A Trucking Interlude

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As mentioned on page 1422, while I was up at Leyland Truck & Bus seeking Parry Thomas information, Peter Morris got out their 1915 S3 Type Leyland 3-ton platform lorry for me to drive, a vehicle splendidly restored, on quite a limited budget I gather, to the form of one of these RFC-type (or RAF) Leylands as it would have looked after being rebuilt by the Company soon after the Armistice, for civilian use a “Subsidy Reconditioned,” in fact. It was quite an experience!

The vehicle is taxed and Peter drove it nonchalantly through the busy streets of the town of Leyland to the Company’s Test-Track, on which he felt even I might handle it safely, if without expertise. To ride on this rugged lorry on solid tyres is to experience a degree of vibration that would otherwise not be believed. One’s sympathy goes out to those who used to do long hauls on these indestructible Leylands over the rough roads of the 192os, perhaps with a vanload of furniture up behind, or even towing an iron-tyred horse-van for good measure. Even more so to those First War Air Mechanics who had to operate such vehicles, maybe under shellfire over steeply-cambered cobbled roads at the Front a tedious way to recover fallen flying machines. Nearly 6,000 of these Leylands were built during WW1; in reconditioned form with a two-year guarantee, they sold for £700 each. The fact is that these Leylands were built to last, which they undoubtedly did. The simple biblock 4-litre side-valve engine is bolted to the chassis without rubber-mountings, and thus contributes its share to the aforesaid vibration. Yet the whole vehicle feels reassuringly solid, and unlikely to shake loose its nuts. The shallow seat-cushions in the simple wooden cab must be five feet or so from the ground, so that the view down on to the long, flat-topped bonnet is impressive, likewise that over all the neighbours’ hedges. There are no instruments to watch, the most obvious thing on the dashboard being a water tank for keeping the transmission-brake cool. For once the description “signalbox levers” is truly applicable to the r.h. gear and brake levers both are massive, with very long travel. Double de-clutching up and down is recommended for changing the unresponsive gears; the handbrake pushes on. The cone clutch is very fierce but, like the rest of this indomitable Leyland, feels indestructible. The steering is unexpectedly light, with a good deal of free play. Driving was not too difficult, but then I only did a lap of this private Test Track. Top speed is probably about 22 m.p.h. The r.h. accelerator pedal, about the only small item on the lorry, drops into an open well in the floorboards if you try to fully depress it, which must have given press-on drivers ankle-ache.

This Leyland is redolent of life in the RFC and RAF and a line stable companion to Leyland’s 1919 steam wagon, also immaculately restored. Unlike the Leyland Cars situation, Leyland Truck and Bus thrives, at the enormous plant up in Lancashire, and one is reminded that, after losing a million pounds in 1922, the Leyland Company made a magnificent recovery’ a few years later, due largely to the success of its Leyland “Lion” ‘bus chassis and derivatives, as described in that great book “The Leyland Bus” (TPC, 1977), written by Leyland’s Export Sales Manager, Doug Jack. W.B.

V-E-V-MIscellany. We were very sorry indeed to learn that “Nobby” Clarke, who was such a well-known ex-Bentley Motors employee in the great days of W. 0. Bentley, and who in recent times had contributed so much extremely interesting Bentley history to the BDC Review, died shortly before the Reunion of ex-employees at Silverstone on August Bank Holiday Saturday. A reader has sent us a cutting from the Bristol Evening Post about the first Bristol-made taxicabs. It Seems that these were Straker-Squire cabs, found unsuitable for the hilly district, so sent by Sir George White to the flatter roads of Weston-super-Mare, where they gave good service from 1910 until 1919. There Were ten of these Straker-Squire cabs, with bodies by Sir George’s Bristol Tramways Co. Mr. Tozer, who wrote the letter in question, is researching the history of the BT & CC and has been unable to find more than one photograph of these cabs, a picture showing nine of them lined up on Weston’s sea-front, after inspection by the Licensing Committee on March 3rd, 1911. A reader, Mr. J. C. Korthals Altes of Bloemendaal, suggests that perhaps the magneto once used on Adrian Liddell’s racing Straker Squire was an Eisemann, not an Ericson as quoted. He was at the 1935 German Grand Prix and reminds us that Willy Walb and Sebastian joined the AutoUnion Racing Department in 1933. Also, that it was a very wet race, reducing his programme to pulp and that he thinks that had von Brauchitsch been on Dunlop instead of on Continental tyres all Nuvolari’s skill and track-craft would not have availed him, in beating this German driver who had made the fastest lap speed. Rumour says that an old Mercedes-Benz is walled up in Trinidad but that the widow of the owner resists all attempts to acquire it. W.B.

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