Swedefest 2017

What a show it was this year!!! On site were 240 Scania and Volvo trucks from all over the UK. That’s an amazing turnout, well done to all who organised and also those who took part. Having been involved in the show a little bit for a number of years it amazes me how the show has evolved and Michelle and Rob (and team!) deserve all the credit for getting the show to where it is. The thought that people would be coming from far and wide across the UK in Swedish trucks of all ages, to take part in a fairly exclusive small truck show is just awesome. Every model line from both manufacturers were on show, all bar a 0 series Scania I think. 240 trucks is far more than last year and walking round the show there were still some gaps so still room for more next year?! The thrill of the show for me is organiser Robs biggest head ache I’m sure. The parking. Walking along past the various model sections is just genius. I love walking past all the new V4 Volvo’s or even all the 2 Series Scania’s. I don’t know why but for me it just works, perhaps it’s my inner OCD coming out! It also helps in judging. A difficult job trust me,by no means is this show a Truckfest event or not do we ever want it to be but still, judging this year was the hardest it’s ever been and please don’t think I mean this in any other sense. It was a tough, tough choice this year and I was totally and utterly split down the middle with my category. So much so I’m going to share my judging sheet with you. I sponsor and judge the Best 3 Series Scania in the show. As a judge at Swedefest we have always been asked to judge our category based on our judgement of the best for the category title. This doesn’t have to mean the newest, the oldest, the most expensive, the cleanest or even the one with the least amount of rust or the most amount of accessories on, just the best in our opinion to suit the category. The show has never been pretentious enough to always go with the cleanest and most money spent on and testament to this was best in show a few years ago. The one and only Coopers Scania 112. It is a truck that everyone just loves for one reason and another. For me because it used to fly past my primary school and it was the stuff boys dreams were made of. The rust just added to the been there done it (at speed) feel of the truck with its similarly aged bull bar and stone guard. Hopefully when you judge in this way it breeds an air of friendliness into everything. Yes we look at those that are spotless and those that are brand new but if your fussed by a little road dirt still on a truck then perhaps a larger national brand of truck shows is more your cup of tea. Swedefest is the same as the Retroshow. It’s a unique, niche show that is for truck enthusiasts and to some extent the trophy winning is a little added bonus. It has been discussed many times about abolishing trophies altogether, again like the Retro Show. But for me I think a little trophy is a sign of appreciation for a well deserved winner. As you will see on my judging sheet, I narrowed the entries down to seven trucks that all have a star on the right. This was after an initial walk around looking at each entry and also photographing each entry. Then I usually narrow the short list down again to the final few, which I’ve put  four squares next to. Then I walk around again and just stand back and look at each of the final four trucks. What am I looking for? Exactly as asked, the best 3 series in my opinion. For me this year it was a nightmare. I love a 143 and am saving for my own. Those who know me know I love a custom truck as I used to own an airbrushed 10 tonner with metallic paint, alloy wheels and lots of lights. Then again I love and can totally appreciate a truck that is as original as it came out of the factory. This is what the decision came down too and I was torn. 100% original or 100% custom. As soon as I walked passed it, the CS Ellis 113 360 Streamline caught my eye as it took me straight back to 1995. Its as I remember seeing Streamlines when I was a teenager and this is when I fell in love with 3 series Streamlines. Also as a worthless piece of info a 113 360 Topline Streamline was the first truck I ever had a night out in at the age of 15. The other truck is The Ken Thomas 143 500 owned by John Thomas. I don’t need to say much, it’s stunning and totally a custom truck. The paint is amazing, the interiour is incredible and the metalwork is like a work art. So there’s the choice. What do you pick? For me this year 100% original won. It was clean, original and best of all is a straight out the box 3 series. This said I can honestly say I was so torn I have suggested next year I give a winner and a runner up but I know this idea won’t float with the organisers. Perhaps not a bad thing as then I’d have to award two trophies and not just one! As I’m sure you’ll agree, all in all a difficult decision to make and I’m sure it will split you all, in fact I know it will split you all. So my winner was CS Ellis and Ken Thomas 2nd but by a knats knacker, a cats whisker it’s even a fleas foot. I sincerely hope next years choice is slightly easier but please don’t go thinking original is my preference over custom. It isn’t. For me it’s the truck that fits the bill. As for the rest of the show, it was great. I am really beginning to like the “new” V4 Volvo’s and I think I have finally accepted the new Next Gen Scania if it’s painted correctly. I just hope next years show has as many or more trucks and I also hope we are still giving trophies to appreciative participants. Remember folks this is Swedefest not Truckfest. Well done Michelle and Rob, please put me down to sponsor Best 3 Series again if that’s ok. Bring on 2018!

