About a million years ago I was an active member of the greatest military vehicle club that ever there was, because, because.
We built ourselves the most wonderful clubhouse that boasted a member’s bar that was nearly as long as the one in the Downham Tavern at Bellingham which used to grace the Guinness Book of Records for being the world’s longest.
We had a boating lake that was just heaven to sit round with a cold beer or a cup of tea. It was lined with eucalyptus trees and the evenings watching the sun going down as the midges swarmed ready to attack were priceless.
Behind the clubhouse was a huge vehicle park. We had a massive garage with inspection pits and the sexiest Gucci kit. There was a billiard hall with the finest snooker and pool tables, a skittle alley and a five-a-side soccer pitch.
We even had a stable block. The library was legendary for it’s collection of manuals, war comics and all the books ever written by Pat Ware. But there were rules, and nobody was allowed into the moderator’s lounge.
Woe betide anyone who touched our barrel of custard creams. Other clubs looked on with envy and attempted to find our clubhouse. But it was like Brigadoon and they never succeeded.
It was after one particularly heavy night when we drank Dutch lager beer and ate donuts while discussing the merits of a particular rough collie dog that our leader went out for a quick pee and was never seen again*.
In his honour we came up with the idea of producing a book explaining the dos and don’ts of historic military vehicle ownership.
What to buy, what not to buy and who to avoid. We covered everything from a Cushman folding motorcycle to a Centurion tank.
But, alas, the book never appeared. I am prevented by two court injunctions to ever reveal why. All I can say is, after it all crashed down in flames, I never ate another custard cream. Cough.
I am thrilled to tell you that the yawning chasm left by the non-appearance of that book has been filled by this utterly brilliant volume from the ever ingenious Baarten brothers at Narwal.
Their Frituur Zorro series of books have all been masterpieces while three volumes on control towers did much to confirm their passion for old motors and edifices left over from the Second World War.
The original Frituur Zorro was a chip van made out of an Austin K2. The whole concept of these books has stayed true to the spirit of the first and I am more than happy to tell you this new volume is equally as open and honest. There is a lot of love here.
So, what have we got? This is the first of perhaps a few volumes looking at military vehicle restoration projects.
We see a wide range of vehicles presented by their owners, starting with, yes, you guessed it; an Austin K2 – and ending with a Ward La France wrecker.
There are more Austins, a couple of Bedfords, three Chevrolets, three Dodges, Ford, GaZ and GMC types, two International vehicles, a Kenworth, three Macks, a Matador, a Pacific M26 and sundry other types. The range of vehicles is a pleasure to behold.
The authors mix a variety of before and after images with scenes of the restorations. Each vehicle is supported by a brief history of how the projects were managed and the whole thing comes across as one long love letter.
Honestly, this is such a nice book I am struggling to find anything that scores low on my review chart. Let’s not bother. The text comes in Dutch and English, which is a relief because my English is terrible.
If you asked me to pick out a favourite motor it would have to be the utterly gorgeous GMC AFKWX tipper truck.
Living proof that the most pleasing historic MVs don’t need to be covered in guns and clutter. I would welcome the chance to photograph this baby.
OK, the opening of this review is all about nostalgia, for a time, a place and a bunch of people I adore (although sometimes I do wonder why).
The world of military vehicles presented here is one I cherish. There is nothing like seeing these vehicles on the road, a fact fully endorsed by this glorious book.
Having more volumes to come is such a fantastic thought. The historic military vehicle family is alive and well.
*Our leader was recently rediscovered hiding out on his own private island. Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs sent him a Christmas card with a picture of a collie dog on it.
Reviewed by Mark Barnes for War History Online.
Restorations, Volume 1
ISBN: 978 90 82834 1 2 3