Commer Classic
Classic & Vintage Commercials|February 2017

Like the AEC we featured in 2009, Graham Reed’s recently-completed Commer TS3 restoration replicates one of the lorries his father started the family business with in the early sixties. This one, though, was a massive undertaking. David Reed tells the story.

I last visited Graham Reed back in 2009, when I travelled to his base at Swineshead to sample YDD46, his restored 1959 AEC Mercury. That was one of the first lorries his dad, Alan, drove when he first started in the haulage business. To close that meeting I asked both Graham and Alan what was next. Both replied “A Commer TS3” – another type of vehicle used at the beginning of the business.

Seven years on, I was invited back to see the finished 1957 Commer. Like the Mercury, it’s finished in Reed’s orange livery, distinctive and difficult to miss.

The initial search for the Commer resulted in Graham and his friend Martin Callaghan scouring magazines along with internet sales and auction sites. “Eventually we found it in Southport” Graham said, “one weekend we went to have a look at it. The cab was in such poor condition that we didn’t even bother to bring it back. We returned a fortnight later with the car and a trailer to fetch the rest home.”

I then asked Graham if he had any history on the vehicle, his reply was “sadly, no, I do know its original registration was TYX 503 and I believe it worked for Pickfords in London but that’s about all,” he replied. Obviously any other information will be appreciated…

The QX range of lorries were introduced in 1948, with both five and seven-ton versions available. They were powered by a six-cylinder petrol engine inclined to 66 degrees to the vertical, with the cab basically in front. This allowed the walk-through three seater cab, much sought-after with urban local authorities for whom seating for three and quick unhindered access were useful attributes.

By the mid-1950s diesel engines were becoming the preferred choice, so the TS3 (standing for Tilling-Stevens 3-cylinder) engine was introduced to the range in 1954, being first shown at the Earl’s Court Motor Show that year. The TS3 engines were produced at the Tilling-Stevens factory in Maidstone; Tilling Stevens having been bought by Rootes in 1950.

In fact, this part of Kent is quite significant in the history of the Rootes Group as, basically, it’s where it all started. William and Reginald Rootes father (William Senior) owned a cycle shop in Hawkhurst, and the brother’s first involvement in the motor industry was Rootes Motors, a dealership they started in Maidstone just after WW1. It’s still there, and is a Peugeot dealership these days, though now trading under Peugeot’s corporate Robins & Day name .

Anyway, the unconventional new power units, with the engine’s distinctive sound from the exhaust announcing their presence, brought them the popular name of ‘Knockers’ in Australia and New Zealand, both of which were extremely popular export markets. You just couldn’t miss them coming – hearing them before seeing them.

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