When you get a photo like the one above, you have to start asking the age old questions;
Who? – Ashley Pearce
What? – Magirus Deutz 6×4 V10 ex German Army tractor units
Where? – The Netherlands
When? - Last week
Could have guessed Mr Pearce would be involved (it did come from his phone after all!). There’s a lot more to it than that but that’s a good start………..
These Magirus Deutz were being collected from the Netherlands on behalf of a very interesting man called Frank, who will be shipping them to Gambia for the next 20 years of their lives. They are ex German Army and of course are in excellent condition and have very very low mileage being in mind they were built in 1980. The main point behind it all is that they are basic. They can be maintained easily and can be repaired at the side of the road. Frank runs a business in Gambia that moves a lot of aggregate so he requires tipper trailers too. As I said the trucks were bought from a dealer in the Netherlands and Ashley and a couple of Franks henchmen went to collect them and drive them back to deepest Suffolk, UK to Franks hide away HQ. It just so happens that about an hour from Calais another dealer was selling a number of old tipper trailers that suited Franks strict requirements for African Trucking. After collecting the trailers it was back on the ferry from Calais to Dover. Did you spot them on their journey? I’d love to see any pics if you spotted the German invasion making its way back to Suffolk. Email me; firstname.lastname@example.org
Franks love of the Magirus ex army trucks comes from the fact that they are German and they do as they say on the tin! As you can imagine trucking across Gambia requires something that can handle the many unmade roads and the rains that come in the wet season. Having a high ground clearence is essential and also the age old ability of being able to be repaired with a minimal amount of local faciities. Frank says that the Africans can fix anything or make any part that is required, all you need is some form of a donar part and some tools. How many modern day vehicles can say that?? Much like the golden days of Middle East trucking when trucks could be repaired with basic mechanical knowledge and not a dealership or expensive bill insight! One of the aging Magirus dropped a cylinder or 3 on one journey across Gambia. So the driver blocked off the 3 faulty ones and trucked back to the depot on just 7 of 10 cylinders, again with anything newer than 1990 you wouldn’t even think about trying it.
The trucks are 6×4′s with diff locks on each axle. They also come with spare wheel carriers fixed behind the cab with a small crane to lift and lower the wheels. Air cooled engines, steel sprung suspension and even gun holders (all removed before shipping to africa), a varied array of chassis mouted lockers and a dash board full of switchs and buttons labelled in German, mean these old girls really are top spec for trucking in Africa. Also in Franks conversion and pre-shipping yard were a couple of ex British Army 6×4 Seddon Atkinsons. These have turned out to be a labour of love and for the forseable future no more will be purchased. Since Gambia left the British Empire in 1965 all vehicles have to be Left Hand Drive, so the the first thing to do was to convert the Atkinsons from RHD to LHD, not to difficult but still a ball-ache when the German trucks are already LHD. Next the Seddons Atkinsons are standard road spec, so the air tanks and underslung exhaust have to be removed and redirected to a purpose built frame behind the cab, to try and improve the ground clearence. Again not a difficult job but one that can be avoided by buying the German trucks. Still the big Seddon looks great and ready for the African roads, in its natty orange paint work and illegal to use in the UK train horns!
I often wonder what will happen in the countries that recieve all of Europes old trucks when we run out of the correct vintage. There isn’t an endless supply of mechanicaly simple and computer free trucks to ship around the world, so whats going to happen? I have no idea what will happen in the future, but for now Frank says the value of the simple trucks is far greater than anything newer. In fact newer trucks are getting cheaper as they are unwanted in such countries as Gambia. The way forward for now is computer free trucking and what better place to find well kept, low mileage trucks than the huge supplies of ex military vehicles available. The Dutch dealer that Frank bought these 4 trucks from had 54 of these 6×4 Maggies for sale at Christmas, now he has none. 50 were sold in one go to a Nigerian buyer and then these 4 are bound for Gambia. Hopefully Frank is going to send some more pics as and when the trucks reach Gambia and also of some of the things still running around out there. For now it seems Africas roads will continue to be filled with older rather than newer trucks, but for those who love their trucks and enjoying doing repairs and tinkering with engines then perhaps its the place to be.