Smith & Robinson Memories
Classic & Vintage Commercials|April 2017

Another superb selection of period S&R photos from the collection of former Manchester depot engineer David Whalley.

David Whalley

This 1969 ERF was Gardner powered and probably had the most popular drivetrain of the time, namely a David Brown six-speed (6-500) overdrive gearbox and Kirkstall axles. This specification was much-favoured on ERFs and Atkinsons. By 1969 the ERF would have full air-braking.

The Campbell Technical Waxes contract ran for many years but as I recall it was confined to just one or two vehicles at most. The tank is a Butterfield and would probably have been purpose-built for this particular contract. It would have been very heavily insulated to keep the molten wax warm and have had inbuilt heating coils. The outer cladding was aluminium, which helped with unladen weight but was also at the time considerably cheaper than stainless steel. The tank barrel would have been 304 grade stainless steel but this tank was not a pressure vessel and the mainlids have only single bolt clamps so cargo discharge would be by pump or by gravity into the customer’s plant.

In service the painted exterior panels could retain their looks longer than the bare aluminium panels favoured in S&R’s own fleet, but all too often spillages occurred at loading points that left tank barrels looking like they had been carrying paint stripper.

This ERF KV is something of a mystery. This photo must, though, date from the 1960s as I know that S&R ran three ERF eight-wheelers that were bought specifically for a Proctor & Gamble contract carrying Fairy Liquid between Trafford Park and Thurrock.

Desperate to save on unladen weight, these ERFs had Rolls-Royce B8 petrol engines, Dunlop disc brakes and I believe that aluminium wheels were also tried. The vehicles were not, though, a massive success and were all withdrawn prematurely mainly, I was told, through excessive fuel consumption.

I’m not 100% certain, though, that this KV is one of those. I also can’t be sure about the tank, but I was told that, though again made by Butterfields, it was made from glassfibre. The man-lids, however, identify it as a Butterfields tank, and again its clearly not a pressure-vessel as the lids have only single-bolt clamps. What is odd, though, is that the tank outlet is at the front, the foot valve hand wheel can be clearly seen at the top of the ladder. Equally strange is the spacing of the man-lids; the two back ones are closer together though this is clearly a single-compartment tank. And why the big flat sides? Were these for strength, or was the idea that they could be used for advertising? And finally, why is the tank mounted so high above the chassis? The high centre of gravity must certainly have made it ‘interesting’ to drive!

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