This unique piano delivery van was used by White & Sentance for over 20 years from 1952, and has an interesting history.
Ernest Sentance ran the piano departments at the Grantham and Melton Mowbray shops from the late 40's until his death in 1978. Being a very practical man he came up with the idea of using the principle of a device used in piano workshops called a Bench Truck, which uses a rocker to allow a piano to be tipped onto it's back to repair pedals or castors, to produce a similar mechanism so that one man could load a piano into a vehicle. He built a covered trailer incorporating this design, which he used to iron out some initial problems before having this van specially built to his design. The trailer went on to be used by our Sleaford shop until 1988, and it is now in the collection of the Museum of Lincolnshire Life.
The van is a 1952 Fordson E83W - which Ford later re-badged as a Thames - which was produced from 1938-57 as a panel van, pick-up, 7 seater Utilicon, or rolling chassis (with or without cab) for special bodywork, and was the Ford Transit of it's era, using the 1172cc side-valve engine with a 3 speed gearbox, mechanical brakes and 6 volt electrics. It was supplied by Sharman & Ladbury Ltd, whose Melton premises were across the road from the White & Sentance showroom on Sherrard Street, and the high quality ash and aluminium bodywork was by W H Goddard of Oadby, Leicester, to Ernest Sentance's design. As the photos show a cradle slides out of the back of the van and rocks over into a vertical position. The piano is backed up to it and the rear castors sit on the wooden ledge, then the cradle is rocked back over and slides into the van with the piano on it's back.
When the piano department at Grantham closed in 1978 the van was sold to the nephew of a member of staff who lived near Bourne. He carried out a mechanical restoration in the early 90's, after which it was stored for many years. We persuaded him to sell it in 2011, bringing it back to the firm, albeit a different branch! Further restoration work was needed, including replacement front wings, a new wiring loom, and a respray, though overall it was surprisingly sound and the chassis has never been welded. Traditional painted sign-writing completed the work, and the van is now shown at local classic vehicle rallies and used for advertising.