In 1971 we decided to replace our AEC Mercury Tractor Unit with a new heavier Tractor Unit.
I found such a vehicle at Commercial Motors, Clay Cross, an Atkinson Borderer powered by a Rolls Royce Eagle diesel engine, David Brown gear box, 40 ton Kirkstal axle, it looked good, sounded good, so I brokered the deal. We proudly took delivery of our new asset Reg. No. XOG 558J, then within a short period of time Rolls Royce went into administration. My Father was of the opinion that I should have known that Rolls Royce were in difficulties before I `did the deal`, an opinion that I could not understand! That unit ran for many years without any problems, sometimes being operated 24 hours a day, transporting the Coleman plant and equipment, also many differing types of machines for our suppliers, competitors and many others. Rolls Royce is today a name synonymous with world class engineering, also it is one of our employers.
Early 1973 saw the start of the Gulf Crisis and the phenomenal escalation in the price of fuel due to crude oil cut backs leading to shortages and increased oil prices, ration coupons were issued, fuel was allocated dependant on necessity of the usage. This was the beginning of high fuel prices that have never receded.
Following on from this the country went into recession, the coal miners decided to strike, as if things were not bad enough, power shortages led to power cuts, industry went onto a 3 day week, shortages of food, in particular bread, became common place what little was available was then rocketing in price.
Business was very difficult, but we managed to keep finding work, the builders went on strike which led to all construction sites being closed down by strike action. My father had the respect of many friends and contacts; work was found clearing sites in preparation for new construction projects to start once the strike was over; we were not classed as strike breakers or blacklegs, so as a consequence we were not unduly affected by the situation that badly affected some of our competitors, but fuel supply continued to be a real problem.
All companies were urged, by Government, to “Buy British”, in support of the home economy, we needed vans so we decided to purchase new Leyland Sherpa Vans from Evans & Kitchen, Birmingham, they were delivered on a Friday evening, looking the part, we thought another good acquisition! By 10:00 on the following Saturday all were broke down, all with engine trouble, one in Wales, one on its way to the one in Wales, the third one in London. Buy British – we had nothing but trouble with them for the short period that we kept those vehicles.
After three years we decided to upgrade the commercial fleet, the new vehicles were to work on many major projects such as the Brenig Dam in Wales, London`s M25, sites all over the Country as well as in the Midlands, M69 and the Sutton By Pass, to name but a few, works involving all sorts of Building and Civil Engineering, the downside was a heavy unladen weight and fuel consumption, the thirsty V8 engines drank expensive fuel as we had never seen before. The coming years saw prices harden and fuel become a real issue.
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