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WW1 Peerless lorry restoration

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As the Thornycroft restoration is coming to fruition (well, maybe in another two years or so) I thought that it would be useful to start a thread on our next planned restoration, which is an American built Peerless TC4 from 1914-18.

I think it was in 1992 that Tony saw an interesting advert in Old Glory and as he was looking for a retirement project it warranted further investigation. At this stage the Thornycroft had been purchased and Steve was hunting for bits. The 1st Autocar had been completed and we also had a 1944 Willys Jeep restoration in progress. We did not have the big shed and space was at a premium.

The advert was for a partially restored Peerless and with additional chassis and some spares which was all located in Shipston on Stour. For those who do not know what a Peerless looks like here is an example:

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A trip was made up to Shipston to see the Peerless. It was in a shed with not much room so it was difficult to see all of it. First thoughts were that it was mostly there:

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The radiator had WD and Peerless on the top tank:

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The water pump had Peerless Trading:

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Front wheels looked good:

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As did the rear wheels and sprockets:

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Outside was a second chassis:

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Some spare parts. You might just be able to make out an original toolbox lid behind the Springs:

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An original fuel tank needing some attention:

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Rear tyre which had had it:

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A third chassis with gearbox:

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But which was otherwise a bit past it:

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A deal was done and the whole lot was transported down to Devon. The first to arrive was the half complete chassis. The metal was really in a bad way being paper thin in places and the end of the chassis was missing altogether. It did however have a good gearbox and plenty of useful parts. As we also had another good chassis it was decided to use that one for a second restoration and cut up this one. A difficult decision:

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Dedication! Working out in the snow to remove parts. Here the gearbox has just been dropped:

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We also had a 3rd chassis which a previous owner had rather usefully(?) cut up into 6 foot lengths.

The completish Peerless was then delivered with the fourth chassis underneath:

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At times like this you realise how lucky you are to have friendly neighbours with the right tools for the job:

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The man in the background was “Skip” a nautical chap who represented England in the international gate post leaning championships. You will see more of him.

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It is amazing what an experienced operator can do with a JCB

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Steve gets behind the wheel for the first time:

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The complete Peerless went into the car port for protection from the elements. The other parts we piled up around the Thornycroft with the valuable items going indoors. The end result was quite aesthetically pleasing said our Mother (or something a bit like that).

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The next task (and now quite urgent) was to build a shed to put it all in.

Our recent acquisition seemed to comprise the remains of 7 Peerless trucks in all (by counting axles). We had four chassis (including two scrap), one engine, two gearboxes, two rads (one shot) and many many wheels (mostly rotten). Almost enough bits to restore two in all although we had an awful lot of parts still to find. That was nearly 25 years ago and a lot has happened since then.

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By my calculations there are six surviving Peerless trucks (other than ours), half of which are armoured cars. This one in the livery of Parkyn and Peters was restored by the father of forum member (“Cornish Maid”) Mike Roberts (I think) and resides at the Wheal Martyn museum in Cornwall. The chassis was discovered under a spoil heap but as the radiator was missing a replacement was made using a pattern made by the apprentices at English China Clay. It participated in the London to Brighton HCVS run about 1988.

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Here are some photos of it at Wheal Martyn which I visited a few years ago.

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Edited by Great War truck

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Another example which has featured on the forum before is the one at the Sandstone Trust museum in South Africa. I don't know much about this one other than it used to operate at a brick works.

 

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The final example of the Peerless trucks was Michael Banfields which moved to Eire at the dispersal sale in 2014. I have copied this post from an earlier thread:

 

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It was rebuilt in the 1960’s and they made a new radiator and bonnet for it. Both are a bit of an odd shape giving a strange appearance to the truck. Anyway, it is quite a handsome truck and very shiny. Worth a few photos.

Data plate. Very low chassis number, but gives the date as 1915.

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Rebuild plate from Slough:

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Peerless plate on the rear chassis member suggesting this is an early chassis:

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Post war metal rear wheels:

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Magneto switch. Not the original one I think, it should be a K&N.

