ESSEX MAY NOT BE THE MOST OBVIOUS DESTINATION IF YOU’RE ON THE HUNT FOR SOME CLASSIC NORTH AMERICAN TRUCKS. BUT VG NASH AND SONS FINDS SUCH VEHICLES WELL SUITED TO THE BUSINESS OF RECOVERY THERE, ALONGSIDE A NUMBER OF EUROPEAN-BUILT TRUCKS IT ALSO RUNS.
Phil and Sam Nash of Essex-based VG Nash and Sons, the long-established vehicle recovery and commercial vehicle engineering firm, have their own way of doing things. They know the trucks and equipment that fit their requirements and if they can’t find what they want from another supplier, they’ll just build or modify a vehicle to suit. The recovery fleet is home to trucks and trailers from both sides of the Atlantic and Phil, in particular, has a passion for older American trucks, cars and motorcycles, with a collection of working and preserved vehicles that brings a smile to the face of any serious enthusiast of classic equipment. If you like big capacity US diesels that sound like a truck engine and produce lots of power, he is certainly the man to see. While the Nashes might have a passion for classic equipment, their business is firmly set in the present day, offering a full range of recovery, vehicle repair and maintenance services. And it can handle both the latest generation of electronically controlled commercial vehicles and almost any type of vehicle from previous generations.
DAF’S ONGOING PROGRAMME TO REPLACE TWO-THIRDS OF ITS HEAVY TRUCK RANGE SAW IT FINALLY UNVEIL THE XD TO THE PUBLIC AT THE IAA SHOW RECENTLY. ON SCENE RUNS THE RULER OVER THE NEW MODEL.
DAF’s trucks have proved popular with recovery operators for generations as the basis of all types of recovery vehicles. The many chassis, driveline and axle configurations make it possible to find a model suited to almost any recovery application. The existing CF and XF ranges have been in production for many years and will be familiar to readers. Both will remain in production for European markets well into 2023 and will almost certainly be offered in other markets for some while yet.
The Dutch manufacturer has topped the UK sales league for heavy trucks for well over a quarter of a century. Almost everyone in this business will have driven, repaired or owned a DAF at some point. The company is not given to making dramatic changes to its product range; its policy is to stick with the same basic design for as long as possible, making regular updates and upgrades to remain competitive and improve the product. So when DAF embarks on a project to replace two-thirds of its heavy truck ranges, it’s quite a momentous undertaking.
WHEN RECOVERY NEWBIES SAM AND COLIN CANHAM BOUGHT OUT ESTABLISHED EAST ANGLIAN BUSINESS DJ SPALL RECOVERY, YOU MIGHT HAVE EXPECTED THEM TO STUTTER ALONG FOR A WHILE OR EVEN FAIL, GIVEN THEIR RELATIVE LACK OF SKILLS AND EXPERIENCE IN THIS SECTOR. BUT 18 MONTHS ON, THE FIRM’S OLD CUSTOMERS ARE HAPPY, THE FLEET HAS NEARLY QUADRUPLED IN SIZE, AND THE FUTURE LOOKS ROSIER THAN EVER.
DJ Spall is a well-known name in the East Anglian recovery world, and Derek Spall himself is a well-known figure in the area. But this isn’t a story about Derek, who retired from this part of his business in May last year, retaining the recycling division at his original base in the Suffolk village of Dallinghoo. It’s about Sam Canham and his father Colin, the new owners of DJ Spall Recovery, who are based in Great Blakenham on the edge of Ipswich. Anyone taking on DJ Spall Recovery was going to have a hard act to follow. But that’s doubly the case for new owners who were not time-served recovery men themselves and wouldn’t be working from the same premises. Sam, who is 29 years old, is very much the boss at the firm, but it was his dad and fellow director Colin who decided to buy the business initially. Colin, who owns Ipswich Truck Services, has known Derek since the mid-1980s when he served as an apprentice mechanic at Ben Cooper Engineering in Claydon.
JOHN LEACH WAS THE MANAGING DIRECTOR OF GM RECOVERY, ONE OF THE LARGEST OPERATORS IN THE NORTH-WEST. BUT LAST YEAR, AFTER MORE THAN 25 SUCCESSFUL YEARS, HE SHUT UP SHOP AND SOLD ALL HIS VEHICLES. ON SCENE FINDS OUT WHY.
