The 90-mile Cheshire Run

Posted by Chris Graham on 25th August 2022

Ed Burrows reports on the welcomed return of the 90-mile Cheshire Run that attracted a wide range of interesting, classic commercials.

The 90-mile Cheshire Run

The 90-mile Cheshire Run: American truck collector Tommy Taylor’s distinctive high-cab Chevrolet.

For the past two years, covid has deprived the heritage trucks community of enjoying the Cheshire Run. The 90-mile circuit of Cheshire and North Staffordshire can be regarded as the starting grid for the North West’s rally and show season. With a significant proportion of likely participants in the pandemic higher-risk category, the turnout of stalwarts and survivors for the run’s return to glory was cause for celebration on both a human and a vehicle level.

Living only nine miles from the start, covering the event – traditionally held on the last Sunday in April – was an absolute must. 

The 90-mile Cheshire Run

Len Neal’s 1956 Thornycroft Trusty, one of a Basingstoke range of two-, three- and four-axle models that grossed up to 22 tons.

Oops! Googling for the start time and other details took me to that notoriously woke unsocial media site. Not being a subscriber and giving up after a failed password attempt then being put off by screeds of legalistic palaver, a friend advised me to get myself to the Run’s starting point at Lymm Poplar 2000 Services by 7.30am. 

The truck parc area was a vast warehouse on wheels – acres of overnighting artics – and not a classic to be seen. Apart from a lone blue Scania warming up, the serried ranks of white cabs and trailers were having a Sunday morning lie-in.   

The 90-mile Cheshire Run

Great Scot: the event also attracted a decent number of Albions.

Wrong place, wrong time? Despite the sun being blindingly bright, it was decidedly chilly. Hang around in the cold a bit longer? Or pack up and go?

Patience paid. After half an hour or so, a BRS red eight-wheeler emerged from behind a rank of artics. The driver was obviously looking for an as-yet unmarked assembly point. Then another BRS eight-wheeler appeared.

The 90-mile Cheshire Run

Rare flat windscreen panels/rounded front AEC Mammoth Major was one of a few tankers in the run.

At a healthy lick, they drove towards a distant side of the site. Their engines sounded as if they weren’t stopping. Oh no – the tailenders? 

Thoughts turned to plan B. I knew trucks on the Run processing down the A50. Should I hare off and try to catch the convoy up? A wide trunk road with long straights interspersed by swooping ups, downs and rounds, the A50 is sufficiently engaging for me to have once selected it as leg of a media test route for a ‘racing car for the road’ project.

The 90-mile Cheshire Run

Chips with everything: potato merchants Robert Wellock & Son’s Cummins-powered ERF EC6 rigid.

Whew – the two BRS eight-leggers stopped. I walked over as a little green Albion appeared. An hour later, participants were still arriving. Fodens, ERFs, the odd Swede, Albions, AECs, and so on. But they were being directed to park side-by-side and nose to tail – less than ideal for photography.

Owners and drivers formed a lengthening queue at a table set up as the registration point. While having a quick chat with some friends, I became aware the two BRS eight-wheelers were on the move. 

The 90-mile Cheshire Run

A beautifully maintained AEC Mercury, representing the model generation that proceeded the demise of the Leyland Group due to the combined ineptitude of management, unions and government.

Fortunately, while waiting earlier, I’d obtained brief details. Thornycroft NYN 790 – a 1956 Trusty – and KYF 317, a Leyland Octopus of the generation introduced in 1948, were owned by Len and Robert Neal. The brothers began restoring the Octopus in 1981 and acquired the Trusty 1988. Also commemorating Britain’s once state-owned transport undertaking, the Neals have a 1961 Bristol BRS artic tractor and trailer.

The 90-mile Cheshire Run

One of a substantial number of ERF rigids and tractors, out for what constitutes their home run.

With their exit from the services, it was time to high tail it down the A50. I’d identified a decent spot in Knutsford to snap the participants as they paraded through. After a while they did, first trickling in ones and twos, then in a series of nose to tail cavalcades. 

Regrettably, being sunny, even at nine in the morning all and sundry were out posing in their wheels. Porsches, McLarens, a blonde in a top-down Ferrari, new Mustangs, a convoy of Morris Minors with representative body types, a couple of Austin-Healey 3000s and a gaggle of Lamborghinis.

This Albion HD57 has been meticulously replicated by Base Toys in 1/76 scale.

What’s this! A real eye-popper – a 1940s short-hood Chevrolet light truck with high set cab owned by Tommy Taylor, whose place near Warrington is where the Cheshire Run traditionally terminates.

Among a sprinkling of semis was the DAF 3300 ATi imported some years back from New Zealand by Kelsall Steam Rally organisers Geoff and Marie Newsome.

Brian Owen’s Perkins P6-engined 1955 Mk5L Seddon. The weight over the back axle counters unladen bouncing. Lewis Hamilton might try this to stop his F1 car porpoising.

Wow: Lambos, eat your hearts out. A Peterbilt 379, gleaming brightwork and painted custard yellow, as American as apple pie. Its CAT 3406 puts out 465bhp and 1602-lb.ft. With owner Creag Williams having no intention of hauling a trailer, the Pete’ offers fantastic performance. First registered in Georgia in the southern US in 1993, it has 1.2 million miles on the odometer. 

While most tractor units ran without trailers, the DAF 3300 ATi belonging to Kelsall Steam Rally organisers Geoff and Marie Newsome was an exception.

“It was a case of buy now or regret for ever,” states Creag Williams, who bought it from a friend six or so months ago. It’s had three or four previous owners since coming to this side of the Atlantic. Its polished perfection is explained by Creag’s business – car valeting. He used to drive commercials all over Europe, and still takes the wheel occasionally as a relief driver.

▲ You could class this Commer as all-purpose, with its loading ramps equipped platform and commodious crew cab.

Another stunner was the Shorrock farming family’s Gardner 120 engined 1958 Foden two-axle with a factory-built S20 crew cab, a rarity also sported by a few Foden heavy-haul drawbar tractors. Elliott Shorrock explained that it was built to the specifications of the former AP-owned Lockheed Hydraulic Braking Company for brake system testing and development. Having been confined to test track operations for the first years of its life, it was not road registered until 1963.

T Thomas Babb’s sporty sounding Foden FD6 two-stroke S21 cabbed three-axle transit mixer, cover story in last month’s issue of Heritage Commercials.

It was acquired by the Shorrocks in deteriorated condition. Restored over a two-and-a-half-year period by a specialist coachcraft firm, its first outing on the rally and show circuit was in 2019. 

Custard yellow and as American as apple pie, valeting business owner Creag Williams’ Peterbilt 1.2-million miler.

Being Cheshire, ERF and Foden were well represented among the dozens of participants, but other makes were by no means overshadowed. 

The Shorrock family’s two-axle Foden is unique in sharing the factory S20 crew cab fitted to a handful of Foden three-axle heavy-haul drawbar tractors.

Rather than being lined up static in a field, it was great to see heritage machines in their natural habitat – and running for fun,               with two fingers up to the ridiculous price of diesel.

This report comes from the latest issue of Heritage Commercials, and you can get a money-saving subscription to this magazine simply by clicking HERE

 

 

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