Meet Beddington Bedstead
Classic Van & Pick Up|November 2017

That’s the name of this 1971 Bedford CF and he has been rebuilt as a tribute to a coal merchant from the past. The build was carried out to an astonishingly-high standard by owner Paul Bundy. We’ll let Paul tell the story.

I HAD been looking for a Bedford CF for some time, with a view to re-create a breakdown truck that my friend, Billy, once owned for use in his scrapyard. I had driven and worked on this vehicle many times and remember it well. On Christmas Day 2012, I was visiting my friend and while browsing the latest vintage magazine, saw a classified advert for this Bedford. Also, there was a photo of it under a barn and it was blue, like Billy’s one. I asked my friend if I could use his telephone and he replied: “You can’t phone today, it’s Christmas Day.”

Unperturbed, I called the number and spoke to the lady owner. She told me a few details and I arranged to view it on Boxing Day. My friend came with me to “run the rule over it”, but on finding out the lady owned two Fowler ploughing engines that were in another shed, he soon disappeared. I had a look and the cab was in a bad way, with the windscreen being held in with glazier’s putty and the door bottoms were vacant. Inside, there was a coating of grease over all the visible steelwork, making it difficult to see the floor condition. The inner upper roof section was badly corroded, but I was informed there was a spare cab in with the price, along with a mountain of spare new and old parts. I decided to have it, as the asking price was fair for the condition. On speaking to Alma, the owner, I was asked what I intended to do with it, as Alma had already declined to sell to a chap who was going to convert it to an ice-cream van and another who wanted to make a camper of it. I assured her my intentions were good and I became the new owner, arranging collection for 2 January. On that date my friend, Simon, later to play a part in the restoration, and I arrived with the transporter lorry. The old Bedford was driven out of its two-year resting place and loaded up with the spare cab and half-adozen windscreens and other parts. Simon was invited to view the engine and I retired to the warmth of Alma’s cottage for a cup of tea.

I asked if there was any history on the CF and was told its entire history from new. It was sold and bodied by Charles Warner, of Lincoln. Its first owner was Jackson Shipley Builders, at Scunthorpe, from them it went to Clements Agricultural Dealers, of Hibaldstow, Lincolnshire. At three years old, it was bought by Alma’s brother, Hope, who plugged all the chassis drainage holes with carrots before pouring old engine oil into the chassis and driving it around. Sadly, in May, 1988, Hope died and his father, Ephraim, became the new keeper. The Bedford was used for bringing in wood for winter fuel. Alma recalled a story of when she took her mother shopping in the Bedford, named Beddington Bedstead, and on arriving at the supermarket, Alma turned the key and removed it, but the engine was still running, so she locked the doors and went shopping. On returning, the engine was still running and so she drove home. When in the yard, Alma saw a button that read STOP, she pulled it and the engine stopped.

DARK NIGHT

At the variously-attended steam rallies, a settee would be put on the back and the children, including Alma’s now grownup daughter, would all get on and be chauffeured around the showground. When Ephraim passed away, Alma became the owner, but held on to the little Bedford, retiring it to the barn. She recalls one dark night while looking across the yard, the interior light was on in the cab. Alma went over and opened the door and was hit by the scent of her father, as if he was in the truck, the light went out and it never came on again. Later, when I removed the same light, I found the wires disconnected, a mouse, perhaps, or something else.

The restoration began soon after, with the old wooden body being removed first. The chassis was coated with grease and two carrier bags’ worth was scraped off. The cab was next to be cleaned out and here, the horrors began to unfold. The grease coating had trapped the moisture in and although a seemingly good idea, had caused deterioration of the steps and floor. Some attempt had been made to repaint the inside with emulsion paint and black gloss, but the grease and oil had attacked the rubber flooring, rendering it useless. This was just the tip of the iceberg. Removal of the front screen revealed the upper A-post panel to have disappeared some time ago, followed by the leading edge of the roof panel. The inner roof panel I already knew needed replacing and the spare cab had everything I needed in this department, but worse was to come.

I started taking the bumpers off and these were more repairs and less original bumper. The front panel would need repairing, the wings, too, then it happened. I shone the torch into the engine bay to reveal not much. Metal, that is. The inner flitch on the offside was not in its usual place, neither were the lower headlamp panels. This had started as a cosmetic preservation, but was now turning into a full-on rebuild. But it’s only metal and I have had a career in coach-building and am a fully-qualified panel-beater and sprayer with numerous restorations under my belt.

Having just got into the computer age, I had a look on a well-known auction site for panels, one front wing, new-old-stock, buy-it-now £250. A second-hand front wing £252, front panel £275 and door skin part panel £89. They all fell to my hammer. The electricity bill money for the quarter paid for a new-old-stock inner flitch (don’t tell the wife). With new panels in the shed (21ft long, 9ft wide), I started removing the rusty items. More bad news followed, the nearside A-post had come adrift. A rethink was needed. It would have to be repaired one side at a time, starting with the roof and working down. Luckily, I have old trade body dimension books and have all the equipment to carry out major body work.

Measurements were taken and the spot welds drilled out on the roof gutter. The new roof panel fitted perfectly, also the inner panel. The A-post top panel was also renewed and a new-old-stock A-post welded in place, the wife could have had a new carpet for what this cost (don’t tell her). Then the inner flitch was welded in and new headlamp panels made, new  outriggers, too, while I was in the mood. The wings were trial-fitted and the doors, too, all looking good.

The battery cable had been chafing the lower rear quarter panel with the result of burning it away and so I made a new panel with a sandbag, hammer and dolly, just like the old days. Two new steps were fitted and a liberal coating of red oxide was applied, followed by two-pack primer and industrial stone chip coating on unseen areas. Work carried on and it was off to Simon’s to have the engine, still in place, steam-cleaned. The sub-frame was rusty and the underfloor of the cab was bereft of any sort of coating, the engine would have to come out. With only 12 main bolts and the ancillaries to remove, the engine and sub-frame came out as one unit. Little did I know it would not return for over two years.

A leaking master cylinder had stripped the paint from the engine bay and inner cab and the engine had blown oil up the bulkhead. This was all sanded back, as well. Now, I had a change of plan, gone was the re-creation of Billy’s breakdown truck and the new idea was a small local delivery coal lorry in the name of Simon’s late father, John Coxen. This idea was readily agreed by Simon and instead of the planned preservation, a full-on restoration to the highest level would begin. All the previous work was to the highest standard, anyway, so nothing would have to be redone.

WHEEL BEARINGS

The sub-frame was stripped and found to be corroded, as were the wishbones. The shock absorbers and wheel bearings were replaced and the track rod ends, upper and lower ball-joints, brake shoes and wheel cylinders were all replaced with brand-new items from PowerTrack, in Berkshire, and an ambulance rolling chassis was bought. This, having been regularly serviced, was in excellent condition and the sub-frame was like new. This also gave up lots of small trim items and heavier duty brackets and gearbox cross-member and the wheels were used while mine were being sand-blasted. But I needed other parts. Enter Mr Adrian Bailey, a wealth of knowledge and experience on all matters Bedford. I spent a fortune buying parts from him, it got so intense that he would bring parts down from Leeds to avoid damage in the post and would meet me in various parts of Lincolnshire, where we would transfer parts from his Volvo to mine in car parks and country lanes, as if partaking in some illicit Bedford parts smuggling ring.

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