Myall's of Bassingbourn VAM5 is photographed crossing Shepreth Bridge while been driven by the author. Photo Richard Haughey
The Bedford VAM
CLICK HERE FOR LISTING OF KNOWN SURVIVORS
A brief history
In order to keep up with market trends, Vauxhall Motors needed a medium size front entrance PSV chassis to supplement its already successful SB. Yeates had already modified the SB chassis to front entrance with its FE44 project, (Front Entrance 44 seats) but not with the approval of Vauxhall, who maintained that this modification was not recommended & could result in undue stress on the chassis, causing cracking or fracture. However, Vauxhall recognised that front entrance was required by the bus & coach industry, & as a result, they launched the 36 ft (10.97metre) VAM (VA series medium length) chassis in the summer of 1965. With a vlheelbase of 193 inches (4.9metres) it, like the VAL, (VA series long) had an 80 inch front overhang to allow for the entrance door. The seating capacity was between 41 to 45 seats.
The VAM initially had a choice of three engines, all 6 cylinder front vertically mounted. The VAM 3 with Bedford 300 cu in petrol; a V AM 5 with Bedford 330 cu in diesel; & VAM 14 with Leyland 400 cu in diesel engine. In 1967 a larger 466 cu in Bedford diesel was fitted, & the model designated as the VAM 70.
The VAM 3 had an option of 4 or 5 speed synchromesh gearbox, whilst the diesel engine models had a 5 speed gearbox as standard. The V AM 3 also differed from the diesel engined variants having hydraulic vacuum, as opposed to hydraulic air brakes. The complete VAM range was fitted with a hypoid bevel rear axle.
Over 9000 VAM chassis were built up to 1971 mainly bodied by Strachans, Willowbrook, Duple Plaxton & Alexander both as a coach & dual purpose or service bus bodies. In 1971 the VAM was replaced by the new generation, under floor mid. engined YRQ chassis.
The VAM in preservation
Only some twenty plus VAM's are known by the author to be in preservation, existing as caravans, or in a very few cases still in service as PSV's.
One notable vehicle in the last category is FJE 982D a Duple Venture bodied VAM 5 which is now back in active service with G & G Myall of Bassingbourn, Royston, Herts after lying semi derelict in a field until restored by John Myall between 1993 & 2002. FJE 982D was new to Loates of Bassingbourn in 1966, & apart from a spell at nearby Ashwell in the early 1970's, serving with Blue Cream, & Gentle of Ashwell, it has, for the greater part of its life lived at Bassingbourn. Myall acquired FJE 982D by 1980 & ran it until the late 80's when it was withdrawn & laid up. Today it is kept mainly for special private hire work such as weddings, but is sometimes pressed into service on other work.
What is believed to be the only other restored Duple Venture bodied VAM, is Chris Elmes of Pontesbury petrol engined VAM 3, (JBW 527D) which was new to Hambridge of Kidlington also in 1966. Both vehicles were together at the 2002 Bedford Gathering.
Another Duple Venture bodied VAM 3 is still with Gange of Cowes, IoW., but it is not in good condition having been withdrawn & left in yard, it is understood that this vehicle may be for sale (contact John Gange 01983 294444). In December 2009 another VAM 5 with Duple Venture body was offered for sale on eBay, it was DJL 126D new to Fowlers of Holbeach Drove in 1966. Although converted to a mobile home it has been acquired by Andrew Fowler, current MD of Fowlers, & is to be restored back to a coach.
Moving onto VAM 14's, JUF 244E which was new to Rambler of Hastings as EDY 565E, is still retained by the company & remains in their livery.
Two VAM 70's are known to be active & have attended the Bedford Gathering in recent years. They are NDL 375G, now with Chris Duffy of Macclesfield, it was new to Pauls Tours, Isle of Wight and BWP 727H with Russell Price of Bishops Castle, it was new to Regent of Redditch.
Only seven Plaxton bodied VAMs are listed to be preserved, with only NHA 589F a VAM70 owned by K. Warren of Tonbridge which is known to be active on the rally circuit. No examples of Strachens, Willowbrook or Alexander are known although a Duffy example WZJ 724 is listed as being with the Transport Museum Society of Ireland.
Buying a VAM
With few preserved they do not come up for sale often. The VAM 3 being petrol is going to be expensive to run at around 7 to 8 mpg. The smaller diesel engined versions (VAM 5 & 14) should give around 18 mpg whilst the VAM70 would be nearer 15 mpg. Price of a good fully restored example should fetch around £8000, an unrestored, & needing restoration example between ££500 & £1000. A runner with MOT would be priced within the £1500 - £3000 range
Bedford Genuine Parts 01580 89288 or Ditton Service Station http://www.bedfordparts.co.uk/contact.shtml
John Morter (new & used Bedford Spares) 01953 602581
Bernie Smith, Broughton, Northants tel 01536 790790 email firstname.lastname@example.org
chassis parts for OB, SB & V series, and more. (28 hp engines in stock)
L.W Vass, Ampthill http://www.vass.co.uk/ (330 diesel engines, gearboxes etc)
W H Way & Sons, Pontypridd tel 01443 486171 or 07831 888912 (Andrew Way) (engines & gearboxes)
Past Parts, Bury St Edmunds (Brake cylinders) http://www.pastparts.co.uk/
Metal Mouldings, Unit 2-3 Guild Road, Bromsgrove B60 2BY tel 07534 454269 (alloy extrusion & herzim strip)
Water Pumps (Classic Water Pumps) http://www.classicwaterpumps.co.uk/
VAM for Hire
C G Myall of Bassingbourn, Royston, Herts tel. 01763 243225 have FJE 982D for hire for weddings & special occasions
If you have any information relating to any of the featured vehicles or know of any other vehicles, waiting to be rediscovered & could be featured on this website, please contact us by using one of the methods below
Telephone John Wakefield on 01223 843802
Email The Wakefield Files
Return to the Wakefield Files index
(c) John Wakefield August 2004