Fastforward logo - Blog

Fast Forward >>> Blog

Welcome to our Blog...

Welcome to our Blog...

...where you will find bits & pieces of news, ramblings and links - mostly relating to things with wheels on (or not, as in the example shown) - which we hope you might find of interest. In the same vein, if there’s a link or something you think might tickle one’s fancy send it to us at blog@fastforward.uk.com and we’ll consider pasting it up on the site, so long as it’s “legal, decent, honest and truthful”. Oh, and please bear copyright rules in mind when submitting pics.

Back to top


Here’s a good place to start the ball rolling:

Here’s a good place to start the ball rolling:

1980, when the rather long-winded McKay Freight Transport Services (Fast Forward International’s granddaddy) came into being with the purchase of this 1976 Mack F type tractor unit. Prior to our ownership it was used on UK- Middle East haulage which was brought to an abrupt conclusion when it collided with a sleeping camel.

Impounded for a year, until the camel owner was compensated, it was ultimately repatriated although the flora and fauna which moved in was still in evidence some years later – half way up the M6 one night, something the size of a golf ball flew out of the heating vent and ricochet’d around the cab before escaping into the Cheshire countryside through an open window. American trucks were much more common on European roads way back then, with reliability and levels of horsepower unheard of in home-brewed kit. White, Kenworth, Peterbilt and Mack all had UK sales outlets, and the hurdles to importation were set lower with EU type approval still a twinkle in the eurocrat’s eye.

Back to top


Was this the first ever UK truck race?

Was this the first ever UK truck race?

Perhaps you know of another! With the Supertruck Grands Prix attracting big money at top venues like Brands Hatch these days, the sport’s humble beginnings seem a long way off and were more like a banger race than F1.

This particular event was run on a short oval circuit in Northamptonshire in July 1982, barely wide enough for 2 trucks to pass never mind powerslide round the corners (actually, the term ‘powerslide’ is probably a bit of an exaggeration and probably resulted more from rock-hard steel suspension and a centre of gravity somewhere near the roof). Not a single Winnebago in the paddock, and looking at the poleaxe safety barrier I wonder exactly where the ‘safe’ bit applies.

Back to top


More freight on the railways?

More freight on the railways?

Turning the clock even further back than Colin can remember, this pic comes from a collection of glass slides (part of the Fast Forward Heritage Collection of Things That Might Come In Useful One Day) taken in the north-east of Scotland in the early 1900’s. No, it’s not an early attempt by the multi-modal brigade to put more freight on the rails, it actually shows one of the first skirmishes in the road vs rail Hundred Years War.

Whilst it’s obvious to any unbiased transport historian that the railway company has deliberately designed the bridge to be too weak, thus preventing the honest haulier from going about his lawful business, no doubt the Old Meldrum Gazette headline of the day read something like ‘Overloaded Juggernaut Causes Rail Chaos’, such was (and is) the level of propaganda circulated by the vested interests of the railway companies.

Back to top


Flying Teapot

Flying Teapot

Regular bloggers will have gathered that whilst our Fast Forward heads are firmly focussed on the future, our hearts look back on the past through solidly rose-tinted spectacles, if you’ll pardon the biological mix-up.

We love anything with wheels on, and if it’s ancient so much the better, which is why at weekends you’ll find us pretending to race old cars at circuits all over the country, and a few in Europe too. In any Men & Motors budget production of the world’s top 100 British motoring greats, the Jaguar Mk2 must surely come somewhere in the top five. Our car, known fondly as the ‘Teapot’ for reasons related to our MD’s mum’s collection of chinaware, is just such an icon.

Exported new to New York in 1961 as the final payment on a Liberty ship which is probably lying on it’s side in the Irish Sea, TSK330 was brought back home around 1990 and spent 10 years competing in historic rallies all over Europe, including the Monte Carlo, the Alpine and the Rome-Liege. After a decade of abuse, thoroughly knackered and with it’s suspension mounts above it’s ears, it was beaten more or less back into shape, given an engine and gearbox out of an E-type, and thrashed around Silverstone and the like by old men who ought to know better.

Historic racing is big business these days – if you’ve ever seen the annual Goodwood Revival you’ll understand – but at club level it’s still possible to have a lot of fun for (relatively) little cost. If you want to know more send a mail to blog@fastforward.uk.com and we’ll send you regular updates meaning you can follow us losing races all over Europe.

Back to top


Ten-four to that

Ten-four to that

From walkie-talkies evolved car-phones and car-phones begat mobile phones (some the size and weight of four housebricks). In no time at all we had SMS, satellite tracking, all manner of telematics and soon, so we’re told, surgical implants with silicon chips rather than the old sort of implants with just the silicon.

