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AFS Commer Q4 Hose Layer


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OK, OK, having said that the Bedford RL petrol carrier would be the last addition, I weakened..... A search on eBay a fortnight ago turned up a remarkably unmolested AFS Commer Q4 hose layer for sale. Now, I have on RSOLES made a point of saying in the past that you don't see these very much these days and between the RSOLES collectors, I'm not aware of many if any....


So, I thought it might be worth a punt as the RSOLES AFS fleet expands.... It was - some used, non-sequential twenties changed hands and with the help of a low-loader trip down to Wiltshire, 519 ELM is now safely tucked in a barn and awaiting some TLC over the coming months.....


There is a blog as is usual with me - up and running all ready: http://commerq4.blogspot.co.uk/


519 ELM is a time warp - built in 1954, into service only in 1964, then sold off in 1989 with about 600 miles on the clock. The second owner bought it in 1994. It's complete with all the body work including centre partitions, the cab is complete with trim and headlining and it's only covered just over 1,700 miles...... Remarkably little rust considering it's been outside under a tarp for so long; as a hardened Bedford fan, the build quality seems to be impressive! :wow:


If anyone out there has any hints, tips or stories / advice on restoring a Commer Q4 I'd love to hear from you as this is a new one on me, or of course, any sources of spares. The brakes are totally u/s, it does run but roughly (we can soon sort that).


Cheers, Duncan.








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That is in amazing condition for having been stored outside, I have seen several that have literally fallen to pieces. I remember them well from the auctions, a nice one would make £600 while the RLs were more popular and made up to £1k.


Now all you need is a Bikini unit....

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Haha - no that's enough for me.... Full stop! A bikini unit would be great but trying to find one with all the kit would be difficult or even factoring in the cost of even partially re-kitting one - the rafts, LPPs etc. Lots of cash required!


The fact that they sold for less than the RLs probably explains why so many Q4s ended up as traveller homes I guess. This one escaped, hence its originality.



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Hello Howard,


Thanks - yes it is indeed! I'm glad as it will make recommissioning much easier. I'm glad too as I bought it 'unseen' via eBay so until we rocked up at the owner's farm near Salisbury with the Atkinson, it was anyone's guess as to what it was like..... The last owner was a Commer nut - he lived in one, a converted horsebox - so was sad to see it go. Easy work for Atkinson - over 40 years old but still very capable of a days work!


Hope you and the business are well,



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  • 3 months later...

Well, work on getting the Q4 back on the road continues - there are two strands really.


The first is mechanical, with all brakes needing a refurb. The fronts were OK but the cylinders have gone off to Past Parts (http://www.pastparts.co.uk/) in Bury St Edmonds to be re-sleeved in stainless steel as they were seized solid (which is to be expected when it's been stood round in a field for nearly 20 years!).


The rears were worse as it's possible that the bearings had been over packed with grease, so the shoes were nicely soaked in grease. The cylinders were equally seized, so they are also being re-sleeved and new friction material applied to the shoes, again at Past Parts.


Whilst they're done, in the spirit of a 'proper job', the hubs have gone to Howard down the road to be blasted as they were surprisingly grotty, and they will be repainted before refitting:




Aside from that, I have amassed most of the normal service items for a full service - oil filter (the same as early series 2 Land Rovers), oil (SAE 30 Golden Film from Morris Lubricants - http://www.morrislubricantsonline.co.uk/golden-film-sae-30-classic-motor-oil.html), plugs, new mirrors (Spafax unbreakable as I have on the petrol carrier and goddess), new auxiliary switches for the dash, anti-freeze to replace the coolant, some gear oil to top up the gear boxes and axles and declutch unit etc. Still got new wiper blades to get once I have the length.


Still trying to find an interior light or lens for the cab as the lens is missing - this is the complete version on another Commer Bikini unit and the remains of mine - if anyone has any leads, do let me know!




Also, running concurrently with this, is the quest with DVLA to make it tax free. The details are on another thread on here, but needless to say, the easiest way will be to do a proper age verification through the MVT, which will be arranged shortly.


Another question - the maintenance handbook refers to a 'carburettor sero starting control' - is this the same as the choke? The Civil Defence handbook shows a choke on the cab controls diagram, doesn't refer to it in the 'operating controls section' but refers to a "choke" later on in the 'starting the vehicle' section. Meanwhile, the operating controls chapter does refer to this 'carb zero starting control' (photo below) but it's not shown on the cab diagram. Any ideas? Was this a feature on military Q4s but not on AFS vehicles?




It'll be nice to get it back together and on the road, although I hear very mixed views about the 'driving experience' - some good, some much less so...... :undecided:







Edited by Duncan76
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Now the hubs are back from Howard having been blasted and primed, they have now been painted in black rust-proof paint ready for re-fitting:




Also, a successful day yesterday collecting a few bits and bobs in terms of the kit that it would have carried as a hose layer - three lengths of canvas 6" hose, still rolled up with the last testing date labels on, which will be good for static display, and another couple of collecting heads to add to the one that I already have (it would have carried three, apparently).





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  • 4 weeks later...

Good news! After a couple of weeks of activity, I have been successful in adding the year of manufacture to 519 ELM's DVLA record. Previously, only the date of registration was entered - Jan 1964 - when it officially entered Home Office service. However, the Q4s were built for the AFS in 1954-55 to a contract set by the Ministry of Supply in April 1954.


Initially, the DVLA refused to accept the year of registration as 'proof' that it could be taxed as a Historic vehicle - even though that goes against their own advice in INF34 - inisisting that the date of manufacture was the key date. Indeed, the chap I dealt with at DVLA through the MVT apologised for this, saying that the date of registration should have been enough to make it Historic!


