Centenary Man

Mark Farrall is a keen Albion truck enthusiast, and the impending 100-year Centenary anniversary of World War One provided him with a new restoration challenge

A keen collector of early Albion vehicles, Mark Farrall had up until a few years ago always concentrated on civilian types, but upon learning about the existence of a 1916 Albion A10 chassis at a farm in Essex, the direction of his collection would soon change. As anyone who has had any dealings with the potential purchase of Great War era vehicles will know, finding a vehicle is one thing, but trying to broker a sale is quite a different kettle of fish! Mark made numerous phone calls to try and secure a sale, but the owner was not prepared to sell the Albion, however, whilst on business in Kent, Mark phoned the owner on the off chance to see if he could view the chassis while he was in the general area. Finally the owner agreed and after travelling up to Essex to see the chassis a deal was eventually struck and Mark was the proud owner of a 1916 Albion A10 WD truck. It wasn’t long before a low loader had been dispatched to fetch the chassis, and upon return to Chester, Mark was astonished to find that the whole package was original, with the engine, gearbox and chassis all carrying the same serial numbers, which for a vehicle that had been through the war in France was virtually unheard of. Upon return to his home the chassis went into storage for about five years while Mark searched for the missing parts and spares so that he could start the restoration.

It was during a chance conversation some time later that Mark was reminded that 2014 was the Centenary Anniversary of the start of World War One, and it was suggested that he should try and finish the restoration of the Albion and return the truck to its original WD specification in time for the celebrations, which was something of a in earnest by early September. Helped by good friend Fred Butler, who also catalogued the restoration work in photos as the work progressed, Mark pressed on with the restoration of the Albion, dismantling the chassis and cleaning and sand blasting the components so that they could be properly assessed.

The massive drum brakes were found to be covered in grease and therefore had to be stripped and relined, and numerous smaller parts were sand blasted and repainted in readiness for reassembly onto the vehicle. While many of the nuts and bolts came apart with comparative ease, especially when considering the age of the vehicle, there were some stubborn ones to be dealt with, but a cutting disc made short work of them!

By the 11th November the first coats of paint were being applied to the chassis rails, tubular cross members, brake drums, brake back plates, axle, chain adjusters, rear springs and gearbox mountings. The engine had been stripped and the cylinder block and other engine parts were ready for reconditioningand reassembly.

The time came for the front beam axle to be dismantled, which called for a sledgehammer to release the large king pins, which were seized solid in the axle. Thankfully a few heavy strikes and the pins started to move, much to the relief of all concerned! By now it was early December and the pace of the restoration was beginning to quicken. The addition of the reconditioned chassis cross member tubes and various brackets and fittings finally meant that Mark could start to see some progress for the many hours spent so far on the restoration.

With Christmas approaching fast there was a bit of a push to get as much done before the holiday season, which inevitably results in too many hours in front of the TV and not enough time in shed! The front axle refurbishment was well under way in preparation for being added to the chassis, and yet more fixtures and fittings were added to chassis.

Work started cleaning and freeing off the gearbox linkages and the rear brake back plates were finished and refitted. By Christmas Eve the front springs and slippers had been fitted to the chassis and the refurbished gearbox was once more mated to the chassis, but now it was time for a well-earned break over the holiday period.

NEW YEAR

2013 began with Mark and Fred pressing on with the restoration of the Albion, and freshly enthused from their break over the Christmas period work carried on apace. By the 6th January the front axle, stub axles and front wheels had been fitted, and the gearbox linkages and fittings were now being added. By the end of January the firewall was being fitted and the new bonnet had arrived and was trial fitted.

Soon after in early February the timber for the rear body arrived and work on the body started.

The body, which was completely missing from the original chassis, was created using a variety of reference sources and old photos. Work on the body progressed quickly and the headboard behind the cab, bearers for the rear load bed and side panels were soon up and together and by mid February the truck was starting to look more like a truck and not just a collection of parts!

Soon after the foot boards, wooden surrounds for the fire wall and remaining woodwork for the cab had been added and the frame for the cab roof had been built and fitted. All was progressing well and then Mark received a phone call from Colin Slater at the Beamish Museum, asking if Mark could bring the Albion up to the museum for a forthcoming show. Ordinarily this wouldn’t have been a problem, but with the show being on the 12th April, time was bit tight to get the truck finished to state where it could appear at the show!

After some thought it was decided to try and get the Albion finished in time for the Beamish show so work began once more with renewed vigour and more help in the form of Mark’s dad, Eddie. With only six weeks before the show the deadline to have the truck completed was going to be tight, but Mark, Fred and Eddie were confident that if they burnt the midnight oil they could do it.

