1960 J1 Bedford truck.

Lyle Southwell


This is my 1960 J1 Bedford truck. The J1 is the smallest of the J series Bedfords and the only one that has the single rear wheels rather than duals. It has a 214 cubic inch straight six long stroke petrol engine with a four speed crash gearbox and is rated as a 1 1/2 ton truck. As such it is a bit like an oversized utility. You will notice that this early model does not have blinkers on top of the guards like most of the J series trucks.


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My J1 Bedford truck.


This truck began life in the Lake Macquarie area working for a tyre company carrying tyres. It originally had a green cab. It came up for sale in about 1970 and my dad was keen to buy it but before doing so it was in an accident and the cab was written off. A mechanic in Cooranbong (Harry Tofer?) replaced the Cab with this cream J2 cab after which my father purchased it. To his disappointment the J2 cab was in very rough condition when fitted.


After purchasing the truck my father built the rear canopy as seen in the pictures. This canopy extends the length by 2 feet making the length of the truck almost twice as long as the length of the wheelbase. 


In 1975, when I was 2 years old, my parents sold their house at Arcadia Vale and our family of four loaded all our possessions into the back, drove to Sydney and caught the “Trader” to Hobart. From there we drove to the Huon Valley (Glen Huon) where my parents had bought 25 acres of mostly undeveloped land. There was an old shed on the property and the contents of the truck were emptied into the shed while we moved into the back of the truck. The canopy was removed and placed on a slab and a bath was installed under the front section of the canopy. Mum and dad slept above where the cab went and my brother and I slept in bunk beds on one side where you can see the two windows one above the other. A home-made pot belly stove kept us warm and cooked our food. The base is 13ft long. We lived there until we could move into the house that my father built.

At this time my father converted it into a tipper. It ran of a winch at the top of an A frame between the cab and the tray. The winch was made from an old starter motor and flywheel. The truck carried 52 loads of gravel to build our driveway and was then used to carry building supplies while we built the house. To deal with the mud my father built brackets for the rear wheels that could be bolted on after it was stuck and made the wheels kind of square. It was spectacular to watch how much mud they could fling and they never failed to get it out.


When I was 10, like all country kids of the era, my brother and I learned to drive in this truck collecting hay in the paddock. The clutch works right at the top in the last half inch of travel which allowed me to reach it. The low first gear and long stroke engine made it almost impossible to stall.


My father made legs for the canopy using Austin 1800 jacks to turn it into a "jack on, jack off” camper. Once a year we would drive it to a week-long church camp in Devonport. Often we would spend a few extra days taking various scenic routes back down south. At other times we would use it for Huon Pine expeditions to the west coast. Having a truck to live in with a pot belly stove made us the true glampers of these expeditions even though we would be sleeping beside huon pine logs, chainsaws etc.


John Ashton (from our club) used this truck for about a year while building his house in the Sandfly area south of Hobart. We met John and Colleen when we moved to Glen Huon as they attended the same church.


After using the truck to build a second house in the late 1980’s it eventually was retired to a friend’s paddock in Glen Huon. My father moved to Africa and it gradually settled up to it axles in the dirt while a tree grew up from under one side of it. In 2014 after sitting for 20 years my wife said one day, “Can we go and get your dad’s old truck?” What a great wife and what a great suggestion! She comes from a family that has always had classics (1950 F100 and 1951 Ford twin spinner coupe) and had bought herself the Austin A55 Cambridge some years before.


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The truck where it was found. Here it is jacked up out of the dirt and back is on tyres that hold air.

The head had no usable parts. Not even the valve springs could be salvaged.

We flew down for three weeks over Christmas and to our surprise the engine still turned over. There was no compression and the head had to be replaced due to having been run on unleaded fuel for many years, but once that was done it started straight up. 3 weeks of work and I was able to drive it to my brother’s house and hour away in Hobart. 18 months later and another two weeks of work saw it ready for the long journey back to its place of origin in the Newcastle region. The journey took 3 days during which it broke a fan belt and had the coil break down.


Since we have had it’ it has made an annual pilgrimage to Coffs Harbour for our church camp there much as it did during my childhood. It takes a full day to get there. Who knows, maybe one day we will by acreage, live in the back again and build a house . . . 


At some stage I will replace the Cab with a J3 cab. They are all the same. The J3 Cab is in perfect condition and just needs to be painted. I could have bought a J1 in much better condition and requiring less work but not with as many memories. The tribute artwork on the door will read:


A. C. Southwell and Sons

Glen Huon




Lyle Southwell.

September, 2020