Sitting in the living room of his comfortable bungalow in Ashton-under-Lyne, John Leach is clearly still as passionate as ever about the recovery business he worked in for so long. But it’s a passion that’s tinged with sadness and frustration, even bitterness, after he gave it all up in 2021. After leaving school in 1969, John served his time with Oldham Passenger Transport, and on completion of his apprenticeship became a technician working on a fleet of nearly 3,000 buses. “They put me on the road in central Manchester and it was all new to me,” he remembers with a smile. “I’d never been to the centre of Manchester in my life! But it was all seat-of-the-pants stuff. There were no mobile phones, no internet, no one to ask. You just had to use your grey matter. After a few years, I got put in charge of the department, and that meant I had to attend all serious accidents involving buses, which was another eye-opener. In those days, the fire brigade wasn’t trained to dismantle buses, so I was sent to advise on where to lift, where not to lift, where to cut, where not to cut, and so on.”
MARK SAMMANS WAS ONLY JUST OLD ENOUGH TO VOTE WHEN HE SET HIS BUSINESS UP, BUT MORE THAN 25 YEARS LATER, MOUNT PLEASANT MOTORING SERVICES IS THRIVING, WITH A SMART FLEET OF VEHICLES AND CUSTOMERS ACROSS A WIDE AREA, THANKS TO ITS HARD WORK ETHIC AND COMMITMENT TO SERVICE.
It was back in 1995 that a fresh-faced, 18-year-old Mark Sammans travelled to Doncaster to a vehicle auction, looking for something suitable but cheap to start his business with. There, he spotted a Ford Cargo with a crew cab and beavertail. For the bargain price of £1,800 it was his – and Mount Pleasant Motoring Services was born.
Fast-forward 27 years, and the business now runs multiple vehicles providing recovery services and more to a wide geographical region across Cheshire, South Yorkshire and the High Peak area of Derbyshire. Despite his tender years at the time, Mark had always been ambitious, and since leaving school had been doing various things to earn money. He started off working in his family’s garage in Grindleford, but also dabbled in buying and selling cars. Like many car-mad youngsters of the early to mid-1990s, Mark was into the Fast Ford scene, and bought and sold various vehicles over the years to others within the same circles.
OUR FIVE-PART SERIES ON AIR CUSHION DEVELOPER AND RECOVERY INDUSTRY LEGEND BILL JACKSON CONCLUDES WITH A LOOK AT HIS MOVE INTO THE USA, WHERE HE SOON BECAME JUST AS HIGHLY RESPECTED A FIGURE IN RECOVERY CIRCLES AS HE WAS BACK HOME IN THE UK.
It took some time to get most recovery operators in the UK to appreciate the benefits of the air cushion technology that Bill Jackson first devised back in the 1960s, and to understand, as he did, that it was the volume of air that provided the lifting power, rather than the pressure. But once the industry here started to buy into air cushion equipment after his many demonstrations and to realise the benefits for itself, it became a lot easier to secure further sales. And so Bill began looking for a new challenge – shortly afterwards deciding that the North American market was now ripe for the introduction of air cushion technology, too.
He was already a regular visitor to the USA and Canada as he liked both the lifestyle and the business approach there, and had many years’ experience in dealing with US companies, starting with the original Ernest Holmes Company (until his parting of the ways with it) and then as the UK distributor for three other recovery equipment manufacturers – Vulcan, Nomar and Wreck-master.
FOUNDED IN 1999 AND BASED JUST SOUTH OF SHEFFIELD IN THE VILLAGE OF RENISHAW, QUICKMISSION HAS ENJOYED A SUCCESSFUL 23 YEARS WORKING IN GENERAL HAULAGE AND EXPANDED INTO VEHICLE RECOVERY IN 2006. THE FOUNDER’S INVOLVEMENT IN THE RECOVERY SECTOR DATES BACK EVEN FURTHER, HOWEVER, AS ON SCENE FINDS OUT.
Quickmission’s recovery business stems from founder and director Andrew Ellis’ passion and long-standing mechanical background. His first taste of recovery work came at the tender of just 16. Straight out of school, he started work at a local garage and although too young to drive a truck himself at the time, he still gained experience in helping to recover the garage’s own vehicles back to base.
“That’s when the itch really first started for me,” he explains. “I’d always been interested in cars and engines. I bought my first truck in 1988 and just over a decade later, Quickmission was born.”
From that single truck, Quickmission’s fleet and business have blossomed. Today, it has 15 vehicles on its books, servicing both its haulage customers and its recovery operation.