The Story of My 1932 Bedford Truck – November 2004 –
by John Thomas
In the eighties I was collecting and restoring stationery engines as a hobby. I had about two dozen of these engines. I thought it would be good to have a truck to take them along to rallies. I mentioned this to my uncle in Shepparton and he said he would keep an eye out for me.
A few weeks later he rang to say he had a truck for me, the owner was moving, but I had better come and look at it first.
We arrived at the farm where all the vehicles were neatly lined up but no truck! The owner then showed me the Bedford, hidden by weeds, rotted tyres and woodwork and parts held on with fencing wire. It was not really what I had in mind but I didn’t want to offend the owner, so I offered him a stupid bid of $50.00 and a flagon of port.
He jumped at the offer and left me with one BIG problem.
The truck was removed from the property by a crane and semi trailer and hidden at my uncle’s property in Shepparton until I could ‘con’ the wife into having it at home to restore.
The pieces were stacked onto a tandem trailer and my uncle and I started the long slow haul to Woodend Vic. Restoration started in 1987. The vehicle was stripped to the last nut and bolt and took pride of place in my garage. So then I had to build a carport for the family car. The chassis and panels went to Barkers (semi trailer manufacturers in Woodend) for sandblasting and a bit of advice on chassis straightening. Kyneton tyre Service found some near new 7-00X20 tyres. Mean while I was transferred to Canberra (by my employer) and the company was going to arrange to transport my goods.
A smartly dressed assessor came out to price the move and refused to transport ‘that heap of rubbish’ (my Bedford) unless I wrapped it in plastic. In the middle of winter my unimpressed wife and I wrapped all the parts in heavy plastic for transporting. The removalist was keen on trucks and managed to fit it all in the van except for the diff. and the engine which I moved in the trailer.
In Canberra serious restoration started and the Bendigo Swap Meet provided a lot of parts. I managed to purchase headlights, instruments and suspension parts there. Guyko timber advised and supplied all the wood required for the cabin and tray. They also cut the chassis bearers to suit. I spotted an excellent restoration of a Guy truck at a rally and made contact with the owner. Red Kinsella gave me valuable tips on making the tray and cabin. The woodwork side of the restoration proved most interesting as I could design it how I wanted it for the era. My mother became a quality control expert on the tray assembly and painting.
‘What would we do without our Mums?’
My children got a kick out of helping me restore parts and I had many mentors including Barry Boyce and Bob Alexander from the Canberra Historic Car Club. The paint colour is Fosters Blue a concoction mixed for me by Dulux in Fyshwick. The late Bill Phillips did most of the upholstery work for me. The interior has been kept simple to fit with the concept of a working vehicle.
It is certainly a challenge to take it for a drive; full airflow conditioning, double clutching and trying to slow down with mechanical brakes all at the same time keeps the trip interesting. How the ‘truckies’ of old worked these vehicles all around the country leaves me in awe.
In 2000 we moved to Radcliffe as our house was no longer big enough for my engines, Bedford and the family. The drive was too hilly for the ‘old girl’ so she was transported by tip tray. She now likes going to Albert’s for the annual roadworthy check but doesn’t like tackling the hills for rallies!
My Bedford is about a 1932 model, maybe earlier. It’s one of the first Bedford trucks produced (the first Bedford appeared in April 1931). In 1931 the 2 ton British Bedford was launched. It had an 157 inch wheel based chassis and was powered by a 44 B.H.P. 6 cylinder petrol engine.
This vehicle was very similar externally to the Chev, but a new pressure lubrication system, redesigned wheels and axles as well as its own distinctive name plate set it apart from the Chev. The cost of putting the Bedford on the road in 1931 was 198 Pounds which was a fairly attractive proposition then. Over 5 thousand vehicles were sold in the first year. The first Australian Bedfords were assembled at General Motors in Melbourne.
My Bedford began its real working life as a delivery van for Cadbury’s chocolates. Later it became a tray truck on a farm at Caniambo (near Shepparton, Vic.), where it finally retired in the wheat fields.