Historic commercials at the Kelsall Steam Rally

Posted by Chris Graham on 6th September 2022

Ed Burrows takes a look at some of the heritage vehicles that were on show at the superbly-organised Kelsall Steam Rally.

Kelsall Steam Rally

Graham Booth’s Faun 1,000-tonner, about the height of a double-decker bus and towering over everything in sight.

Ten days before the event, the text said: ‘Sadly won’t see you at Kelsall, Ed…with the price of diesel and 1.5-mpg…’ It was from Graham Booth. At Putin’s War pump prices, it would cost him £1,000 to fill his Faun Goliath with fuel.

We spoke again a couple of evenings before the Kelsall weekend. To his regret, it was still going to be a no-show. Yet – there it was. 

Kelsall Steam Rally

A very nicely maintained Albion Chieftain from the coachbuilt cab era.

The 8×8 is about as tall as a double decker bus. People crowned round it. Women appeared especially fascinated. But who could resist a thousand tonner? 

On the Friday, the day before the Rally, Graham succumbed. “It’s a big piece of my life. Did I have it shipped from South Africa just to park up behind the house? No.” 

Kelsall Steam Rally

Albion’s nifty underfloor engined low-step Cairn, a lightened version of the three- and four-ton Claymore.

Graham continued: “In terms of favourable traffic conditions I made the decision to attend at the last possible moment. How could I not go? The Kelsall Rally is always fantastic. With a rush of adrenaline, I packed an overnight bag, drove to the nearest filling station, maxed out the plastic and off I went. 

“I love driving it. It demands total concentration, anticipation and precision. In its way, the Faun must be as satisfying as driving a racing car – and as you can imagine, in its working days, things got even more interesting when it was pulling a load.”

Kelsall Steam Rally

Many would regard the Leyland Marathon as a lorry load of problems, but it’s good to see one saved for posterity.

Graham Booth’s 650bhp Cummins KTA-engined Faun Goliath is the most potent heavylift prime mover in private hands in Britain. It is the only survivor of three custom built for GEC in 1989. Their job was hauling transformers and other electricity generating station equipment manufactured by GEC in Stafford. They were retained by the factory’s subsequent owners until 2003, when they were sold to Abnormal Load Engineering.

Kelsall Steam Rally

A Foden 4×4? How rare is that? This off-road recovery truck’s first life was as a highway gritter.

ALE transferred them to South Africa in 2010 for contracts for transporting 300-/400-tonne transformers and other units to new power stations being built at Matimba and Medupi. Graham drove F924 TBF for three years – but his South African adventures are stories for another day.

Kelsall Steam Rally

Although ERFs outnumbered Fodens, this combo seemed to say which make the owner considers superior.

Following ALE’s takeover by Mammoet, the three unique-spec Goliaths were declared surplus to requirements. Graham was offered the chance to buy ‘his’. It was shipped to the UK in 2020. Having survived being in intensive care with Covid, the challenge of the restoration work it required helped fire his fight for recovery.  

Kelsall Steam Rally

Hino, cheap and cheerful, and saved from scrap to preserve a chapter in Britain’s transport history.

“The Faun will get out more when the Allison transmission has been reprogrammed,” says Graham. “It doesn’t need to handle more than the Faun’s own weight. With ballast, it weighs 50 tonnes. At the moment it’s set up to pull nine hundred to one thousand tonnes.”

Chrysler set up its Dodge UK subsidiary in 1933. The first UK-designed truck range entered production in 1937.

With no Kelsall Rally since 2019, as would be expected, the two-day event – sprawling over 100 acres of the Newsome’s 350-acre farm – was heaving, both in terms of visitors and vehicles. Justifiably, Geoff and Marie Newsome and their team of high-viz volunteers have a reputation for smooth organisation and meticulous attention to detail. 

Flying the flag for Ukraine: the country’s only truck manufacturer, KrAZ, produced 6x6s like this in the Soviet era.

Transport on show embraced everything. Heavy draught horses, steam power, and hundreds upon hundreds of classics of every description. Kelsall had it all – including immaculately presented moderns (with some operators showing not one 44-ton tractor but their entire fleet).

The ‘Parrot-nose’ Dodge 100 series took over in 1949, with cab structure shared with the Leyland Comet and Ford’s Fordson Thames.

Together with beautifully presented sleeper-cab Americans, there was an interesting sprinkling of non-Brits. A Hino tipper represented a page of cheap-and-cheerful Republic of Ireland transport history. And from Larne in Northern Ireland, John Thompson brought over his wonderfully restored Scania 141 V8 eight-wheeler. Like nothing seen on British roads, John imported it from New Zealand. 

Dodge’s 1960s K range/500 series featured low-set tilt cabs – and from 1968 was available with automatic transmission.

Another rarity was a monster Soviet-era KrAZ-255B 6×6 built by AutoKrAZ, Ukraine’s only truck manufacturer. In production from 1965 until 1979, the original spec included a driver-controlled central tyre pressure regulation system and diff locks augmented by a suspension locking mechanism. 

The Hi-Line cab was shared by Dodge and Commer before the latter disappeared in a series of takeovers.

Wearing the Belaz badge – Belaz is actually a quite different Belarus-based truck manufacturer – in the 1970s a dump truck variant was operated in the UK a number of civil engineering contractors. Crude by contemporary standards but cheap and tough, they proved reliable if properly maintained.

All the way from New Zealand via Northern Ireland: John Thompson’s eight-wheeler Scania 141.

Kelsall being in Cheshire, ERF and Foden, the county’s two legendry and hugely lamented Sandbach truck makes had a prominent presence. Long out of production yes, but the conservation and restorer community keeps them very much alive. There were ERFs by the hundred, and an impressive array of Fodens. Most unusual was a Foden 4×4. A Cummins-engined 1990s Lightweight 2000 series ex-gritter, it is equipped with a US-sourced Holmes recovery system with a maximum winching pull of 30 tons. Converted and operated by Robinsons Recovery of Bolton, it is deployed for off-road rescues. 

Also in the Foden ranks was a high roof sleeper-cabbed Alpha with an ERF Mine Rescue 4×2 tractor on its tail-ramps low-loader – the rescuer rescued, as it were. 

Among Albions of various types was a small but perfectly formed underfloor engined Cairn. The 1.5-toner was a lighter-axle version of the Leyland 0.300-engined three- and four-ton Claymore. With no cab engine encroachment and set-back front axle, it was a nifty answer for urban deliveries. 

It takes all kinds: so, well done the owner who saved this 70+ years old Reliant.

In dull dark blue with the patina of age was a very original looking petrol-engined Dodge 100 Series ‘Parrot-nose’. Other Dodges included 1940s model – the first UK-produced Kew Dodge generation – a couple of 500 series from the later-1960s and a 1970s Hi-Line tilt-cab flatbed. Discounting Barreiros 38-tonners, all UK Dodge generations were represented at Kelsall apart from the LAD-cab 300 series. (There could well have been one, but if so, I missed it).  

And what’s this? Crikey – congratulations to the owner who’s saved a Reliant three-wheeler van. Wire wheels show it to be pre-1952, so at least 70 years old. 

The Reiver was originally an Albion model name. The Leyland successor was introduced in the mid-1970s.

Given prevailing pump prices, this year of all years, all those showing vehicles deserve special gratitude for shelling out for fuel and making Kelsall a massive success.     

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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