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This restoration blog may well qualify for a long service award but here goes.

 

This story starts back in 1991 with the arrival of the remains of a Leyland Retriever from Sam Loptons yard near Leeds both the yard and Sam are now sadly long gone.

 

The truck had been in the yard for nearly 30 years and before that had seen service with a Northern Showman gaining modifications to the cab in the shape of a coach built hard cab and the removal of the rear body.

 

It would be an understatement to say that progress has been steady, this is a long term project that keeps being side lined while parts are sourced or other restorations take precedence. It’s probably true to say it will turn out to be a life times work.

However, as the tortoise was apt to say ‘it’s the getting there that matters not how long it takes’.

I hope you enjoy the following story as it unfolds it’s still a long way from finished. I’ll post a series of pictures and text to cover the previous 21 years and then I’ll add pictures and a bit of text from time to time as work progresses.

 

First a bit of background history on this particular truck was part of contract V3929 placed on the 31 May 1940. This contract included 199 search light, 141 bridging, 6 derrick, 24 wireless workshop, 374 machinery workshop and 59 Royal Engineers workshop trucks, WD numbers 4409708 to 4410860.

My truck has frame No WLW1 3/308739 so it fits neatly into the block of search light trucks however the 500 ordered has been crossed out and reduced to 199 while the order for machinery trucks has been altered to include another 200 units. All this is of academic interest except the result of this change would become evident as the restoration progressed. Search light units were fitted with large PTO generators this involved drilling the frame and additional outputs from the transfer box my truck has neither of these features. If you bear in mind the desperate situation which was moving into its last act on the other side of the Channel at the time of contract placement I think what may be happening is a attempt to make up for actual and projected losses from the BEF. This amounts to literally changing the contract requirements with a stroke of the pen or in this case pencil. As a result of this I elected to restore the truck as a machinery bodied variant.

 

I thought I’d start off with a couple of factory pictures (credit to the IWM) showing what the machinery workshop Retriever should look like.

 

 

 

 

R4.jpg

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Pete,

 

It will be a pretty good bet, that the Machinery bodies fitted to WOT6's ( and some transfered to QL's postwar), are of the same dimensions.

 

Richard

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Pete,

 

It will be a pretty good bet, that the Machinery bodies fitted to WOT6's ( and some transfered to QL's postwar), are of the same dimensions.

 

Richard

 

Ah yes good point Richard, they are similar in construction, however they are just a little bit shorter, I drew my plans up using a genuine 1940 MK3 machinery body that had been fitted to a post war Albion Clansman that I did some work on years ago for a chap. I then checked them against the Retriever that used to be in the Beverly museum.

 

Pete

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The story now jumps forward 51 years from the factory photos above to the arrival of the 'remains' at my workshop in 1991:wow: .

The transporter driver did a brilliant job even stopping several times coming back down the M1 to tie loose bits on that had started to break loose at the dizzy speed of modern travel. This was the first time I had been able to see the truck in the the daylight as it had been jammed between a brick wall and a Super Mack artillery tractor in a large shed back in the yard.

Never one to be faint hearted I must admit I had a moments doubt......but not for long:laugh:

 

Myr2.jpg

Edited by Pete Ashby

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After unloading and sweeping up the bits that had fallen off the driver departed with a look that suggested I should be sectioned :nut: never mind time to look around the truck in the safety of the yard.

 

The more I looked the more I realised this one was going to be a long haul but I was committed..... or perhaps should have been.......and so it was time to get the tractor and push the Retriever into it's new home.

 

cab5.jpg

Myr1.jpg

frame3.jpg

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The first thing to do was remove the remains of the coach built cab and then see what was left...... in reality not very much.

 

The next job was to photograph, sketch and measure and make notes before any of the original truck components were removed. The Retriever up to the middle of 1940 was of complete bolt together construction so everything would eventually come apart including the frame rails cross members spring hangers ect. After the middle of 1940 and up to the end of production in November 1941 frame was of the more normal riveted construction. The measuring and photographing phase took about three weekends...no digital cameras in those days.

