Jump to content

Thornycroft ED-1617


Recommended Posts

Evening all, after having been a member on here for a little while now and following with great interest the various restoration threads I thought it was about time I posted some pictures illustrating the rebuild I’m currently undertaking on my 1919 Thornycroft J type. A brief history of the vehicle first I think.

ED-1617 left the Basingstoke works on 21st November 1919 having been assigned chassis number J-7860, being delivered to dealer J.Melbourne of Warrington, Cheshire. It would appear they held the vehicle in stock for just over a year until eventually being sold to Joseph Brierley & Sons of Beatrice Street, Warrington on 29th January 1921, being assigned the registration ED-1617. I have very little information on the Brierley Company early on, the only reference I’ve been able to find describing them as ‘Metal Brokers’, they later ended up operating a scrap yard from their premises, from which multiple Supermarine Spitfires were rescued in the mid-70s when their yards were being cleared. ED-1617 remained with the company right up until 1979, the later years of which it lay derelict alongside the firms BT type Thornycroft. From there it was purchased by J.R.Turner of Runcorn, Cheshire and rebuilt alongside J type NB-6684, which now resides in the Milestones collection in Basingstoke. ED-1617 was restored into a fictional military style vehicle at first and attended many events, and appeared in the television series ‘Upstairs Downstairs’. Mr Turner eventually sold the J type to Mr Roger Bone in 2006, who ‘civilianised’ the vehicle, altering the cab and rear body. Under this guise it featured in ‘Downton Abbey’, which can be seen at the very end of this clip: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Wz2O1milqMI I was lucky enough to then purchase the vehicle from Mr Bone in November 2019.

I initially planned to just use the vehicle for a year and have a bit of fun, before a strip and rebuild. After a minor amount of tinkering the J type was soon off up the road, and we enjoyed a good couple trips up the pub around Christmas time, and even a job moving a traction engine tender. Mr Wuhan soon put a stop to that however, and so in the first lockdown I decided to strip the vehicle and begin its rebuild early, a decision I do not regret, as I hope by the time events and venues are back to usual the J type will be largely useable again. 

^ ED-1617 when being initially restored by Mr Turner of Runcorn.

^ In it’s first guise as a military bodied J type



^ED-1617 shortly after arrival at its new home here in Sussex.




^ Jumping the timeline a little but a few photos from this afternoon having just refitted the overhauled steering box. I’m aiming to restore the vehicle as close to original as possible with the very limited information I have on its original spec, having no photos of ED-1617 earlier than the one shown when being first restored. I do however know the original colour scheme when working for Jsph. Brierley, which I am slowly recreating as components are refurbished and refitted.

I will soon upload some more pictures showing the work I have have undertaken so far. Cheers, Toby.


Edited by ED-1617
  • Like 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

After our first few rendezvous with the new J type it became apparent there was an issue with the gearbox. The lorry was by this point booked in to the steam fair at Beamish and so I decided to strip and investigate the issue straight away.




With the help of a good friend the gearbox was dropped out from the lorry, and then stripped. This was back in January last year and so a full rebuild had not thus been decided. It was nice to find a visual issue, in the form of a snapped key shared between second and third gear on the lay shaft. The bolts holding second and third gear onto their shared hub on the input shaft had also worn their holes excessively, causing the gears to become loose. 




The worn holes were reamed out oversize, and new fitted bolts made. The worn keyways were recut oversize, and new keys made to suit. All this work was made more tricky by the hardened gears.



After the two shafts had been refitted into the cleaned up casing, the end float was reset to the manufacturers spec with a new thrust washer. All the bearings were in impeccable condition, and so were cleaned and reused.


The gearbox was given a fresh lick of paint and refitted.




Edited by ED-1617
  • Like 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nice to see pictures of it, Toby.  What a cracker, it looks like you are getting on with it.  I think it looks great with that full cab on it.  How long is it?  I could not estimate it from the photos.


