ABC/Thames strip-out starts

We have made our first foray into restoring our latest acquisition – the ABC/Thames Outside Broadcast Unit “GNF951E”. As detailed on the Project Page, this vehicle was converted into a mobile home by the previous owners, so we had to start by removing the modifications. A project team consisting of Paul, Richard, Martin, Jeffrey, Dave, Phil, Dicky, Jill, Margaret and Ruth assembled to start the work.

ABCT-Arriving
Arriving for the strip-out

Continue reading “ABC/Thames strip-out starts”

Thames Television, Unit 2, GNF951E

ABC/Thames photograph

Summary

One of three units ordered by ABC around the time of the 1966 World Cup. Transferred to Thames TV, then to Sony Broadcast for HDTV work. Subsequently converted to a “living van” and is now to be restored.

Updates

Follow the progress of the restoration on the ABC Thames news page.

Original Photographs

Photographs of GNF951E and the other two vehicles when they were in service.

GNF951E-unit5-build
ABC-OB-unit-cameras
FNB460D-ABC-Unit4
FNB460D-ABC-Unit4
GNF951E-unit5-production
GNF951E-OB-Thames-livery
GNF951E-OB-Thames-livery
Thames-OB-derby
HXJ846F-Unit6-RTS
ABC-Threadneedle-Street
ABC-OB-unit5-cameras
Unit2-Hermes
GNF951E-Thames-livery
During-conversion-to-HDVS
GNF951E-Sony-livery
Sony-HDVS-on-location
ABC Television Unit 5 GNF951E being built.
ABC Television new Outside Broadcast unit.
ABC Television Unit 4, FNB460D (sister vehicle).
ABC Television Unit 4, FNB460D (sister vehicle).
ABC Television Unit 5, GNF951E, Production area.
Thames Television Unit 2, GNF951E at an Outside Broadcast.
Thames Television Unit 2, GNF951E at Diana's wedding.
Thames Television OB Vans at the Derby.
ABC Television Unit 6, HXJ846F in RTS livery.
Thames Television Unit 2 GNF951E Threadneedle Street, London
ABC Television Unit 5, GNF951E new Outside Broadcast unit.
Unit 2 being craned onto HMS Hermes for an 'Opportunity Knocks' OB in 1970
Thames Television Unit 2, GNF951E in later Thames livery.
Unit 2 During conversion to HDVS.
Sony HDVS OB unit, GNF951E.
GNF 951E Sony HDVS on location.
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ABC Television Unit 5 GNF951E  being built.
ABC Television new Outside Broadcast unit.
ABC Television Unit 4, FNB460D (sister vehicle).
ABC Television Unit 4, FNB460D (sister vehicle).
ABC Television Unit 5, GNF951E, Production area.
Thames Television Unit 2, GNF951E at an Outside Broadcast.
Thames Television Unit 2, GNF951E at Diana's wedding.
Thames Television OB Vans at the Derby.
ABC Television Unit 6, HXJ846F in RTS livery.
Thames Television Unit 2 GNF951E Threadneedle Street, London
ABC Television Unit 5, GNF951E  new Outside Broadcast unit.
Unit 2 being craned onto HMS Hermes for an 'Opportunity Knocks' OB in 1970
Thames Television Unit 2, GNF951E in later Thames livery.
Unit 2 During conversion to HDVS.
Sony HDVS OB unit, GNF951E.
GNF 951E Sony HDVS on location.
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History

After the Football World Cup was awarded to England in 1966 and following a review of requirements, ITV decided that additional facilities were needed and ABC Television ordered three new Outside Broadcast trucks – FNB460D, GNF951E and HXJ846F. These trucks were “state of the art” incorporating a number of firsts: 

  • All transistor equipment
  • Longitudinal layout
  • Separate operational compartments for sound, production and engineering.

The trucks were built by Road Transport Services, on a Bedford “VAL-14” chassis, fitted out by Marconi and supplied to operate with up to 6 Marconi Mk V Image Orthicon Cameras.

Probably only one truck (“Unit 4” – FNB 460D) was delivered in time for the Cup.

Following the ITV franchise changes in 1968 these trucks were transferred to Thames Television. They sold two (FNB460D and HXJ846F) to Racecourse Technical Services, but kept GNF951E and converted it to colour, using Marconi Mk VII Cameras. The unit remained in service for over 10 years before being sold to Sony, who used it as an HDTV demonstration unit during which time it spent some time in Italy.

After broadcast service the truck was used as an advertising billboard for the great Dorset Steam Fair, before a new owner, based on The Isle of Wight, took over in 1992 and used it for several purposes including a mobile home, art gallery and a costume store. After many happy years with the family it was time for a new owner and BECG acquired the unit in 2018, with a view to restoring it as an outside broadcast unit.

The plan is to restore the bodywork and rebuild the interior with two Marconi MkV and two Marconi Mk VII cameras, representing the conversion time, thus giving the unit both monochrome and colour capability. Examples of much of the original equipment or period-correct equivalents are available.

Some notes from the previous owner

These noted have been lightly edited in the light of other known facts (see above).