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Retro Show 2017

Last year blog readers voted Lee Herbert’s Retro Truck Show as their show of the year and I think it could well be in the running again this year. A small show with bags of quality, plenty of trucks and enough truck enthusiasts to sink a battleship. The one thing this show seems to attract is proper truck nuts, those who know their trucks and those who don’t want tons of commercialism. If you like trucks and you like looking at and talking trucks from the golden years then this is the show you need to put in your diary for 2018. Quite often it would seem that all the retro trucks are Scania’s as they seem to have lasted and are obviously very popular. This year there was definately a few more Scania’s but what was very noticeable was the increase in all other marques. Plenty more Volvo’s, DAF’s and of course the rebirth of the original Italian Stallion, the Iveco Turbostar. What can you say about them?? They have a reputation as a flying machine with their monsterous 17 litre, V8 engine and getting up close they do give a feeling that they just want to fly! You could have taken your pick from black, blue or red and they were all in full “Iveco Special” livery. Even though I’m not a lover of red, the red one just looked the business in my book. Perfecto!As I mentioned earlier there were a number of other marques that haven’t been at the show in the last few years and it seems a wider variety of trucks are now being saved from the rust devils. Bedford, DAF, Ford, MAN loads of  ERF and a few others. All the trucks at this years show bought back many memories for all I’m sure and this is really the essence of the show. In the least geeky way possible this really is an enthusiasts show. For me the highlight of being there is meeting the people who lived and worked through the golden years. I could listen to drivers stories for ever. The images that are conjured up in my mind can’t be far from the truth and it just makes me wish I was 20 years older!! Ex Middle East stories, Astran stories, Ralph Davies stories (someone needs to write an RD book!), Scottish stories, Irish flyer stories and of course good old English stories. It’s a weekend of talking and enjoying each other’s company even if the weather tried it’s best to ruin it, although I’m pleased to say without success. One thing I must add is that this year I took my first truck to the show and what a truck it was. I was privileged and honoured to be asked if I would take the delightful new Scania 143 of Ken Thomas to the show. Truck owner one John Thomas (son of Ken) was due to go to a road run with some other trucks so asked if I wanted to take the 143 on its first UK truck show outing. How could I resist. Much like a kid in a sweet shop is how I managed. The truck is a dream to drive and the paintwork, well what can I say. More than anything, everyone made a comment on how good the paintwork is. A full custom leather interiour finishes the truck off. I would personally like to thank John for trusting me with his new pride and joy and I will happily volunteer for more Show duties if needed. Thanks John. As for the rest, please click HERE to see the other photos I took. Just to many good trucks to put on here and all a credit to their owners and restorers. One thing I like more than anything about restored trucks is the provenance some of them come with. By this I mean there are just a few ricks at the show that have lived the life and been there and definately done it more than others. To see these trucks at the show is awesome and just proves that UK truckers were and still are the best in the business, well the true core drivers are! There were a Ralph Davies Volvo and Scania at the show and to sit in the Scania and just think where they have been to and returned from year in and year out is mind blowing. As for the Astran Volvo, still in working condition but who cares! She’s lived the life and deserves to be a little scruffy round the edges, although Karl does say she’ll get a little touch up sooner or later.That’s it for another year and I will defo be back in 2018. Whether I have a truck to take or not is another matter, but I suggest every one of you put it in your diaries. True truckers will be there enjoying what’s left of drivers cammoraderie and talking about the trucks that gave the UK it’s pioneering name in road transport. Well done Lee and team, excellent show. May be, just may be Truck Show of the year 2017??! 