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Funny radiator:

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Oil gauge (we need one of these)

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Petrol tap:

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Front wheels:

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Edited by Great War truck

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The Irish Army collection at the Curragh wanted a Peerless armoured car to help complete their collection. Using a very complete chassis which came from Norfolk tank museum (so I am told) they spoke to Bovington tank museum to measure up their Armoured car body. A problem was encountered when it was found that the chassis was too long. It transpired that this was actually a pre war chassis of a slightly greater length. It is a shame that the history of this particular chassis is unknown but it has now been reduced in length and is fitted with a replica armoured car body.

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awesome. another thread to stick too whilst learning more and more.

 

Ditto :cool2:

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Am I correct in thinking that the armoured bodies fitted to the Peerless chassis in the post war period were originally fitted to Austin armoured cars? I'd love to see a reproduction of the Austin armoured cars but I wonder if any of the correct Austin (?) one ton chassis remain.

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Am I correct in thinking that the armoured bodies fitted to the Peerless chassis in the post war period were originally fitted to Austin armoured cars? I'd love to see a reproduction of the Austin armoured cars but I wonder if any of the correct Austin (?) one ton chassis remain.

 

Yes that's right. Some Austin replicas were made for a movie but they were not very good. There is an original in Russia, but I cant think of any others.

 

I found out the location of another surviving Peerless over the weekend. This is a war time one which was fitted with a Gardner Diesel in the 1920's. I lost track of it and thought it had been converted into the movie prop one which was in Michael Collins movie. Apparently it is not so there is a 7th surviving Peerless. I do not know where the A/C chassis came from and I do not have a photo of it either. It was immortalised in the movie at the infamous football match:

 

 

 

The machine still lives in Ireland but unsurprisingly the owner does not take it to any shows.

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No doubt the best known of the surviving Peerless is the Bovington one. These were still in service up until the start of WW2.

The Austin armour does look a little ungainly on the Peerless chassis.

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They also have a sectioned Peerless engine. A pity. We could have used that.

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We acquired some photos a while back which showed Bill Davis recovering one of the Peerless trucks which came from Middlezoy. This is the chassis number 3 which we cut up as the chassis was very thin in places and the back end had been cut away. It was quite complete at some stage though with the engine being removed and going into chassis number 1.

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It looks like it had the remains of the original body on it but beyond salvation sadly.

 

Steve tells me that this one is not the Middlezoy chassis but another one (possibly chassis 1 or 2) which was recovered by Andrew and Mike Simmonds. I don't know the location of it sadly. We will have to look through our papers and see if we kept a record of it.

Edited by Great War truck

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What a funny old world it is !

 

You will have read above that one of our Peerless' originated from "Middlezoy", a Somerset village. Only last Friday week, we were at the Great Dorset and Tim and his daughter accidentally met up with a close friend who was with a man that we had not met before and the four of them got talking about our next project - the Peerless. The stranger very unexpectedly said that he knew where there were a set of Peerless Chains and offered to make contact with the owner of them for us but we should phone that new friend when we got home for more information about the history of the chains.

 

Well, I phoned yesterday and spoke to that new friend myself for the first time and he told me that as far as he remembered, the owner of the chains sold the Peerless lorry back in the 1960's but the buyer of the lorry never took the chains at the time and never came back for them. So he was left with them and has been holding on to them all these years!

 

And where are those chains now? Middlezoy would you believe!

 

Is this yet another example of "Meant to be"?

 

Tony

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I could tell almost exactly the same story about a Dodge spare wheel, where the truck itself passed through three owners before I went four owners back - and the chap said could I please take away this big heavy spare wheel that he had been waiting for the original purchaser ( long deceased ... ) to come back for. Some things are meant to be.

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No doubt the best known of the surviving Peerless is the Bovington one. These were still in service up until the start of WW2.

The Austin armour does look a little ungainly on the Peerless chassis.

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They also have a sectioned Peerless engine. A pity. We could have used that.

