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BenHawkins

1908 Dennis Truck

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About two years ago there was an advert in one of the commercial vehicle magazines advertising an old Dennis chassis on solid tyres for sale. The chassis was under a house in Surfleet, Lincolnshire.

 

When I visited the seller their living room was a 20 foot lift van (basically an early wooden shipping container) and supporting the floor was an early Dennis chassis. The story from the locals was that the "caravan" was used by the Army in the Second World War as a mess hut.

 

The owners wanted to lower the living room floor to match the rest of the house (which was around 18 inches lower), but wanted to find the chassis a good home if at all possible.

 

The wooden wheels, axles and brake linkages were all in place. Getting it out was going to be a struggle as the original caravan had been extended on all four sides but I did not want to see it cut up.

 

After 10 weekends of propping the house up and unbolting it piece by piece we got it home (everything but the chassis travelled across the country in the boot of a Ford Escort).

dsc_2337.jpg

 

Eventually I uncovered the chassis number 573 which referring to the original factory records gave the original purchaser to be Carter Paterson Express Carriers.

 

Although Carter Paterson sold 55 lorries to the War Office under the Subsidy Scheme in 1914 the records show this did not include my Dennis chassis so it probably saw out the twenties with CP & Co (who ran their vehicles for twenty to thirty years) before being turned over to a scrap yard and converted to a living van and some how ending up in Surfleet as a mess hut.

 

Restoration is going quite well considering the age of the vehicle. It is currently flat packed but I hope to get the chassis sand blasted soon and then start bolting it all back together.

 

If anyone knows anything about the military activity in Surfleet I would be keen to hear it.

 

Ben

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Firstly, welcome to the forum.

 

Secondly......... what a fascinating story to start with. We hope you will show us some pictures of what it should look like, and hope you will keep us up to date with progress.

You were lucky to find a chassis number and so much detail about its past.

 

Good luck with your restoration, and make sure you post plenty of pictures

................................... if you want some peace and quiet. :-D

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Hi Ben.

 

Great to see you here!

 

I am fortunate to have heard a little more of this recovery operation and the word 'epic' springs to mind. Please may we have a few more pics of the recovery process? It is awesome! Our chassis' were just delivered on a lorry!

 

Cheers!

 

Steve

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Looking down the length of the chassis when it was under the house:

 

IMG_0263.jpg

 

Looking towards the front axle.

large-screen-show2.jpg

 

Unfortunately I have very few photos of the steps involved in removing the axles, brake rods etc. as we were far too busy actually doing the work. We supported the floor on an array of axle stands, trench struts and jacks before removing the chassis.

 

The day we extracted the chassis:

http://www.fil.ion.ucl.ac.uk/~rdavis/Chassis/

 

Once the chassis was out we replaced the temporary supports with a wood frame on stacks of paving slabs. The owner (a builder by trade) planned to modify this when he adjusted his floor levels.

 

Ben

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I think it's great that the owner of the house let you do this. Too many people would have just scrapped it without even bothering to find out what it was.

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Hi Ben!

 

Am at present in the USA and have picked your posting up over here! Glad you have taken the plunge and recorded the start of the story on this forum as you have a lot to recount! Others, like me, will applaude your perseverance and determination.

 

Tony

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Thanks for all the encouragement. It was really wonderful that the owner had the best interests of the vehicle at heart.

 

Here is an advert from the year before it was built showing the same model for the same customer:

 

1907%20Advert.jpg

 

 

The Carter Paterson bodies were transferred over from the horse vans and although there were a couple of updates to the design for 1908 which included different dumb irons and an aluminium radiator it should basically look the same.

 

Ben

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Hi Ben,

Great find, great project, I guess this model competed with the Leyland X type.

I believe an X type exists in Carter Paterson livery and has been preserved for some 75 or more years!

I wish you good luck with this substantial challange.

 

Tom

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The oldest motor manufacturers in Britain. Brilliant claim. How old was the company when that was printed? Can't have been much more than 10 years old.

 

You'd be struggling this one for "where we found it" bragging rights.

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Hi Tim,

 

The light green RFC is currently still for sale, the one I have is a darker green, you can see in it my album.

The Staff Car was shipped to India in 1913 arriving in 1914 for the RFC and remained there until the late 1960s when it returned to the UK in completely original condition.

The car was restored and used as the template for the body on the light green car you refer to.

Incredibly the self contained carbide removable spot lamp has remained on the running boards throughout its life.

I currently have the engine out for rebuild -will put up photos

 

Crossley?authkey=Gv1sRgCKXc18Tnr8vT6wE#5353830292710779778http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/tomfryars/Crossley?authkey=Gv1sRgCKXc18Tnr8vT6wE#5353830292710779778

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"The oldest motor manufacturers in Britain". Dennis Brothers claimed they produced a motor car in 1895 for which I have seen no proof but there is plenty of evidence for 1898.

 

Charawacky, the RFC Crossley looks like a great project.

 

Ben

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In fact this is the worm wheel I hope to use:

 

IMG_7489.JPG

 

It is a bit worn but I belive still usable. I still need to finish drawing up the worm shaft and have it made.

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I recently found the 1908 patent for the gearbox that was fitted. The interesting feature was that 1st, 2nd and 3rd gear used a freewheeling device (much like a bicycle) which would make gear changes very easy (but gave no engine braking). Top gear was a straight through dog clutch.

1908Gearbox.jpg

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Guys - there seems to be a big resurgence/interest in WWI lorries...is there any reason why that is?

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Here is another Dennis I found during my quest for parts. This one is 1914 and was originally supplied to Ernest Shentall of Chesterfield, who lists his profession as fruitier in the 1911 census. It is the two ton chassis and as you can see is pretty corroded in places.

At some point it was sold to George Wallis of Alford, Lincolnshire and spent much of it's life as a trailer before being rescued in 1997.

IMG_7158.JPG

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Ben

 

Didnt Mick have a couple of theses two ton chassis? What happened to them? Is this the same model that the WD used?

 

Jack, i think you should start of a whole new thread with a question like that. It would be interesting to gauge peoples thoughts on the subject.

 

Tim (too)

Edited by Great War truck

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Tim,

 

Yes this is the one from Mick. The WD bought a few two tons and a number of three ton lorries the same as these although in no where near the volumes they bought the Subsidy lorries. My guess would be that there were problems obtaining sufficient parts for the subsidy lorries and they bought the older model as the parts were on the shelf.

 

The two and three ton are very similar vehicles, using the same back axle (available in different ratios), gearbox and engines. The three ton however had a heavier chassis (4.5" channel in place of 4"), was fitted with wider rear wheels and had a heavier weight front axle.

 

Ben

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The big challenge of early Dennis lorry restoration is sorting out a worm drive for the back axle. These have a ring of phosphor bronze weighing over 50lbs which was almost always scrapped even if the chassis, axles etc were found another use.

Photo.JPG

I have been fortunate enough to find a wormwheel, and my axle still had the differential cages, pinion gears and massive MS19-3/4 either side of the wormwheel. This leaves the wormshaft and it's bearings to find/manufacture/purchase.

Section.JPG

One original parts books give the single row radial bearings as 16MS (or16m) and this ties in with the 5" housing. The double thrust bearings are given as 16MD (or16c) but I can't find a current equivalent. Any suggestions?

Edited by BenHawkins
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