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Sawn Off Militant. AKA MilliTonka

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I wasn't sure whether to do a restoration blog for this Militant, or not, as it is a long way from it's days in service and it is going to stay in civilian guise.  But following comments made at the end of the Tanker blog and some very encouraging PM's from a few friends, here we are.

That said, if I'm honest, I find it quite nice sitting at the computer in an evening with a glass of something writing about the days progress, or lack of, depending on what occurred.  And that's quite funny in itself, as I hated writing essays and such in English lessons at school, eventually getting thrown out of the class.  Then I had to redo it all in college.  These days I do blogs, magazine articles and all sorts of stuff, so here we go.

Finished restoring the Tanker earlier in the year, and had a good summer driving her around to various shows. The grin just gets wider as you drive about, with people waving and taking your picture etc.  But for me, the real buzz comes from the actual restoration.

When you can start with this,


Clean the water and shite out of it





And finish up with this


The satisfaction is beyond anything else.

I wasn't actually looking for another restoration project, I'd been doing a few bits for other Militant owners, including this one, hence the dashboard pictures.  It was owned by a guy called Jack Hendy.  He is a young farmer trying to keep a family and a substantial dairy herd going.  Despite loads of enthusiasm he hasn't really got the time to devote to a Militant restoration.  So I've taken it on.

Here she is getting delivered last month by BS Transport of Crawley.  Big shout out to them for a job well done at a good price.




And here she is at her new home on the farm. Big thank you to my Aunt and Uncle for allowing me a second parking space.  The good Wife has christened it MilliTonka on account of it being like a Tonka toy with the Atlas on the back.

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So, what have we got?  She used to be a full size Militant once upon a time, but I've yet to find out exactly what.  Research has started with a chassis search at the RLC archive to get her Army reg and record card.  I've got the original AEC build sheets, she is chassis number 0860 1398 made in 1964 under War Office contract  WV/2216/DC12(B)

Apparently she looked like this before the surgery, which was carried out by a guy called Ralph Brown of Leyburn Yorkshire. He built it for loading stone in his yard.  Cab certainly looks the same, right down to the little split in the rubber radiator surround.  But the tipper body isn't Military, so it had seen some changes before then.


No idea on dates for all this work, but the V5 and registration number were issued to a second owner in 2019.  That makes me think it hasn't been out on the road since it was cut down.  Jack bought it in 2021 and hasn't been any where in it, previous to that the country was in lock down so where would you take it? Without registration you can't go anywhere anyway.

You have to be careful what you do write about stuff like this.  Slagging off a previous owners work doesn't go down too well, but the old girl has some issues that are quite scary, and will need sorting before venturing out too far. 

Atlas all works and it's mountings and rear body are very nice.  Love the drop down sides and little load bed.  Spare 1400 bar grips will be going up for sale shortly.



She does start and run OK, which is quite surprising.

Here's the fuel filter, laid in the passengers footwell!



And various fuel pipes chopped off and replaced with rubber hose held on with cable ties.

Electrics are pretty non existent, and me and Jack had been working on these, acquiring missing bits and replacing looms and lights etc


Biggest concern is the rear axle.  Originally the two rear axles would have been on leaf springs mounted on a big central cross bar.  Single axle is now fixed direct to the chassis.  Not a problem in itself, lots of plant and tractors are quite happy with a fixed rear axle. 


Mounting plates are strong enough, but seems to be only a couple of small bolts holding it on to the chassis.  Also, nice "round" U bolts holding a nice "round" axle in.  Needs a radius arm or something to stop it creeping 


That should be this one, but it's only connected at one end.

Cab fitting seems to be a similar standard.  It's all there, and in good condition, but there's not much actually holding it together.  Looks like it was done as a right rush job, bolts missing every where.


Floor plate here, for example, mounts the brake pedal etc.  Not a single bolt holding it down, go to stamp on the brakes and it all moves about. Nothing holding the drivers seat in either, it was just sitting there.

Plan for work is sort the inside of the cab first, and then fit up the electrics in the right place, and go from there. However, this sort of fell at the first hurdle.  This poor old geezer can't climb in and out of the cab.  Might have shiny new wheel arches, but the steps are missing.  First job make new steps


Second job, get rid of the monstrous air filter that is blocking the passengers seat area.