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:-D I remember going there with father when he did the museums peerless, great time, it shut for lunch and we were locked in so father could get up close to theirs, great wandering in and out of tanks:-D

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We then heard of another Peerless which had been just found on Salisbury Plain underneath a bungalow which was being demolished. It had been saved by Alan Valance who was looking for a good home for it. It was just a rolling chassis with no drive train at all, but the chassis was in very good condition. The wheels had been sitting in water though and had rotted through at the bottom.

We drew upon the kindness of our friends to unload it:

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The chassis was in great condition although it had been bent during recovery, but we can fix that. We took off everything that we could, sandblasted it and tucked it away for restoration. Didn’t realise that we would take so long before we would start on it. I think that this was chassis number 5. One interesting thing which is only visible on the 3rd photo is that it still had its Peerless name badge on the front. Despite all the chassis that we had this is the first one which we had.

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All Peerless trucks had a name badge on the front cross member much like this:

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The first Peerless trucks had the US importers name on the plate which can be seen on the Bovington armoured car. These state “Peerless Gaston Williams & Wigmore”. The Bovington Peerless has both versions of the plate. The original under the armour and a replica(?) on the outside. The original is very hard to see though unless you lay on the floor and look up under the armour (which of course I had to do).

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Peerless initially put a second plate on the rear cross member but they seem to have stopped doing this quite early on. All but one of the chassis I have seen do not have the mounting holes for this plate.

As I said earlier, we were very lucky to have a Peerless plate on the next chassis which was in super condition. Shortly before we purchased that chassis Steve found another one at an Autojumble (in Newark). After purchasing it Steve told the seller that it was going to go back on a Peerless lorry, but the seller was unimpressed with this. Maybe he thought he had missed an opportunity to charge more money?

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Both have made handy wall decorations for the last 20 years. Looking forwards to putting them on sometime soon.

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We heard of the existence of two more Peerless chassis in the Bournemouth Area. They had been converted into mobile (?) homes and had been placed in a garden for use during family holidays. The site was being cleared and due to access issues it would be very difficult to get them out intact. What was most exciting was that one of them still had its Peerless name plate on. Dad went to have a look:

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The chassis were quite good but there was not a lot there that we didn’t have. The Peerless plate had disappeared quite recently which was a real shame. We did take away a starting handle, some springs and a few other odds and ends. With too much work needed to recover the chassis and no real use for them we thought they would be scrapped.

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Some Months later we were contacted by Ron Harris who owned the Holt 75 tractor asking if he could buy a spare Peerless chassis so that the rails could be used in his Hindley project. Not wanting to part with the chassis we told him about these two and he promptly bought and recovered them. They were later found to be incorrect and the last I saw of them they were in Turbo’s yard and looking rather forlorn.

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While they were sitting there I was approached by the Curragh seeking assistance with their Peerless armoured car restoration. They indicated that funds might be available for a second (non running) Peerless armoured car and did I know of any surviving chassis. I am pleased to say that they purchased both chassis and took them back to Ireland. I don’t think they have started on the restoration but at least they are safe.

 

Incidentally, the top chassis seems to have been strengthened with some steel plate and I wonder if this was one of the anti aircraft gun conversions. A bit like this one photographed on London bridge in 1940:

 

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Posted (edited)

We have been collecting parts for the Peerless restoration for quite a while and we have always been surprised at what we have been able to find. Peerless trucks were fitted with lights from a variety of different manufacturers, Lucas "King of the Road", P&H, Miller and the American manufactured Adlake lamps. We have some nice King of the Road lamps ready to go on but many Peerless photos show them with Adlakes.

These are really quite rare in the UK but I am pleased to say that I took delivery of a matching pair today which still appear to have the original Army green paint on them.They are in super condition and I got them for a very reasonable price so I am very happy indeed.

 

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Edited by Great War truck
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Hi Tim, are you planning on starting the restoration of the Peerless in the near future?

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Yes, that is the plan. We just need to get the Thorny running properly, make a new Dennis radiator, a few other things and allow Steve to catch his breath then it is on to the Peerless. So it wont be for a little while but it is next on the list.

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