A new lighter version of the famous Luton van has been launched by Black Country commercial vehicle body builders Bevangroup.
The Oldbury firm is currently producing one per day of its new vehicle which is responding to increased demand for workhorses less than 3.5 tonnes.
It is proving such a success that the firm is preparing to double production in a move which could create 30 new jobs.
Director Anthony Bevan said: "Young drivers are now coming into the industry with licences that do not allow them to drive vehicles over 3.5 tonnes. "But using specialist build techniques and materials, we have produced a lighter and more streamlined version of a standard Luton van without losing the integral strength.
" The new Bevangroup Luton has been designed to balance performance, fuel economy and capacity through lighter build techniques and by improving the vehicle profile."
The bodywork is constructed using thin, highstrength glass reinforced plywood, which reduces the weight while a streamlined dome replaces the traditional box shape above the cab to reduce wind resistance, making the vehicle more streamlined for better performance.
Based on a VW chassis, the dry-weight of the Bevangroup Luton model is 2350 kilos - more than 100 kilos lighter than traditionally built Lutons, which leaves 1150 kilos available for payloads and any extras carried.
Bevan has already taken 36 orders for the new Luton with anticipated orders for the year expected to exceed 250.
The Luton model has been developed by the Welford Thomas division of Bevangroup, based in Dudley, where most of the vehicle build work will also be carried out.
Bevangroup's specialist paintwork division WCC in Wednesbury will carry out all vehicle finishes, with the design and implementation of vehicle graphics available from Bevan OPG, based at the group's head office in Oldbury.
Chris Hare, managing director of Welford Thomas, said: "The leap from the Luton to the next size up - the 71/2 ton van is massive.
"People using that have to have a different driving licence, use a tachograph to monitor how long they are driving it for, while the company running it has to have an Operators Licence.
"A 71/2 ton van has to be checked every six weeks and has to have an MoT every year. This van does not need an MoT until it is three years old and is not subject to drivers hours regulations. With this van you can drive from London to Scotland and back in one go."
Welford Thomas has been developing the new kind of van body - which can be added to the chassis of Mercedes Sprinter, Volkswagen LT or Ford Transit van - over the last six months.
Many of Bevan's customers were in the process of increasing the number of 3.5 tonne vehicles they operate, opening up further opportunities for the company.
Mr Hare said: "Vehicles have been produced for rental companies and for main dealers and we also have our own customers who order direct.
"It can be the workhorse for many companies - it can do parcel deliveries, carry carpets and pallets with heavier loads as well."
Welford Thomas, which has been building van bodies for the last 30 years, could increase production to meet demand, said Mr Hare.
This in turn could lead to up to 30 new jobs at the company which currently employs 30 people.
"We built the first ones to the orders we had got, but it is starting to filter through and customers are requesting it.
"We can easily double the production.
"We have worked in the Black Country for years.
"We hear lots of nonsense that the end for manufacturing is nigh, but it is not, it's alive and well with us doing things like this."..SUPL: