, Great Britain's Morris Commercial is relaunching as an electric brand, and its first product will be a modernized version of the boxy J-type van from the 1950s. Much more than an electrified classic, the JE van will be a fully electric carbon fiber van inspired by the original and developed from the ground up for today's buyer.

The J-type may not quite have the global pedigree of the VW Type 2, but it lived through the same era as the original VW Type 2 and still enjoys plenty of adoration decades later. Introduced in pre-production form in 1948, the half-tonne J-type went into production the following year, enjoying a run of more than a decade before being replaced in 1961. In addition to serving its home market, the van was exported to countries around the world, including Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan.

Morris Commercial didn't live out the 1960s, as continual ownership and branding shakeups resulted in all Morris (and Austin) commercial vehicles being badged BMC (British Motor Corporation) as of 1968. Morris' main production facility was closed down and demolished in the early 70s.

Now a group of British investors with a heart for the past and eyes on the future has acquired rights to the Morris Commercial name and plans to give it new life as an EV brand. The electrified J-type will be the brand's first product, newly developed with "modern styling cues and cutting-edge technology."

Morris teases the JE ahead of a launch in the next couple months
Morris teases the JE ahead of a launch in the next couple months

The company says it assembled a team of designers, engineers, industry experts and consultants from around Europe in developing the pre-production JE van prototype that's closing in on its world premiere. It teases that the JE "takes the DNA and values of the original van and brings it up to date in a fun, funky and contemporary design."

The JE hasn't stepped out of the shadows yet, but the photo below shows what the original J-types look like, a quirky combination of classic box van dimensions enhanced with a little curvature, a split windshield, and an unforgettable gently creased face with a tall grimacing grille and beady eyes atop bulging fenders.

Morris J-type Owners Club shows off its lineup of delightful Morris J-types at Australia's Motorclassica 2018
Morris J-type Owners Club shows off its lineup of delightful Morris J-types at Australia's Motorclassica 2018

The J-type's forward control engine layout made its hoodless front-end possible, and the teaser photo at the top of the article shows that JE designers have capitalized on the decentralized nature of electric drive technology to much the same effect. The Morris team has also focused attention on preserving the original van's lightweight attributes, creating a carbon fiber body to help make it one of the lightest commercial vehicles on today's roadways. A lightweight, modular chassis structure will enable Morris to expand with a full range of available body types.

The JE will be marketed as a work, promotional and consumer vehicle. Morris promises a long-range lithium-ion battery but doesn't get into any powertrain specifics, leaving that for an official debut this "autumn," 70 years after the original J-type went into production. That gives the company about two months to show us what the JE is all about.

Original J-type minibus
Original J-type minibus

We have to say, we much prefer a brand rising from the dead completely unexpectedly a couple months ahead of the full reveal of a classically styled e-van it developed in silence versus a huge automaker repeatedly getting our hopes up for nearly two decades before finally committing to building the van everyone wants ... five years ahead of actually delivering.

Show 'em how it's done, Morris.

Source: Morris Commercial

3 comments
Spud Murphy
If they price it right it could be a huge seller. Those holding out for the VW may well be swayed into buying this instead if it gets to market first.
Quercus
Great news! Looking forward to seeing these out and about. We had one of the originals on the farm back in the 'fifties; everything from sheep to milk churns in the back..... Fabulous little trucks.
ljaques
I love those old Morris truck/vans. Never could stand the VW van after nearly getting blown off the road on a bridge up in Mountain View, CA once. I shudder to think of the cost of a laid-up carbon box, though. Eek!