A beautifully-restored Bedford CA Utilabrake

Posted by Chris Graham on 13th May 2024

CVC’s unofficial South Wales representative, Ashley Lovering, tells the story of his Bedford CA Utilabrake.

Bedford CA Utilabrake

Ashley Lovering and his much-loved 1961 Bedford CAL Utilabrake.

Having played on old scrap Bedford A and D types as a kid I always had it in my mind I would love to own a Bedford of my own. That particular aspiration is one that I’m now unlikely to fulfil. I have, however, owned a 1961 Bedford CA now for some years.

My CAL, registration 7498 BY, was supplied new by the Croydon Automobile Company, has had three owners from new and is currently showing 45,000 miles which I think is genuine. It’s a long wheelbase (hence CAL) with the second front-end style with the smaller grille and one-piece windscreen that was introduced from January 1959, though from January to July 1959 the windscreen was slightly different. It’s also a Utilabrake, one of a number of similar conversions by Martin Walter of Folkestone, comprising a second row of front-facing seats giving almost car-like comfort plus, in the back, inward-facing wooden seats that were fine for occasional short-distance use. Mine, however, is now a bit different inside.

Bedford CA Utilabrake

The CAL in blue, as bought by Ashley.

I first came across 7498 BY while on my way to see a friend in the Swansea valley. Later that day my friend found the owner who subsequently contacted me.  The owner ran a fleet of taxis locally and had bought the CAL with the intention of using it for stag events and so on. He did, though, promise me first refusal should his plan change.

Bedford CA Utilabrake

The renovation in progress. This may look dramatic, but taking the front end off a CA is actually quite straightforward; at least in theory!

Six months later and the call came; if I was still interested I could buy the minibus with a later model for spares. The price was what he had paid for it so for once I had a bargain.

As the CAL was running, roadworthy and MoT’d I was able to run around in it and get used to the three-speed column change (three-on-the-tree) and sliding doors. I used it back and fore work for a time and it went really well but as winter approached I started getting cold going out in it without a heater.

The repaint in progress.

Accordingly, I took it off the road, initially to have the corroded rear wheel arches repaired (a very common weakness which back in the day was generally sorted by pop-rivetting a panel on top of the rust. Ed). While this was being done I completely stripped it down ready for a respray in two tone green. (Those were the colours I always liked on the A&D types in my area) and carried out various other repairs. Inside, the seats were re-upholstered and new flooring put down along with glassfibre roof lining.

Colour coat applied; now awaiting the interior refit.

After that, the CA was used regularly for several years, and let me down only a few times. Once was when the column change came off in my hand and I had to use mole grips to change gear until it was repaired. The other times were when I was out and about and once I hit a hill it came to a stop. This happened a good few times.  A new mechanical fuel pump was fitted but the problem carried on until I fitted an electric pump which has has cured that problem.

Recovered seats in the front match the new exterior colour.

Unfortunately, however, for the past three years I’ve been unable to drive the CAL due to a very serious accident. This saw me get two new titanium shoulders and a femur. And I cannot use a column gearchange due to restricted movement in my left shoulder.  However, I’m going to the gym to try and get better movement. Meanwhile, friends have driving me to shows so at least I get some pleasure from traveling in it.

Bedford CA Utilabrake

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


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