A very British way of serving tea!
Built in 1955 as a go-anywhere radio signals truck used in the British Army until it was released on may 7th 1985 and subsequently converted into a vintage tea, coffee and cake stall – ‘make tea, not War’. Originally created to take advantage of the lucrative demand for vintage teas and cake at shows, as it was ran alongside a full time tea room business in Birmingham. Due to a reshuffle in their business, the Austin K9 became surplus to requirement and ended up in a classic vintage auction in Leominster, Herefordshire, 164 miles away from us.
History of the K9
By early 1939 even though the government where not yet fully convinced that war was inevitable, the various departments within Whitehall were preparing for the worst and were busy putting British industry on a war footing.
Austin, the motor car manufactures, was handed the task of supply of trucks in the two – to five ton range, a series which was quickly put into production as the ‘k’ range, the number after the ‘K’ denoting carrying capacity in tons.
The k9 was introduced in 1952 and was manufactured until 1955 where 9,500 had been built.
They were used as multipurpose military trucks initially available for only the British army and Royal Air Force.
The K9 was a versatile, sturdy 6- cylinder, 60bhp, 3,462cc petrol engine mated with a basic 4 – speed gear box, adaptable for many roles from ambulance to technician vehicles, the majority however were signal vehicles.
The signal trucks where very distinctive by having a ‘box’ like body making them look like a large van and the cab looked very similar to the pre-war Bedford, Austin soon became known as the ‘Birmingham Bedford’.
The K series Austin k9s remained in use within the reserve forces of the British Army until the 1980’s when they were finally declared obsolete and sold on.
The Tea Truck was born!
On the day of the auction Dad and I drove 4 hours to the classic and vintage sale in Leominster. Once we arrived we had to wait until the last few lots for the truck to come up. Throughout the day dad was teaching me how the auction house worked and what I needed to do as this was my first time bidding in an auction.
We had a quick look around the truck – not to look too interested; dad said it was in a good enough condition for him to drive it back if I was successful.
As it got closer and closer to the lot I got more and more nervous, had I just driven all that way to come back empty handed?
I chose my space in the auction room carefully, so I had the maximum view of any other bidders. Dad offered to do the bidding for me, but I was determined by this stage to bid for it myself. The last thing dad said to me before the lot number came up was ‘remember your limit and stick to it!’
The description of the truck came out and the bidding began- I held back, let them fight it out before the serious bidders came in I thought. Now was my chance! The bids had slowed down, I raised my hand- I went unnoticed- suddenly the auctioneer caught a glimpse of me. In shock, he announced the amount I’d raised my hand for followed by ‘to the lady by the wall’. With that the whole room of all men turned in surprise. The biggest lot of the auction was being bid on by a young 20 year old female!
The bidding war had begun between myself and the man behind. Just my luck, the only person behind me and he was my competition. The adrenaline increased and dad who was supposed to be the sensible one whispered ‘go on, just a bit more’. Telling by the length of time my opponent took to bid each time, we knew he’d be close or have gone over his limit. I halved my next bid, risky move- would it pay off?
Luckily it did – the hammer fell and the truck was mine!
As the auctioneer finished the bidding and asked for my number the whole room again turned to see who the victor was and then a roar of whispering broke out as they saw it was me.
At the end of the sale the auctioneer came out and congratulated me on my purchase.
After paying my due and collecting the keys, it was time to move the truck out of the auction house. A few men who witnessed the sale came out to watch, but ended up helping attach the trailer and guiding it out of the auction house onto the main road.
So the journey home had begun, myself driving my car and dad driving the truck. It took 5 and a half hours to get back to sunny Dorset which wasn’t so sunny by the time we got back.
And from there the adventure has only just begun….