Palms from Beach

I’m here sitting on a very sunny beach and if we had Palm tree’s on the beach we could be anywhere else but the UK. This has lead me to writing a small blog on one of my favourite company’s from the Truckstar Festival. I would say this year but without checking I’m sure I wrote about KE Palms Åkeri AB last year. The trucks from Schweden are in my all time top trumps truck list as they are timeless. They have Scandinavian style but in a retro way, they look like classic trucks from yesteryear but they are definately not from the 70’s or 80’s. The Scania 144 460 may be slightly older than the R580 Topline but both are styled to perfection. Once again I find myself loving green trucks but who cares! I’m sorry to say my photographic skills have been overcome by the excitement of seeing these trucks, therefore I have failed to get photos that show the trailers and the “less-is-more” livery. The step frame box behind the R580 once again looks like it’s come straight back from the desert but enough lights to make it look simply stunning. As for the tilt behind the 4 Series, I’m not sure I can put down the right words! The only thing that topped last year was the stunning 141 Rigid in proper classic retro Palms livery. This is 100% straight out of the 1970’s, just spot on. As clean as a whistle and restored perfectly. For me a small fleet doesn’t get better than these. I just wish that sitting here the beach, I could sit under these type of Palms, possibly the only way to make my holiday better than it already is!! 

Truckstar Festival 2017

You will have noticed I’ve been very quiet since the last weekend of July. It just so happens the last weekend of July is the biggest and best truckshow (in my opinion) in Europe – Truckstar Festival. When you get off the ferry in Hoek early and have a good run up through the Netherlands to the TT Circuit at Assen. It’s taken me this long to recover in all respects, so I’m ready to share. When you arrive at the show to check in and the above new Scania pulls up along side, you know it’s going to be a good weekend! Just a note both Scania’s are top of the range for their time. Nearly 40 years apart there is a huge difference between the two, but good to see them side by side to compare. Having checked in and moved on into the oldtimer section in the pit area of the circuit, we are greeted by this DAF 3600. Newly and fully restored truck and trailer, when this is the first truck you see in the oldtimers you know it’s going to be a good weekend! I’ve never got to close to one of these very popular old DAF’s, but although the fridge trailer is now all wooden floors, plush bedrooms and a gorgeous kitchen suitable for any Michelin star chef, the interiour of the cabine was brilliant. I’d never realised there was quite so much space in the first Space Cab. It would pass as a decent twin sleeper today, let alone 30 years ago. The one thing that caught my eye was the gearstick standing in the side of the drivers footwell, not on the engine tunnel. Compared to the 3600 DAF, there were plenty of newborn DAF’s with simple but stunning paint jobs. Perhaps the big DAF cab warrants a “less is more” paint scheme?? The purple on this truck was amazing, it gave lots of different shades depending on the intermittent sun, but overall just stunning. Then further round the show truck area was another “less is more” stunner. The black was just black. If you get annoyed that you can’t get a simple straight red or green as there can be too much choice then this was the opposite. If you just was gloss black then this was it. It’s just black. A few simple accessories such as the American influenced wheel nut covers, then this truck is the ultimate definition of “less is definatley more”. One thing you notice when you get to Assen is that the Dutch are ridiculously friendly and secondly it’s a truck show. It’s not anything else, it’s trucks, owned and operated by truck people, on show for truck people. If you’ve not been, I say it every trip, you’ve got to get yourself along. I’ll leave this blog with a selection of other finds from the first few hours at the show. When you see all these trucks in the first afternoon, you know it’s going to be a good weekend! More to come another day dear readers. I’m off for a lie down. 

2016 Photo Review

I virtually always start a blog with a photo but for this one I thought I’d do something a little different. Seeing as we are into 2017, Happy New Year by the way, I thought I’d do a little photo review. 2016 was not much different from any other year, a number of truck shows through the year and a good 1000-1500 photos taken I should think. Just having a quick flick through my Flickr albums I wanted to paste a few of my favourites up here for you to see. If you feel like voting for a bit of fun then please cast your vote using the number of the photo. 

