1976 ERF B Series superbly restored

Posted by Chris Graham on 15th April 2022

David Reed assesses a 1976 ERF B Series that’s back on the road with an enthusiastic new owner and a bright new look.

1976 ERF B Series

Eric Shipley’s 1976 ERF B Series.

Making a welcome return to the show scene for 2022 is 1976 ERF B Series PTV 749R. Now owned by Eric Shipley, it was last seen in Trevor Broadhead’s grey livery at various events in the Midlands and North of England. It had, though, been away from the rally scene for a few years. Now, though, it’s back, and with a new red livery.

It was bought by Eric in July 2021. “I was working for CDR Heavy Haulage of Sheffield, and started looking for a restored vehicle to take to shows.” Eric knew what he wanted. “I was looking out for a classic tractor unit and really fancied an Atkinson Borderer. “But I couldn’t find one that was for sale.”

1976 ERF B Series

Eric Shipley (left) with Richard Chamberlain, who has worked with two of the lorry’s preservation-era owners.

Consequently, Eric decided to broaden his search, with his attention switching to ERFs. “I liked the look of them too, and I used to drive a C Series at one time.” Eric didn’t want anything fancy though, “I was looking for something with character,” he added, “No air horns, sleeper cab or lots of lights, just something traditional.” Another requisite was that the ERF also had to be in good condition. “I am not a mechanic so I would be unable to restore one that was in a derelict state,” Eric admitted. 

The search continued, basically with the same result. “I just couldn’t find one that was for sale. I even contacted REVS but although they were very helpful, I still couldn’t find one.”

PTV 749R as a fairground lorry.

Eventually though, Eric had a stroke of luck. “I was asked to move some equipment for a customer who had a few old vehicles and after continuing to look for an ERF a little longer I asked him if he knew anybody with an ERF for sale.” 

The reply was a surprise. “He told me that he had a B Series that I could buy.” With no time to lose, Eric made arrangements to view. Stored in a shed, the ERF was “just what I wanted, a basic B Series in good restored condition.” A price was agreed, and the B Series transported back to Eric’s base on a low loader.

1976 ERF B Series

A bit more than a simple repaint; extensive cab strip-down in preparation for the new look.

As expected, the lorry was basically in very good condition. As usual though, there were a couple of things that needed sorting. The main one was the lights. Other work included installing a couple of new brake light relays, along with new front tyres and a pair of new batteries.  To help him, Eric enlisted the help of mechanic Duncan Osbourne. “Duncan had been a colleague of mine when I first started driving,” Eric said. “He does all of the mechanical work on the B Series, he has solved many problems for me.”

The next task was to get the B Series ready for the road, so Eric put photos on the REVS website and asked for advice. “I got a phone call from Richard Chamberlain of JCC Transport Services at Stanton on the Wolds near Nottingham.” Richard knew about the B Series as it was new to J Stirland of Nottingham. “Richard is really interested in that firm and knows a lot about their history,” Eric said.

Masked-up and with a good, solid coat of primer applied.

Richard also knew about the B Series’ history and was involved with its restoration, though its career with Stirland’s was relatively short as in around 1980/81 it was involved in a rollover accident on the southbound M1 in Bedfordshire. Although it was repaired by Cossington Commercials of Leicester, it came off the Stirland O licence shortly afterwards and was sold into fairground service where, carrying a ‘Showman’s Special body’, it was apparently used until 1996. After that, it lay derelict in the showman’s yard at Bulwell, Nottingham until 2003 when it was found by Trevor Broadhead of Melton Mowbray with the plate and registration confirming that it was an ex-Stirland ERF. 

Restored and rallied
With its future now secure, Richard borrowed a low loader and with his ERF, transported the B Series back to Trevor’s yard where it was restored over a period of 18 months. Work included some cab and chassis repairs plus some minor work on the top-end of the engine. After a new livery was applied and the engine had received a full service, the ERF was ready for the road. Shortly afterwards, Trevor replaced the David Brown six-speed gearbox with nine-speed Fuller box, but he retained the two-speed back axle which gave the 180 Gardner more versatility.”

Chassis was also given a very thorough tidy-up, though no mechanical work was needed beyond a bit of catch-up servicing.

