Brilliant models of classic Bedford commercials

Posted by Chris Graham on 24th October 2023

A double treat for classic Bedford K- and M-Type commercials fans this month, as Mike Neale looks at some even smaller examples.

classic Bedford

The first issue of the Matchbox ‘Models of Yesteryear’ 1939 Bedford KD.

In mid-1939, Bedford announced a new range of trucks, the K-Type 30cwt, M-Type 2/3-tonner and the O-Type for 3-5-ton payloads. These models replaced the previous W-Series machines that had a squarer cab though, initially, they were little changed mechanically.  

However, World War 2 meant that only 856 K, M and O-Types were built before the factory was turned over to military production. Military variations were developed, such as the MW 15cwt truck based upon the M-Type 2-tonner, as well as the OW, OX and OY. The Bedford ML military ambulance used the same Mann Egerton body as the Austin K2 (‘Katy’) ambulances; the first going into service in 1940. It’s believed that just under 400 were built, with several being lost at Dunkirk.

At the end of the war, the civilian K, M and O-Types were reintroduced. The K-Type had a 120in wheelbase, the KD being a dropside truck and the KV a van version. There were two wheelbases for the M-Type; the MSD short wheelbase at 120in and the MLD long wheelbase at 143in. From 1950, improvements included a new six-cylinder ‘Extra Duty’ petrol engine, and the M-Type was then rated as a 3-tonner. Production continued until they were replaced by the Bedford A-Series, in 1953.  

Models of the Bedford O-Type were covered in the September 2020 issue, so here it’s the turn of the lighter-weight K and M-Types, all made long after the real trucks.

Matchbox Models of Yesteryear
In 1991, Matchbox introduced a diecast 1939 Bedford KD truck in its ‘Models of Yesteryear’ range, in red and black with a brown-painted dropside body, presumably to represent wood. Model Y63 was in the livery of George Farrar, Yorkshire Stone, and came with a separate bag of model rocks. Scale was a slightly random 1/46. The casting was a good representation of the K-Type, although the chrome wheel hubs were rather unrealistic, but at least the grille was black with just the grille bar detailing picked out in silver.

A later version was issued in the ‘Great Beers of the World’ series, model YBG24 Bedford Stake Bed Truck in the blue and black Tooheys livery of Sydney, Australia. More unnecessary chrome on this one, with the grille being plated as well as the wheels. There was a fixed load of beer barrels in the back.

classic Bedford

MICA Convention Code 2 Paraffine model issued in 1999.

A promotional Code 2 version (ie one officially authorised by the factory) was issued in blue, black and yellow Paraffine livery by the Matchbox International Collectors’ Association (MICA) to celebrate its 7th European Convention in Amsterdam on October 23rd, 1999, limited to 500 models. By this time, Matchbox was owned by Mattel. The scale on the box was incorrectly stated as 1/64, instead of 1/46.  

classic Bedford

Suttons Seeds Code 2 Matchbox Bedford KD.

Another Code 2 promotional model was produced for Suttons Seeds in green and black, blue and black, or in those colours but with a red cab. This had the chrome wheels but the black grille.

Matchbox used the same Bedford K-Type cab for a series of fire trucks. YFE04 – issued in 1993 – was a red fire tanker, with a 500-gallon tank, chrome wheels and a red grille. YFE17, appearing in 1997, was a pump and hose truck in red City of Manchester Fire Brigade livery, with chrome and red wheels and a red grille.  

classic Bedford

City of Manchester Fire Brigade model by Matchbox.

If those don’t have enough bling for you, then try YYM35191 also issued in 1997; the Bedford Civil Airport Fire Truck of the Bristol Aeroplane Co in deep red and black, with chrome grille and detailing, gold coach-lining, chrome, red and black wheels and whitewall tyres. Though I probably shouldn’t, I actually rather like this version, despite the excess chrome!

classic Bedford

Bristol Aeroplane Co Bedford Civil Airport Fire Truck.

The same casting as the Bristol fire engine was used for the Matchbox Collectibles 50th Anniversary Collection in 2002, appearing in metallic maroon with a ’50 Years’ logo on the doors.

classic Bedford

Matchbox 50th Anniversary Bedford Fire Engine.

Del Prado
The first model in a 2008 magazine part-work series of Fire Engines of the World by Del Prado was a 1939 Bedford K-Type fire engine in red, for the introductory price of just £2.99 in the UK (they also appeared overseas). This might have looked familiar, as it was basically the same as the earlier Matchbox Yesteryear YFE17 pump and hose truck, but with ‘City of Liverpool’ on the doors (instead of Manchester). Other models in the series followed, in various scales, but many were 1/43 or 1/50.

Del Prado’s City of Liverpool Fire Brigade model.

Junye Toys
Possibly inspired by this popular Matchbox/Del Prado fire truck, two versions of a diecast and plastic toy fire engine have appeared recently at about the same scale, generally sold cheaply in gift shops around the world (I bought one in America and one in Holland, but I’ve seen them in the UK since).

Bedford turntable ladder fire truck by Junye Toys.

The first was a hose truck and the second a turntable ladder. Both have opening doors with ‘Emergency Fire Service’ lettering, and white plastic ladders. They are left-hand-drive (with an impractical looking horizontal steering wheel).

Junye Toys’ fire hose truck, inspired by the Matchbox model?

Lledo Days Gone
A brief mention of the Bedford K-Type 30cwt vans produced by Lledo in its ‘Days Gone’ range, with seemingly hundreds of different liveries issued over the years. There were two basic variants, a box van and a KV van which was also adapted into an ambulance with added side windows.

H Samuel promotional Bedford K-Type box van model by Lledo.

They were to an unspecified, smallish, fit-the-box scale, bigger than 1/76 which might have been useful for model railway layouts, but smaller than 1/50 popular with model truck collectors. They were fairly basic and toy-like, but captured the shape well, and some liveries were quite attractive. However, K Types shouldn’t have twin rear wheels, which the Lledo models do.

Lledo Days Gone Bedford K-Type Ambulance, Salop County Council.

ASAM Models
White metal and resin 1/48 scale models of the wartime Bedford ML military ambulance were produced by Alan Smith & Anthony Molay of ASAM Models, now run by Alan Smith and Allan Simpson at their workshop in Farnborough, Hampshire ( Hand-built and kit versions of the ambulance were produced, which certainly looked the part. Variants included British Army, RAF and desert sand.

ASAM Models’ Bedford ML Military Ambulance in desert sand colours.

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



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