Quality in motion
That's the motto of Charles Russell Transport. It also explains why Charles loves his vintage V8 Scanias.
Charles Russell unravels the story of his success and the special affection his LBS141 holds for him.
"I come from a agricultural background; my father was a smallholder farmer and we had a relative nearby who was a cattle haulier. When I left school I started work on the farm, but then our relative passed away. I inherited his business, which ran on a B-licence, described as "restricted goods to a restricted radius".
"That was back in the late 1960s and the B-licence meant I could only carry agricultural goods locally. But in 1972 everything changed when the O-licence came along and opened the door to entrepreneurs prepared to work on different types of transportation.
"I got involved in industrial work via a colleague who had just got a job in a local factory making machine tools. It was a Swiss company, quite new to the UK. But they had already experienced difficulties in getting their products offloaded at customers' premises and so asked me if I could handle their transport. Although I had no experience, I said yes. I decided to do the job properly I'd need a crane, so found one and fitted it to my truck. The Swiss were impressed and the work soon built up.
"While running on this contract that I purchased my first Scania, a 141. That was an easy choice. Quite simply, the 141 was the truck to have. It went past everything else with ease – I just had to have one! And it didn't let me down; mile after mile, as long as I serviced it correctly, it just kept on going.
"Over time, you build up a relationship with your local dealer and Scania became the foundation of this business, our bread and butter. There's enough to think about in our line of work, so not having to worry about your trucks is a real bonus. I've got lots of brand loyalty and that's come about due to the quality of the Scania product and our relationship with its people. Should a problem ever arise, we sit round the table, talk it through and solve it. And that's how it should be, I don't just rush off to buy from the competition, that's not the way forward for me."
While today Charles Russell Transport operates an extensive, eye-catching fleet of Scania trucks – including both new generation and examples from the previous range – he's the first to admit that up until now his superbly preserved LB140, a model which ironically he never operated for hire and reward, has been the one that attracts the most attention. But with the addition of his LBS141 six-wheel tractor to the show fleet, that could be about to change…
"Quite simply, the 141 was the truck to have. It went past everything else with ease – I just had to have one!"
Charles Russell Transport
"Isn't it beautiful?" says Charles. "As I said earlier, when I started out the LB141 V8 was the must-have truck and ours served us really well. So when this one came up for sale a few years ago, I decided I had to take a trip down memory lane. Like my LB140, this one came from Norway. I understand it's only had two previous owners and was only used during the summer season, which would explain why it's a relatively low mileage vehicle – in fact, it had it's original tyres on when I bought it!
"The restoration wasn't especially difficult as the vehicle was in such good condition. We didn't have to touch anything mechanical, as everything was in excellent working order. The job was mostly cosmetic really; some work inside the cab, and a repaint into our colours. I've got a collection of restored vehicles, and while this one cost the most to buy, it's been the least to refurbish.
"The vehicle itself is quite special as it's a Deluxe model, which wasn't offered in the UK. The Deluxe spec included extra features like wash/wipe on the headlamps, a fire extinguisher and a reversing lamp, plus a more luxuriously appointed cab. The 141 was 375 horsepower, a step up from the 140s 350, but you don't really notice the difference when you drive it. What you do notice, though, is the comfort – it's quieter, smooth and the ride quality is much better as the 141 has spring suspension on the rear of the cab.
"The vehicle attended a couple of shows last year, and for 2019 we're going to the Waterford Truck Show in Southern Ireland (4-5 May), the Classic and Vintage Truck Show at Gaydon (8-9 June) and Truckfest West Midlands and Wales at Malvern (29-30 June). I'm hoping to add one or two more dates to the calendar, so watch this space!
"Now the work's all done, I get tremendous pleasure from showing it – like the LB140, it puts a smile on people's faces wherever it goes."
It's easy to see why. Gleaming proudly in Charles Russell's distinctive livery (see panel) every detail has been attended to meticulously. And for Charles himself, on the back of the cab is another reason for him to smile.
"When Scania launched the 141, they launched a new mission statement to go with it. It simply read, 'Better Than Ever'. And you know what, it's true – so I've painted it on the back of the cab to remind everyone what a fantastic truck this was!"