Andrew Thorpe’s family business L.&K.R. Thorpe has a long history with ERF trucks, dating back to the firm being established in 1977. His grandfather Les retired from the police aged 45 on medical grounds. With his son Keith, (Andrew’s dad) who was fresh out of agricultural college, they started out with just one lorry. Les is now 92 years old and is still on the ball when it comes to all that’s going on in the Lincolnshire-based company!
The business developed with ventures into Middle East work. They also did a lot of European work for many years, when you were required to purchase a permit to do so. Germany and Czechoslovakia were popular destinations. Volvo F12s, Scania 111 and 141 and Foden 4000s were used. There UK side saw many big rigid trucks in the fleet, and at one point the fleet was entirely made up of ERF. Thorpe’s were one of few takers of the rare ERF M-series and surprisingly, there’s still one on the fleet today. Andrew completed university obtaining a degree in Genetic Engineering with a specialty in Virology (crikey!) to have something to fall back on, but having grown up around trucks his priority was getting out on the road.
The M-Series was designed to be a super-light truck; 16-tonnes gross with a 10-tonne payload. “The problem was, they cost about 25% more than a normal B-series but ended up weighing only 500kg less, so few hauliers thought the cost was justifiable,” explains Andrew. Aside from the higher cost they were very capable trucks, they retired the last one in 2007 and in 2012 Andrew wanted to find one to restore. As it turned out they ended up buying back one of their old trucks which had been converted to a horsebox, hardly used, and then stripped back to a chassis cab.
A complete restoration took over four months, with a curtain sider body sourced from a breakers and then fully refurbed. The truck was completed in 2012, and Andrew was so pleased with the results that he opted to put the then 33 year old truck back to work full time.
With an 11-litre Gardner 180 engine and David Brown six-speed box, the truck had covered 3 million km when it went back on the road and racked up another 500,000km before it was (mostly) retired again in 2017.
“I could sometimes do 3000km a week in it,” smiles Andrew, “and a lot of nights out. The Gardner is a big engine for a 16-tonner so it would sit at 60mph all day long and would drop to 50 on some of the hills but the old school torque would just slog it out. I could knock half a day off a run to Cornwall with it compared to the newer trucks.” The M-Series was eventually replaced with a Volvo FH500 dual-clutch 26-tonner due to a need for higher payloads, this truck featured in T&D back in 2016.
“It was an amazing time with the M-series, to deliver goods to places I had been as a child on summer holidays with my Dad, in the same truck” he tells us. “There were still times when I’d be working out if maybe I could use it for a day instead of the Volvo if the loads weren’t that heavy. My Dad would shake his head and say ‘you’ve got £120,000 worth of state-of-the art kit there and you’re taking that old ERF.”
Take it EC
Andrew had always fancied an ERF EC, having run an EC14 for a brief period and decided to look for one to restore when a new night trunking job came along. “I reckoned that there wasn’t any point in going for a brand new truck for the job, so I bought an EC that I thought would only need a good service and a quick tidy up. We had a MAN TGX on that job to begin with but it proved troublesome.”
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