by Steve Favill
....of my last featured vehicle, the gorgeous Lagonda with the perfect combination of elegance and engineering, to the ridiculous, this one. All the aesthetic qualities of a house brick, with the aerodynamics to match.
Those among you who are not in the UK will not have much idea about what this is, and even the Brits may not actually have seen one. You are looking at a Green Goddess! A military fire tender based on a four-wheel-drive Bedford (General Motors) truck chassis.
I spotted this wonderful vehicle at the Vintage Sports Car Drivers Association's Vintage Festival at Road America in September of 2008. The owner, whose name I forgot to write down, bought the vehicle in the UK as they were being sold off as being surplus to requirements. He collected the truck from the docks on the east coast and drove the thing all the way to the Midwest! With a maximum speed of 65mph and a comfortable cruising speed of 45mph it must have been a leisurely journey to say the least.....
Originally conceived as being an emergency response vehicle in the aftermath of a nuclear war, these trucks spent most of their days confined to military bases dotted around the UK. During the Fire Service strike in the early eighties they were sent out to municipalities around the country together with their military crews, to take the places of firefighters who were on strike.
They would be based at Territorial Army (the British equivalent of the National Guard) halls and similar buildings, always accompanied by police officers, usually on motorcycles, on a 24/7 basis as the soldiers didn't know their way around and had to be escorted to the scene of a fire or similar emergency. More than one police vehicle ended up being rear-ended by one of these, as the brakes on the trucks were marginal, at best! I did a couple of stints on these escort duties myself, and would often stop by for a cuppa tea with the squaddies.
The truck that I spotted (and photographed) still had its original equipment intact (with the exception of the ladder!) but the owners was considering converting it into a race car transporter. The tent was custom-made, with a colour scheme to complement that of the Bedford.
Inside was very roomy, but spartan to say the least.
I can’t say whether or not there is another one of these in the United States, but I seriously doubt it, and I'll guarantee that it's the only one that anyone is likely to see over here. A number of them were sold to Nigeria, for use by the Lagos Fire Service, and are still in use by them today.
Basic, easy to maintain and repair, completely reliable and rugged, what they lack in style and speed, they more than make up for in charm and that all-important fun factor.
Seeing it certainly made me smile!
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