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ex WD vehicles that might have been seen in civil use 1950's/60s?


Royal42
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I am looking for ideas on placing ex WD vehicles in postwar civilian settings.  There are the obvious types, such as the AEC Matador and Bedford O series but what about others, especially smaller vehicles?

 

These views appear to show ex WD vehicles at the GPO sorting office in Birmingham.  Also, I understand that Austin tilly's were used commercially but I haven't been able to find any photos of them in civilian use.

SRFGbYB.jpg

 

gzJsmVY.jpg

 

I would be grateful to hear about any such vehicles in civilian use postwar, even better with photos showing liveries etc.

 

cheers,

Mike

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Hi Tony,

 

yes, I used to travel with a funfair, Bob Wilsons of Birmingham, and my boss had two Matadors.  I was thinking more of general stuff that wouldn't have looked out of place on the high street etc.

 

cheers,
Mike

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Might take you straight back to Matadors, but where I grew up in Sussex there were a lot of ex-army lorries used as “timber tugs”. There were various adaptations including ones with winches, which had big prongs fitted to the back that dug in when winching,  cranes for lifting logs, and what I think might have been gun tractors, used to pull trailer-loads out of the woods. 

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Back in the 50's a local window cleaner had a couple of Jeeps. One was fitted with a home made estate car body but the other was in original condition, he used to drive around with the windscreen folded flat and his ladders on the passenger side.

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 Bus companies used a range of ex-military vehicles as towing vehicles and other Engineering uses, some lasting in use into the 1970's .

 

Some Matadors became un-recognisable  having bus type coachwork bodies built on them. Although one company used a Gun Tractor.

 

See "National Bus Company Service Vehicles 1972-1986" by Michael Hitchen.

 

 

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A lot of Tilly's were converted to estate cars with a fixed roof and glazed sides added, many of them home made. They mostly were already fitted with a pair of fold away seats in the rear which made them ideal for such conversions. I do recall seeing one with a gown van body.

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Peter Davies's book "British Lorries of the 50s and 60s" has a photo of an Austin K6 6x4 (Airfix airfield fire tender) in civilian use with a dropside body. Apparently they weren't as popular as you might expect, as with single wheel rear axles they couldn't carry as much as a civvy 6x4. 

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That bus is a Bedford QL 4x4.  That model came with a variety of body types and was a popular basis for civvy conversions for off road use.  A local firm where I grew up used to convert them for agricultural use, mainly crop sprayers based on the petrol bowser variant.

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My grandparents had an ex military vehicle, I don't know a lot about it other than it had lots of seats and a map table in the back and became know as the Brigadiers Car.

 

Any idea what that might have been?  May have been Austin based?

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On an episode of "Bangers and Cash" was a K2 ambulance, ex Royal Navy, bought by a farm, in 1948 (if I remember right) used as a mini bus and various other roles, before being refitted out as an ambulance, by the original farmers son and going to auction, never restored.

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On 20/03/2022 at 07:22, John M Upton said:

My grandparents had an ex military vehicle, I don't know a lot about it other than it had lots of seats and a map table in the back and became know as the Brigadiers Car.

 

That sounds like a Humber Heavy Utility.

 

image.png.d32150ca49b66325f002bc8c6e8b575a.png

 

Edited by Dickon
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I am not sure at what period they were sold for civilian use but at one time the MOD had quite a large fleet of Scammell three wheel tractor units. I do remember seeing a large batch for sale at one time. I believe that the RAF also used them and that some of these were also sold out of service.

Bernard 

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Scammell Recovery trucks saw a lot of service as Rescue recovery vehicles for HGVs and Ford Pilots (used by the military as staff cars) returned to civvy duties in a variety of colours, some hand painted others more professionally painted. Antar tank transporters saw service in heavy haulage, sometimes two tractor units pulling and one pushing when moving huge roads.  

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A lot of 15 cwt trucks of all types including gun tractors were converted into garage breakdown trucks by the simple addition of a few tool boxes and a small Harvey Frost crane.

 

I can also remember a contractor on the South coast with a fleet of Bedford QLs adapted to spread lime on the fields.

Edited by Dickon
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3 hours ago, GeoffAlan said:

Scammell Recovery trucks saw a lot of service as Rescue recovery vehicles for HGVs and Ford Pilots (used by the military as staff cars) returned to civvy duties in a variety of colours, some hand painted others more professionally painted. Antar tank transporters saw service in heavy haulage, sometimes two tractor units pulling and one pushing when moving huge roads.  

Prior to the Antar becoming available, firms such as Wynn's (Newport- though operating nationally) used Diamond T's for heavy jobs. More prosaically, 'O' series Bedfords, and Austin K series were popular with coal merchants, builders and general hauliers. My father had one of the former; very reliable, but the braking was 'interesting', being cable-operated.

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 Scarab and derivatives:-

The Royal Navy also used them around dockyards and Shore Establishments (confusingly often given ship's names) . Our local RN used to collect and deliver containers from the local station, using them. They also used them as 3-wheel lorries, either with flat-bed or 'bin lorry' bodies.