  1. Taken by my pal James Cartwright on our way back to the ferry after another excellent weekend in Assen. A gorgeous old Volvo coming through!
  2. A classic line up from the Retro Truck Show at Gaydon. Taking me back to my childhood and the trucks that got me hooked!
  3. Another one from the Retro Show. Not such a retro truck but Shaun Burtons awesome T-Cab Scania parked near the lake. 
  4. Next up was this one I took on the Hipstamatic camera app on my phone. Great App that shuffles your camera settings and can produce lovely rich photos, in this case of my beloved Mercedes-Benz. 
  5. Next, the first of a few more from the Truckstar Festival back in July. A truly photographic place for trucks. A night of rain can produce some great results. Again taken through The Hipstamatic app. 
  6. One of the Englishmen abroad. There isn’t a finer fleet from the UK if not Europe in my book. Coles & Sons in Assen with Convoy and Vendetta. 
  7. Needs no words. Truckstar Festival, Assen. Mrs McKee and Mrs Gibson. 
  8. Pure 100% Dutch. If your new to the world of international custom trucks, then this photo sums up Dutch trucks in one. 
  9. Much like number 2 but a Dutch line up. Could be any year you like from the late 1970’s!
  10. Finally our man Steve Marsh and his little MAN up in the French Alps. Marshy is doing all the things I didn’t in my little Tonka toys, so I’m always grateful for his photos. Taken by Marshy himself. 

That’s just a selection of everything, if you want to see more then go to my Flickr page by clicking HERE and looking through the albums. Just for fun pleasecast your votes. Hopefully 2017 will prove to be as enjoyable with quite a few trips to various shows already in the pipeline and of course I think Assen is on the cards again this year. Fingers crossed! 

Swedefest 2016

And now for something a little different….. You have all heard of Gathering of The Griffin, but did you all know that this year it became Swedefest this year?? Unfortunately due to circumstances beyond the organisers control this year, GOTG had to move premises and therefore had to incur extra costs, meaning the show desperately needed more entrants. What to do? Whether you like either or, everyone likes a Swedish truck of one marque or another, so why not  put them altogether at one show…..great idea. So there it was, Swedefest 2016 was born. 

As discussed on here many times over last few months or couple of years, small truck shows are becoming far more enjoyable and far more accepted than the big shows of old. Is it that the shows are organised by truck people for truck people? Yep. Rob Bilman and Michelle Lines are very much truck people. I could stop the write up now as the show is down to them and that’s what makes it personal and 110% enjoyable. I’ve been a participant, a sponsor, a judge and a man with his son looking at trucks at this show and its right at the top of the list when it comes to trucks shows as they are now becoming. With the additional of Volvo’s this year I think it’s rounded the show to a wider audience. Walking around the show ground was once again a pleasure, the new venue was destined to be a truck show ground at some point. The organisers had split the area down the middle and parked Volvo facing Scania. It was awesome. 

Firstly the Volvo’s. I’m not a big Volvo boffin so I’m not to confident in my knowledge of the different versions but there were plenty on show. It was lovely to see so many variations to be honest as I’d never realised there were so many. There were a few which stood out for me and they are below. The white FH reminds me of one I fell in love with on the world super boat tour in the mid 1990’s! This truck is the perfect example of less is more. The blue F12 was a real cracker. Sums up 1980’s trucking for me and it turned out to be one of the biggest winners at the show, rightly so. Last but not least Mark Farrows gem of an FH. In Volvo pro-mo green, there is a long story to this truck and I hope to tell it to you one day, but I need Mr Farrow to put pen to paper for that to happen. 


As for the Scania trucks on show, well it never ceases to amaze me the quality of trucks that Scania owners put out is pretty remarkable. My favourite Scania’s are definately the 3 series but you have to appreciate that Scania do have a fairly unique following compared to all the other manufacturers. 

I happily sponsor the Best 3 Series class at the show and I was warned by both Rob and Michelle that this year would be the toughest year yet, they weren’t wrong. This year I did have my 6 year old son helping me to make the decision and I have to say his simplistic view on judging will be carried through to next year. As hard as the judging was, we ended up deciding that Marten Hazeleger’s Chickliner Streamline was a very worthy winner. Gently customised with the addition of the Dutch effect made it a little too irresistible. I know he won’t believe me but Mr Payne and his delightful green and gold Centurion couldn’t have been in a closer 2nd place this year. 3rd place would have been last years winner, Darran Heath. 

All in all this is a small show with BiG trucks and the mixing of the two Swedish marques did work for me. I know the effort that goes into this show every year is incredible but I’m sure you’ll all agree that it is much appreciated by us lot and I’d like to say to Rob, Michelle and the team that the show is a true success. I hope next year that we can once again break the number of trucks booked in and that turn up. Get the date in your diary for next as this is a unique show that you really can’t afford to miss. 

Retro Truck Show 2016


Still the best show in the U.K. 

