POST OFFICE VEHICLE CLUB

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Us

 

 

 

 

 

 

Membership

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heritage

 

 

 

 

 

 

Postbus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HERITAGE

 

 

The Post Office Vehicle Club was formed in 1962 by a group of people whose interest in the GPO fleet started between the wars and built up a detailed record of the then current Mail and Telephone fleets operated by the General Post Office.  The members recorded vehicles sold out of GPO service, which in those days was by invitations to tender placed in Post Office windows, and only a handful of vehicles could be considered as preserved.  A significant event in the story was in 1968 when the then Club Secretary discovered a 1936 Albion 30cwt. linesman’s van CXN 247 in a field in Gloucestershire where it had rested for eighteen years.  He talked the Post Office into repurchasing the Albion; it was restored by apprentices at Yeading Central Repair Depôt in West London, and received accolades in the HCVC London to Brighton run.  The preservation movement grew during the seventies and eighties and another major turning point was in 1985 when the Club was invited to help stage a display to commemorate the 350th  anniversary of the Royal Charter granted by King Charles I, which opened the network of Royal Posts to the citizens and provided the foundation of the modern mail system.  The magnificent event held in Bagshot Park in Surrey, attended by HRH Prince Charles, probably the first large scale display of preserved Post Office vehicles, provided the impetus for the Club to publish the first edition of this book. After collating the information we were somewhat surprised to find around two hundred such vehicles known to be in the hands of preservationists, in varying states of restoration from "as found" (which can mean a pile of scrap metal) to better than the day it went into service. We are also pleased to see an increasing number of rallies where there is a special class for these vehicles, and of other events where we are asked to provide a vehicle presence. These displays highlight the appeal of the growing Post Office vehicle preservation movement, and in recent years a number of vehicles previously listed as "under restoration" have progressed to become familiar entrants at rallies. Many more, previously unknown, have been discovered, salvaged and are now safely in the hands of enthusiasts, their future now assured. Sadly, however, a few more have been lost to preservation, because of poor condition, accident, fire, theft, vandalism or lack of resources.

 

