Foden VRE 372G

S36 Gardner 180 6LXB

VRE 372G

8th May 2012 - VRE 372G at its former home in Croyden.

Step back 43 years when VRE 372G was new to Bassetts, albeit in the livery of Grayswood Transport. The Foden is joined by others from the Class of '69 in this publicity shot taken in the Tittensor depot.

VRF 672G Albion Reiver, RG Bassett

TRF 672G Atkinson Mk1 Bassett Roadways

VRE 372G Foden S36 Grayswood Transport

VRE 672G Atkinson Borderer Bassett Roadways

Photograph courtesy of Ashley Bassett.

VRE 372G is seen here on the right, parked alongside CBF 672H loaded with machinery on behalf of NCB. This photograph kindly donated by Ashley Bassett, was probably taken when '372G was about 12 months old, and shows how general haulage was not for the faint hearted. A close-up of '372G is shown below.

The last vehicle acquired for the Grayswood Transport fleet was this ERF B series 38 tonne tractor unit, DLM 164T. Although new in October 1978, it was bought second hand in 1983 and fitted with a Gardner engine.

HRF 719V was new to Bassetts in 1979 and was the penultimate vehicle to be liveried to Grayswood Transport. It was also the last Foden to be bought by Bassetts and ended a significant chapter in the Company's history. 

This great photograph by renowned transport photographer Peter Davies shows '372G whilst still probably engaged on long distance work, as intimated by the driver's overnight bag on the engine cover - although I doubt/hope he didn'd sleep in the cab! The Grayswood Transport livery seems tired and the homemade bumper does not look as good as the orginal chrome one.


I took this photograph of '372G one grey and wet Saturday morning in February 1987 whilst a student at Keele University. I could never have imagined then, that four years later I would start a 15 year career with Bassetts, or in fact that 25 years later I would once again meet this Foden and be its very proud owner.


This b&w picture from an unknown photographer shows VRE 372G in relatively fresh Bassett Group livery, however with the fleet name of Charlanne, fleet number 47 and a glass headboard. The date of the photo is unknown, but it must be between February 1987 and July 1989.

This indicates that the cab fitted to VRE came from EBF 680H - another Foden S36 tractor unit, which incidently was originally Babs / 97 and later renamed Pauline / 29, then Charlanne / 47 - confusing!

VRE 372G returning from a show with Mick Whittle's two other Fodens. The passenger can just be seen holding a trophy - well deserved!

Bassetts of Tittensor can trace their business back to the latter years of the 1800's, from the days of horse and carts, through to steam and petrol driven vehicles and eventually to diesel. The company was originally called LJ Bassett, later becoming LJ Bassett & Son -  the son being Reg Bassett - which successfully operated until 1949 when their "A licence" long distance work was taken over by British Road Services. Grayswood Transport Ltd had been formed in February 1945 by Reg Bassett specifically to undertake local work with "B licence" authorisation, and following nationalisation of the transport industry, this allowed Bassetts to stay in haulage in their own right, alongside the activities of BRS. Grayswood Transport Ltd took its name from that of the familly home, itself situated on the A34 in Tittensor.


Bassetts Roadways Ltd was created in 1954 to win back some of the trunking routes after the partial denationalisation of 1953. Branch offices were re-established in Birmingham and Liverpool, as well as another local depot at Hanchurch. This site would later be used for the Bassetts tipper fleet, and in more recent times after being vacated by Bassetts would become home to Northern Ireland Trailers, Pandoro, James Irlam and now Eddie Stobart.


By 1958 Grayswood Transport operated 30 vehicles and Bassett Roadways, 34. Up to 10 more vehicles were operated by another Bassett company, H Mason Transport (Stafford) Ltd which had been bought in 1951 and whose fleet colours were transferred to the two tone blue now so widely recognised as Bassetts of Tittensor. If that wasn't enough companies within the organisation, Reg Bassett founded RG Bassett - a sole proprietorship, which in 1964 was incorporated as RG Bassett & Sons Ltd.

By 1989 the structure of the various companies at Tittensor (transport, travel and warehousing) had been brought under the umbrella of Bassett Group Holdings Ltd and in particular, road transport operations became the responsibility of a single company; RG Bassett & Sons Ltd. Grayswood Transport had surrendered its fleet in April 1986, having operated for over 40 years due to the foresight and initiative of Reg Bassett.  


Grayswood Transport Ltd is still registered at Companies House, albeit as non trading, but with a nominal book value and shareholders fund. The family home that was Grayswood was demolished in the late 1950's to allow widening of the A34.

