It was not until a customer sent me a copy of Motorhome Monthly, and also the Classic Camper Club’s annual show programme appeared, that I realised it was 40 years since the Bedford CF range first appeared.
So, time to celebrate! Happy birthday!
I’m afraid to say, always seen as an afterthought, and in the shadow of the Ford transit in terms of design and performance, it says a lot that overseas manufacturers did not have a rival product until the 1980s.
One of Bedford’s strengths was flexibility in providing a vast range of platforms, e.g. Vans, minibus, cherry pickers, Luton vans, the list is endless, and at that time there were the firms to make the different body styles.
The greatest success story was as a platform for campers, Motor Homes, and ice cream vans. The combination of a wide wheelbase with very strong chassis beams meant heavy duty coach work could be used; and don’t forget that in their day Bedford were a massive supplier of trucks, even in 2009 there were nearly 10,000 vehicles still in service with the Army. The youngest is 21 years old!!
Auto sleeper and Dormobile were the mass UK suppliers during the 1970s and 1980s, providing comfort space and toilets not seen before, you could even stand up! But as the decade ended the Thatcher years brought a change in the manufacturing climate, and GM seemed reluctant to invest in a new model. The range over two phases firstly the CFI facelift and finally the CF2 (1984-
Was it too little too late?
Declining sales, changes in government policy, and increasing legislation from the EEC in terms of health and safety pollution did not for bode well for the future. The ultimate failure of GM to acquire Leyland trucks and Land-
So GM decided to cease making CF vans at Luton, but instead to buy in kits from Japan which were the very opposite i.e. Narrow, lightweight, yes better performance, but unpopular forward control and overnight gave away the bespoke chassis cab trade. So, no ambulances, ice cream vans etc.
The northeast dealership Sherwoods always said that this was GM’s biggest mistake, but no doubt it was profitable just to buy in kits, which continues to this day with the joint Renault tie-
So, who is to state it was wrong? The legacy of the Bedford CF is that it has, and still does, provide many people with an economic and useful camper, simple to maintain, strongly made, and well supplied with spares many of which have been re-
Adrian Bailey classics 01132 – 634288.
For a copy of the excellent magazine article do please contact www.stoneleisure.com,
I believe it is the May issue you need.
The editor’s name is Bob Griffiths, telephone number 020 830 26150