Readers may be surprised to see so many former Post Office vehicles in preservation, probably the largest number from a single operator apart from the Army, which reflects the fact that the GPO operated the largest commercial road transport fleet in the country - reaching a peak of 80,000 vehicles at the division of British Telecom and the Post Office in October 1981. Small postal vehicles have always been popular on the second-hand market - they tend to be proven British models providing economical transport. No wonder therefore that so many small vehicles have survived long enough in private ownership to become collectable - the series 1 Minor, the series Z and latterly the post-war Minor in all its forms. The last Minor was built in 1972 and even late examples are being lovingly restored to original condition. As time passes, more modern vehicles become rare, and therefore collectable, but the perennial appeal of the Minor seems to have detracted from its successors, the Minivan, Morris Marina and Bedford HA. When these types are finally considered historic will any good examples be left to preserve? Consider that our list includes only two first-generation GPO Minivans and two Ford Anglias. Preservation of larger commercial vehicles is a comparatively recent phenomenon; only really becoming popular in the 1960s. This upsurge in interest has led to vehicles being salvaged from scrapyards and fields, but many important examples have been lost forever. Wholesale scrapping of older vehicles for the war effort means that in the main, only vehicles roadworthy at the beginning of the war have survived, and of the hundreds of GPO Ford model T and A vans, the Trojans, the S & D Freighters; the Alldays & Onions lorries and many other types, none is known to still exist. More recent vehicles are being discovered in fields and scrapyards, and since the first edition many more important vehicles have been rescued to enhance the available heritage of Post Office road transport, and no doubt many more are still waiting to be discovered.  Another encouraging fact is that both the Post Office and British Telecom are now aware of the historical value of their transport heritage. Both operators have built up a magnificent collection of restored vehicles over the past few years including selecting examples from the modern fleet upon withdrawal. Part of the appeal of Post Office vehicle preservation must stem from the special features specified by the GPO. Mailvans included a quaint "locking-bar" system on the rear door, which could only be released from the driver's seat by a lever and rod mechanism. Telephone vehicles generally carried special fittings for tools and equipment - the pre-war Minor 'External' Utility had a tinted glass panel above the windscreen to enable the driver to inspect overhead lines from his van. Early vehicles, including the smallest, had coachbuilt bodies to GPO design by a variety of manufacturers and this practice continued long after mass-produced vehicles were available. The 5cwt. Minor was superseded by the Morris Eight in 1934, but continued in production in hybrid form for the GPO until 1940; during this period when motorisation of rural duties was in full swing, the GPO specified the 1934 pattern chassis, with Morris Eight engine and gearbox, and a mixture of components, and even the first of the series Z and Y vehicles were fitted with coachbuilt bodies. For a restoration project to succeed the details must be accurately restored or reproduced, and where these have been removed on sale, examples usually exist which can be copied. It is sometimes possible to obtain genuine accessories in scrapyards, at autojumbles and from collectors, and when we hear of such items they are advertised in our magazine, Post Horn. Paint colours are important: mailvans were painted a shade known as Post Office Red (reference BS538 in the former BS381C colour range) with black lettering until 1968, when a brighter shade Postal Service Red (BS539) was introduced. The interiors of vehicles were painted Light Straw (BS358) until around 1968. Postal vehicles featured a circular device (known as a roundel) on the nearside door only showing “The Head Postmaster” allocation lettering and serial (Post Office fleet number). The serial alone was repeated on the offside, at the lower edge, behind the drivers' door. The traditional gold leaf "Royal Mail" logo and cypher (changed with each change of monarch) in several sizes to suit the vehicle were carried on the upper bodysides, and on earlier large vehicles above the cab windscreen, though from 1975 the yellow 'double line' lettering were introduced, and the serials moved to front and rear. Postal vans often carried a local 'running number' in white on a black pressed aluminium plate, in a black holder on the rear doors. Telephone vans were Mid Bronze Green (BS223) with white lettering until 1968, when Golden Yellow (BS356) with grey-green lettering was introduced. Telephone vans featured "POST OFFICE TELEPHONES, TELEPHONE MANAGER (AREA) " lettering on both cab sides, serials on both sides at low level and crowns on the upper body sides. The Telephone Manager lettering was omitted in 1973, while the serials were moved to the two ends shortly after the yellow livery was adopted. Red 'double line' Post Office Telecommunications lettering [with Regional variants] was introduced in 1975, while the British Telecom style was introduced in 1980, when the Royal Crown was removed from the livery of telephone vans.

 

We are frequently asked if an owner of a preserved vehicle needs to obtain permission to use the correct logo on their vehicle. The use of the logos is controlled by the organisation creating them, and the official view is as follows: The current logo must not be used on a private vehicle under any circumstances. Historic logo can be used provided that the following conventions are met: [1] The logo is 100% accurate. [2] The logo must be the correct type and period for the vehicle. [3] The vehicle must be a genuine former Post Office vehicle. [4] If used regularly on the road, the logo should then be covered.

Permission to use the Royal Cypher in any form (part of which is included in the Post Office logo) can only been granted by the Lord Chamberlain. The Club has asked for permission to use the Royal cypher and preserved vehicles, and has received the following reply:

"I confirm that no objection would be raised to an authentic Royal Cypher on restored former Post Office vehicles on the understanding that these vehicles are authentically restored in Royal Mail livery."

The use of the current Royal Mail, Post Office or British Telecom lettering on a privately owned vehicle implies that the vehicle is official, which could lead to a breach of security. The Club will take steps to prevent such abuse, and cannot allow the use of a current logo on any privately owned vehicle.

We do, however, encourage the use of accurate, historical markings on preserved vehicles. We can usually advise on the correct serial [fleet number] to be applied to an individual vehicle, and in many cases, provide details of its allocation.

 

Another aspect to the appeal of Post Office vehicles is that from the early days until the demise of the GPO on 1st October 1969, vehicles were registered in large blocks of LCC and later GLC marks.  The Club can assist owners of former GPO vehicles, which missed the deadline of November 1983 to register them on the Swansea computer as we are authorised under the V765 scheme to recommend reissue of the original registrations.  We now enjoy a good relationship with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, whose main aim is to prevent fraud, and who wish to encourage the historic vehicle movement.  If you wish to apply under the scheme please contact William Staniforth at william.staniforth@virgin.net , preferably before restoration begins.  The staff at DVLA are now much more willing to approve the reissue and rely on the Club’s expertise and opinion to verify applications, although some form of documentary evidence and an inspection (an old-style log book RF60, bill of sale, local taxation office record or even an old MoT certificate) is required by the DVLA.


