The Bedford

My dad got our first family car when I was aged 11. It was an ancient vehicle then. You can read about it by clicking here. That car went to the great scrapyard when the Ministry of Transport decided cars over ten years old must undergo roadworthiness tests. It was rapidly replaced with car number two, smaller, post war and altogether much zippier – but still old. It was a Standard 8.

But then my dad got a job which required travel, reliably. A brand new car was mooted and in the end what was chosen was very much a multi purpose vehicle – a Bedford Dormobile. It had the same basic chassis and mechanics as Vauxhall cars of the day. Bedford vehicles were commercial – it started life as a van and a firm called Martin Walter did a conversion to a camper van.

The strange thing was that it was moderately cheap. Cars were deemed luxuries back in 1961. They carried purchase tax. A camper van was considered to be living accommodation – a necessity – and was free of tax. I remember being entrusted with posting off a cheque to buy the Bedford. It was for £873.

And here it is, actually on a day trip to the farm where camp was always held. It’s my brother Robin on the outside

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My mum and I are inside the vehicle.

It was a 4 berth ‘home’ but the top bunks, up in the raised roof, were only used once. The Dormobile had no legs to stand on when in use as a caravan. It remained on its road springs. People tossing and turning in those top bunks caused the whole vehicle to rock – and everybody woke up. After that one sleep denying experience, a bit more privacy was given. We always took a tent as well.

My dad had chosen a pale free base colour with a dark green stripe. Nobody else seemed to have one quite like that. The green peril really was quite perilous, but not due to its colour. There were, of course, no seat belts. The sliding side doors could be kept open when driving and it did its 70mph quite happily. In the back there was a wardrobe, kitchen cupboards, a gas stove and a gas lamp. All rattled as you went along.

For some seven years this was the family car and then it became, almost, mine. I think this was a bit of inordinate kindness by Dad. He still had the job that required travel and decided the old Bedford might not be reliable enough. He bought a second car. And I, of course, had just passed my test. The Bedford was mine to use.

I’m not sure when the end came for it. I didn’t use it as a student – except during vacations and then I moved away. But I have very happy memories of ‘The Bedford’.

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