Saturday, 28 May 2011

A Beautiful Bedford

For numerous reasons, we choose to outsource our maintenance to a local commercial vehicle workshop, Brenhaul Commercial Services. The business is owned and managed by two friends, Robert and Shaun, and they sprang into life just a few months before us in mid-2007, when they bought the company out from Rob’s father.

Our relationship with them has become very close as we have grown up together and they are as much friends as they are suppliers.

Their own background is in trucks, and most of the rest of their business involves providing maintenance services to truck and van operators. As an aside they do also have a MOT testing station for light vehicles and would be delighted to MOT your car!

As a result of our relationship with them we get to mix with plenty of colleagues in the road haulage industry and it is fascinating to get to know some of these guys, to talk to them and to understand their passion for the lorries – much of which has rubbed off on me!

In a separate development, over the last three years my friend and co-founder of Velvet, Taz and I have obtained our LGV driving licences for both rigid and articulated lorries. We mostly did this as a pastime to fill some time and give us another string to our bow when we were starting Velvet, and also to help fulfil our fascination for driving big vehicles.

I have never used my LGV licence for genuine commercial purposes, but it does mean that occasionally I get to play with other people’s lorries, shunting them round the estate or taking them for road tests (usually for my benefit rather than that of the truck!)

Generally these are run of the mill tractor units that are commonplace on today’s motorways, such as the Volvo FH or the odd DAF, but I had the opportunity today to sample something really quite amazing.

Another of Brenhaul’s clients is Ringwood Brewery and their vehicles are a common sight at the Eastleigh workshop. They have recently acquired this 1951 Bedford OLB previously associated with Wychwood Brewery in Oxfordshire.

Their intention is to maintain this vehicle in roadworthy condition for promotional purpose and occasionally the odd delivery, and accordingly it was at Brenhaul today for inspection. They were kind enough to offer me a drive and I wasn’t going to refuse!

The first and most striking impression is the cramped nature of the cab. I wasn’t expecting much in the way of creature comforts, but I was expecting to be able to get in! However it was quite some time before I managed to perform enough human origami on myself to fold myself into the tiny space between the back window and the steering wheel.

I set off for a short drive round Eastleigh, turning plenty of heads among the Friday night crowds as I took an impromptu drive through the bus station, and I have to say the vehicle was a delight to drive. Delight that is, in the sense of being challenging, interesting and very rewarding. Not in the sense of being easy, comfortable or relaxing!

The brake pedal was positioned fiendishly high up so that I had to contort my knee up through the steering wheel to be able to get my foot on to it, and every time I steered right I bashed my elbow on the window sill. The crash gearbox was surprisingly easy, although I only have a 1939 Bristol K and a few 1956 Lodekkas to compare it with.

Huge fun though, and I can’t wait to drive it again. If they need a delivery driver to take it back to Ringwood, they know where to find me!

1 comment:

  1. Now, were you to diversify in to haulage, I wonder how "Black Velvet Haulage" would go down as a name. Perhaps the subsidiary would better be "Black Hessian". ;D