What do you do at a television outside broadcast (OB) when you’re miles from the nearest mains supply? Or you have mains but nowhere near enough current for the heavy demands of an OB? The answer is a mobile generator.
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.
This is our latest (accidental) acquisition, a 1953 BBC Generator (power vehicle), registration number NGF 728, BBC vehicle number B.728. It came up at the CVA Doncaster commercial vehicle and plant online auction on 20 October 2020.
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 (some kindly provided by CVA Auctions) show how P5 looks now.
NGF728 at auction
NGF728 at auction
NGF728 showing generator
NGF7281 dashboard - 70466 miles recorded
NGF728 Generator and Diesel engine
NGF728 being transported
NGF728 in storage awaiting restoration
There are some images of P5 online, and it also appears briefly in this YouTube Video from the Grand National in 1982 (it’s about five minutes in). One of the people says something about “the latest in modern technology”!
All outside broadcast (OB) units need electric power but supplying it lacks the interest of the OB trucks themselves. At BECG our thoughts turned to this vital subject with our acquisition of a 1953 BBC generator truck. In this article, we survey the various ways in which power was provided for BBC OB trucks and look in particular at the 10 generator trucks that the BBC operated.