Historic Truck Brands
Bedford was a relative late-comer to the truck business, springing to life after General Motors (USA) purchased Vauxhall Motors in 1925. Before that time, GM imported Canadian-assembled ‘British Chevrolets’ to the UK, but made the decision to produce Vauxhall-designed trucks in Bedfordshire.
The first Bedford AC and LQ 3/4-ton van, ambulance and small bus models were produced at Luton from 1929 to 1931, branded ‘Chevrolet Bedford’. Interestingly, this double-branding occurred again, in 1972, when Isuzus replaced Bedfords in Australia.
The first Bedford-only-branded WHG and WLG two-ton trucks and bus chassis were released in 1931, powered by the proved overhead-valve, six-cylinder Chevrolet Stove Bolt 6 engine.
In the following year a WS 1.5-tonner, a VYC 3/4-ton light van and car-based AS vans were launched. The new releases continued in 1934, with the introduction of the three-ton WT Series, followed by a bus version the following year.
In 1935, Bedford began work on a 3/4-ton MW truck for the British Army and it entered service in 1939.
A full range of new Bedford civilian models were released in mid-1939, three months before the outbreak of Word War Two. The new range consisted of the K (1 1/2-2-tons), MS and ML (2–3 tons), OS and OL (3–4 tons), OS/40 and OL/40 (5 tons) series, and the OB bus. Also launched was a new JC 1/2-3/4-ton van.
The K, M and O Series trucks were redesigned for military use, by fitting a wider, flat-fronted, sloping bonnet and were designated OX and OY series. Some were fitted with armoured bodywork.
A larger, 4×4, forward-control QL model – dubbed the Queen Lizzie – went into service in 1941.
Many of the WWII Bedfords remained in service post-War and those that were pensioned off went into civilian roles. The pre-war K, M and O trucks continued in production, beside newer models, until 1953.
In 1952, Bedford released the semi-bonneted CA van, with 1.5-litre petrol power, or Perkins diesel option. The very popular CA was replaced by the CF in 1969 and Australian CFs came with a Holden six-cylinder engine.
At the same time came the sub-nosed, seven-ton S Series and the SB bus chassis. The RL was a 4×4 version.
In 1953, the Bedford A series, bonneted range was released, with numbers 2, 3, 4 and 5 denoting the weight rating. A Perkins diesel engine was an option. The A Series was updated in 1957 and became the J Series.
The Bedford TK range replaced the S in 1959, but the RL continued in production until 1969, when it was replaced by the M Series.
The Bedford KM used the same cab, but with a slightly restyled front end and was marketed for heavier-duty applications than the TK: 16 tons and over.
In Australia, the TK could be optioned with Holden 253 or 308 petrol V8 power and the KM had a two-stroke 6V53 Detroit Diesel/ Roadranger transmission option.
Bedford by Isuzu
Introduced to Australia by General Motors Holden (GMH) in 1972, Isuzu trucks were initially marketed as ‘Bedford by Isuzu’, which helped appeal to an audience unfamiliar with the brand by promoting buyer confidence via association with Bedford.
GMH made good decisions in those days and the introduction of the Isuzu products was timely. Isuzu went on to dominate the Australian truck market.
Isuzu KA 40/41, KS, KT, TLD and TLG trucks were offered in the light-duty range, and the JBR, JCR, JCS, SBR and SCR in the medium-duty range. In addition to these, larger trucks and bus chassis were also sold, albeit in small numbers.
The Isuzu range expanded in 1976, with a more modern cab-over-engine revamp for the medium-duty range and a cabin facelift for the light-duty range.
In that same year, local assembly started at Holden’s plant in Dandenong; firstly with the JCR model and other models subsequently.
By 1979, Isuzu’s proved performance and reliability saw the brand gain widespread market acceptance and ‘Bedford’ was dropped from the name.