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ALL WHEEL DRIVE COMPANY LIMITED (AWD Co Ltd) 1954-1967
VICKERS AWD LIMITED (Vickers-AWD Ltd) 1962-1971
This AWD firm should not be confused by a second small engineering concern of the same name but were known as AWD Engineering Limited that started in 1970 at Dunstable in Bedfordshire under the British GMC management who were the owners of their neighbours the IBC Ltd factory where BEDFORD, COMMER, DODGE trucks were made and this AWD was a conversion firm owned by David John Brown the founder of DJB/Artix, this AWD were the makers of the famous AWD-Multiwheeler brand based on 4X4 and 6X6 Bedford T-Series until they closed in 1992.
ALL WHEEL DRIVE CO LTD was started in early 1954. This wellknown firm was based at Camberley in Surrey and became more commonly known by the initials AWD. They were specialized in offering vehicles with all the wheels driven by converting vehicle chassis with all wheel driven special axles and built or installed modified AWD 4WD, 6WD and 8WD transmissions and they also made offroad heavy duty chassis for several domestic manufacturers mostly for the construction and army industry aimed at British loaders, mobilecranes and dumptrucks. This company worked from a large warehouse in central Camberley where goods vehicles and other selected roadmachines were converted for offroad go-anywhere driving but retained their running gears and AWD Co Ltd accepted orders and contract deals from numerous British manufacturers and most of AWD vehicles manufactured were cranecarriers of many sizes for some UK crane specialists and occasional lorrynames, earthmovers and farmtractors were also rebuilt or converted with special AWD heavyduty go-anywhere axles one of their services and specialities with great success to AWD.
The company was formed in 1954 by John Andrews and Neil Davis two mechanical experts who had bought a secondhand County 4X4 diesel farmtractor and decided to partially dismantled it to understand how their tractor mechanicals worked and how the 4WD system was made. Then few weeks later they rebuilt it again but using their own new heavyduty homemade axles and took some interesting ideas in how to use 4WD on just anything on wheels to use on any ground so this triggered the decision to begin with their new company under the brandname of AWD Co Ltd. Both men now business partners they decided to focus deeper on plentiful UK Ford trucks that were found all over the place and modified them with 4X4 as experimental models giving them experience enough in the off highway truck market and decided to construct a couple of 6x6 prototype units that were later used for a cranetruck prototype based on the famous AEC Matador lorry in a new heavily modified version by the two partners and they drove their ready new model up to Middlesex and it was shown to wellknown and famous AEC Ltd of Southall near London for their own general evaluation of this allnew 6WD vehicle something AEC had never built yet except for wartime vehicle orders.
AEC were already one of the earliest but few UK truckmakes to include at least a 4X4 model in their range so they were quite impressed at the Southall factory and showed an almost imediate interest in this AWD Prototype One that was to reappear later on as a new model called AEC-AWD 6WD cranecarrier one of them built is shown here.Except for Leyland, Foden and Scammell most of the other major UK lorry manufactures were not geared up to supply customers and takers with low volume or one-off models so AWD Co Ltd quickly gained orders to supply them with these AWD go anywhere specials. By 1960 they had built a 1000 machines and more than 1300 by 1961. The AEC Millitant chassis was converted for use as a mobile excavator by Blaw-Knox and a mobilecrane was made by Jones Cranes using a new AWD-Foden 6x6 cranecarrier both of these as an order from the MOD. Leeds based cranetruck maker called Smith Rodley made several 6x6 models on AWD-Leyland Hippos chassis. The Ford Thames Trader a much longer version of the standard Ford Thames was also converted to be used as a offroad dumptruck that sold reasonably well while this classic lorry remained available.
AWD CO LTD WORKS WITH JONES CRANES LIMITEDEdit
Later by the early 1960s Jones Cranes Limited of Letchworth started a close and friendly mechanical engineering business with AWD Co Ltd who agreed to manufacture and supply Jones crane and mobilecrane firm with brandnew 6X6 cranecarriers already built with one-man cab on the left or right corner at the front and both companies worked together closely ever since. This became an instant success for both manufacturers and Jones were quickly one of their biggest if not the highest customer for AWD Co Ltd while Jones Cranes enjoyed tremendous cranes sales at the time.
The whole business and production rights was then reorganized and resumed by another British major important and independent mechanical engineering larger firm called Vickers Limited ( NOT the UK Bulldozer and Tractor firm of the same name ) in 1962 who was then later renamed as Vickers All Wheel Drive Limited or Vickers AWD Ltd for short who were from South Marston in Wiltshire until 1971. Around 1968 the company restarted manufacturing selected AWD-Jones, BHCC Iron Fairy, Priestman Brothers and Smiths of Rodley large and medium sized cranecarriers all powered with the latest TD mechanicals with modern hydraulics too for their new heavy vehicles and some of them even used automatic transmissions, most cranecarriers included fulltime 6WD and 8WD chassis, had larger oneman cabs and hydraulic jacks for stability on any ground and employing these tecniques too for opening and closing the cranejibs and telescopic arms so every model this company produced became known as the Vickers-AWD V-500 Series cranecarriers although some versions carried a low version of the famous British Motor Panels two men cab.
The whole manufacturing and business was later acquired and run by the independent The Group 600 empire in 1971 and these cranecarrier models were sold under the Crane Travellers name for a time, a subsidiary that was part of the giant Jones Cranes mechanical engineering operation. By the mid 1970s most models were renamed JONES 561 for example and were made or were modified by Jones Cranes Ltd themselves by adding a few technical updates and upgrading the entire cranetruck range that they were manufacturing by now themselves gradually improving them and these were now renamed AWD-JONES Series. They later became the last owners of AWD Co Ltd until the 1990s.
- CONTRACTS AND ORDERS FROM OUTSIDE MANUFACTURERS AND CONVERSIONS
- Batch of 15 Excavator carriers for NCK Ltd of Sheffield.
- Batch of 50 Leyland Comets 4x4 trucks for Burmah Oil Co.
- Crane chassis for AEC 6X6 Diesel offroad models.
- Crane chassis for some BHCC Iron Fairy Ltd of Compton.
- Crane chassis for Douglas Equipment Ltd.
- Crane chassis for Jones Cranes Ltd of Letchworth.
- Crane chassis for Leyland Motors Ltd.
- Crane chassis for Thomas Smith & Sons (Rodley) Ltd of Leeds.
- Design and development work for brand Michigan Loaders.
- Development and manufacturing of several original one-man offroad cranecarriers.
- Ford D-Series 6WD lorries used as 6X6 tractors for the Army.
- Ford Thames conversion in 4X4 and 6X6 for construction and forestry work.
- Special Axles for AEC and earthmover makes Bray and Weatherill.
- Special Gearboxes for AEC and other domestic brands.
- Various AEC lorry conversions for the MOD and RAF.
- Various cranecarriers made for Bedford, ERF/Foden and other UK lorrybrands.
Some of these cranetrucks are still under constant use in parts of the UK, Malta, Australia and other Commonwealth countries and are now used as we speak for numerous tasks mainly in and around Malta and UK too can be found and seen at old Classic And Vintage shows and International motor vehicle shows and are a common site sometimes at Classic Machinery shows that often happen now and then. Also in the UK some are on display at Museums and still work after all these years and maintained by caring mechanics and enthusiasts. On some Steam Railway Museums and British Rail Museums several are shown working or on display and well kept for mechanical purposes and studies.
- Classic Plant & Machinery Magazine, vol 2 no.5, Pt 1, page 28, by Nick Baldwin.