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Reproduced by kind permission from Practical Motor Home June 2006 Edition

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When it comes to longevity in a base vehicle, some of the most well-known modern marques can prove disappointing while others, which came off the production line years ago, just seem to go on and on.

One such vehicle is the venerable Bedford CF, the last of which trundled out of the factory some 18 years ago, after manufacturing period of around twice that.

Despite their reliability, parts are hard to come by these days, yet one  Leeds based firm, Adrian Bailey Classics (ABC), is devoted to keeping classic   Bedfords  running.  As most are now motorcaravans, ABC provides a valuable service for Bedford CF owners.  

The ABC company was established by Adrian Bailey as a Rover parts supplier but over time that side of the business declined.  Today, the supply of   Bedford  spares makes up his core business.

The first thing to understand about Adrian Bailey Classics though  is that it's not the kind of place you can just walk into, off the street.  It is a vehicle dismantling business, an old-fashioned 'scrappie', to you and I  - where CF’s meet their end. Their usable parts are catalogued, stocked, and sold.  Parts ordering is entirely a mail-order affair and a 24-hour service is offered.

"We do our best to get items out overnight," says owner Adrian Bailey.  He is helped in this task by his colleague, Dennis who's a careful dismantler and no mean hand with cardboard and parcel tape, meaning that parts arrive at their destination intact.  "You hive to pack parts as though they are for your own vehicle," says   Adrian  .

All things Bedford

It has taken Adrian 20 years to build up a stock of 'Beddie' bits, among which are brakes, suspension, springs, engines, gearboxes, and clutches.  He also has a healthy supply of electrical components, gaskets, exhausts, reconditioned carburettors and petrol tanks.

Less common these days are original body parts.  "They are diminishing rapidly these days, though we still have some," says   Adrian  .  And, in a room he showed me, there was a stack of new sills and one or two rare front wings.

Those parts which   Adrian  manages to obtain come from various sources.  One such is the vehicles he dismantles, but they seldom surrender many usable body parts - in the main, these come from Vauxhall dealers clearing out their spares departments.  


Another of   Adrian  's sources is auto-jumbles.  However, he will not buy from internet auction sites.  "They are no use to me," he says.  'I have to be able to inspect the parts to make sure they are in good condition."

The only spare parts he does not handle, oddly enough, are those for motorcaravans.  This might seem strange, given that this is the largest part of the surviving CF population.

"The main reason for this is gas regulations," says   Adrian  .  "We're not qualified to certify refrigerators, heaters and so on."  

Spares archaeology  

One advantage of a specialist such as ABC is the staff's encyclopaedic parts knowledge.

"Take your clutch, for example," says   Adrian  .

(My own Bedford CF is out of action at the moment after I fitted a new clutch which doesn't work!)

Few people, not even many Vauxhall / Bedford specialists   know that there are two Clutch bearings, one of which is longer than the other - and that can make a difference to whether or not your clutch will work.  It's the same with flywheels.  We didn't know, at the start, that there were three different flywheels - one each for the 1.6-, 1.8-, and 2.3-litre engines.' Now that kind of knowledge can only come from experience.

"You have got to do the legwork to find out what the difference is between parts that look the

same because you must be able to come up with an intelligent answer for people when they call up and ask for parts.  But sometimes you only learn when you send out a spare and it's the wrong one.  Part of the problem is that   Bedford  never issued a comprehensive spares manual - the company only sent out updates and lists with part numbers, there were never any diagrams.”Remanufactured parts  "When people's 'vans are off the road it's our job to supply the parts to get them mobile again as soon as possible,' says   Adrian  .

Among the spare parts he has had remanufactured are various gaskets.  Also, a contact in Otley,  Leeds , will make up certain body panels as and when required.  Some parts, though, would be uneconomical to make.  "You would be paying 2006 prices for an item that was designed 20 or 30 years ago,' he says.

Some parts command higher prices than others because of their rarity - original body parts are an example.

Pricing is a sensitive issue, though. When people complain about the price of parts, they should consider the time and amount of labour it takes to extract that part.  

“Nevertheless, you have to price parts on an economic basis  recknns   Adrian  .  "If you don't, two things happen.  First, the customer doesn't come back.  Second, the owner will eventually take his vehicle off the road and then it's lost forever."  The personal touch

Rather like the Bedford CF itself,   Adrian  is probably the last of his line.  His is an oldfashioned breakers' yard, with a filing system that he confesses is "sadly cerebral".  His parts stocking system is all in his head.

"People like me are the last of our kind," he says.  "I'm the last generation of those who did a science degree without computers. 1 finished mine in 1975, so there's no computer system here." Instead, you get your spares with a human touch, and a newsletter is posted out to every customer several times a year to let them know what spares have become available.

"At the end of the day" says   Adrian  , "we are a human being at the end of a phone.  We are not an automated call centre. 1 don't think there will be anyone left like its when we have gone."

Until that day comes,   Bedford  owners throughout   Britain  can thank   Adrian  for keeping their well loved vans running .