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A few weeks ago I decided that with a full time job that take 55-60 hours a week of my time, A wife and 3 kids (one of them is only 3 weeks old), and a 1944 Matador. My life needed another challenge. This has come in the form of an AEC O854 Coles airfield crane. I have alway promised myself that I would one day own one, So when one came up for sale I just had to make an offer on it. Unfortunately, this offer was accepted and now I'm the very proud owner of this. So its got the wrong cab, Has a blown second axle diff, has had a very bad air spring brake conversion and has a host of other issues, but its an original running AEC O854 Coles crane and I love it . The replacement cab is quite interesting as I have seen identical cabs on Matadors. If you search FlickR for Matadors, you can find 2 with this cab. I would be very interested to hear from anyone who can shed light on these replacement cabs as there must have been a few made. I do intend to try and buy a reasonable Chassis cab or timber Matador with a restorable cab to use for spare on this project. I you happen to have one that you will part with for a decent price them please let me know . The Crane power unit is also quite interesting. I understand that when these were built they were fitted with Ford V8 petrol engines. My one has had the front half of a Fordson Major tractor fitted to it. This is actually a good modification as it was popular to replace the V8 with the Ford 4D. I don’t really like the tractor radiator grill and bonnet much, so I will just fabricate a new enclosure that looks the part around the crane engine. It has been fitted very badly with air spring brakes. As I understand, all AEC O854s were built with vacuum over hydraulic brakes. So the chassis were only equipped with as small tyre inflator. Mine has had a diesel powered workshop compressor slung under the crane bed. I am not really sure what I'm going to do about this as I think it will be very difficult to find all the parts to refit the vac over hydraulic system, so I am thinking of just fitting the standard air AEC Matador front end brake system and the Militant system on the rear axles. I would also be happier with a full air system as my personal view is that it’s a safer brake system. I am very interest to hear other peoples thoughts on this as the brake system needs to be as safe as possible as there are some big hills around Stroud where I live. Dose anyone have experience of this conversion ? To date, I have got the main engine running and it has some oil pressure and sound nice, I will be changing the oil and sorting out some water leaks if i get some time this week. I have got the compressor going and I have managed to free off the Crane engine. I have ordered some parts that are missing from the crane engine and should be able to try and start that next week. I may have found a replacement 2nd axle diff as someone on the AEC Facebook page has told me that he has a rear O854 chassis in his yard. the output shaft has snapped off on the diff and I can only guess that the reason for this is the one of the back tyres is 13:50 x 20 compared with the other 3 that are 14:00x20. So if you happen to know of any of these Coles Cranes or O854s sat about somewhere that could provide me with some parts or happen to have a reasonably priced Matador with restorable cab that you can sell me then please get in contact with me. I am also looking for any manuals for the Coles Crane. I have a O854 and Matador manual already. As for the cranes history. So far I have got the logbook and the old logbook for registration number KYW 28. This states the chassis number as O854 1352. It was first registered 10-05-1950 to The Ministry of Supply. Its second registered keeper was The Department of Atomic Energy but i can't read the date. I am hoping that its wartime and was demobbed in 1950 and i will be applying for a copy of its build sheet as soon as i can get around to it. the last tax disc in the cab dates for October 1971. 44 years ago. I will keep you all posted on my progress. Dan
I am toying with the idea of selling my 2 1944 AEC O854 Coles cranes.The one is 85% restored, mechanically is excellent, Engine is like new, The cab has been restored and the brakes have been overhauled. just requires the crane restoration and modifications to the cab roof. The second is a running with operating crane (new lift cable), but has been heavily modified and has NO BRAKES. Between the two almost everything is there to complete the restoration with ease. They could really do with going to a museum or serious collector to finish. Looking for around £12K ono for both which is nowhere near what i have spent on them. Located in Stroud, Glos. PM me if interested