STOP ME AND BUY ONE: Nigel's on the way with his 1981 Bedford
Let's Talk|December 2020
It’s something we all recall with delight. “Mum, it’s the ice cream man!” Let’s Talk’s motoring man David Clayton meets someone happy to be the owner of a Bedford ice cream van. Bring on the Strawberry Mivvis, choc ices and 99s ...
David Clayton

IF, LIKE ME, YOU’RE OF A CERTAIN AGE, you’ll remember the excitement hearing the chimes of an ice cream van wafting across the streets. Yes, I know ice cream vans are still around now, but cast your mind back to when we didn’t all have home freezers and shops weren’t open the many hours they are now.

So, hearing ‘Greensleeves’ in the distance had you hankering for a Strawberry Mivvi, a choc ice, or if your parents were feeling generous, a 99. That combination of soft ice cream and a chocolate flake takes me straight back to the golden days of summer when it was always sunny – or at least that’s how our mind tends to edit the memories.

I always thought it had to be the best job in the world, riding around in a colourful van with a fridge packed with lollies and ice creams. Everyone was pleased to see you. Okay, it could be a bit lean in the winter months, but the long days of summer compensated.

Nigel Smith, from Norwich, is living my dream and his too, because not only has he got his own ice cream van but he’s preserved an old one and given it a new lease of life. His is a 1981 Bedford CF chassis on which is built the instantly recognisable van with a big sliding serving window at the side.

Nigel has had the van for nine years now and surprisingly bought it via eBay. It was static in a park in Cardiffselling ice creams and lollies. “It had been used and abused,” Nigel tells me. “It pays to go and see it as the pictures online don’t tell the true story.” The seller claimed it was a runner even though it had been standing in the same spot for years. Nigel had gone with a trailer to collect it. “It was a bit of a bodge up”, is how he described the van and more importantly, “The ice cream machine was worn out”.

This was his second ice cream van. He’d worked for 38 years digging up roads, working on underground gas pipes. “I’d used lots of vibrating tools and it was starting to affect my hands, so I knew I couldn’t do it forever.”

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