This 1919 REO Speedwagon is unique in the British Isles, having been imported into the country from Ohio by Greg Lawson in 2005. Whilst there are other Speedwagons in this country, this is the only motorised panel hearse. The American hearse was somewhat different to the English variety, where the coffin was usually on display behind etched glass side panels, often surrounded by flowers as is the current practice. The Americans seemed to prefer to hide the coffin behind elaborate carved panels producing something akin to a temple on wheels. This particular example stands something like eight feet high, and consists of a framework of wood pillars similar to staircase balustrades, with the space in between filled with zinc coated steel panels (as used in the UK for washing/scrubbing boards) pressed in such a way as to look like draped curtains hiding the coffin. Originally the hearses were painted either black,white or grey, black ones being for elderly people, white ones for children and grey ones for those not in the above categories. This particular one had been a grey one, but on acquisition much of the paintwork had been stripped off and it was thought that it would look better in varnished wood with black "curtains" The engine is an example of the simplicity of early internal combustion engines and the early eample of rack and pinion steering has to be seen to be believed though it does mean that the vehicle does not wander about on the road as some later vehicles do!. The oldest motorised hearse in the country, it is available for hire.
Now a recovery vehicle, LWR424 was delivered new in May 1953 to the West Yorkshire Road Car Co, as a double decker. As new it carried fleet number 858, but was renumbered DGW4 in April 1954.
It spent all its working life at the Leeds depot being delicensed on 28th February 1969.
In January 1970 it was moved to Harrogate and in July 1970 work started on the conversion to a tow bus, this taking 2 years, with the vehicle re-entering service in July 1972.
In its new role as a tow bus, it was sent to Bradford depot where it worked until being withdrawn in November 1978, when it was sold to North’s, the Sherburn-in-Elmnet dealers.
After a period in North’s yard 4044 was purchased for preservation to the York Historic Vehicle Group, it then passed to Neil Mackereth and the finally to the Lawson family in December 1993.
The vehicle is now being housed at the Aire Valley Transport Collection in Bradford, and still tows buses occasionally.
“Millie” the Militant is The Aire Valley Transport Group’s recovery vehicle. She was delivered new to the Army in 1953 as a tractor for medium artillery and heavy anti-aircraft guns and was fitted with a 5-ton winch. Full details of her army career are uncertain and the group would welcome any further information.
She passed into civilian life in the mid 1960s when acquired by AEC (later British Leyland) for recovery work based at its Nottingham service depot, from where she was acquired in May 1994. Having operated on trade plates since withdrawal from military service and latterly used internally for shunting at the Nottingham depot, she did not receive a civilian registration until 1994.
Over the winter months of 1994/95, she was completely refurbished by a small group. The all-steel gun tractor body has been replaced by a coachbuilt recovery vehicle body incorporating a workbench, tool boxes and a 6-ton Harvey Frost crane.