Coles & Sons
Not many transport operators can claim more than 30,000 social media followers, or to have helped out James Bond, but this one can.
1st November 2022
Anyone remotely involved in the UK custom truck scene – either as a show vehicle owner, a spectator at trucking events or just as an armchair enthusiast – is more than likely to be familiar with the name Coles & Sons. For it's no understatement to say that when it comes to truck customising this Banbury-based firm, a leading exponent of the art, has acquired a status that can only be described as legendary.
Over the years, Coles & Sons have delighted audiences with an eye-popping array of custom trucks – they even operated the iconic Coca-Cola Christmas truck at one point. But it's for their custom Scania vehicles the company is best known, and today at the pinnacle of the firm's ten-strong all Scania fleet is a flagship model truck, Mexicano. Driven by Dan Coles, a third-generation member of the Coles family, it's the vehicle featured in the 2022 Scania calendar.
Beneath Mexicano's scintillating paint job and mass of custom equipment, much of which is designed and marketed by the Coles family via its custom kit shop, lies a 580 S V8 tractor unit. As Dan's father Gary – who together with his brother Darren and father Nigel is one of the company's joint Managing Directors – explains, no stone has been left unturned in creating this truly outstanding vehicle:
"Mexicano is all about being the best; we spent a full 12-months getting it ready for the road," says Gary. "Starting with the paint, we've gone for a deep indigo base overlaid with airbrushing by Matt of Bristol. He does all our custom paintwork, in my opinion no one else comes close. The graphics capture the spirit of Mexico; they contain everything from traditional Mexican figures and images to Day of the Dead masks.
"In terms of equipment fitted to the truck, we've really gone to town this time. We have our own sun visor and a Coles air dam at the front, together with roof-mounted air horns and LED bullet lights. There's more spotlights and a Trux bullbar over the grille. At the back, we've fitted a flush panel to the rear of the cab to create a smooth, blank canvas for Matt to work his magic on. Then we added twin vertical exhaust stacks and raised the side skirts so the catwalk is flush across the width of the vehicle. As the side skirts now cover the fuel filler, we've added hydraulics which pops them open to reveal the cap when we need to fill up. For added impact, light bars have been fitted underneath the side skirts. Moving back along the chassis, we have a hinge-up lid over the batteries, fibreglass rear mudguards, and all-stainless steel rear light clusters."
To the casual observer, Mexicano's air dam and side skirt light bars appear to leave the truck sitting perilously close to the ground. "But that's not an issue because the truck is on full air suspension – we can raise the entire chassis up in just a few seconds to clear a ramp if need be," explains Gary.
Climb the four steps into Mexicano's S-series cab and a visual treat awaits. "We stripped the cab right back to a bare shell," says Gary. "Every bit of plastic has been de-grained and painted to the same standard as the exterior. The interior has airbrushed and leather-faced panels, with the key colours accents being the deep indigo and white. Extra speakers have been incorporated into the panels and there's an electric blind featuring the Coles logo which comes down across the windscreen for privacy – that looks really cool!"
Mexicano has been supplied by Scania Banbury, with whom Coles & Sons has a long-standing relationship. In common with all its other vehicles, the truck has been taken with a three year repair and maintenance (R&M) contract, which the firm extends for up to seven years to ensure cover throughout a trucks' lifetime in the fleet.
"Scania Banbury does all our R&M, which means our vehicles are always in the best possible operational condition," says Gary. "The service and backup we receive from Scania Banbury, together with what Scania stands for – which to me is reliability, performance, safety, comfort and low total cost of ownership thanks to excellent residuals – makes them the truck for us, no question about it.
"Of all those factors, none is more important than reliability. That's because we run six artics a day on hospital work. We pick up sterilised equipment from a number of suppliers who pre-pack it into sets ready for use in operations. We then deliver to a hub, from where it is distributed to hospitals by van. We also collect used equipment from the hub and return it to the suppliers for re-sterilising. It's a merry-go-round service which depends totally on reliable transport.
"Our other work includes delivering catering to large scale events and transporting exhibition stands, both at home and abroad. Everything we do is more about volume than payload, hence our decision to run 4x2 tractor units, which are plated at 40-tonnes gross train weight."
Another transport task undertaken by Coles & Sons is one which would be the envy of any movie buff:
"We're also involved in some high profile film work," says Gary. "In fact, we've done the last three James Bond movies, transporting cars and kit to wherever they're filming. Most recently, we spent six weeks in Matera in Italy – that's where they filmed the sequence of Bond riding up the wall on a motorbike and jumping off the bridge in No Time To Die."
Nice work, indeed. But for the Coles family, showing and sharing their custom Scania trucks is central to their job satisfaction. "My dad started it," says Gary. "In his time he drove Scania 110s, 111s and a 141 V8, and he used to do a bit of customising. I used to go out with him and caught the customising bug. It's all gone on from there, really."
To illustrate the crowd pulling appeal of Coles & Sons' custom Scania trucks, Mexicano was recently invited to appear at a truck show in Norway. "We were contacted by the organisers," says Gary. "They offered to take the truck over and return it afterwards all expenses paid – they said they had to have it on display. It was very flattering. What could we say? – it just had to make the trip!"