But in a world time forgot (and most folk nowadays can’t even imagine) we had CB, or at least the Americans did, and a fair few found their way across the pond despite their illegality in Britain. In the early 80’s there existed a subversive underground movement which the government of the day viewed much the way they look on Al Quaeda today, and they were determined to put a stop to it. After all, every time someone called ‘Breaker, Breaker One Nine’, entire intensive care units would switch off, 747’s would rain down from the skies and Billy’s remote control Metal Mickey would waddle off over the horizon, never to be seen again. Little wonder that the General Post Office Radio Regulatory Department (acronyms hadn’t been invented back then) brought out the big guns.

To put it in perspective, when the Mid-Kent Citizen’s Band Radio Club formed in Maidstone, Kent in 1980, it drew over 300 paid-up members within a month, confounding the establishment who believed they were dealing with just a few cranks - multiply that nationwide and you could count the following in hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions. In this wonderfully pre-pc era the borough council even allowed the pictured float to take part in their summer carnival, supporting the cause.

Those with exceptional powers of observation will have spotted Busby (remember him? No? Well, get back to your homework then) hanging from a gallows on the side, a grim joke which had parents smiling and kiddywinks crying. Ultimately the government gave in, possibly encouraged by the realisation that there was money to be made here, and CB radio was legalised, taking all the fun out of it at a single stroke.

Back to top


MAN in drag

MAN in drag

In the world of logistics (a term that probably didn’t exist when this photo was taken) PoD’s are more commonly associated with the need to provide Proof of Delivery, but here’s a different sort – Santa Pod, the Bedfordshire capital of drag racing in the UK.

Back in 1980 they tried all sorts of odd events to draw the punters including this Run-What-Ya-Brung weekend, a mixture of dubious terminology and even more dubious trucks. The two contenders pictured here were the only ‘outside’ entries, the other two trucks competing were both ancient petrol-engined International Harvesters, blagged off the local US Air Force base.

These had been breathed on by the racetrack’s own spannermen, converted to run on alcohol (like most of the audience) and fired down the quarter mile before a wholly underwhelmed public. In the road legal diesel class the MAN pictured squaring up to our long-suffering Mack probably still holds the record for the standing quarter mile, at around a day and a half.

Back to top


We Know You Got Soul

We Know You Got Soul

For those of us old enough to remember when British industry still had a manufacturing sector......

If you’ve taken the trouble to read through this drivel thus far we reckon it’s a fair bet you’ve got, at the very least, a fair few petrol genes coursing through your veins. 

At Fast Forward International we love trucks. We also love cars, bikes, buses, go-karts, aircraft tugs, mobile cranes, dock spotters, segways, steam rollers and ride-on lawn mowers. In fact if you can drive it, it meets fully with our approval (although we’re still considering where the Prius lies in the scheme of things).  In an age when the problem of somersaulting fuel costs occupies most of our waking moments, our MD Colin takes solace in what he sees as the Golden Era of Motoring.  The foggy, smoggy 50’s morphed into the psychedelic 60’s and at the same time the face of motoring changed forever. This was the era of new motorways filling quickly with cheap, fast, reliable cars - Bedford Duples whisking us off to Bangor and other exotic destinations, the Mammoth Major hauling 15 tons at a heady 50 miles per hour. On the silver screen there was James Dean rebelling for no good reason, James Garner in Grand Prix and Stanley Baker’s Hell Drivers, which did for road freight what Richard Nixon did for world peace.  And then there was the E-type Jaguar. 

It is now over 50 years since the most iconic of all cars hit the road to Geneva in an epic non-stop chase across a Europe still full of border controls to launch at the 1961 Swiss Motor Show, driven through the night at an average speed higher than today’s legal limit, and arriving in the Swiss town breathless but ecstatic, as was the assembled motoring world when they saw it. This was British motor engineering’s finest hour. The car would go on to be exported worldwide, sweep the board in competition and, most importantly, pull more birds than anything ever before or since. The remarkable thing is that half a century later, when an anniversary race series for period-correct E-type racing cars was first proposed by Jaguar, nearly 100 hopeful owners of these sleeping beasts registered their interest.

So, if you’re up for a spot of groovy 60’s style racing action you can jump in your Cortina this summer and find us at Brands Hatch, Silverstone, Nurburgring, Oulton Park or Goodwood where grids of up to 50 cars will entertain and enthral – we’ll be easy to spot, ours is the blue car at the back.  Be there or be square, man!

Back to top

Picture by Paul Hastings at the first round at Brands Hatch
Pic by Paul Hastings - 140mph rubbing door handles!

Pan-continental Postcript

Pan-continental Postcript

 

Destination Doha Dover!

A battle-weary Astran trailer offloading in Bow in 1982

The recent relaunch on DVD of the 1977 BBC ‘World About Us’ documentary ‘Destination Doha’, which chronicled pioneering UK-Middle East haulier Astran’s tortuous overland route to the Gulf, brought to mind the (very) small part we played in their operation back in the day. 

