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We’ve been involved with “Big Bertha” since “she” was rescued from Meridian TV’s car park in 1995. At that time the truck was just a shell with a few original fitments (power and interior fittings) and was painted in TVS silver.
After a five year program of repairing and refitting, culminating in a re-spray in the original Southern TV colour scheme complete with logos (thanks to Nic Ayling), OOW made her debut at the Newark Vehicle show in 2000 and was featured in “Bus and Coach” magazine.
A bit of history
OOW 999G was bought by Southern TV in 1968 as a “bare chassis” Bedford VAL 70. The coachwork was a custom build by Dell of Southampton incorporating a standard “Plaxtons” front-end (driver’s area and front door) however the vehicle outer is all fibreglass – this was a requirement as a lot of work would be done next to the sea.
After the coachwork was done, the electronics fit was done “in house” by Southern TV engineers with help from the Marconi Company (Broadcast Devision) – this gives the unit a uniquely “home-made” feel in comparison to others in the fleet.
Originally fitted out with monochrome cameras, OOW was quickly converted to colour operation using four Marconi MkVII cameras and was used at the Investiture of Prince Charles at Caernarfon Castle (as was every other colour OB truck at the time).
The truck was also used for Opera at Glyndebourne and also football matches – some of these jobs still exist in the form of stickers hidden in odd places.
When Southern TV lost their franchise in the 1982 ITV re-organisation, the truck passed to TVS who continued to use it throughout their “reign”, refitting it several times (and re-painting it cream and brown, then silver).
When, in turn, TVS lost the franchise to Meridian, the new company decided that they didn’t need such a large vehicle and so it was left in their car park at Northam Studios where it came to our attention. A “kick of the tyres”, some new diesel, lubricants and coolant and it was driven away to start its new life in preservation.
Since her first appearance at Newark, we have tried to do at least one event per year – as well as helping us keep up with the maintenance (both vehicular and electronic) it means that she is seen “on the circuit”.
We have attended:
- Lincoln Steam and Vintage Vehicle show (for 10 years)
- AEC rally at Newark
- Belvoir vehicle rally
- British Amateur Television conventions at Shuttleworth
- Sandtoft trollybus museum
- Newark Vintage Vehicle Show
- Local village carnivals
- Burton Waters boating festival
- Colour TV comes to town
50 Years of ITV in the South
In 2008 we drove “Big Bertha” all the way back to Southampton and parked her outside the Rose Bowl for the celebration of 50 years of ITV in the south. The presenter was Fred Dinenage (who else!).
We arrived the evening before the event so we were set up and ready when they arrived to find their old OB truck parked outside with working MkVII cameras.
The Royal Television Society made a programme about the event which can be found on YouTube:
We have tried to restore her to the original colour fit-out using equipment of the original type (or period where necessary). We have kept the original fitments (power, some woodwork, air conditioning, racks, audio patching etc).
The current complement is:
- Four Marconi MkVII cameras (two working well, one “warm spare” and one “on the way”) with associated Camera Control units, PAL Coders, Aperture Correctors and Power Supplies
- Marconi “MkVII series” 12 channel Vision Mixer
- Pye monochrome 14″ preview monitors
- Marconi MkV picture and waveform monitors
- Barco series II colour monitors (a bit of a cheat but they’re much more reliable than the original types)
- Marconi “Audio Mixer for Television”
- Marconi V322 “drainpipe” camera for captions (no computers here!)
- Studer reel-to-reel audio tape machine
- NAB cartridge machine
- Marconi ancillary equipment (Sync Pulse Generators, Distribution Amplifiers, Test Pattern Generators etc)