(Kent Branch of the Leyland Scrap Bus and Lorry Works)

Edited by Scrunt & Farthing
always helps to get the spelling of someones name correct! Doh.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you for your comments peeps, I had a busy weekend making the new scuttle for the Thornycroft, which is now back in bits awaiting painting, but I’ll continue where I left off before jumping forward in time!

It must be nearly a year ago now that the first national lockdown was announced, and with that news I decided that I would start dismantling the Thornycroft and have a bit of a sort out over the year, seeing as many events would no longer be able to go ahead. First to come off was the cab, which although strongly made by the previous owner, wasn’t quite correct to the drawing, nor did I think was the correct style for my chassis. The front axle was removed and all components heavily inspected, which was pleasantly found to all be in remarkably good condition, the result of a previous rebuild I suspect, including new springs and pins, but more on those in a bit. Most of the axle components were good enough to simply strip back to metal, and paint back up. At the time I moved the vehicle to where I was living in order for me to continue work whilst the wuhan did it’s thing, however it did mean the poor Thornycroft would have to live outside for a while.



Like much of the Thornycroft, the engine had already received much attention during its preservation life, and hence ran sweet enough for me to leave mainly intact for now, with just a few tinkering jobs to keep it up to scratch. First was to repair a couple of damaged areas to the cylinder blocks. There are a couple of small cracks into the water space, one which had already received a slightly iffy-looking repair. After some advice from friends I decided to go down the route of making some well-fitting copper patches, sealed and screwed up tight against the blocks, this seems a common old fashioned repair for non-pressure systems so I thought it be worth a go!

The first was in between the two exhaust valve chambers and heading towards the water manifold. I decided a strong repair would be to pick up all the manifold bolts and hug the patch round over the edge.



^ After gently shaping the patch down to the block.


^ An attractive repair I think!


^ And the same again for the rear block. This was a little trickier, being a very ornate shape with many curved faces. But with gentle heat and much annealing I got the patch fully touching underneath. Sealed and screwed on it looks quite pretty polished up, almost a shame it’s to be hidden behind the exhaust manifold and heat shield!


Edited by ED-1617
  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

One of the other jobs I wanted to tinker with was to give the valves a good inspection and a bit of lapping in. The valves have been replaced at some point and have plenty of meat on them still, with minimal wear in the guides which is good. All valves and valve caps were lapped in, the caps being affectively valve heads, being clamped down onto their own seats to create the seal.


^ After removal from the engine.


^ A little better with a good clean up and a gentle lap in.


^ A gave the bottom end a thorough clean, a good inspection and measure up, all seemed good to me.


Amongst other tinkering, bolt checking and fettling, the rest of the engine and First section of chassis frame was stripped back to metal, and prepped for a lick of paint.



  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

A quick little job that I enjoyed was making some correct style grease cups for the front spring pins. The front pins had been run without any grease caps for a little while and hence left the threads exposed to some damage. The threads were turned back, built up with weld and re-cut. 



The grease cups were made to the same style as the remaining originals on the rest of the lorry. I’m no expert at Knurling but I’m happy with how they came out, another job done ready for the front end re-assembly.



  • Like 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 3/4/2021 at 1:00 PM, Scrunt & Farthing said:

Nice to see pictures of it, Toby.  What a cracker, it looks like you are getting on with it.  I think it looks great with that full cab on it.  How long is it?  I could not estimate it from the photos.


(Kent Branch of the Leyland Scrap Bus and Lorry Works)

Hi Dave, the chassis is 22ft long, I hope this helps? How is the Kent lorry works getting on

Link to comment
Share on other sites

With the various jobs I wanted to carry out on the engine at this stage now completed (unfortunately I cannot find many of the pictures I took from this stage), next was to splash a bit of paint around it all and reassemble the front end. The front axle and components had already received a bit of attention as I was required to move the spring clamps further apart, reason being the front springs had been replaced recently and the clamps fitted too close to the centre by the manufacturer, meaning they were very close to fouling the bottom of the radiator. Once this was sorted, a good weekend was spent reassembling the front end and the results were very satisfying. As far as I could research the M4 engines in the J types were painted either black, or a light blue/grey colour from new. On a personal note I like engines picked out in a different colour from the chassis, and so I opted for the light blue/grey option, similar to that seen in the Portsmouth bus, and S.C.A.T.S. box van J types in Milestones museum.



