We are delighted to announce that we have bought a former BBC mobile generator vehicle at auction. It came up at the CVA Doncaster commercial vehicle and plant online auction on 20 October 2020. The auctioneer contacted us because of Ruth Slavid’s article in Commercial Motor. We are grateful for assistance from Mark Forrester and his company, Euromunicipal, who are regular customers of CVA and bid on our behalf. At very short notice we managed to secure enough funding, but with a struggle and only just.
The generator will be an excellent complement to BECG’s Project Vivat, our reconstruction of a 1950s outside broadcast unit, which uses Marconi Mk III cameras and associated equipment. However, it’s not just about Vivat, because the generator is powerful enough to run any of our other trucks.
The BBC only ever owned 10 power vehicles, designated P1 to P10. This one is P5, which operated from Manchester for most of its time in service. The vehicle is a Bedford type ML, with a petrol engine, which was built as a cab chassis in 1952, then fitted with a custom box body and a generator unit before entering service in 1953. We think it holds the record for the longest serving OB vehicle: 1953 to 1987 or possibly later.
The generator set has a Perkins 6-cylinder diesel engine, directly connected to an alternator, running at 1500rpm and producing about 27kVA of power at 240V single phase. A magnetic amplifier stabiliser is fitted, which gives control over both voltage and frequency.
This vehicle was cared for by BBC Manchester workshops until it was sold in about 1990. We think it has been in private ownership since then.
The power van will need restoration but that will have to be sorted out in due course once we have identified the best course of action and funding. First things first and we need a petrol tank – she’s currently sucking up her petrol from a can!
The photos below, kindly provided by CVA Auctions, show how P5 looks now.