One evening I was sitting at home minding my own business, when Nick Vandy telephoned me. He told me about an AEC Matador WW2 Gun Tractor for sale, only about 3 miles from where I live. After a lot of contemplation as to whether the thing would fit into my back garden, I decided to buy it.
When I was about 13 years old I had built the Airfix kit of the Matador and 5.5 inch gun, (I still have the 5.5 inch gun) but this was rather a different kettle of fish.
A date was set to tow the contraption back to Camborne and the salvage squad was hastily assembled, consisting of myself, Frank Burberry, Nick Vandy and Brian Sanders. On arrival at our primary objective (the field where the Matador had lain for the last 7 years), our crack team leapt into action and within seconds every man was armed with a mug and issued with tea, (Old British Army Proverb from the desert campaign, " When in doubt brew up") courtesy of Nick Vandy (as with most things in life size does matter, Big Shed, Big truck , Big thermos).
The matador was towed out of the field by a tractor and hitched behind the Hippo, a seat (courtesy Mark Keast) had been attached by a precarious arrangement of G cramps and a steering wheel fitted (borrowed from Brian). With Frank at the tailgate of the Hippo relaying instructions to Nick, we proceeded to Camborne by a very circuitous "scenic" route previously reconnoitered by Nick to avoid the obvious potential danger of a very steep hill and a level crossing.
The journey was exciting, but uneventful. When we arrived in Camborne a reception committee had assembled, consisting of Frank Volante, Mark Keast and his son Harrison, my Girlfriend Sheila and a few curious onlookers.
I will always remember the tears of joy that filled Sheilas eyes as she realized exactly what it was that would be parked in the back garden for the next few years.
Final positioning was accomplished using my landrover, with Mark Keast and Frank Burberry both steering the Matador and despite the constricted nature of the site, was far less problematical than I had envisaged.
As soon as everyone departed for Sunday lunch, I set to work with a pressure washer and angle grinder to remove 7 years of neglect and the remains of the crane and land anchor still attached to the matador, a legacy of its later use as a logging tractor.
In Fort Baxter they Have Master Sergeant Ernest G. Bilko, in Camborne we have Frank Volante, both of whom are astute business men, wear American uniform and drive jeeps, though Frank has considerably more hair than Phil Silvers and a greater affinity with old metaliforous objects. There are some other distinct similarities.
With the assistance of Signore Volante, I soon had enough angle iron to construct a full size replica of Blackpool tower, which leads me to my next and inevitable step.
"THE SHED" it could be reasonably assumed that the acquisition of a Military Vehicle, would be the single most important ambition of any member of the MVT and it probably is, but and this is a big but, who wants to spend time restoring a vehicle, that has lasted for possibly 60 years or so, and then leave it to the mercy of the English weather?, the obvious solution is " A SHED" , this innocent enterprise can soon become an obsession, which can all too easily eclipse the mere ownership of a military Vehicle, festooned with flags, posters, signs, and all the other nostalgic trappings of a bygone age, this humble structure soon assumes an identity all of its own.
While I do not claim my shed is of any particular architectural merit, it does however posses one unique feature, as the superstructure is bolted directly to the chassis of the Matador it is completely mobile and if the engine was started could be driven, lock, stock and barrel back to the field were it came from! (Sheilas Suggestion not mine).
Restoration continues and the condition of the vehicle is not as horrendous as the photos would suggest, many manuals have been purchased and studied and various spare parts have started to be acquired, it will be a long slow job but I am enjoying the process.
I would like to thank all those who helped in the recovery operation, in particular, my dear friend Mr. Nick Vandy who bears sole responsibility for my recent purchase and subsequent obsession and has a lot to answer for!
Text & pics courtesy of Mark Simm