Not sure what to do as an alternative, but I certainly don't want that thing sitting next to me when I do get to drive about in it.  Incidently I'd like that to be for the AEC rally at Newark in May next year, so it's finger out and get on with sorting her out.  More pictures and scribble to come.




Edited by Zero-Five-Two
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  • 1 month later...

One month into the project so probably time for a progress report.

First off I've learnt a good deal about the history of the beast, haven't got the full story yet, I really need to get in touch with the man that built it. This may well happen, apparently he is alive and well and still living in Leyburn, so next time I'm up that way visiting the in laws, I'll be doing a spot of visiting myself.

One thing I have established, she is not the tipper shown in the earlier photograph.  The cab looks like it might have come from it, there are quite a few details that match the one she is currently wearing.

Managed to get in touch with her second owner, a showland traction engine type called Peter.  He made up the rear body and picked up the cab from a field in Windsor the day Prince Harry got married in 2018.  He said he literally plonked the cab on intending to fit it properly later, but never got round to it.  This explains all the loose panels and missing bolts etc.  It must have looked interesting before that, just a chassis with an Atlas bolted to the back.

Peter also told me that Ralph Brown bought her from the MOD specifically to chop down for working on the construction of a place called the  "The Forbidden Corner"  These days The Forbidden Corner is a popular tourist attraction in Leyburn and a great place to take the kids.

Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of Tony and the crew at the RLC Archive, the "B" vehicle record is not to be found.  So her Military history is a bit vague.  Not even sure of her ERM, although it is reasonable to believe she was 39EL48, because her sister motors either side match up.  We do know she was a Long Wheel Base G.S. Cargo wagon and was probably fitted with the Atlas in the 1970's.  Date into service was Jan 1965, and date leaving Sep 1993.

How's the restoration going?  Not bad at all given the time of year.  Interior of the cab has been stripped out and the various missing bolts, brackets and bits have been replaced.  Paintwork has been flatted back and is now in primer awaiting the top coat.




Engine covers are already in the finished colour of dark red, to match the Timber Tractor


Cab doors didn't look too bad, but are suffering from the usual Militant problem of corrosion along the bottom edge



Nothing that can't be fixed, and something that can be done in the shed when it's cold and miserable outside.


Recycled an old oil drum to make a pair of overhead storage trays, to replace the missing ones.  There's room to fit them now that the over size air cleaner has been removed.  

It's all coming along nicely

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The forbidden corner , been only once with cousin's family so that was 5 kids, it was very good. IIRC we went the second year it was open , from memory - I guess 25 or possibly 30 years ago. Then it got quieter - planning trouble with cars and they had to admit reduced numbers (entry by ticket booking in advance)..  There would have been a few heavy blocks of stone to position with the Atlas.  However to keep it in work in that area - I would suggest steel erectors for farm portal frame buildings by Hares of Snape , they did use contracters who set off with a RL Bedford with Hiab & advanced to other rigs.    Euclid stryle DIY body for shifting stone in Brown's yard - hardly , more probably stand-by to get any work when Redmire & Black quarry trucks were out of service.  Of more probably shifting blocks of stone from a quarry in the hills south of Coverham to Calverts cutting yard at Wensley Rd. Leyburn.  The only other industry in the area - is tourism & huge but well hidden static caravan sites + of course horse yards at Middleham.

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  • 1 month later...

Well overdue another update on the restoration, I must get back into the swing of doing these more often.  I have been taking a lot of photos, so there is plenty to see.

Work has carried on at a cracking pace, most weekends.  Still with an eye to making the AEC Rally at the end of May, but the clock is ticking faster each week, it's going to be a close one.

Finished off the doors, with both needing a small section of the outer skin replacing


Also, there was the other usual problem, both window winders worn out.  Easy fix for these, they are almost identical to those fitted to Morris Minors, and new ones easy to find on the net.


After the repairs, fresh coat of paint.  I've only done the inside for now, outside will get done when the rest of the exterior resprayed.


Fuel filter, engine cover and storage bins got done at the same time


While we are talking doors, does anybody know if Forum member Ian43 is still doing M.V. keys?  Could do with some for the door locks, but I haven't been able to get hold of him.