With the front end coming back together I turned my attention to the wheels. Again the mechanics of the wheel/bearing/stub axles were all very good, and with some new vulcanised rubbers it was only really a bit of paint that the wheels required. I prefer to clean metal up with a wire wheel in a grinder over shotblasting. Much more gutty and time consuming, but I have known too many people suffer from shotblast grit related damage and wanted to avoid that myself. 



And after the usual array of primers, undercoats and much rubbing down it’s always pleasing to get the first top coat on. The living room, come paint shop worked well at this point, still being in lockdown!


I am a fan of having a go myself, and doing things in a traditional manner, and so all of my painting is done by hand, which included having a go at lining. I am no lining expert but I am pretty pleased with the results here!




Edited by ED-1617
  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

20 hours ago, Citroman said:

Looks perfect. Isn't it easier to paint a circle with the wheel mounted and turning it around?

Thank you. They way I roll the brush in the hand to achieve a smooth curve I found easier to work with the wheel stationary over rotating. But as I said I’m no expert, just having a go aha!

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Good to hear from you Steve, yes it would seem we have a strong Thornycroft presence here! We’ll have to get a few more J types back to Basingstoke one day!

Moving on with mine, it had now come to the end of the first lockdown back in the summer, and once we had re-established ourselves with the local, work carried on with ED 1617. I had managed to find a more suitable, undercover location to continue the rebuild which would certainly help me out through the winter months. I had not yet been lucky enough to store any of my previous vehicles inside before so this was quite exciting! It did mean that I would have to temporarily re-assemble some of the lorry in order to get it to a towable state, the new shed only being a few miles up the road. This delayed me a few weeks but it would definitely be worth it in the long run. 


Once in the dry the dis-assembly continued,  removing as much as possible down to just a bare chassis at the rear. The last major drive line component to dismantle and inspect was the rear axle, so off came the wheels, the half shafts and differential unit. These were all components that I was curious to see as I had no real idea of their mechanical condition. Luckily I was very pleasantly surprised, the half shaft splines were all like new, with minimal wear apparent. The wheel bearings were also in extremely good fettle, I wouldn’t have given them any less clearance if I were to manufacture some new ones, so all could be used again!


The differential very handily (and luckily I may add!) was parked under a roof beam in the shed. This aided removal of the unit no end! With a block and tackle slung from the roof, the unit was hoisted out slowly in order for me to have a good clean up and measure up. In the J type this is an epicyclic unit driven through a worm and very large bronze wheel.

Under close examination, using the boroscope in the hard to reach areas, the general condition was very nice, everything was present and correct, still nice and tight and secured with pins and wire where it should be; most importantly all the contact faces were damage free, phew! The backlash in the worm and wheel was measured, along with the thrust clearance on the input shaft, and both compared to the original specs. With both being considered ‘serviceable’ by Thornycroft standards, and the visible condition being faultless I decided it would be of no benefit to further dismantle the unit. And so with a good clean and some fresh oil, it would be ready to refit.





Edited by ED-1617
  • Like 7
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

With the diff now refitted I continued to strip the old paint off of the chassis down to bare metal in preperation to paint back up. At some point in its life the very rear chassis cross member had been replaced with a quickly fabricated one. It was my intention to replace this with a slightly stronger, more original style crossmember, onto which I could fit a rear drawbar. After discussing this point with some fellow J type owners it would appear a rear hitch was not a common fixture from the factory. However in my original logbook it stated that ED 1617 was ordered new with a 4 wheel trailer, and so I thought it likely mine would have been fitted with a rear drawbar hitch. This would also make it much easier to shunt the lorry around if needed to!


I fabricated the new rear cross member and used fitted rivet-head bolts to hold it in place. The rear hitch is of the flat plate design over a casting, being a little stronger and more forgiving. I wanted to be sure that the rear hitch was sufficiently supported, and so with some help, a pair of tie bars were black-smithed from solid, my intention being that it would all look as if it had been made 100 years ago, using period techniques.





