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JDF181 Morris Commercial rebuild project - the old Harris Hardware van!

JDF181 with a massive HARRIS headboard on the front, photographed at the end of its working life.
JDF181 at the end of its working life in Winterbourne

In 1949, Harris Hardware had a Morris Commercial truck JDF181 custom-built suitable for use as a travelling shop.

The cab and chassis was modified by Bill Drew of Court Road. The Drew family were well-known wheelwrights and coachbuilders and specialised in building cattle waggons (Bill actually patented a special hinge for one-man operation of the tailgate on cattle lorries). They had a blacksmith's shop in Frampton Cotterell (now Rentokil) and a timber-yard. They employed twenty to thirty skilled craftsmen.

The truck had a large 200 gallon paraffin tank installed, made long and thin to fit through the centre of the vehicle to distribute the weight evenly. It had glass-fronted storage cabinets inside the truck, accessed from the outside (visible in the photograph) to carry everything from Brillo pads to Zebra polish, and a large roof-rack to transport dustbins and other large items. Young John Harris spent many hours at the works watching the conversion. Drew cattle lorries were often exhibited at Agricultural shows, and the Harris conversion was completed just in time for exhibition at the North Somerset Show. Young John was very proud to see 'his' new Morris exhibited on the stand.

The truck worked on regular rounds first started by John Harris's Grandfather with a horse and cart to Winterbourne, Winterbourn Down, Frampton Cotterell, Iron Acton, Rangeworthy, Cromhall, Tytherington, Itchington, Earthcott, Mangotsfield and Pucklechurch and provided a sterling service around Winterbourne, Hambrook and Frenchay until the mid-1970s, when the service was no longer able to pay its way.

The 200 gallon tank was removed, and the truck towed by the Harris family to a scrap dealer in Cheltenham, then to Mr K Thyer, a vehicle enthusiast who started a very extensive restoration strip down, hand-restoring and boxing up many of the components. There the truck was left until a firm of truck distmantlers in Gloucester near the Docks aquired it in the late 1980s - early 90s. For many years it was covered by a sheet. It was the talking point of anyone who came to the yard!

A few years later, the current owner was passing through Winterbourne when he called on the Harris family to report that they still had the truck stored at the back of an old shed with the intention to restore it in the future.

Sadly, the current owner's father passed away suddenly in 1997 and the truck restoration was restarted briefly by a family cousin at premises near Berkeley but ceased due to work commitments. Now with his recent death the truck has been moved on to a new location.

Restoration news at August 2010 is that although it's in a sad-looking state, work will be started on the mechanics and the drive of the truck to make it easily movable. The truck is finally under the control of the owner.

The original sidevalve engine was changed at some time during its life - the story was that, as the truck only travelled short distances, the original sidevalve engine became coked up, so was replaced with a normal pushrod-style engine. It is proposed to source a new power plant for the restoration.

If you have any photographs, information or stories about JDF181 we'd love to hear from you!

rear of vehicle with signwriting