BIG PUSH

With the April deadline fast approaching the painting began in early March, but without a spray booth big enough to take the Albion and the weather being cold, the paint wasn’t drying as well as hoped. The new mudguards had arrived around the same time and were drilled and test fitted so that they could be painted prior to final assembly. The tailboard was also constructed and by the end of March the engine had been overhauled and painted in readiness for fitting to the chassis and the final assembly of the remaining parts.

April 2nd and the firewall and cab was virtually complete and the inlet manifold and carburettor were fitted to the engine and the timing gears set up so that the cover could be refitted. At the same time Mark took the opportunity to fit the roof canvas for the cab, while at the same time planning his next move.

With just ten days to go before the planned outing at Beamish there was still a lot to do to get the

Albion running let alone finished! The timing cover, sump, oil pump and radiator were just a few of the parts to be fitted before Mark could even attempt to start the engine. The magneto mounting base had to be fabricated before it could be fitted and the radiator mounted and adjusted to fit the bonnet mounts.

With the pace of work now quickening as the day of the show drew nearer the new fuel tank arrived and was duly fitted, and with the time for the starting of the engine almost upon them, attention turned towards the clutch assembly.

The clutch on the Albion is an odd set up. The clutch plate has no linings, instead they are rivetted to the pressure plate and the flywheel, but on the Albion the original clutch plate had rusted away apart from the centre boss, so the boss was machined and fitted to an old circular saw blade and the clutch linkage adjusted and set up. Modifications such as these are typical for the restoration of a vehicle as old as this, where spare parts are either difficult to source or none existent.

With just a couple of days to go the rear mudguards were fettled, painted and fitted together with the associated brackets. The heavy-duty drive chains were also fitted and adjusted and the chain guards fabricated and fitted.

Once the paint had finally dried, the sign writer set to work adding the finishing touches, working around Mark and his team as they finished off the Albion. By now it was clear that even more time would be needed in order to meet the deadline for the Beamish show so Fred took a day’s holiday to help finish off the truck and Mark’s working days started running well into the night and early hours, finally finishing at 3.00am on the eve of the show. That final night before the show was make or break for Mark as up until now the engine hadn’t even been started! Mark swung the starter handle to fire up the engine and thankfully it burst into life, much to the relief of all involved, and after a few final adjustments ran like a sewing machine.

SHOW TIME

The day of the show came round and at precisely 11.45am on the 12th April the Albion was loaded onto the transporter and was on its way to its very first showing at the Beamish Museum. It was well received, attracting a great deal of interest from visitors and museum staff alike, and while there were still some finishing touches to do, Mark could at least take a bit of a breather and take pride in what he and his helpers had achieved in what was a very short space of time.

Just over a month later and the Albion made a second outing to the Wartime in Vale military show, which for Mark was something of a new experience as it was the first military-themed show he had attended, but one he obviously enjoyed as just two weeks later he took the Albion (which was now virtually complete having had the rear tilt fitted along with various other missing fixtures) to the Yorkshire Wartime Experience held near Leeds.

It was at the Wartime in the Vale show that I first made contact with Mark and Fred following a tip off from regular contributor and fellow WW1 truck owner, Tim Gosling, taking a number of photos of the truck for use in this article. We met up a second time at the Yorkshire Wartime Experience show and again more photos were taken for this feature.

Now that the Albion is all but complete, Mark is spending his time finishing off all the small jobs in preparation for the 2014 show season, which is sure to be a busy time for the Albion as the country celebrates the 100th Anniversary of the start of WW1.

ALBION A10 WD

The company Albion was founded in 1899 by Thomas Blackwood Murray and Norman Osborne Fulton and went into production in 1899 in the village of Biggar, producing their first motor car, a rustic-looking ‘dog cart’ made of varnished wood and powered by a flat-twin 8hp engine and solid tyres in 1900. As the years passed the company steadily expanded and soon became too big for the village. It was clear that in order to expand the company further they would have to find new premises and in 1903 the company moved to new premises in Scoutstoun in Glasgow under the name of the Albion Motor Car Company Ltd.

Although the manufacture of motor cars was the main line of work for the first ten years of Albion’s existence, in 1909 it was decided to concentrate on the production of commercial vehicles and the outbreak of World War One in 1914 saw the War Department (WD) issue an urgent order for just under 3,000 trucks for the army to be dispatched to France for the war effort. Albion went on to supply large quantities of 3-ton trucks powered by a 32hp engine, which utilised a chain drive system to the rear wheels.

These trucks served the army well during the war, but the end of the war in 1918 resulted in many being returned to Britain and eventually sold off for use by civilian operators. The financial situation following the Great War meant that money was short and it took around five years to sell all of the war surplus trucks. Of those that were sold, many were converted for use as charabancs and other civilian types, while Albion as a company moved into the production of civilian trucks and buses (single and double deckers), which were manufactured at the Scotstoun works right up until 1980.

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