 

c15A pic003.jpg

c15A pic005.jpg

c15A pic006.jpg

c15A pic008.jpg

c15A pic009.jpg

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The next phase was to remove and store the remains of the cab to enable the engine and gearbox to be removed, despite the obvious signs of decay and corrosion virtually all the bolts could be undone either directly or after a short soak in wd40, just goes to show you can't beat good old BSF and Whitworth threads.

 

Engine out.jpg

 

here the engine and radiator have been removed

 

engine.jpg

The head and cylinder block have been removed, the Leyland Retriever was fitted with a 4cyl magneto ignition petrol engine as specified by the War Office, interestingly Leyland offered their standard commercial 6 cylinder conventional ignition petrol engine but this was rejected at the time of tender. The engine block is made up off three major components namely head, cylinder block and water jacket and then crank case. This form of construction echo's steam engine construction from a previous age.

Unfortunately the drain taps in the water jacket had become clogged and although the system had been drained water had remained in the jacket and cracked the fairly thin casting so that would need to be sent away to be stitched. The bores pistons and bearings were all good with very little ware evident the rings however were broken in several places so as new rings were unavailable the ring belts were turned to accept modern commercial compression and oil control rings. The bores were then honed, valve seats cut and valves reground then everything was ready to go back together with new seals and home made gaskets.

Edited by Pete Ashby

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A few shots of the engine rebuild

 

this shows the head on the left, the cylinder and water jacket on the right and the pistons in front.

 

c15A pic010.jpg

 

The engine is back together and ready for installing in the frame for a test run prior to finishing the painting.

 

engine2.jpg

 

The engine installed in the frame.

 

engine3.jpg

 

The rad has been overhauled and installed temporally for the test run.

 

c15A pic011.jpg

 

A few turns on the handle with the plugs out to move the oil round then connect up the starter motor a couple of turns and the engine burst into life. I can only describe it as awe inspiring it was like standing next to a 6 litre stationary engine, the Retriever is flat out at 1700 rpm and ticks over so that you can count the fan blades going round the whole vehicle rocks gently from side to side. After we got tired of just listening to it we adjusted the mag a little to improve the pick up speed and adjusted the carb. Then it was time to add inhibiting oil into the air intake until the engine stalled. plugs out more oil down the bores then seal all orifices and lift out for painting and storage.

Finished engine ready for crating up.

c15A pic012.jpg

Edited by Pete Ashby

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Looking forward to the next instalment! Fantastic!

 

Me too & more photos the better.

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I've always had a soft spot for Austin K6s and Leyland Retrievers; I shall follow this thread with great interest!

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Thanks guys for the kind words, as you will have guessed I'm having to scan the photos from my old restoration albums so it takes a while to scan, change the format and upload. Next will be frame strip down and work on the cab coming in the next couple of days.

 

Pete

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Pete,

 

Great to see you have started a log on the Retriever. I don't know if you remember, but years ago you sent me a CD with pictures of your truck for a scale model I was planning. The model is still not finished, but these pics sure bring back motivation!

 

Love to see more picture of the project! Keep 'em coming

 

Alex

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Pete,

 

Great to see you have started a log on the Retriever. I don't know if you remember, but years ago you sent me a CD with pictures of your truck for a scale model I was planning. The model is still not finished, but these pics sure bring back motivation!

 

Love to see more picture of the project! Keep 'em coming

 

Alex

 

Thank you Alex yes I do remember the cd that was good few years ago now your model and my truck may end up being finished at the same time :)

 

regards

 

Pete

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This particularly nasty thread is going to cost me money :). So inclined to go and find room and begin work on the Retreiver we found.

 

Keep the pics coming. Great work

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Ok so it's about one year into the project and work starts on taking the frame apart. I don't have too many pictures of this phase that would be of general interest as most are reference photos of greasy lumps of rust for rebuild purposes but here's a couple that set the scene. Before I started to remove any frame fittings I stamped all parts either L for left or R for right, obvious really, but Iv'e learnt the hard way that my memory is not as good as I think it is. Things are not so clear after several years when you go to fit things back on and find that they are handed or only fit on one rail only and it isn't obvious which one :undecided:

 

Getting ready to remove the gearbox and cab supports.