Trevor sold the ERF in around 2010/11, after which it effectively disappeared from view for a decade until bought by Eric last year. “As Richard knew a lot about the vehicle’s history, I went to meet up with him and asked him to paint the B Series in the new red livery that I wanted” Eric continued. Richard did a great job, and he and Eric have “become good friends since.” Sign-writing was done by Jay Chapman of Walesby near Tuxford. 

Now completed, the B Series is back with Eric and attended a couple of shows towards the end of the 2021 season. “I can’t wait for things to start up again, so I can take my ERF out on the road,” Eric concluded.

1976 ERF B Series

The cab in freshly-applied top-coat.

A lifetime with lorries
Eric has been associated with commercial vehicles from a very early age. “I was brought up with lorries. My father, who was also called Eric, drove for Frank Phillips Haulage of Sheffield.” As with most lads whose dads drove lorries, Eric rode in the cab from a young age. “From the age of seven I would go with him in the lorry whenever I could, and I travelled all over with him.” The jobs that Eric’s father did were varied. “Dad drove mainly Bedford KM skip lorries or flats. Later he was driving AEC Mandator tractor units hauling steel on long distance work all over the country.”

These experiences built the foundation for Eric junior’s love of commercial vehicles. At the age of 10, Eric was given a job at Phillip’s garage. “I worked there on Saturdays, painting wheels and the chassis on vehicles going for test. I got £1 a week for doing that.”

Refitting in progress – look out for the new look in 2022!

By the time Eric left school, his father had been promoted to transport manager. “In 1976 I left school on the Friday and, on the Monday, I started in the garage there and met Duncan Osbourne, the mechanic who has helped me out with the B Series.” Eric’s father wanted him to become a mechanic, but Eric had other ideas, “I didn’t want to do that, I wanted to be a driver.” 

Still, Eric went to enroll on a mechanic’s course, but discovered that there was a new programme being introduced. This was the Young Driver’s Scheme which Eric chose instead, and aged 18, gained his Class 3 HGV licence. “You got your Class 2 licence by the time you were 19 and then your Class 1 when you were 20. But you had to stay with the same firm throughout this period.”

Fitter, Duncan Osbourne, who Eric has known since he started work aged 16, and looks after most of the mechanical side.

Eric soon was on the road. “At the age of 18 I was driving a Leyland Clydesdale skip lorry and from there moving on to Volvo F10 artics transporting steel from Templeborough in Rotherham.” Later, Eric moved on to bulk tippers. “I did that for many years in a variety of lorries,” he added. These included an ERF C Series that had originally been a Shell tanker tractor unit. But I also had an Iveco and then a Volvo F10. I drove all sorts really.”

Eventually, Phillips sold out to a bigger concern, so after 20 years Eric decided to leave, joining owner/driver Ian Nadin and transporting 60ft lengths of railway track all over the country with another Volvo F10. Six months later he moved on again, this time to container work with a MAN F2000 and later a 1995 DAF 3300 picking up containers from Felixstowe or the Isle of Grain, and taking them all over the country. That job lasted for five years after which Eric moved on again, this time to Shepherd Distribution, back on steel haulage using a Volvo FM.

“I stayed there for four years, and then moved to CDR Heavy Haulage of Sheffield and drove a Volvo FM on low loaders, moving plant equipment around the country.” But in 2019 Eric, along with a number of other drives, was made redundant. So he and fellow driver, Gary Mannion decided to go into partnership on their own. “I went to see some of the customers that I had dealt with when I was with CDR, and received assurances from them that they would support us in our new venture,” Eric continued, and the new partnership of Shipley Mannion Transport was born. 

Now Eric and Gary operate two Scania Topliners which were bought from Scania Sheffield, with two trailers being acquired from John Hudson of Bawtry, “We started 2½ years ago on both local and long-distance work and we are still going strong.” He added.

1976 ERF B Series

But it is Eric’s B Series that is the star of the fleet, and will no doubt be admired at rallies and on road runs when the new season begins.

This article is from the latest issue of Classic & Vintage Commercials magazine, and you can get a money-saving subscription simply by clicking HERE


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