Saturday, 23 March 2013

Lorries, vans and buses

A.E.C., Albion, Atkinson, Austin, Bedford, Bristol, Commer, Dennis, Dodge, E.R.F., Foden, Ford, Guy, Karrier, Leyland, Morris, Scammell, Seddon, Thornycroft; a proud roster of British manufacturers that once produced commercial vehicles seen in great numbers on Britain's roads when I was a child growing up in the 1960s.

Of all these names, only Dennis and Ford are still in business; Ford will be closing its Southampton plant this year and moving production of the Transit van to Turkey. Dennis is now Alexander Dennis, making only buses and fire engines. The Leyland name still exists as a badge on DAF trucks built in Leyland, Lancashire; both Leyland and DAF are owned by US company PACCAR. Such is the fate of the UK's once-thriving commercial vehicles industry.

I'd been thinking about a book I had as a boy, the Observers Book of Commercial Vehicles, by L.A. Manwaring. On a whim, I bought it via Abe.com (an excellent website spanning tens of thousands of second-hand bookshops around the world). It was a 1966 first edition, in excellent condition with dust jacket; for it I paid £13.50 including postage. Not quite the edition I remember (maybe it was the second edition I had), but nonetheless a splendid journey into nostalgia, sparking off memories of the lorries, vans and buses that drove around Britain at that time.

Not only Britain - a fair representation of continental trucks appear in the book, vehicles I would have seen on the road between England and Poland... Berliet, B├╝ssing, Krupp, Magirus Deutz, Saviem - plus Soviet Bloc trucks - GAZ, KRAZ, Tatra, and ZIL.

A wonderful book bringing back the diversity of manufacturing from around the world, before the industry's consolidation into a handful of brands from a smaller number of huge multinational companies. Certainly worth snapping up from a second-hand bookshop via Abe.com if you have an interest in classic commercial vehicles or simply as an exercise in nostalgia.

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