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Condor and the Morris J-Type

An idea to support local riders at races turns into four decades of neutral servicing.
We pay tribute to the legendary Condor van that started it all: the Morris J-Type.

Condor's first service van

In the Spring of 1951, Monty Young acquired his first company vehicle, a Morris J-Type van. Three years earlier, he'd opened Condor Cycles at 90 Gray's Inn Road, and now, with the business building, Monty was keen to promote his bicycles and cycle shop.

In the 1950s, most businesses would be closed on weekends, including Condor. "Gray's Inn Road was dead at the weekend. It was like a village. The only stores that would be open would be grocers, and they would only operate half day opening", explains Monty's friend and fellow racer, Mike Bunyan.

Making the most of the weekend

Monty decided this was the time to get out and promote Condor. British car maker, Morris, had recently launched its J-Type van. Reliable and fairly cheap, the J-Type was marketed as a workhorse, and it was the van Monty chose. The J-Type featured a three-speed gearbox; sliding doors on each side, making it easy to access spares; and two rear double doors, suitable for loading bicycles.

Local riders in front of the Condor van
He drove the van to cycle races, stuffed with spare wheels he'd built, tubular tyres, spokes, and his tools, with the aim of providing support to anyone who needed it. The van would often be seen at Paddington Cycle Track on Saturdays. On Sundays, it would ferry riders to races further afield. Often Monty would provide neutral service behind the race, too. He fabricated brackets for the rear doors to hook on spare bicycles and neutral service wheels.

From Posties to Cadbury's

The J-Type wasn't only popular with Condor; it became a delivery van for many local business owners. The Post Office bought a fleet, as did the Milk Marketing Board, who would use them as ice cream vans and milk floats.

In 2013, Cadbury restored and converted a J-Type into the 'Joymobile' for an advertising campaign. Morris would make and sell nearly 48,000 between 1949 and 1950 — more than Ford's early Transit van. The model was updated to the Morris J4, available with a larger petrol or diesel engine, and improved suspension.

The van proved to be a smart marketing tool for Condor. The legendary J-Type was a moving advert for a captive audience. Monty's goodwill and mechanical skills at races would often bring new riders and customers into his shop in later weeks.

Royal Mail Post Office J Type Van

Mr Neutral Service

So popular was Monty's neutral service that he continued to provide support for the next four decades. His efforts included travelling with Team GB to the Peace Race in the 1960s, providing services for all teams at the Milk Race, and supporting the Sealink International in the 1980s.

Despite its solid metal work, the original Condor J-Type van was a slow old beast, and Monty traded it in some decades later for the boxier and seventies-looking Leyland Sherpa.

To celebrate Monty's service to British cycle sport and his entrepreneurial thinking in Condor's early days, a commemorative espresso set, t-shirt, and enamel pin badge have been created, featuring the iconic Condor J-Type service van.

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