This vehicle consists of a purpose-made body, on a Bedford VAL14 twin-steer chassis of the type made around 1963-64. It has a Leyland 400 diesel engine (6.538 litres) with a Bedford 5-speed gearbox. This vehicle is fitted with the optional Bedford two-speed rear axle, air operated from the gear lever. Top speed is in excess of 65 mph.

The drum brakes are compressed-air servo-assisted hydraulic, with the mechanical handbrake operating on the four front wheels. A secondary mechanical drum brake operates on the transmission shaft. Steering is hydraulic power-assisted, giving a relatively light steering control. This, together with excellent visibility and the fact that the vehicle is on a passenger chassis, makes for a very comfortable ride.

The body was completed around [1965] 1967 as a TV Outside broadcast Control Room (“Scanner”) for ABC Television (Unit No.5), who [sold] transferred it to Thames Television in [1972] 1968 (Unit No.2). There are three side doors to the interior, in addition to two rear doors and the two cab doors. There are spacious external lockers, which on the nearside house three air conditioners. The very rigid body, of double-skinned duralumin with foam insulation, was built by Road Transport Services of Hackney, and is believed to be their No. 4030.

The vehicle is approximately 10 metres long, 2.5 metres wide and 3.6 metres high.

Around 1985 the vehicle passed to Sony Broadcast Ltd, who had it refurbished by Glover Webb Ltd. of Hamble. The original interior TV equipment including the elevating antenna mast was all removed. New interior decor, display lighting, mains-driven air conditioning, and TV and audio circuits for use in demonstrating High Definition TV Systems were installed. During the five years in this role it spent about six months in Italy, on loan to Radiotelevizione Italiana in the Milano area.

The present owners acquired the vehicle early in 1992. The exterior was repainted, and the vehicle brought up to the standards required for the Ministry of Transport Plating test. The interior décor is generally in the condition when Sony owned it. Some additions and modifications have been made, including roof windows, both for use as an artist’s studio/gallery and also for domestic requirements.

“As found” state

Photographs

Photographs of GNF951E when it was acquired by us in 2018.

GNF951E-Today-View
GNF951E-Front
GNF951E-AirCon
GNF951E-Lockers
GNF951E-Locker
GNF951E-Door-Steps
GNF951E-Drivers-Cab
GNF951E-Dashboard
GNF951E-Engine
GNF951E-Kitchen-Racks
GNF951E-Kitchen
GNF951E-Kitchen-Doors
GNF951E-Interior
GNF951E-Interior
GNF951E-Interior
GNF951E-Mast-Housing
GNF951E-Roof-Skylights
GNF951E-Roof-Fan
GNF951E Now
Front View
Air Conditioning Lockers
Lockers
Locker
Door and Steps
Driver's Cab
Dashboard
Leyland 400 Engine
Kitchen with original 19" racks!
Kitchen
Kitchen area from rear doors
Living area
Sleeping area
Living area
Original Mast Housing
Roof Skylights
Roof and Toilet Fan!
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GNF951E Now
Front View
Air Conditioning Lockers
Lockers
Locker
Door and Steps
Driver's Cab
Dashboard
Leyland 400 Engine
Kitchen with original 19" racks!
Kitchen
Kitchen area from rear doors
Living area
Sleeping area
Living area
Original Mast Housing
Roof Skylights
Roof and Toilet Fan!
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Video

A short (five minute) video describing the state of the vehicle in May 2018 with some initial thoughts as to the restoration.

Exterior renovation

The exterior renovation is now largely complete, please see this news item for details.

ABC/Thames photograph
Thames Unit 2 new paintwork and logos

Southern Television, OOW999G

OOW999G-AEC-Rally

Summary

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.

Inside Southern OOW999G
Inside Southern OOW999G
Southern TV Outside Broadcast
Southern TV Outside Broadcast
TVS OOW999G in cream
TVS OOW999G in cream
TVS OOW999G in silver
TVS 21st Birthday picture with OOW999G
OOW999G at Meridian 1995
Southern racks
Southern engineering
Southern engineering
Southern
Southern audio
Marconi MkVII “Camera 4”.
Southern at AEC Rally
Southern at AEC Rally
“OOW 999 G” showing the Plaxton’s front end.
Southern at AEC Rally
“SNT 925H” VAL coach and “OOW 999G” OB van.
Southern at Helidon Lakes
Southern evening
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Inside Southern OOW999G
Inside Southern OOW999G
Southern TV Outside Broadcast
Southern TV Outside Broadcast
TVS OOW999G in cream
TVS OOW999G in cream
TVS OOW999G in silver
TVS 21st Birthday picture with OOW999G
OOW999G at Meridian 1995
Southern racks
Southern engineering
Southern engineering
Southern
Southern audio
Marconi MkVII "Camera 4".
Southern at AEC Rally
Southern at AEC Rally
"OOW 999 G" showing the Plaxton's front end.
Southern at AEC Rally
"SNT 925H" VAL coach and "OOW 999G" OB van.
Southern at Helidon Lakes
Southern evening
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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.

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:

ARVE

Equipment

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)