 

Worthy of note are the changes to the two national collections.  The postal vehicles in the care of the National Postal Museum and those held by Royal Mail Vehicle Services were merged after the former closed, and they were placed in the care of what is now the British Postal Museum & Archive.  Its museum store is located at Debden, Essex and it has selected open days at store during the year.  Other vehicles have been dispersed to other museums around the country.  A visit to Debden is recommended and dates for the store’s opening can be obtained by telephoning 020 7239 2570 or at www.postalheritage.org.uk.  The BT Museum in London has also closed and BT has set up a Connected Earth organisation, a web based museum of communication, underpinned by a series of major physical collections, distributed among a network of museums around the UK.  Founded by BT, Connected Earth is operated by the Connected Earth partners - BT and the museums who have taken custody of the Connected Earth collections. It is a £6 million investment by BT, to promote the widest possible access to its collection of historical artefacts, while ensuring proper standards of care for the collection. The concept of a genuinely national, distributed collection supported by a website has been recognised as an innovative model for the responsible management of a corporate heritage collection.  The main vehicle collections are at the Amberley Museum & Archive, and the Milton Keynes Museum.  More details are available at www.connected-earth.com.

 

Annually from 2007, we had a Post Office Vehicle Gathering at the Amberley Museum and Archive each April.  This has been well supported by preservationists, often bringing their vehicles considerable distances to exhibit them in the grounds of the museum.  Unfortunately the Amberley Museum decided that it could not afford to continue the event for 2013.  From 2014, we have attended the Classic Van & Pick-Up Show at Gaydon each August. 

 

Because of the number of different types of vehicle operated by the GPO, the Post Office and BT, we cannot even attempt to operate a spares' service.  Our preservation team is often able to suggest sources of spares or put vehicle owners in touch with other owners of similar vehicles or specialist one-make clubs.   Contact us at POVCpreservation@aol.com.

 

We have extensive records of old vehicles and can, in many cases, give details of a vehicle’s operational area, its exemption number and when it was sold.  Our records are better for mailvans than for telephone vehicles.

 

We can also assist with correct liveries, often by reference to the photographs already available in our “Trucks in Britain” books.  We can sometimes help with transfers to restore preserved vehicles to their original condition.

 

We are recognised by the DVLA as the authority for the reissue of old registrations for GPO and Post Office vehicles.  If your vehicle needs its original registration reissued, please ask for the special V765 scheme leaflet detailing the steps you need to take to make an application.

 

Please send us details of your preserved vehicle.  We publish a “Preserved Vehicle Guide” that lists details of all former GPO, Post Office and BT vehicles in preservation. 

 

We attend a number of vehicle rallies each year.  Please e-mail us at POVCpreservation@aol.com for details of forthcoming rallies.

 

LINKS TO OTHER SITES

www.roxleymodels.co.uk

Roxley Models

www.postalheritage.org.uk

British Postal Museum & Archive

www.postalmuseum.org

 

The Postal Museum

(opens 2017)

www.kelsey.co.uk

Classic Van & Pick Up magazine

www.connected-earth.com

BT Heritage

www.fleetdata.co.uk

Fleet Data Society

www.promod-diecast.co.uk

Promod (modelmakers)

www.lbsg.org

Letter Box Study Group

www.britambsoc.org.uk

British Ambulance Society

www.britishmotormuseum.co.uk

British Motor Museum

(Gaydon)

www.hcvs.co.uk

Historic Commercial Vehicle Society

www.aecsociety.co.uk

AEC Society

www.bathpostalmuseum.org

Bath Postal Museum

www.light-straw.co.uk

Light Straw Telephone Exchange

www.thg.org.uk

Telecommunications Heritage Group

www.lvvs.org.uk

Lincolnshire Vintage Vehicle Society

www.CarAndClassic.co.uk

Car and Classic