1974 Guy Big J6 cement mixer beautifully restored

Posted by Chris Graham on 12th July 2023

David Reed takes a trip to Huddersfield to meet Johnny Murphy and admire his 1974 Guy Big J6 concrete mixer.

Guy Big J6

Johnny Murphy’s 1974 Guy Big J6 concrete mixer.

As regular CVC readers will know, Huddersfield-based Johnny Murphy has owned quite a few tippers and concrete mixers over the years. Mixers that have come and gone have included FFD 332K, a 1972 Albion Reiver that was one of five mixers ordered by Ready Mix Concrete, but the order was cancelled so it was bought by Dudley Concrete, spending all of its working life in the Midlands. After restoration, this moved on to David Francis in April 2007 but has since returned to Huddersfield, now under the ownership of John Myers.

Johnny is also a past owner of KKE 668E, a two-stroke 1967 Foden S21 with Winget drum that is thought to have worked in the construction of the Thames Barrier. It was with Jack Docherty of Benfleet in Essex, before passing, via Johnny, to the late Thomas Babb of Stoke-on-Trent, and it appeared in the pages of Classic & Vintage Commercials after he had restored it.

Guy Big J6

From the rear. The mixer’s barrel isn’t currently working, but that will be sorted soon.

Johnny also found and then acquired TAY 88R, a 1977 Leyland Bison which was new to Amey Roadstone, and was then with Ennemix (East Anglia Ltd) of Dereham Road, Norwich. It later passed to another operator before ending up at Procar auctions of Doncaster. “It had been there for about six years, and was standing on the scrap line”

But it was saved, with Johnny later buying the Bison, along with PFL 355R, a Leyland Bison chassis cab that had been 90% restored. “My idea was to take the mixer drum off TAY 88R and put it on the partly restored Bison chassis cab.” 

Guy Big J6

The AEC 506 engine used to boil-up regularly. The original motor was replaced with a 505 unit.

But that plan changed when Johnny bought the Guy mixer featured here, and the Bison mixer and Bison chassis cab were both sold to Luton-based George Sayers. The chassis cab, however, was soon on the move again, this time to Ernest Cooper of Pontefract where it has now been restored as a tipper. 

The Guy was first registered on May 7 1974, and was bought new by Rann Jones from his local dealership of Stour Valley at Halesowen. Weighing in at 22-tons, and powered originally by an AEC 506 engine, there were problems with the Guy almost immediately. “It was still in its primer when it went for its Winget mixer to be fitted,” Johnny said. But on its way back to be finished off, the back axle seized. This problem was obviously sorted out by the dealership from where the Guy had been bought, but it was not a good start to its working life.

Guy Big J6

Owner Johnny Murphy in the driver’s seat.

The mixer operated out of the nearby Oldbury Plant, but this particular Guy continued to be a troublesome vehicle, and was traded in within a year, for an older Guy Big J that Rann hoped to have better luck with. 

So after just a year at work, AUY 98M was sold to Tommy Lea who operated it out of the Hanley Plant near Stoke-on-Trent for many years. Here it was worked on by Tommy’s nephew, Phil Brookes, who remembers it being used,. “He also had fond memories of the Guy,” Johnny said. It was about this time that the mixer was captured on film by Michael Marshall, who managed to get a fantastic working picture of it in the mid-1980s. 

Guy Big J6

Ford Donkey engine runs but a clutch problem prevents it from powering the mixer drum at present.

Preserved by Pioneer
The next part of the Guy’s history is a little bit vague, but it somehow came into Pioneer ownership. “It is possible that when it was due for disposal, Pioneer stepped in and saved it for restoration,” Johnny said. What is known is that the Guy was moved to Pioneer’s site at Cromwell Road in Bredbury, near Stockport, for restoration, with the work being carried out by David Monks and Paul Harrison who actually worked at the Pioneer plant.

In around 1990 the Guy attended its first show, the Albion Rally at Biggar in Scotland. This was to be the first of many events that it would attend over the coming decade. It was often seen on the Trans Pennine and Cheshire runs. It also attended the Llandudno Transport Festival, where it was actually spotted by Johnny for the first time. “I remember seeing it in action with its bright silver wheels,” he said, “I have always admired it.” 

