Tuesday September 20, 2016
Readers of a certain age may remember this particular vehicle rattling away on the cobbled streets delivering milk, and younger readers may never have even heard about it before.
We caught up with Jonathan Smith to find out more about this sole survivor, a rather quirky looking vehicle that didn’t have a seat and had no doors or windows. But Jonathan just couldn’t resist its charm.
Name: Jonathan Smith
Car: 1950 Nipper Truck
Affectionately Called: Billy
A Nipper Milk Float: It was one of those things that when I saw it, I was instantly intrigued by it - I'd never seen anything like it and to be honest I couldn't resist it!
I got on the phone to the owner and we exchanged a number of emails, but I wanted to find out more before I bought it. I didn't even know what it was, I needed to find out its story.
So I spoke to the DVLA and got a lead to the Lakeland Motor Museum where it had spent a few years in the back room.
I gave them a call and the other guy at the end of the phone said 'How have you got that? That is amazing.” His enthusiasm for the vehicle was all that was needed, and I wrote the cheque before I ended the call.
It‘s the only one left of its kind and it's a piece of social history, having been designed, manufactured and distributed not by an automotive manufacturer, but by Northern Dairies, Hull.
What’s its history? It was a milk delivery vehicle belonging to a milkman called Alfred Ling, and would have been driven along the cobbled streets of Bury St Edmunds.
Trust me - you'd hear that rattling down the street in the mornings as Alf delivered his milk at dawn, along narrow roads lined with terraced houses.
How long has the restoration taken? I have spent 6 months restoring the Nipper which has included a full strip down and rebuild, including sourcing a collection of 1950’s milk bottles and crates to really add to the authenticity of the vehicle.
Along with the restoration I have also had the Nipper sign written by coach painter Trevor Cheeseman, who spent 5 whole days creating a new identity for ‘Billy’. The livery and ‘Billy’ name is a tribute to my grandfather, William Granger who was a Dairyman and Farmer.
Long before smartphones, if a customer wanted to speak to William they would ask the operator for ‘North Newbold 219’ - and this detail is faithfully included on the Nipper.
How do you drive it? First of all, you say a prayer as it is a tricky customer. But essentially you find TDC with the cranking handle, engage the sprocket, pull hard, stand back and hope. Once ‘thumping away’ you stand on the plate releasing the governor and then by slowly releasing the hand brakes, forward momentum occurs. There’s no neck-snapping acceleration, just a steady progression – but you’ll still need to hang on tight! I don’t like to admit it, but I have fallen off many times.
Future Plans? I plan to complete the restoration to as near as it was when it was at its peak, and plan to take it to local steam fairs and even this year’s Goodwood Revival – something I’m extremely excited about.
Essentially what I would like to do is secure it ‘as was’ for the future. Hull is the city of culture for 2017 so I will be making it available, if asked course, for any heritage displays.
More information: You can find out more about Billy by visiting http://thatmilkfloatthing.com/