 

c15A pic018.jpg

 

 

This is the handbrake linkage cross shafts to the rear axles............nothing is under engineered, the grease and the quality of build meant that everything came apart and there was very little corrosion damage or ware. Most of the oiling points on the frame are connected via a pipe system so that oiling is carried out at a small number of points on the frame side rail. This is very much in line with commercial practice of the day and indeed was common up until sealed systems became the norm.

c15A pic019.jpg

 

 

And this is what you finish up with....a pile of bolts and large lumps here you can see the rear axle case and in front the two frame rails laying on the floor.

c15A pic013.jpg

 

 

I thought I'd finish this section off with a copy from the manual of the oiling chart for the Retriever frame.

This is reproduced in full on an etched brass sheet that is attached to the mates side of the cab fortunately mine is intact and has cleaned up really well.

 

oiling chart 1.jpg

Edited by Pete Ashby

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Time moves on to be precise about six years :embarrassed:, The Retriever project was stored away in a thousand labelled tins and pots and the big lumps stored away safe while I restored a 12 cab C15A for a little light relief and then moved workshops across the county, (this involved building a purpose built new one). so the date now is around 2003 and work

restarts on the Retriever.

 

Here you can see my son David working on the frame rails they have been cleaned and stripped and treated with a rust inhibitor prior to undercoating with a two pack epoxy frame paint. This provided a very hard surface finish that also filled in any imperfections from rust pitting.

 

c15A pic015.jpg

 

this photo shows the frame assembled and under coated and the front axle in position

 

c15A pic016.jpg

 

The front springs are on having been disassembled cleaned and painted and the engine has been un-crated and lifted into the frame

c15A pic017.jpg

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Fantastic!! I shall be following this thread with great interest! Any chance you can let me have the basic dimensions of the chassis frame, width x length? I'm doing some research on the rear frame work used on Retrievers for carrying Pontoons and knowing the overall chassis dims would help in sizing the Pontoon frames.

 

Rgds

 

Pete

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Thank you Alex yes I do remember the cd that was good few years ago now your model and my truck may end up being finished at the same time :-)

 

 

You could be right there, Pete. BUT....I have to admit I cheated a little; Shortly after you sent me the info I got inolved in master making for Resicast, so was able to get a Leyland Chassis/cab for my folding boat project:D

 

Keep the pics coming! I love to see and hear more about the project.

 

Alex

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With the frame completed the engine and gearbox rebuilt and installed it was time to turn attention to the cab so it was duly brought out of storage for assessment.

It quickly became apparent that the level of decay was far worse than I had anticipated.

The Retriever cab in common with other military trucks of the period used a form of cab construction that was common during the inter war years. This consisted of an angle iron frame into which the cab sides and floor boards were slotted this was then joined at the front by the scuttle which in held the whole structure square and rigid.

As can be seen in the following pictures there was nothing either square or rigid with the remains of my cab so the decision was made to use the remains of the cab frame and panels as patterns to facilitate new frame work and panels to be fabricated around the original scuttle which was surprisingly in very good condition. In fact the back of the cab fell off as we were moving it into the workshop, so the first job was to build a frame to replicate the main frame rails so that I could work from some datum points and fix the scuttle to the new sub frame and work back from there.

 

I’m afraid these photos are all about decay but they give an idea of what I had to work with. The red and white scale you see in various photos is an aid to supplement measurements and sketches taken of various cab components all of which would need to be re fabricated. As each piece, either wood or steel was removed it was labelled and stored away as a pattern.

 

Here we are looking forward to the drivers’ position and instrument cluster with the rear of the cab and seat box removed

 

c15A pic034.jpg

 

This shot is from a similar position as the previous one but gives a feel of the decay in the wood work of the floor boards

 

c15A pic030.jpg

 

Here is the back of the cab the construction is interesting as it is made up of two separate panels let into the angle iron frame, one on the mates side and one on the drivers jointed by a sheet of 16 gauge steel in the middle.

