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Memories Reminded

written by Mike Houle

One of the delights of attending bus running days is the opportunity to ride on the types of vehicles that we travelled on when we were younger, or some of us may even have ridden on to school. These events also serve to remind us of more leisurely times when there was little traffic on the highways and byways served by country bus routes and the streets of our towns and villages were virtually free of parked cars. That we can enjoy such pleasures again today is in no small part due to the efforts of a dedicated few who have devoted much time and money to restoring and maintaining the vehicles they have preserved.

However, at least some vehicles such as the legendary London Routemaster, have been acquired in full working order straight out of service. I make this point because having recently attended the 27th Classic Motor Show at the Heritage Motor Centre at Gaydon, it was noticeable that a significant number of the 4000 vehicles on display had been recovered from scrap yards and farmyard barns after many years of storage and exposure to the elements and had required almost complete reconstruction as a result.

And it was not only the timber framed cabs and bodywork that had rotted or disintegrated, a rare example of a 1964 Dodge 308 Tractor unit had been found in the thick of trees that had grown round it over the years that it had lain at Rush Green Motors, its all metal cab was missing leaving only the chassis and two axles, engine and Scammell coupling, since it was the only known example in existence, its restoration was taken on to become the latest addition to the well known preserved fleet of Tony Knowles, in whose livery it has appeared on the cover of the August Issue of Classic and Vintage Commercials.

Entries at the CCMS are divided up into classes covering the period from pre 1940 up to post 1991, plus separate classes for Heavy haulage, Light Commercials 30cwt payload and under, Military, Recovery and Emergency Vehicles and even a class for PSVs which only attracts a small number unfortunately. Thus the development of the British Road Haulage Industry over the last 75 years or so is more than adequately represented at this splendid show, in addition to which the worlds largest collection of historic British cars is housed on the same site and included in the admission charge.

As a visitor to both I was reminded of the vast changes that have occurred over the period represented and how our way of life has dictated these, from the point of view especially in the way we shop. In the early post war years, with mainly small family owned specialist shops lining our High Streets and the local corner shop at the end of the street, local wholesalers and manufacturers provided a delivery service either using their own transport or the services of many local carriers and the shopkeepers in their own turn delivered to their customers doorsteps in many instances using small vans or even trades mans bicycles.

Then came slum clearance schemes, town centre redevelopments and a network of motorways all of which contributed to the invasion of the multiples onto every high street, with their demand for regional distribution centres and coupled with the development of the supermarkets and out of town retail parks, all demanding transport in bulk between supplier and warehouse and from there to their various retail outlets. The poor old corner shop being reduced to obtaining their stock from the local cash and carry, similarly supplied with bulk loads. Hence the development of almost articulation, with vast fleets of identical trailers, a regular feature surrounding the distribution warehouses.

Coupled with the retail revolution has been the disappearance of many familiar brands and household names whose colourful liveried transport fleets are no more, Lyons Swiss Rolls, Brook Bond Tea, Trebor Sweets, Peek Frean Biscuits, Corona, Chivers Jams, etc, either having closed down or been taken over and absorbed into another conglomerate.

It is therefore uplifting to wander around at Gaydon and see beautifully presented lorries in perfectly recreated liveries of such as Blue Circle Cement, London Brick Company and Great Western Railway for example. But the most striking vehicle this year was a Morris FV chain sided platform lorry in the livery of Ind Coope & Allsop complete with Double Diamond headboard. Dating from 1950 this loory had been laid up and stored in a barn for 27 years after suffering a cracked block in 1964.

Another head turner was a 1959 ERF Van with coach built streamlined body by Jennings which was presented in the livery of its original owners, Benson's Confectionary of Bury Lancs after having spent a number of years on the fairground circuit. Once again, a selection of ex BRS vehicles were lined up together to present a magnificent spectacle in their distinctive red livery all carrying their correct fleet numbers in many cases provided by yours truly from surviving records. Similarly, the ex Pickfords Heavy Haulage tractors were parked up together including PUC 475, the old example of a crew-cabbed Scammell Constructor known to exist and still under restoration after having been used as a recovery unit since leaving the Pickfords fleet.

Apart from vehicles in the adopted liveries of their current owners, a large number of vehicles are in the fleet livery of the haulage companies they originated from, such as Robson's Border Transport, Charrington Transport for instance. However, sometimes a vehicle typical of the type owned by a company has been painted in that haulers livery despite it never having been on fleet, as in the case with ex RAR Leyland Hippo in the livery of Davis Bros [Haulage] Ltd and the AEC 4 wheeled tanker KYE 402, in Pickfords Tank haulage livery, which also made an appearance at the Alton event this year.

Amongst the light commercials were no fewer than three Ford Pilot V8 Pick-ups, an export version built as a chassis cab which had a panel van body built for it in 1957 and a Ford Prefect Utility dating from 1951 with left hand drive, imported from Australia in 2004, very rare indeed.

At the other end of the scale a selection of imported American Tractor units were on show including a couple of Peter built 359's one of which was operated by West Texas Trucks and is geared for 100 mph also present were a couple of Kenworths, one of which was also capable of 100 mph whose current owner uses the other example, imported from Oklahoma, as a working truck at gross weight of 41 tons.

So those of you who may be contemplating attending next years event are sure to find much of interest with such a wide spectrum of goods transport in abundance. The show is organised the The Commercial Vehicle & Road Transport Club which was formed in 1965 with about twenty members [the writer has membership no 28] and catered also for those members who are interested in Buses, but this coverage was discontinued in 1979, the same year that the first Classic Commercial Motor Show was organised for those members interested in preserved vehicles. From modest beginnings this show has grown to become the largest static show for preserved goods vehicles in Britain.

In addition to his roll as Secretary and Editor of the club newsletter CVRTC NEWS, Steve Wimbush also edits the Thames Vally & Aldershot Bus Interest Circle Newsletter, so there is still a link there with the bus industry.