Sugar and spices and everything nice. That’s what little [vintage camper vans] are made of. Okay, so the original 19th century nursery rhyme says little girls, not little vintage camper vans, but the latter do cast a magical spell that’ll have onlookers smitten instantaneously. They’ll make you fall in love with wood, vinyl, and fabric curtains. Yuck. They’ll make you consider ridiculously underpowered engines and manual transmissions that your parents couldn’t wait to ditch. Blah. They’ll make you idiotically blurt “take my money” even though there’s literally no money to your name for anyone to take. Embarrassing! Yes, vintage camper vans might make you feel and do strange things. Just accept it and read on.
This is a Commer. Come-er (that’s how you say it) again? At first glance you might mistake it for a Volkswagen or something like that, but it’s a Commer, duh, because the logo on the front says so. (Fun fact number one: Driven.co, the current owner, had to fix that badge and the grille, too. The “R” had fallen off and the grille was missing. Number two: We randomly found this 66,000-mile beauty on Facebook Marketplace.) Specifically, it’s a 1968 Commer Dormobile AutoSleeper, a rounded-front, forward-control van that you’ve probably never seen (aside from the internet, where all things awesome may be found). From car shows to campgrounds, this rare thing has gotta attract more attention than a red Ferrari.
Here’s what you need to know: Commer (1905-1979) was a British automobile company. Commer made vans, medium- and heavy-duty commercial trucks, military vehicles, and buses. Commer’s parent companies through the years included the Rootes Group (1931-1967), Chrysler UK (1967-1978), Peugeot (1978-1979), and Renault Trucks (1979-present). The Commer FC was introduced in 1960, renamed the PB in 1967, and rebadged as the Dodge SpaceVan in 1974. (Fun fact number three: Apparently, this Commer was originally sold in Canada, which explains why it’s left-hand drive. Number four : The current Los Angeles-based at Driven. co bought it owners in Washington state.)
This rear-wheel drive Commer camper van is powered by a 1.7-liter (105.3cu-in) four-cylinder engine, backed by a four-speed manual transmission. The engine is between the two front seats, under the floor—not a great place for major maintenance. The 1.725cc engine was (basically) out of a Sunbeam Alpine, since both Sunbeam and Commer were part of the Rootes Group (but by 1968 were mostly owned by Chrysler UK). The Commer’s owners describe the van as a Sunbean Alpine (sports car chassis) with a camper body.
This original two-tone Shore Beige and Polar White Commer AutoSleeper camper van is in great shape, minus a few “whisky kisses”—as its owners call them—earned from decades of love and adventure. There are no passenger sliding doors (on either side), in contrast to this Bedford camper van, which has rad front sliding doors. Strangely enough, this particular Commer only has driver- and passenger-side front doors and two swing-out rear cargo doors. We suppose a packhorse like a Commer didn’t need any more doors. Notice how the wheels (not just the tires) tuck under the virtually archless wheel wells.
Like a perfectly preserved time capsule, the era-correct interior gives all the feels. It’s full of nostalgia and reminds us of … uh, nothing, to be honest. Who are we fooling; We weren’t alive then. Perhaps it triggers memories for our parents. Windowed pop-top (with curtains!) and all, we love it nonetheless.
If you open the rear doors, two cabinets—one attached to each door—are labeled “sugar” and “spice” in a fun, colorful font. From the inside, these vertical inscriptions are hidden by the rest of the interior. The underside of a countertop, which doubles the cover of a record player, says “everything nice.” It’s so dang sweet we can barely stand it. And yes, there’s a record player. (We’ll ask our parents what that is, but we think it plays music.) This record player appears to have replaced the original gas stove.
We imagine there’s no shortage of interest in this Commer as its owners at Driven.co row through the gears while cruising sunny SoCal coastline roads. As luck would have it, for those irresistibly interested, it’s for sale for $19,850. It has a clean California title, which makes life infinitely easier. It’s truly sugar and spices and everything nice.