Solved the air filter problem, with the purchase of a Leyland DAF unit, that is small enough to fit in between the back of the cab and the headboard of the body.


Unfortunately it didn't have a rain cap, but I managed to invent one using the bottom of an old oil filter, and an exhaust pipe joining piece.

Also had to make a right angle piece to fit through the back of the cab


I have had one or two set backs, where things haven't gone to plan.  Nothing serious and in some cases quite trivial, but none the less annoying and time consuming.  The back window of the cab being one of them.

The window behind the passengers seat had been plated over and used as the mounting for the hideous air filter.  With the filter gone, plan was to return the window to being a window again complete with glass.  The old blanking plate could provide a template for the new glass, using the painted area, less a few millimetres for the rubber seal.

That didn't work, new glass was far to big all round to fit in.  So I had the daft idea of using the window from the Timber Tractor as a template.  Easy enough to get out and put back after, except that your have to raise the jib to be able to open the spare wheel carrier to get to the glass.  Big delay, and then I find the two windows are completely different sizes, anyway.  I knew there were a few differences between the earlier Park Royal cabs and the later Marshall ones, but never realised the back window was one of them. Still, managed to get the glass cut down, and we now have a full set of windows


  I couldn't use the blanking plate a second time because it had already moved on to a new career.  Making missing parts has been a big part of the work so far, and one of the more important missing bits was the little box that contains the indicator switch, flasher unit and warning lights.


Old window panel


Cut, fold and stick


First paint job didn't go too well, so sand it back and start again



Add a couple of water slide transfers, and there you go, all ready to plug and play.

Fuel system has been overhauled, and all the dodgy rubber hoses replaced with proper metal pipes.  The original filter has been refitted, and a nice modern filter separator added to make sure only clean diesel gets to the engine


There's more, but I've run out of time this evening, will continue tomorrow


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Few more pictures this evening, then.

Another missing part or parts was mirrors, well mirror arms in particular.  I know they are Bedford RL arms that were modified by the REME, so I put the word out on here and other forums to see if anybody had a spare set.

Couple of weeks ago I was offered a pair of Bedford arms that I could be modify to fit.  The seller wanted £100 for the pair.  I thought stuff that, £100 for what is essentially a couple of bits of bent tube!! Bit over the top.

And then, the penny dropped.  Bits of bent tube?  If I had a pipe bender, surely I could get some tube and make my own for a lot less than £100.

A quick look on the net, lengths of tube, tenner each.  Pipe bender on facebook market place for a score. 



Half an hours work and we have two mirror arms for £40, that's better.  Just need a couple of mounting brackets.  Bit of flat bar with a tab welded on.  Have I got a bit of flat bar?  No.  But I have got an old window winder in the scrap bucket


That'll do.  Bit more recycling coming up


Two brackets, and two more to come from the other window winder.  Job done.


With the inside of the cab now in top coat and just the ceiling to paint, it's time to start fitting stuff back in.


For some reason the photo makes the paint look pink!  Honest it is dark red like the other truck.


This was last weekend, and the main electrics are going in here, with the addition of a master switch.  I've moved the batteries off the floor and onto the storage tray that fits behind the seat.  Timber Tractor ones are in the same place and I've found it very useful having them up there when you want to connect extra stuff like phone charger.


I managed to measure and make up a battery clamp, but failed miserably with the link cable.  Too long and the terminals are back to front too.  Another annoying set back that made things difficult for checking the wiring etc as I was putting it in.  

Still, every thing else seemed to be OK, but she wouldn't start from the dashboard, and I had to hot wire the starter trigger feed to get her to turn over.  She still didn't want to go anyway.  As I have had the fuel system in bits it all needed bleeding through and a couple of injectors cracking off to get the air out. 

Once done she fired up nicely.  Far better than the last time I had her going when I drove her onto the farm.  No smoke this time, and no knocking from over fuelling, which says the new air filter and the reworked fuel system are doing fine. Batteries are charging, red light on the dash goes out just as it should.

The not starting from the dash has been traced to a loose connection, and a new link lead has been made up for the batteries.  She also needs a new oil pressure sender unit which should arrive tomorrow, so it's all looking good so far.  

Got to play with the Timber Tractor this weekend, she's out to the Detling show next week and needs a wash and polish etc

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  • 1 year later...

