Thought-provoking Thornycroft

Posted by Chris Graham on 28th February 2020

Nick Baldwin recently came across what he describes as a ‘thought-provoking Thornycroft’ which, though it’s been standing in a Devon field for many years, would make an interesting restoration, albeit a large one in every sense.

Thought-provoking Thornycroft

A Thornycroft Big Ben in all its faded glory. The Q-plate may suggest an ex-military vehicle, or breakdown recovery use on trade plates, when this was permitted.

“Back in May 2019, my ‘Thorny Thoughts’ feature was published in Classic & Vintage Commercials,” he explains. “Six months later, I came face-to-face with a thought-provoking Thornycroft, a Big Ben which, many years ago, was driven to what looked like its final resting place in Devon.

“It can, however, be saved from here, and letters to its sympathetic owner will be forwarded. He would like to see it preserved, has modest price expectations and may even be able to help with restoration work. It was parked in his field suffering with a faulty clutch dozens of years ago, after being driven many miles. He recalls a top speed of about 25mph, and a thirst for petrol of about 2mpg from its 11.32-litre, six-cylinder Thornycroft engine.

Thought-provoking Thornycroft

The winch nestles under a heap of scrap and brambles.

“In 1953, the Big Ben 6×4 10-tonner (or forty-ton) tractor was quoted as having eight or 12, constant mesh gears. Unfortunately, I couldn’t open the cab door to find out which this one has, and the owner can’t remember.

“Civilian versions often had a 155hp diesel version of the 180-200hp petrol engine, while the military types for the British and Indian armies were petrol-powered and equipped with winches. I’m assuming that the Devon survivor is ex-military, as it has a porthole in its roof and a winch.

The original winch is used on RSJ jib.

“It would be good to see this vehicle back on the road although, at eight feet wide, it would certainly be quite a handful.”

Enquiries from seriously interested parties sent to will be forwarded, though we would urge anyone thinking about taking this on, to take full account of the practicalities of restoration and subsequent ownership.

The Thornycroft Big Ben also existed as a normal control model.


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