Bedford lorry range models reviewed
Posted by Chris Graham on 13th April 2023
Mike Neale looks at a very popular Bedford lorry range launched in the 1950s that, for whatever reason, inspired surprisingly few models.
Bedford’s new normal control truck range, the A-Type, or TA (‘T’ for Truck) was launched in 1953, replacing the essentially pre-war bonneted K, M and O-Series lorries. The new A-Type was modern in appearance and clearly inspired by American truck designs. The radiator grille had three painted thick horizontal bars, with headlights mounted at the outside of the front panel.
The front bumper stopped in line with this front panel, making it look a bit like the ends were missing, although this was revised on later versions. The cab had a split windscreen. The A2 had a 25cwt payload, the A3 three tons, A4 four tons and A5 five tons. There was also the A4SS tractor unit. A petrol engine was standard, with a Perkins P6 diesel optional on the 4- and 5-tonners.
In 1957, the range was slightly restyled to become the D-Type, or TD. This had a wider grille, still with three painted horizontal bars, with an extra chrome trim above. The front bumper was wider. The cab still had a split windscreen. A six-ton version was now available, the D6, as was Bedford’s own diesel engine.
In September 1958, the D-Type was replaced by the long-lived J-Type, or TJ. This had a deeper, single piece windscreen, still with clap-hands wipers. The J1, J2 and J3 (25cwt up to 4-ton payload) had vertical grille bars, peaks over the headlamps, faired-in sidelights and 16in wheels. The heavier duty trucks, the J4, J5 and J6 (from 5- to 7-tons) had horizontal grille bars, no headlamp peaks, sidelights below the headlights and 20in wheels. The TJ range lasted until 1999 for overseas markets, latterly built by AWD and then Marshalls.
An interesting derivative was the JO (or J0) half-ton pickup built from 1960-65, fitted with a Vauxhall Cresta 2,651cc engine taking it to over 80mph.
Finding a model Bedford A-Type is not that easy. The one illustrated is a 1/50 scale resin and white metal handbuilt fire pumper by Sun Motor Co., produced by Rod Ward of Modelauto in Leeds. The livery is rather unusual for a Bedford, that of the Abbey of Gethsemani, a Trappist abbey in Kentucky.
Sun Motor Co. cast one batch of around 200 cabs, along with different bonnet badges, grilles and RHD/LHD interiors to produce Bedford, Opel Blitz and GMC versions, the sheet metal on the real trucks being very similar. Various chassis and body combinations were issued, eg. Bedford dropsides, Opel box vans etc. The real fire truck used by the Abbey may in fact have been a GMC or Chevrolet rather than a Bedford.
A 1/43 scale Bedford A-Type six-wheel cargo truck was produced by Ixo Models for a Brazilian trucks magazine partwork series in red & yellow Cargo Logistica livery. If you’d been in Brazil in 2016 you could have picked one up at your local newsagent. I sadly wasn’t, so don’t have one to show you.
The best-known model of one of these bonneted Bedfords is the Dinky Pallet Jekta Van with the D-Type cab, model no. 930, produced from 1960-64 in orange and yellow Dinky Toys livery, to approx. 1/50 scale. This came with orange plastic pallets that could be automatically moved out of the two rear opening doors by cranking the metal handle on the nearside which slid the floor back. Initially without glazing, windows were fitted on later issues. It is an attractive and sought-after toy that is now quite hard to find at a reasonable price. Mine has been repainted in its original livery.
It’s a shame that Dinky didn’t make more use of the D-Type cab. John Fisher of Kingfisher Models some years ago produced a white metal kit of the cab for model collectors to produce their own Code 3 variations. One such model is the Bedford D-Type flatbed truck, a sort of Dinky “might have been.” I also have a cattle truck using the same cab. Kingfisher truck kits are no longer in production, unfortunately.
Moving onto the Bedford TJ, and my favourite model in this feature, the 1/48 scale resin model of the Bedford J1 Lomas Ambulance by Hart Models in their Enstone Emergency Models (EEM) series (some were also sold in Hart Models boxes). Tony Molay set up Hart Models in the late 1980s in Hartley Wintney in Hampshire, the company name derived from the local Hart District.
Tony obtained some components from Alan Smith Auto Models, and in 2000 the two businesses merged to become Hartsmith. The Herbert Lomas bodied Bedford J1 is perhaps the archetypal 1960s ambulance, with examples still being delivered into the 1970s. The Enstone model was produced in cream, silver & black Hertfordshire livery, dark blue Herefordshire County Council livery, cream & black Glamorgan Health Authority, as an olive-green military ambulance, and possibly others.
Although long out of production, the tooling is owned by Alan Smith, now of ASAM models, so in theory they could be reintroduced, although there are currently no plans to do so. Incidentally, Oxford Diecast produce J1 Lomas ambulances in 1/76 scale as model railway accessories, outside the scope of this article.
The heavier duty Bedford TJ with the horizontal bar grille has been made more recently by Ixo Models as a 1/43 scale diecast model. This first appeared in a French magazine partwork series of lorries produced for Altaya as a LHD French-registered Bedford TJ6S coal truck in brown & red Au Bon Bougnat livery, with coal sacks on the back. It’s a nice model, aside from the slightly oversized ‘BEDFORD’ lettering on the bonnet.
Ixo subsequently released the TJ6S in their own range as a RHD British-registered truck, although not perhaps in the most typically British livery, being a yellow & blue Maes Pils beer truck. It looks good, nevertheless, and the bonnet lettering is more in scale. I hope that they introduce other versions at some point.
A 1/50 scale white metal model of the Bedford JO was produced by Bristol Model Trucks in very small quantities, so you’ll struggle to find one – even I don’t have one, more’s the pity, as it is a cute model. The model shown was on their display in the model hall at the Classic & Vintage Commercials show at Gaydon.
The same is true of the other Bedford J-Types that they have produced, various versions of the heavier duty type with the horizontal bar grille, again to 1/50 scale. I’ve seen tractor units, with and without trailers, and also a rugged looking 4×4 breakdown truck.
This feature comes from the latest issue of Classic & Vintage Commercials, and you can get a money-saving subscription to this magazine simply by clicking HERE
The sad demise of RMS Windsor Castle