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Virtually any serviceable ex-military vehicle would have been snapped up at the M.O.D. disposal sales held at intervals after the war. New vehicles were very hard to come by due to the requirement to export as much production as possible to earn foreign currency. Even tanks were converted for agricultural  use (Robert Crawford of Frithville, Boston, still have at least one of their Sherman conversions in working order), and to tow scrapers on opencast mining projects. GPO Telephones and the BBC had a multitude of army surplus vehicles, many lighter types, but including Bedford QL and Albion in the heavier categories. I remember a batch of Bedford K and M type lorries being released by the Royal Navy in the mid sixties - a coal merchant near me bought a Bedford M type flatbed in 1967 with just a few hundred miles on the clock. It was given an "F" registration suffix. There were also at the same time a batch of Albion tank transporter tractors and general service lorries (CX22/24) sold off , most of which ended up on the fairgrounds with "F" and "G" registrations. As has already been stated, Heavy Haulage companies, recovery operators, timber merchants, bus companies, fairground and circus proprietors all took advantage of the disposal sales to obtain premium vehicles (and spares) at a low price.

 Coopercraft did the Beford M, easily converted to a K type by fitting single rear wheels and shortening the chassis. As well as Airfix and Oxford Diecast, check out the military modelling websites and manufacturers such as Milicast, Convoy, Matador, Wee Friends etc. for 4mm scale vehicles.

Edited by fodenway
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An image search on 'Vass Ampthill' yields loads of photos of the scrapyard of ex MVs (and buses) from the late '40s onwards, showing what was available.  They sold vehicles on as well  as doing conversions.  Wreckers and fire appliances were also common.  The company is still trading but now specialises in firefighting equipment.  The yard lay alongside the Midland main line south of Ampthill Station, across a field from our road.  I would go and peer through the hedges but it was well fenced and local lads were not welcome.  Finished vehicles waiting for delivery could be seen by the main entrance on Station Road, on the way to spotting on the overbridge (now removed).

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2 hours ago, fodenway said:

GPO Telephones and the BBC had a multitude of army surplus vehicles, many lighter types, but including Bedford QL


Which has made me remember a GPO “high street” vehicle: a QL converted into a telephone pole “planter”. I used to be fascinated watching it being used when I was small boy. From what I recall it had an auger drilling attachment, a rack of poles, and I think also a grab arm for lifting and planting them. This was in the early 60s, so not a new truck by that stage.

 

I remember the vehicle shown in this article too, very similar, but the QL was clearly a predecessor. https://www.britishtelephones.com/vehicles/peu/005.htm

 

 

Edited by Nearholmer
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10 hours ago, John M Upton said:

My grandparents had an ex military vehicle, I don't know a lot about it other than it had lots of seats and a map table in the back and became know as the Brigadiers Car.

 

Any idea what that might have been?  May have been Austin based?

 

8 hours ago, Dickon said:

 

That sounds like a Humber Heavy Utility.

image.png.352dace1eb521d7c32c0b51a9998e899.png

Almost certainly a heavy utility. There was also one based on the Chevrolet CMP C8.

image.png.e8ec7b496a7ea0ebc015ae9bab1aac13.png

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This is an interesting topic on which I have done some research and it seems to be quite involved.

 

For a start I would suggest looking at the Commercial Motor magazine archive which is freely available on line, mainly the classified adverts although there are some display adverts as well for ex WD vehicles. Note that the archive numbers each issue with the front cover being page 1 and therefore does not correspond with the printed page numbers.  On archive page 26 of the 3rd January 1947 issue there is an interesting piece on the non-availability of spares for ex military vehicles. This suggests that some of the vehicles may have had short lives in civilian use due to the lack of spares.

 

I get the impression that certain vehicles such as Bedford O series and Austin K series had long lives in the army as they were similar to the civilian vehicles that were made in large numbers and vehicles were cascaded down to TA units even when replaced in front line units. Conversely some military looking vehicles were permitted to be made for civilian use during World War 2 including Bedford OW series (similar to WD vehicles) and Guy Vixant (civilian Vixen model with the military front end of the Ant) available from Road Transport Images assuming you want 4mm scale.   

 

Releasing vehicles for sale can vary from service to service and also what they vehicles were used for. Some Austin K6's seem to have been released early and I suspect they were bomb flats made redundant with the running down of the bomber squadrons. However I have seen photos of a rebodied K6 with 1957 registration and an original bodied K6 tipper with 1958 registration.   

Generally speaking 4 x 2 GS vehicles were popular choices for civilian use probably with new bodies mainly flat, dropside and van . Some companies did well by converting ex WD vehicles eg. Ford WOA2 pictured outside the works of Scottorn Ltd who went on to become well known for specialist body work and trailers. 

 

Jeeps were liked by garages and farmers with modified bodies and even lengthened wheelbase being advertised. The lack of agriculural tractors meant that  as well as tanks, mentioned above, the Quad type of artillery tractor was used by farmers.       

 

I have accumulated a fairly good collection of magazine articles and books and may be able to answer specific questions.

 

Andrew  

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