Fast forward a little, with more cleaning up and painting, the chassis is mostly back together, and coming into a black top coat. 


  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

A fine selection of beers on the shelf there, Toby.  I assume that once a moderate thirst has been built up, the evening is given up (as it should in every shed) to noisy revelry.   I conjecture the bottle of Yellow-Tail at the end is reserved for its corrosive properties, paint stripping and the like.  Keep up the good work.  It is an inspiration for the Kent Branch of the scrap bus and lorry works.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

10 hours ago, Scrunt & Farthing said:

A fine selection of beers on the shelf there, Toby.  I assume that once a moderate thirst has been built up, the evening is given up (as it should in every shed) to noisy revelry.   I conjecture the bottle of Yellow-Tail at the end is reserved for its corrosive properties, paint stripping and the like.  Keep up the good work.  It is an inspiration for the Kent Branch of the scrap bus and lorry works.


That is a fine assumption, however I would argue that my productivity is generally sped up after an alcoholic warm up aha! I have equipped the shed with a kettle, however most visitors to the lorry seem to prefer a slightly stronger beverage under these current circumstances. I can only hope to regain some more wall space once the public houses reopen! 

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

A bit of a distraction from the main rebuild perhaps, but after a long time doing the gutty bit cleaning and painting the chassis I fancied doing something a little more interesting and delicate. The civilian J types all the the axle weights and speed restriction sign-written on the chassis rails, so I fancied reproducing this on mine. After some research I decided to copy the styles shown in the following pictures.



First was to try and replicate the scripts on paper, I only had photos of the same quality as above to work from which made it a little tricky, but I reckon I got them pretty close. Once on paper the designs are transferred to the work area using chalk on the rear of the paper and a thick pen to trace the design on.


Before being drawn onto the chassis using a chinograph pencil


Now it’s just the simple task of painting them on! I’m no professional signwriter, however I enjoy learning how to do things myself, and I’m pretty happy with how the lettering came out! They are actually painted in the same ‘off white’ colour, however my photos have managed to make them look very different colours! Another little detail complete, now on with more important bits!



  • Like 10
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

With the chassis mostly back together and complete I turned my attention towards the rear wheels, this was something I had been putting off for a while, as these pressed disc wheels a right buggers to get inside! As with the fronts they have had new rubbers spun on recently, and the bearings are in exceptionally good condition, which was a bonus! Because of this I try my best to avoid shot blasting, and so many hours of wire wheeling began, I don’t think the insides had been painted since new!




With a good coat of grey primer once cleaned back to bare metal, it there begins the long task of building the paint back up again, beginning with a quick skim of filler in the outer faces to get them to a nice ‘show finish’. I like the contrast between new and old, and so I left the insides and inner faces of the wheels pitted, so you can still gauge the age of them, a smooth surface also makes it a little quicker to clean the outside! I was advised a while ago by an old coach painting friend that using a black undercoat for maroon helps both build the colour up quicker, and also give a much deeper and richer finish, and so this is the method I have adopted for painting the Thornycroft. I also like to think that any chips that will occur when the lorry is being enjoyed will only reveal a black colour, instead of a bright undercoat.


By the time I was into gloss it was mid January this year, and the weather was pretty grim! I decided to build a paint booth in the shed in order for me to continue painting, a couple of greenhouse heaters worked well to keep a low but constant temperature within the plastic sheeting. My shed is also horrendously dusty, which the sheeting managed to mostly keep out.



After a very fine wet and dry it was time to get the lining brush out again, before a final varnish. 




Im glad those are done!


Edited by ED-1617
  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

22 minutes ago, Tomo.T said:

Hi Toby, Infra red heaters are the way to go in a paint booth. They heat the objects not the air, so do not circulate dust.

Thank you for the tip Tomo, I might have to invest in one. I did think about one at first but I had heard that the temperature difference between the warm object and cooler air could cause issues, but I guess not?


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...