Well, profuse apologies all round.  Write a restoration blog he said, started well and then.....???  Oh dear sorry an' all that, bit of a gap in the scribble.  Last post said off to the Detling show.  


And here we are with the Timber tractor, looking polished and shiny at the Kent Transport Heritage Show Detling. Except this is 2024 a whole year later on, and I haven't written anything in between.  Bit of catching up to do.

Back to the Tonka, ambition at the time was to get her fit enough to make the journey to the AEC rally at Newark on the May bank holiday weekend.  There was a few late nights and long days, but we made it.  Biggest panic was getting her safe and road legal.  Brakes and steering the main priority and getting all the lights working.


Fitted in a couple of local runs to shakedown any problems and got her over to the workshop for a full service.



Last minute crisis of a puncture was not in the plan.



Bit nervous driving up to Newark, first big run for her, and for me.  She drives totally different to any other Militant I have ever driven, and she does bounce a bit with the Atlas right on the back.  But of course it made it, she's a Militant.  180 miles each way, no problem.


Caused quite a stir with the viewing public, this picture appeared in several truck mags, with people questioning whether she is a Militant or a Matador with a cab swop.

Chuffed to bits it all worked, 2 trucks to the big show, brilliant weekend.  Back home and the serious work can get started.  First job, the Atlas,  It does work, I've seen photos and video of it in action.  Just doesn't work very well, investigation required




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She looks very - shiny.    What did you do about securing that back axle a bit better then?  That struck me as the major item in your original posts.

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40 minutes ago, Gordon_M said:

She looks very - shiny.    What did you do about securing that back axle a bit better then?  That struck me as the major item in your original posts.

Haven't done anything with it to be honest.  Further inspection showed it to be more secure than I first thought. I've  done about 800 miles with her now to various shows and jobs out, and it's all good.  I've even removed the surplus radius arm.

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So, what was up with the Atlas?  When I say it doesn't work properly, it's things like the off side stabiliser leg goes down but will not go back up by itself, arm extension goes out, but you have to lean on something to push it back in, and so on.

Control levers were well seized in places, which is not really surprising as she has spent most of her life outside.  Some of them have been bent, presumably by someone attempting to get the thing to behave by forcing the lever over.


Take the lot off, and strip to see what's up


Once stripped and cleaned it became apparent that some of the original modification work wasn't all that,  and a couple of control rods simply couldn't move enough to open the valves properly. So she has most likely been below par since she was first cut down from the original.  With a bit of TLC and adjustment the whole thing now works just as it should.  

There is a hand throttle on the side of the engine cover to turn the revs up when using the Atlas, but I couldn't get that to behave either.  You could have just above tick over, which wasn't enough power, or you had the motor screaming at full revs which is not good for it's health.

Solution was to replace it with an auxiliary throttle pedal mounted next to the control levers.


Perfect, as you stand there working the levers you can put the revs on when you need them and back to tick over when you don't,  Good for fuel economy as well I should think.

Soon as word got out that it was all working, the "Can you just" jobs turned up.  Well, of course I can, any opportunity to show off.


 Delivering bags of stone for a neighbour


Delivering a lathe at work


Had to go in the door and down a flight of steps.  No problem, I've just got to learn which lever does what.  I put numbers on them, but still get it wrong.  More practice required


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Bit more on the catching up.  One of the features that helps confirm the identity of the donor cab is this split in the radiator cowling. 



Paint colour may have changed, and someone has tried fixing it with a screw, but pretty certain that is the same split.  I'd rather it wasn't there.

No chance of getting a new rubber, so repairing is the only option.  Fortunately there are plenty of rubber repair kits available on line.  


A sticky, messy job, and loads of tape to hold it in place.  Instructions said fully cured in 24 hors, mine got left for a week before I pulled the tape off, so well cured by then.


