In 1965, Greater London Council ordered six Commer Cobs to be used as BACVs (Breathing Apparatus Control Vehicles). DYC32C ended up, at least to start with, in Bromley. It remained with the Fire Brigade until 1977, when it was sold out of the service. Of the six ordered, DYC32C is believed to be the only one that survives today.
The Commer was, at one point, owned by a builder who cared little for the fire-based heritage and then used it as a van. However, it survived the cement dust and was sold again to someone who wanted to restore it. It was then, while rubbing the paint down, that the ‘London Fire Brigade’ livery was exposed, and as such, its history was discovered. That owner did a great deal of work to the van, including significant repairs to the front end, which had succumbed to rust.
Happily, the van was then restored to its former firefighting glory, including a full complement of period-correct equipment. A full history including copies of photos from the 1960s when the Commer was in active service, hand-written notebooks showing when fuel was put in, what the mileage was, when fluids were changed and topped up.
It was also full of fire equipment including:
- Period two-way radio fixed to dash (non-functional)
- Wooden Breathing Apparatus tally board with name markers
- Period London Fire Brigade map of London
- Period first aid kit, fully stocked with original items
- Wooden box containing radiation kit
- London Fire Brigade Control Unit box with radio, headset and battery
- Two yellow and black checked tabards
- One red and white checked tabard
- Tarpaulin cover for van
- Winkworth silver bell
- Functional rotating/flashing blue light for roof
- Red and white flashing light (not tested)
- Two period Fireman’s helmets (one with Commander livery)
- Two Fireman’s peaked caps
- Two axes on canvas belts
- Two period uniform tunics with silver buttons
- Two pairs of Fireman’s black leggings
- Two face masks in green canvas bags
- Two jacks and wheel nut removers
- One London Fire Brigade petrol can
- One London Fire Brigade wooden box with rope and another face mask
- One pair of period Firefighter’s boots
Interestingly, the vans supplied to the LFB were fitted with 1,494cc engines rather than the standard 1,390cc units. This was due to the fact the van would always be laden, and would of course be pushed hard in the event of an emergency.
‘This Commer Cob appealed on many levels,’ says Car & Classic’s Chris Pollitt. ‘It’s a genuine service vehicle, time served, proper job. One of only six ordered in ’65, and of those, the only one believed to have survived. We were delighted to find it a new home. It’s a part of social history, of automotive history and as such, it would be a joy and an honour to own it.’
For more information, go to www.carandclassic.co.uk