Oh do I have to say anymore?? Much like another excellent show this is run by Truck enthusiasts for truck enthusiasts, I don’t think there is a better way to run a show. It’s so so not about the money it is just all about the trucks and truck people. I made a point this year of making sure I got the whole of Saturday and Saturday night at the show before a very early dash from Gaydon to Snetterton at 5am Sunday morning. 


When you arrive at Gaydon you could be mistaken for thinking it’s not a very big show, the venue seems quite small compared to others. Once you have walked down you instantly realise that much the same as Lopik in Holland, this show is all about the quality. There is quality every where you look. On the Saturday there are still lots of trucks arriving and there is never quite as many trucks as there is in the main show day of Sunday but none the less it’s still the best show to be at on either day. One thing you notice is that your actually glad it’s a relatively small show as you meet so many familiar faces that you have more chats and conversations than the WI’s annual conference. 

What I love is that everyone at the show is there because they love trucks, some will tell you til their blue in the face that they aren’t, but they are still there looking at and talking trucks. I met plenty of friends and old faces and not to mention new ones. One particular ex Ralph Davies driver springs to mind (not you NLG!), that I am resisting the temptation to call and text every 5 minutes as I know one conversation is not going to be any where near enough to share his stories.  The thing I struggle to get across to Mrs Blog is how friendly and open truck drivers can be, we all can lead a lonely existence as a driver and when you meet other like minded folk (not those who park and draw the curtains) it’s nice to have a good chat and a drink to share new or old tales of the road. DANGER: This could be getting a little romantic. What this gathering has achieved is a group of people who through a single connection, pretty well know everyone there and the more the merrier as far as I’m concerned. 

As I am a mere whipper snapper, it makes me think that Gaydon is much like one of those well known, golden era truckstops where everyone stops as there will always be another Brit there. It’s a hard thing to imagine these days but the main stay of drivers I know would stop if they saw you pulled over on the side of the road and I think it is one of the positives of Facebook. At least now those who are made of old school stuff can see who else is in the same place through the power of the internet and I have often seen that friends I have on Facebook are meeting up at the few Truckstops or parks that are still open, which must be the modern take on camaraderie. Not quite the same as the 70’s and 80’s but as close as it’s going to get. To this end Lee Herbert has managed to create an event which for me at least gives me what I think is a slight step back in time to the golden era I missed out on. 

The trucks on show are a real mix of everything that made the trucks of today what they are. The general premises is that all entrants must have been built before 2001, with a few exceptions. I love to see the F series Volvo’s, the 2 and 3 series Scania’s as well as the slowly increasing number of Mercedes SK’s, this is what I spent my child hood dreaming of and spotting on the road. I am certain that the amount of retro trucks is growing at a fair pace each year and there are always new trucks on the scene. The fact the trucks are coming from further and further afield is both testiment to the show itself and the fact that more owners are wanting to show off their pride and joy among like minded fans of commercial vehicles. I have to agree with the shows stance on not giving trophies, as it would just be impossible to choose any winners. Every truck has a story and tale to be told whether it’s the trucks history or the work it’s taken to get these old road heros back turning a wheel. If you could see the photos of when Nobby Caister found his F88 and how long it has taken to restore it to its former glory, well, the man deserves a medal!!

A few beers Saturday night unfolded plenty of tales and I wish every driver could tell his tale but there just isn’t enough time and I have no idea how to record everything, but if your a young driver you need to sit and listen to some of the 50+ year old drivers as most could tell you a good yarn worth hearing and passing on, like trucking folk law! I woke at 5am Sunday in the cab of a Scania 141 top bunk, still wondering how they were ever double manned, and I wandered towards the gate just looking at all the sleeping trucks and a I had a crazy thought, how many miles/KM’s have all those truck covered between them??! Answers below please. I turned the corner to the gate only to be greeted by Eoin McGinnity and his beloved ex Astran 143. Eoin was on his first leg of the aid run to Belarus and I have to say it couldn’t be a better end to 24 hours at Gaydon. The thump, thump, thump of a warm 3 series V8 is a sound I’ll never tire of hearing. 

Last year Truckblog readers voted the Retro show as their favourite of 2015 and I can’t see the result being any different this year. For me the best show in the U.K. By far (bar one!) and I am already planning to try and spend the whole weekend at 2017’s and I can only suggest that you do the same. You will not be disappointed.