Guy Big J6

The fuel tank is smaller than on some lorries, as mixers rarely ventured that far from base.

Even now, though, the Guy was not without its problems, as Paul Harrison remembered. “He told me that the AEC 506 engine used to boil-up regularly and the slow differentials gave the Guy a low top speed,” Johnny said, “The high engine revs did not help with the Guy going through numerous head gaskets over the years as well as a new radiator.”

Eventually, the mixer was parked up. “Every time I enquired about it, details of its whereabouts were rather vague,” Johnny continued. By now, Pioneer had been taken over by Hanson, and although the Guy was retained, it was moved around a bit. It transpired that the mixer had spent time in a quarry at Anglesey and then resided at Clitheroe before being sent to Ritchie Bros auction at Maltby near Doncaster in February 2020 after being off the road for a few years.

Rear chutes from the drum, complete with what appears to be evidence of a little work; these really wouldn’t look right if unmarked!

It was Facebook that alerted Johnny that the mixer was coming up for sale. “Even though I had the Leyland Bison mixer at the time, the opportunity to own the Guy was too good to miss, so on a very cold and wet day, Johnny went along to the auction. “I ended up bidding way past my limit,” he admitted, “And bought it for a lot more than it was actually worth.” 

More troubles 
What’s more, the Guy clearly still had ‘issues’. Water was leaking from the engine while it was running. But the deal had been done, and a few days later Kevin Taylor brought it back to Huddersfield for Johnny. On arrival, Johnny started to look at the engine, “I renewed all the leaking parts and the water pump. I got some parts from Robin Smith, Alex Kelly from Dublin also helped me out.” Johnny explained.

Working Guy, caught by Michael Marshall’s camera as it stands at a cement works in the 1980s. This is the look that Johnny has sought to recreate.

But despite all this work, the engine was still not in the best of health. “It smoked when I could finally give it a proper try,” Johnny admitted, “So I decided to replace the engine with a more reliable AEC 505.” 

Again, Robin Smith was able to help Johnny out, “He still had the one that he had bought from me over ten years ago that had come out of a Guy Big J and he was kind enough to work on the difficult job of fitting it with me. The good parts from the original 506 engine were transferred to the 505.

At the same time as the engine swap, the Guy’s radiator was rebuilt; wise, given the tendency of AEC engines towards head gasket failure through hot running.

The result was that the Guy now runs a lot better, with many other jobs being undertaken. “I had the radiator re-cored at the same time, as well as replacing all the steel pipework and doing some welding. However,  the brakes and running gear were still in great order.”  There was some work to do on the cab, “A few things needed doing,” Johnny added, “But it was in reasonable shape overall.”

Johnny also got the mixer’s Ford four-cylinder donkey engine working, but the clutch is stuck in the disengaged position and won’t turn the drum at present. Fixing this will involve lifting the engine out, and is therefore a job for the winter. 

Parading around Llandudno in May 1999, during the famous Llandudno Transport Festival.

Now back on the road, the Guy is presented as a working vehicle, just the way that Johnny likes them. “During the 90s it was a displayed as a ‘Show’ truck.” Johnny said, “But I wanted it to look like it did back in its working days, just as it was when Michael Marshall took his fantastic picture of it.” Johnny realises that this may not be to everybody’s liking, with the mixer now being fitted with black wheels and bumper, and the side boards being removed for now, “They may go back on in the future though,” Johnny added. It really looked at home underneath the tower at a cement works, photos that could have been taken over 40 years ago. 

On purchase it was clear immediately that the original AEC 506 engine had issues, and it was replaced by a 505 unit which has proved to be much better.

My thanks go to John Myers, for allowing the photographs to be taken on his premises.

The mixer attended a few local events in 2022, with Johnny taking the Guy a little further afield at times, “I’ve taken it to the AEC rally and to Gaydon on my low loader,” he confirmed.

The restoration was completed in 2019, and an early outing in Johnny’s ownership was that year’s Halloween Run between Huddersfield and the National Coal Mining Museum for England, at Caphouse Colliery, near Wakefield.

And the mixer is sure to be seen at further events during 2023, a vehicle that certainly retains that working look.

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


Subscribe & Save today!

Subscribe to Tractor & Machinery today and pay just £3.44 an issue!