Repair result doesn't look bad.  Sets well solid, but flexible like the original.  Sand it back to somewhere near the correct shape, then add a second lot to fill the odd blemish.  Final trimming and sanding finishes the job


With the rubber done, moved onto the rest  of the radiator.  Washout and repaint the fins, clean and paint the out side



On the bottom half of the rad there should be a shroud, which attaches to the grille



This one is off my Timber tractor.  Flat aluminium sheet but with a raised ridge in the middle.  Sheet is easy to get hold of, but how to replicate the ridge


Then a light bulb moment.  Some models of Optare bus have side panels with a very similar swage line.  Get hold of a panel and simply cut to size 



Drill the appropriate holes and you're in business



Add a coat of paint and a couple of badges to finish off


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  • 2 weeks later...

The inconvenient puncture just before the Newark show was caused, I think,  by great big clods of rust from the inside of the wheel cutting through the rim skirt and then the tube.  So, to prevent any sort of repetition best bet is to get them all cleaned.  I got a few spare wheels that came with the truck and these were stripped down and sent for sand blasting.


 Atlas comes in handy for lifting them around, and can assist in bead breaking, although the old hand operated "Monkey" still does the best job.


Bit of good fortune here, my cousin who runs the farm has a little side line in sand blasting when things are quiet in farming world, so not far to go to get the wheels done, and a most agreeable price.  First two done and ready for painting


Usual first coats of Bondaprimer


Under coat and then a finish in dark red


 First one built up and ready to fit.

Managed to acquire a passengers seat to replace the missing one, but like the existing drivers seat the upholstery was rotten.  Retrim required.


First off clean and de-rust the frames.  Best way is with the old electrolysis bucket.  24 hours in here strips 90% of the old paint and sorts all the rust.  Just have to do it in 2 halves.


A few minor repairs were needed, with a bit of cut and stick


Fresh coat of black Hammerite.  Doesn't seem to be the same quality of stuff it used to be, but still good.


Then a nice man at South Eastern Coachworks did the business with the sewing machine


Now got a two seater cab


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Repairing the electrical system was how I got introduced to this truck in the first place.  Got all the important stuff done early on, and the lights shortly after, but never got round to the fuel and temperature gauges.  Spent a couple of days over Christmas testing the non working temperature gauge and identified the sender unit was no longer playing the game.


Various begging letters were sent out via this forum, F'Book and so on and turned up Ferret Spares.com with a NOS one on the shelf.  Plug, switch on, all good.

Fuel gauge was easier to diagnose, there was simply no wiring going to the sender


New loom made up in the comfort of the shed, now for the difficult bit, fitting it!


Had to cut a hole in the load bed to even be able to see it


And there is just enough room underneath it to get your hand in to connect it up.  Had to use a stubby screwdriver, mind, normal one was too long.


Successful though, both gauges now working as they should.  There is a slight difference of opinion between the dash gauge and the one on the fuel tank itself, but only 20lts or so, and I can live with that.



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  • 2 weeks later...

Last bit of history to bring you all up to date.  Been getting the cab ready for a repaint, but as most of the early part of this year has been spent keeping out of the rain, it has been a slow process.  Overall the cab metalwork is in very good condition, just a couple of patches of surface rust here and there that needed a bit of effort.  Generally it was just a case of remove any loose and flaky paint, sand back the rest to prepare the surface.  

Good thick layer of red oxide brushed well in



I've removed the brackets that were fitted by the rear quarter lights.  They serve no purpose for me and only block the view in the mirrors when you are driving.  Nobody seems to know for certain what they were meant for, anyway.

Quick rub down of the red oxide to hide the worst of the brush marks, then mask up for a spray of filler primer



Two generous coats of grey bunged on.  It has got a couple of runs in it, but not bad for an out door job on a not exactly bright and sunny day.  It will get a lot of flatting back and maybe a second primer coat before any top coat goes near it.


 With the masking paper removed, it looks quite passable, even got me considering a darker grey finish colour instead of red.

With only a fortnight to go before this years annual AEC Rally and road run at Newark, where we are booked in with both wagons.  This weekend has been all about inspection and servicing.  Grease up, oil, water, lights wiper, washers, hooter, rock the steering etc.


Had a bit of an issue with lights not working, which was due to knocking a couple of wires out of the dashboard when I was doing the temperature gauge the other week.  I would say an easy fix, but it is a pain in the butt getting the dash in and out without pulling more wires out.

Ready to roll now, just got to clean the inside of the cab.  It is full of sanding dust and overwintering spiders.

So, this is where we are.  I'll try not to get so far behind with the posting this time.  



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