An Aveling Barford GA roller rescued from the brink

An Aveling Barford GA roller rescued from the brink

Posted by Chris Graham on 8th May 2024

Ben Hobster tells his own fascinating story of how he brought a 1966 Aveling Barford GA 3-ton roller back to the land of the living.

Aveling Barford GA

Our personal winner in the November 2023 Newark Vintage Tractor Show was Ben Hobster’s 1966 Aveling Barford GA.

I have always had a keen interest in Aveling Barford machinery due to a combination of me being a heavy plant mechanic and because I am from Grantham, Lincolnshire where of course Richard Hornsby started and where Aveling Barford came from.

I started looking for my first classic plant restoration project and I knew I wanted a machine that Barford’s were famous for making… The road roller!

Aveling Barford GA

Ben looking over the forgotten 1966 Aveling Barford GA 3-ton roller. (Pic: Ben Hobster)

While searching to see what was out and about I really liked the charm of the GA 3 ton tandem model that Barford’s made and decided to focus my search for one. They are still a fairly common machine with many still working weekly at cricket clubs all over the country, but the majority were basic hand-start machines.

Aveling Barford GA

All loaded for its short journey to Grantham in Lincolnshire. (Pic: Ben Hobster)

Plenty of the hand-start models are for sale but I didn’t want just any old GA roller, I decided to hold out for one of the few that had been fitted with many of the factory optional extras, in particular one that had all the electrical options fitted as standard from the factory. This would make it a bit more of a niche and would hopefully allow it to stand out from the rest.

Aveling Barford GA

The stripping starts with the front roll assembly out the way. (Pic: Ben Hobster)

After months of searching finally GA No. 1573 came up on eBay, sitting in an overgrown part of a farm yard in Dorchester, South Yorkshire it looked in very poor condition but was original and complete. It even still had the factory fitted lights still mounted on it although they were broken and not working!

Aveling Barford GA

When you get down to it, the roller is not so hard to get into. (Pic: Ben Hobster)

After some successful bidding I won her for just £160, the next week I drove down and picked her up, when I got it loaded on the trailer I also noticed it had its original number plates still fitted. After a quick search on the DVLA database I found it was still registered on the system and I was able to also get a V5c logbook which meant it could be easily used on the road again.

As can be seen the bulkhead needed some cleaning up. (Pic: Ben Hobster)

Once back home in my garage I began the restoration, I went over it in full to see what it needed and checked the engine a Lister SL2 9.3Hp twin-cylinder air-cooled diesel engine, which with some fresh fuel fired straight up!

After wire-wheeling it all off on went the zinc phosphate primer. (Pic: Ben Hobster)

The restoration started in December 2017 when I took it all to pieces and was finished by April 2020, most of the work was done weekends as and when I could fit it in around my job and other commitments.

I stripped down the paintwork with a wire wheel on an angle grinder, the project was going to be a nut-and-bolt rebuild apart from the engine and gearbox.

After covering all the individual parts up the Aveling Barford top coat went on. (Pic: Ben Hobster)

The engine and gearbox just required some gaskets and seals replacing along with a good flush through to remove several year’s worth of debris and sludge. I did remove the top cover from the gearbox to properly inspect the gears, bearings and lubrication system and other than needing the flush everything was in great condition; it was a great example of British engineering at its finest! The gearbox on these rollers was specifically designed and made by Barford’s in-house just for this model… they fitted none of the other rollers in their range.

The final top coat came out very well and was a learning curve for Ben having never done this type of work before. (Pic: Ben Hobster)

The drive is direct-drive into the box itself with a twin-cone clutch system, one for forward and one for reverse, it also has a high and low range with a top speed of around 5mph!

Looking good, the front end reunited with the skid unit with just the wiring to sort out. (Pic: Ben Hobster)

The steering system was seized so this was freed off and lubricated along with new bushes fitted on the front axle and a reconditioned steering wheel, the braking system was also overhauled with a new brake band.

The footplate tinwork all wire-wheeled off, straightened up and ready to be painted. (Pic: Ben Hobster)

I then painted all the components myself with a compressor and spray gun in my workshop at home, having had no previous experience of painting or body work this was a steep learning curve!

Showing the operating controls before paint touch-up, with the chrome throttle on the right. (Pic: Ben Hobster)

Once the main bodywork and skid unit was reassembled I started work on the electrics. The old wiring loom was in bad condition so I used it as a pattern to make a new one, I cleaned up and painted the dash panel and fitted all new switch gear. I then refitted the dash panel and new wiring loom back onto the machine along with a new dynamo, all new lights, a new rectifier and a reconditioned starter motor.

Aveling Barford GA

With the water tank on the back – this was thoroughly cleaned out and it’s all looking good. (Pic: Ben Hobster)

I had the water tank and water sprinklers reconditioned and then fitted new pipework and taps ensuring that the water sprinkler system would work as it should from the factory.

The ex-Field Marshall Series 2 seat positioned on the GA. (Pic: Ben Hobster)

I finished off by welding up and painting the bonnet and rear bodywork which was then refitted to the roller, some of the smaller panels like battery box covers and tool box cover I had to make as they were missing from the machine.

Aveling Barford GA

The GA is seen on the very interesting Aveling Barford stand at the Newark Vintage Tractor Show in the Crocker Halls, November 2023. (Pic: Peter Love)

Finally the finishing touch was a brand new seat, I could not get an original Barford seat so I got the closest match I could find which was a brand new seat for a Field Marshall Series 2 tractor.

Since completing the restoration I have taken it to a few shows, mainly local ones where she gets lots of interest especially from former Aveling Barford employees who still attend a lot of these local shows.

These GA rollers are growing in popularity amongst collectors with many more being bought as projects for collectors rather than just to roll cricket pitches.

I run a page on Facebook which celebrates the GA roller and also offers advice and support to GA roller owners; I have spoken to collectors and owners of GA rollers from all over the world as far as New Zealand proving that they are becoming a more popular machine!

Aveling Barford GA

Looking good at Newark, the GA’s last appearance before a winter break. (Pic: Peter Love)

Since completing this project I have been on the look out for another project and have purchased a Mk3 Aveling Barford Calfdozer fitted with a single-cylinder Armstrong Siddeley diesel engine which is currently a work in progress. I hope to show you the restoration of this in the future.

Congratulations Ben on your restoration it looked superb when I saw it at the Newark Vintage Tractor Show in November last year. Good luck with the Calfdozer – one of the biggest customers of these was New Zealand Railways who ran a large fleet of them.

We are always delighted to feature your restorations and working picture not only steam rollers but i/c rollers and any other type of machinery as well.

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


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