Bedford RL and Other Taff Ramblings.
For many years Bedford was the biggest-selling brand among UK commercial vehicle manufacturers, yet it does not exist today. It is hard to understand how General Motors, the brand owners, could let this leading marque fade away from the market and eventually disappear completely. Bedford vehicles originally came from the same stem as Hendon-assembled Chevrolet trucks, production of which transferred to the Vauxhall factory in Luton, along with many GM Hendon staff. The Chevrolets were popular with UK buyers, but their all-British Bedford descendants proved to be even bigger sellers. In only eight years from the launch of the new brand to the outbreak of war in 1939, Bedford became a dominant force in commercial vehicle sales in Britain and overseas. After the Second World War, in which Vauxhall and Bedford made an enormous contribution to the effort, new products were continually developed. Great designs, from the ubiquitous OB buses and CA vans to the S-type Big Bedfords, and their RL 4x4 military versions led on to such iconic vehicles as the TK lorries and VAL buses.
All commercial vehicle manufacturers struggled through a difficult period in the 1970s and a worldwide sales slump in the early 1980s, but Bedford seemed to suffer more than most. Their lightweight coaches stopped selling, and a military truck contract was lost. When their ambitious plan to turn Bedford into a narrowly-focused specialist 4x4 range had to be abandoned, General Motors apparently had no 'Plan B'. They sold the ageing truck range and the Dunstable factory to AWD, but retained the Bedford brand. Without a broad range of trucks and buses carrying the Bedford badge, however, the name was meaningless when attached to a range of Japanese-designed light vans, which were re-badged as Vauxhalls. The story of the meteoric rise of the Bedford brand is told in Auto Review AR106 Bedford Album by Rod Ward, along with its eventual sad demise. Click here for AR106 (Low stocks)
I often reflect on my own contribution to the demise in British manufacturing. Oxford was the last high volume UK producer of diecast vehicles; I made the decision to close that factory in the year 2000. At that time I was truly swimming against the tide and my health was not at its best. I often reflect and wonder what would have happened if I had kept that factory open. I followed my head not my heart, that factory was based in Neath, not far from Swansea. I would still argue today that it was one of the most efficient manufacturing units of diecast vehicles. I would take my daughters horse-riding at 9am each Saturday morning, then we would head off to the factory to check out the production and make sure the machines were still working. We would enter the factory, turn the lights on, there would be components in boxes and trays that had been filled overnight – there were no staff overseeing the production – it was a ‘lights out’ manufacturing facility.
Sometimes on entering the factory we would be disappointed as the red light would be flashing above the Cincinnati 80T injection moulding machine, it was electric and ahead of its time, but contaminated regrind would block the nozzle. It was here as just a 9 year old that Eloise would help me unblock the nozzle. We would draw back the screw, heat up the nozzle and use whatever we could to unblock the feed. Sometimes it could take an hour.
Injection Moulding Process
We would then reset the mould and if I was desperate for the components, we would replace the plastic granules removing all the regrind to give us a 100% chance of running through until Sunday afternoon. I can hear you all asking what would happen when the plastic granules ran out on the Sunday afternoon – the answer is that I would make any excuse I could to visit the factory, I would tell the family I was going swimming to unwind !
Will manufacturing of diecast vehicles ever return to the UK, years ago I would have said no, now I am not so sure. What is important is that we keep developing the engineering talent in the UK, then when the time is right the move can be made.
But enough of my ramblings, the point of this blog is the Oxford Diecast RL which was built by Bedford from the 1950’s/60’s. It was based on the Bedford S Type, which was the civilian offering.
I guess I can't miss the opportunity here of recalling my own childhood and nothing could be better than the Corgi Carrimore (C1101) a truly heavy model, made in times when adding a bit more zinc just made it a whole lot better.
Over 70,000 RL’s were manufactured with the last rolling off the production line in the early 1970s.
The first Oxford release is RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue livery.
The above being available in October 2022 76RL001
The second livery available late 2022 is the 76RL002 Bedford RL58 Company RASC Cyprus.
First shots showing some additional parts.
Design Cell for 76RL001
That all for now I think it time for TT.