Introduction (Inside Cover)
'You See Them Everywhere.' Bedford's much-quoted classic advertising slogan of the 1930s still applies in some parts of the world, 17 years after the last example was built.
Britain's armed forces still rely on the marque in the new century. So did almost everyone in the country when 1950s Bedford RLH 'Green Goddesses' were pressed into action during a recent firefighters' dispute.
Bedford's beginnings date back to the mid-1920s when American company General Motors took over Vauxhall and started to assemble Chevrolet LQ and LT lorries in Britain, firstly at Hendon and then Luton. These sold well and. in 1931, the range was completely revised and sold under the name Bedford. These would now be very much a British product, though the first models used a Chevrolet cab.
Success was major and immediate. Bedford becoming a major player in the 2-3 ton market with its WHG. WLG and WS models and the range, joined by a BYC 12cwt van in 1934. proved rugged and reliable and deserved every bit of its success. Bedford also made major inroads in the bus and coach market, a situation that would remain for decades.
In 1939, Bedford announced its new range, but war got in the way and the 1.5 ton K, 2-3 ton M-Type and 4-5 ton O didn't reach full production until 1946. Meanwhile, the company had produced some 250,000 military vehicles, including tanks. In 1950, an S-Type seven tonner, known as the Big Bedford, was introduced along with an eight ton tractor. Wartime experience of building 4x4s was employed to produce the R-type, which also sold well to civilian customers. Not surprisingly, by 1954 Bedford had outgrown its Luton factory and a new plant opened at nearby Dunstable
In 1960 came arguably Bedford's best-remembered range, the forward control TK. A bonneted TJ, the ultimate in rugged simplicity, won much business in developing countries and was another long-term production survivor. Vans continued to bring in major business and Bedford was active in the larger lorry field with the KM range and the TM of 1974 gave Bedford good ammunition in the fight against Continental heavyweights.
The 1980s began on an optimistic note with launch of the TK-derived tilt cab TL and soon Bedford was taken under the control of General Motors' worldwide Truck and Bus Group, but a mixture of recession and steep decline in demand for vehicles - plus GM's failed plan to buy Leyland - led to a decision to pull out of the UK truck market in 1986.
Bedford may have gone, but there are many examples in preservation, some in regular use. Not everyone would describe Bedfords as glamorous - they would never be the stuff of Hollywood movies such as Convoy or Duel - but because Bedfords were cheap to buy, well-built and reliable, the marque's impact on Britain's haulage industry has been massive. Hauliers who began with a couple of examples often expanded into major players, buying British heavyweight lorries of other marques.