Providing a traction service for their trailers in the UK, the frequent 24 hour delays at Dover whilst trailers cleared customs might seem insignificant when compared with 5 days on the Iranian border, but for an owner driver being paid by the mile it could be a real downer. Despite the glamour associated with the longest of long haul operations, money was always tight and drivers were expected to sort out problems on their tod. Breakdown assistance, if it existed, didn’t operate out of hours even in England. 

Arriving at Dover at 10 o’clock one winter’s night our driver found - after ‘standing on the stairs’ for an hour - that the trailer which ‘will be cleared by the time you get there’ was unlikely to benefit from Customs’ attention until the following day, and was already ankle deep in snow. Resigning himself to a night in a cab with no heater, his joy was multiplied many fold when on checking round the trailer he found a flat tyre.  Two spare wheels hanging from the chassis were soundly chained & padlocked and the key was likely to be the wrong side of the English Channel. Now midnight, there was little point in ringing the office. Back to Astran’s West Malling base where he borrowed a wheel off a trailer parked in the yard, strapped it to the catwalk and set off back to Dover. Shovelling the snow aside, the wheel was changed and by 5am he was ready for the off as soon as Customs had obliged.  There was just one problem left…where to put the extra wheel now that the tractor unit was coupled up.

The obvious answer was to pop it in the back of the trailer, so, seals removed, doors opened, and the trailer was found to be filled floor to ceiling with boxes of crystal chandeliers. Now truck wheels are heavy things, and a trailer floor is 5 feet off the ground. With no-one around to help and the will to live ebbing away, inspiration and determination was needed in equal measure so a piste was duly constructed using cartons from the load. It was at the half way point, with the wheel 3 feet off the ground and hypothermia setting in, that it was realised crystal chandeliers are perhaps not the best form of support for 100 kgs of steel & rubber. Nevertheless, with much grunting, heaving and crunching of crystal, the wheel went in. It was now 8am. 

At 12 noon Customs finally released the trailer which was great, except that the delivery point was 2 hours away in London and, being Friday, was closing early. The trailer therefore went back to Astran, the driver went home, and the invoice went out for the fixed rate of £30.  In case you are wondering, even in 1982 this wasn't exactly a fortune. Ah, happy days!!!

Back to top


24 hours in Paradise

24 hours in Paradise

I know, I know. How sad is this? We recently had the opportunity to race our Jaguar E-type on the iconic Le Mans circuit as part of the bi-annual Classic celebrations.
The French racetrack was packed with over 500 race cars ranging from some of the most exotic on the planet to some pretty unlikely contenders, most of which had actually taken part in the famous 24-hour race in years gone by. However what really caught our eye was the display of transporters which, in their day, were the unsung heroes of the racing scene, often coachbuilt specials of futuristic Dan-Dare design but, underneath, still working trucks built to do a job. Since the Ecurie Ecosse transporter sold for an eye-watering £1.8M in 2013 - and in doing so became the most expensive commercial vehicle ever sold at auction - there has understandably been a renewed interest in these old workhorses now that the high cost of restoration can be linked to a reasonable expectation of a return on the investment. Just feast your eyes on these glamourous old girls, they've seen more action in their time than our whole modern fleet put together!

Back to top


Going Great West

Going Great West

In the 1950's any trucker sorry, lorry driver who ventured up to the Big Smoke or beyond would be familiar with the Chequered Flag garage on the A4 Great West Road at Chiswick. As they trickled along in the queue through Chiswick, drivers would have plenty time to ogle the expensive sports cars on display in the showroom.

What is less well known is that the owner, ex-Meteor jet fighter pilot Graham Warner, had a small but very successful business out the back, building the Gemini single seater racing cars that were set to challenge Lola and Lotus, the front runners in Formula Junior at the turn of the decade. The formula was originally devised by Italian Count Giovanni Lurani to provide a platform to bring on young aspiring Grand Prix drivers, but the Brits very quickly became the ones to beat in their lighter, more powerful cars. It was on Boxing Day in 1959 at Brands Hatch that a relative unknown by the name of Jim Clark had his first race in an open-wheeled car, the Gemini MkII. Jim went on to become Formula 1 world champion twice before his death at Hockenheim in '68. This is all a round-about way of introducing our newest (oldest) 4-wheeled addition. Not an Albion Reiver or Foden S20 such as might be seen on Chiswick High Road in 1959, but a Gemini MkII built in the shed round the back. This particular car was exported new to the USA and remained there for 55 years until recently repatriated and raced in Britain for the very first time. The car is unusual (for petrol-anoraks) in that it was one of the very first to receive the new Cosworth-Ford MAE engine rather than the ubiquitious BMC. Of 30 MkIIs in total, just 4 were built to this spec, and as far as we know only 1 other still exists. Beautifully original and with the patina (and scars) that age brings, still with its original leather seat and between-the-knees gearstick, it's a lovely, delicate period piece which will be mercilessly thrashed round the racetracks of Europe for as long as time and the nanny state allow.

Back to top