This year is the 90th anniversary of the renowned ERF and Atkinson trucks – and the Newark Vintage Tractor and Heritage Show on 4 and 5 November 2023 is planning a great celebration of these historic vehicles. So what can visitors expect to see and learn at the event?
In terms of its origins, ERF was a British truck manufacturer, established in 1933 by Edwin Richard Foden (ERF). It was purchased by MAN SE, known for its commercial vehicles and trucks, but ceased production in 2008.
Never a major manufacturer, domestic sales of the trucks only reached 1,083 by 1981. But visitors to Newark Showground in November will be able to get a sense of this slice of history. On display at National Vintage Tractor and Engine Club (NVETC) North Midlands’ stand will be a 1962 12-tonne ERF truck, owned by Alan Hitchcock. “The vehicle was first registered in July 1962, and the present owner bought it in 2022,” explains NVETC North Midlands representative, Derek Turton.
“We think the original owner was Martin J Perry and Sons, from Herefordshire, and it was in their brown livery, used for hauling potatoes. It has been renovated at some point, because there is a picture online of the truck at a rally in a bright red livery, with living accommodation on the back. But we don’t know much more than that about its history.
“It will be on display at our stand, and on the back will be a vintage tractor, so it will be quite the display. It will be the first time we’ve had a stand at the show, we’re all excited, particularly with the 90 years of ERF theme.”
One of the more modern trucks on display is owned by Rich Eldred, a 1997 ERF EC Olympic Gold. “My dad used to have one when I was a kid and I always wanted one,” explains Mr Eldred. “Three years ago I finally bought one, off a friend who was retiring it from work.”
The vehicle has an interesting history. “It was new in 1997, to a company called the Baker Group, from Crick in Northamptonshire – it used to go all over the UK and Europe carrying meat products,” says Mr Eldred. “It actually started life as a four-wheeled vehicle, then when it was around six months to a year old it had another axle put on, because the weight limits changed.
“It passed through a couple of different hands with different hauliers, then ended up with my friend – Andrew Thorpe from Gainsborough. He stripped it down to two chassis rails and fully restored it, ready for work.”
But as with most older vehicles, getting parts can be a struggle, he notes. “If you’re doing 1,000’s of kilometres a week, things are going to go and you will need parts, so Andrew decided to sell it and gave me first refusal.
“It was fulfilling a childhood dream for me. It’s quite a rare truck, too, as it’s a Gold spec Olympic, which means it’s top spec; every box was ticked, which even in 1997 meant it had air conditioning.”
And Mr Eldred has put his own stamp on the vehicle. “I’ve put some badges on it, had it sign written by a man who paints canal boats – it’s all hand painted. And I’ve added some lights to the roof. I haven’t done it in a modern way, I’ve done it as it would’ve been in the 1990s, to look like a typical truck that would have trundled across Europe every week.”
One exhibitor bringing both an ERF truck and an Atkinson truck is Richard Dale. Atkinson had a similar philosophy to ERF – aiming for value-for-money lorries. It was founded in 1970, but defunct by 2009.
The Atkinson truck Mr Dale is bringing to the show is from 1993. “It was first owned by BP Petroleum, it was then purchased by someone who had a fuel business himself – Stone’s Fuels - so he could deliver to the fisheries around the East coast,” says Mr Dale.
When the fuel business went under new ownership, the truck was painted red. “Then he bought the business back, and the truck remained in his garage for 26 years. In May, I had the chance to purchase the truck, so we have put it back to his colours, with his name on it – as a tribute to him and Stone’s Fuels – we’re going to surprise him.”
And the truck is quite rare. “I haven’t seen one for many years, luckily it was dry stored, with minimal damage and started first time.”
Mr Dale’s ERF truck was originally owned by Flo Gas, but was sold to a local farmer. “He ran it for a number of years on the farm, still in the Flo Gas colours – it had been stood in the yard for two years, when he asked if we could come and paint the front bumper,” he says.
“So we asked what his plans were for it, and he said he was going to sell it – so we bought it and repainted it into our colours – Seven Acre Commercials. And we use it to bring vehicles to shows. The truck gets shown too, as well as whatever is on the back of it.”
There will be a wide range of other classic and vintage machinery and engines on display at the show, with multiple other celebrations taking place. “Commercials play an important part in British history, and we’re looking forward to having so many all in one place,” says show organiser, Elizabeth Halsall. “It’s great to have these vehicles, which have such interesting pasts at the show – it’s really special.”
· For a limited time only, discounted tickets are available for the Newark Vintage Tractor and Heritage Show, on November 4-5 at Newark Showground. Buy tickets here: https://newarkvintagetractorshow.ticketsrv.co.uk/tickets/, or for more information about the show, visit: www.newarkvintagetractorshow.com.