This classic photograph courtesy of Ashley Bassett shows an unidentified Foden S21 liveried to RG Bassett and probably VRE 372G displaying Grayswood Transport. The driver is Ernie Ward and worked for Bassetts until the early 90's.


Foden VRE 372G

VRE 372G, chassis number 61800, was built in February 1969 and delivered new to Grayswood Transport Ltd in April 1969.


The Foden is commonly referred to as the S36 cabbed version, but its correct specification is 4AXB6/32 which identifies it as being a 4 wheeled articulated tractor, fitted with a 6 cylinder Gardner 6LXB diesel engine, plated at 32 tons gross vehicle weight.


Ashley Bassett who joined the family business in 1968 after serving his apprenticeship at Fodens Ltd recalls:

"From my initial recollections I do believe that it was first used on long distance haulage and driven from new by Bob Ellis.

Towards the end of its operational use with us I can also recall that it pulled a twin axled Crane Fruehauf U shaped tipping trailer carrying principally coal and rock salt with a payload of 21 tons. Its regular driver then was lad named Dave Powner** who also worked for me in the garage at weekends (long before the days of the Road Transport Directive!).

The specification of the vehicle included a six cylinder Gardner 180, a 12 speed epicyclic gearbox with air shift on the steering column, 5.2:1 ratio differential and a 90 gallon fuel tank. The exhaust was originally front mounted but I think it may have been moved to beneath the gearbox. It also started life with a transmission handbrake mounted at the rear of the diff, but I think that we thereafter fitted spring brake chambers to it and removed the transmission handbrake."


** Whilst working for Sainsbury's from 2002 to 2005, Dave Powner was one of the drivers and I would often chat to him about Bassetts, although we were not both there at the same time.


photograph by Colin Knapp was taken in the mid 1980's and shows how VRE 372G had been redeployed on more local work, yet still retained its original Grayswood Transport livery.




Steven McLoughlin took this excellent photograph of VRE 372G probably in the late 1980's  whilst parked up in the Tittensor depot. The Foden by this time would have been almost 20 years old had benefited from a new livery showing its belonging to the Bassett Group and a new Foden bumper.  Original fleet number 3 and fleet name Joyce had also been re-applied.


VRE 372G served in the Bassett's fleet for 20 years. As mentioned above, it was new to Grayswood Transport in April 1969 and in July 1989 is seen to be parked up out of service in a video taken at the yard in Tittensor. This corresponds with the fact that the tachograph still fitted to the vehicle displays a calibration sticker which expires in April 1989.


At some point during its working life at Tittensor, the Foden had its Grayswood Transport livery replaced with the Bassett Group decals, albeit retaining the name of Joyce and Fleet Number 3. However, between February 1987 and its disposal in 1989, VRE 372G was given the identity of Charlanne and Fleet Number 47. Charlanne/47 had been used an another Foden 36 - EBF 680H, though the reason for the change is unknown.


Again during the 20 years in service, VRE 372G underwent many relatively small alterations. These included the installation of a tachograph to meet the legislation change of 1982, and the change from a dynamo to an alternator - both jobs completed by Bassett's resident electrician, Trevor Underhill. More cosmetic changes have included several variations on the front bumper theme (can't imagine why that was necessary!), mirror arms extended to accommodate larger/twin mirrors, removal and re introduction of an illuminated headboard, and changes to the grill which incompasses the air intake.

This undated photograph by David Morgan of Sutton Coldfield shows EBF 680H carrying the cab that I assume was transferred to VRE 372G before disposal.

Interestingly, the grill with the air vents was not transferred, and even more remarkably, the grill currently fitted to VRE is stamped with the correct chassis number of 61800. Can anybody shed some light on why this change took place?


VRE 372G - A life in preservation

I can't be sure of the exact date that the Foden was sold by Bassetts, but as indicated above, this would probably have been shortly after July 1989.

VRE 372G parked alongside GRF 672K at Cotes Park Commercials, Somercotes shorly after disposal in 1989. VRE carries the name Charlanne and Fleet Number 47. GRF 672K still survives in preservation and has only recently been taken out of Bassett's livery.

VRE 372G was initially preserved and fully restored by Mick Whittle of Hinckley, Leicestershire. It is seen here parked next to one of his other Fodens, both of which he sold to Paul Archer. During the restoration, Mick Whittle was keen to fit the Foden with many original parts, and as can be seen, present the vehicle in a stylish livery.

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