Whatever, the MVT were superb in getting the date verification inspection done very quickly and efficiently - 5 days from the call to set up the inspection to me receiving the certificate. To be fair, DVLA were also very efficient too, and within 3 days of posting of the certificate, V5 and cover letter, I had a call to check to see whether I was happy with the note they were going to put on the front of the V5! The V5 arrived - with the special note saying that the manufacture date was 'unknown' - however, another call generated another that correctly gives the date of manufacture as 1955 making it Historic (when I get it taxed) and MOT exempt.


Many thanks to the MVT and the DVLA.



V5 - Web.jpg

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  • 2 months later...

I realised today that I hadn't updated the thread since the brakes were rebuilt back in October. There were a few issues along the way, however, after some fiddling it all went back together well enough with the resleeved cylinders and new rear oil seals. Nice to see it back its own wheels again!




It was also a great opportunity to change the coolant, which was a good, rusty colour - it took several flushes for it to clear!




I also managed to empty the car which was the temporary storage area for the canvas 6" hose that I bought and also the three collecting heads - as a hose layer, it would have been full of hose and would have carried three collecting hears along with connectors and some 90 degree bends. These latter bits are rocking horse poo now so the hunt continues!







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Coming on nicely, the hose and collecting heads were a lucky find! I have just started work on a commer QX fire appliance so any pointers on commer bits (service parts etc to start with) would be most helpful. I think the brakes may need similar treatment too. It is a very part time, in between my own stuff project so will take a while!

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  • 2 weeks later...
Coming on nicely, the hose and collecting heads were a lucky find! I have just started work on a commer QX fire appliance so any pointers on commer bits (service parts etc to start with) would be most helpful. I think the brakes may need similar treatment too. It is a very part time, in between my own stuff project so will take a while!


The hose was a bit of a fluke, someone on the green goddess forum RSOLES popped up and said that he had three lengths! The collecting heads were easier - I already had one on the goddess (even though they never carried them) and the other two came from the same chap that sold me the first one.


Good luck with the QX! The brakes I have had lined in stainless steel by past parts - all the wheel cylinders and the master cylinders. Expensive but it means they won't now rust and seize up when it's left standing. The petrol carrier has had the same treatment too. They were done by Past Parts in Bury St Edmonds in Suffolk.


If you haven't got one, a parts list and / or workshop manual is invaluable. It can be surprising as I found that the oil filter on the Q4 is the same as an early series 2 Land Rover, and widely available.


Cheers, Duncan.

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  • 1 year later...

Well, after a hiatus of a few months.... Okay, nearly a year.... More progress!!


In the interim, the carb has been refitted after refurbishment and the engine timing has now been sorted as per the workshop manual which is fiddly but accurate! But, it still won't really run properly but conversion to electronic ignition in due course might help this! The fuel tank has also been removed for sand blasting.


Much electrical work done so now it has working indicators, headlights, fog and reverse lights. Most pleasing - yet probably least important - was getting the interior light and roof-mounted flashing ambers going again. With the headlining reoved the 'new' interior light was fitted and that also enabled us to find the ends of the wires for the ambers that had been cut. With it all back together and new wires and a new switch, it all worked!




More details with pictures here:







Edited by Duncan76
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  • 4 years later...

After another seemingly long hiatus there has actually been progress in terms of getting the Q4 back on the road!

For a while and despite having the carburetor professionally refurbished, adding quality electronic ignition, refurbishing the electrics etc, it still wouldn't run without either it popping and banging or without it needing petrol pouring straight into the carb. Clearly something wasn't right! The hunt for the guilty parts or parts began...

First we discovered that the coke disc in the carb had been put on the wrong way round. Just shows that even pros can make mistakes sometimes! Apparently they had only ever seen these carbs with the choke cable coming in from the top (rather then horizontally) so assumed..... 

That done it still didn't work and just to add insult to injury it backfired so much that it blew the silencer apart. Okay, it was thin and knackered but..... So another job to do, luckily with some fiddling a Bedford RL silencer fits!

Still no luck and after some beard / head scratching the possible reason emerged... A pressure test of the cylinders showed that they were all around 75 psi. Now with an engine that's only done 1,700 miles it's unlikely to be wear. So it suggests that the valves aren't sealing. So with the manifolds off it opened up the horror of masses of black coke on the insides. So, the culprit but that will now involve whizzing the head off too to clean it all out. Why? We suspect that over the years it's been started regularly but not for long, so primarily on the choke, so the carbon has built up but without a good run to burn it all off.

Finding new gaskets could have been an issue but thanks to a steer or two on here, Speedy Spares turned up most of the gaskets needed. So, a sweet-running Commer isn't far off.......


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  • 1 month later...

So having scoured the darkest depths of Speedy Spares for gaskets, the head was removed and cleaned up - very neat it looks too! As expected, the head and valves were coked up - many, many years of being run for short periods, very little mileage and lots of running cold on the choke. The valves and seats have been cleaned and lapped again so they seal properly and the head looks much neater and cleaner now! It's getting closer to the road all the time....




Q4 4.jpg

Q4 5.jpg

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Interesting what you learn - somebody on the Q4 owners page on Facebook has just replied and suggested that just like the smaller bore but similarly designed engines that were in the Humber Super Snipes, they were "notorious for blowing between the cylinders". As he says, even though my Q4 only has 1,700 miles on the clock, you can see on the photo below that it clearly hasn't been sealing around the whole cylinder and that it potentially has been blowing into the water galleries too! I wonder whether the cylinder heads were ever retorqued after manufacture given they were hardly used and mine sat around for the best part of 10 years between manufacture and formal registration?

That's what I love about this stuff - 'every day is a school day' as they say!




Anyway, it's running again as this video shows - at last!


Edited by Duncan76
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