 

c15A pic031.jpg

 

This is the same rear panel but looking from the front of the cab you can see the rear engine cover in the middle the drivers’ rear seat back on the right

 

c15A pic032.jpg

 

This is a close up of the drivers rear panel and it gives an indication of how the cabs on these early war and pre war trucks were put together. There is an outer skin of 18 gauge sheet this has a small lip turned up all the way round then there is a sheet of thin ply wood then a another 18 gauge sheet on the inside with a lip turned the two lips meet exactly in the centre of the ply sheet and all the various bolts………and there are a lot…… hold the sandwich together in the angle iron frame. So for the Retriever cab that’s two rear panels and two side panels joined at the rear by a sheet of 16 gauge steel and then bolted into the angle iron frame which in turn is bolted to the scuttle and the frame……….ho hum not much work there then

 

c15A pic033.jpg

 

The next instalment will be a bit more positive as the frame and cab start to come together.

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Fantastic!! I shall be following this thread with great interest! Any chance you can let me have the basic dimensions of the chassis frame, width x length? I'm doing some research on the rear frame work used on Retrievers for carrying Pontoons and knowing the overall chassis dims would help in sizing the Pontoon frames.

 

Rgds

 

Pete

 

The frames come in two sizes depending on use either 20' or 22 ' long by 3' wide all variants have 4' bogie centres.

 

22' frames are as follows: Workshop, Machinery, GS, Pontoon Search light. 20' frames: Breakdown, Coles crane.

 

If its of use to you I have the sizes for a Pontoon No 5 MK 1 raft unit as follows: 22' long 7' 5" wide 10' 5" high these dimensions will be overall sizes across the the pontoon stations and to the top of the masts.

 

Regards

 

Pete

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Pete,

 

thank you for taking the time to provide this info, it really is very much appreciated! And the added info on the Pontoon frame is also much appreciated. I have found the following drawing on the MLU forum but wasn't sure it was fitting too well with my own calc's on what the chassis should be. The Fact that there were two different lengths for the chassis means I'm no longer doubting my own sanity/mathematical abilities!

 

pontoonframe_zpsdb012c7a.jpg

 

Best Regards

 

Pete

Edited by Old Git
fixed broken IMG link

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This post is a bit more positive than the previous one here the cab is rebuilt using the original parts as patterns.

 

 

c15A pic037.jpg

 

Here the scuttle has been bolted on to provide a reference point to work away from. The floorboards and steel well sections in the floor have been replaced, the steel floor under the pedals has been replicated and the drives seat box is in place again to act as a reference point.

 

c15A pic038.jpg

 

In this shot the cab side frames have been fabricated, the rear steel centre panel has been replace and the two composite steel and plywood rear panels are in place. For some time I pondered how I was going to reproduce the angle iron radius sections that form the entrance to drivers and mates cab side originaly these would have been hot rolled.

By chance I was poking about in the scrap pile behind the workshop when I found some old iron bed frames......guess what the radius, the size and gauge were just what I needed a few minutes with the disc cutter and hey presto two perfectly replicated rolled iron frames.

 

c15A pic039.jpg

 

The drivers seat box has been rebuilt using a mix of original and new wood. As with all British trucks of this period the comforts provided for the crew were to say the least minimal as you can see the seating is nothing more than a wooden box on top of which a thin horse hair cushion is strapped.

 

c15A pic040.jpg

 

The wooden cab sides are in position waiting for the outer and inner 18 gauge metal skins to be made and the mates seat box has been rebuilt

 

c15A pic041.jpg

 

This is a back view of the cab showing the replaced steel centre section and the two composite rear panels

 

leyland 8.jpg

 

The cab panels and scuttle have been removed so that the frame can be painted before reassembly, this photo clearly shows the sub frame construction of the cab and how the whole construction depends on the scuttle to hold it all together at the front.

 

c15A pic042.jpg

 

This view is from the mates side, the cab sides have been replaced. The scuttle has been stripped repaired where required and painted in undercoat

 

CIMG0688.JPG

 

The cab is now finished apart from fitting out with brackets, clips and turn buckles and is mounted on the frame.

Edited by Pete Ashby

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