Page 3. SD Enthusiasts' Club Newsletter - Winterer 2021.
VINTAGE ROADSCENE MAGZINE Issue 264 November 2021.
A Purely Personal View from your Editor.
Aled Rees posted this delightful picture of a 1965 TX Pakamatic newly arrived for service with Warmley Rural District Council and fitted with bin lifting equipment. Warmley is Aled’s home village. I believe it demonstrates the high quality product for which SD was so highly regarded.
I was alerted that the November issue of Vintage Roadscene Magazine carried an article concerning A Century of SD (Pages 28 to 33). So I bought myself a copy and most sincerely wish I hadn’t!
I write this, not because it gives me any pleasure, but because I feel an obligation to make these comments. A major objective of the SD Enthusiasts’ Club is to preserve the memories and reputation of Shelvoke & Drewry Engineers from Letchworth Garden City (1922 – 1991) and I wish to defend that reputation.
I have come to the conclusion that Mike Forbes, the Editor of Vintage Roadscene, commissioned Malcolm Bates to write a thinly disguised advertisement for the 2022 SD Event to be held at the Classic Commercial Motor Show at Gaydon on 11th /12th June 2022, and to promote further sales of the bookazine ‘SD’ Shelvoke & Drewry. In my personal opinion the article, as published, does a great dis-service to readers of Vintage Roadscene Magazine, to those of us who are surviving former employees of Shelvoke & Drewry Ltd. and who hold the Company in high regard, and that it fails to give a balanced account of the many important achievements of this relatively small manufacturer of specialised motor vehicles.
I appreciate that there are many people who are grateful to Malcolm Bates for his unique writing style, but equally I know of many former employees who have been quite deeply hurt by some of the comments he has previously had published, and I feel certain that these people will welcome my attempt to counter the impression Malcolm likes to give of the Company that nurtured us a young men and set us on fulfilling careers.
The strap line to the article reads:- “What’s to Celebrate?” The “padding” of the article suggests that it is that Malcolm Bates was clever enough to get a job at SD which he loved. Then considerable space is given to the SPV Division and Managing Director, Stan Quin, and Technical Director, Tom Tillson, are criticised for their lack of vision.
Why oh why couldn’t we have an honest look at some of the many achievements of the Company, that is so dear to me, and to many other former employees? For example:- In1922 SD had 35 employees by 1932 it was 350 (Kaleidoscope Caption ), U.K. Market share for refuse Collection Vehicles – The SD Freighter 75%, ‘W’ type in 1953 33% , in 1959 66% , 1970’s ‘N’ series 60%  Long life of products – 1947 SD Freighters were in use over 20 years old , the London Brick Company’s first Freightlifter lasted 21 years  These are facts we can celebrate.
The Fore & Aft tipper, the Pakamatic and the Revopak were market leaders in their time, the little Freighter carried bus body work on around 50 chassis mainly used at coastal resorts, A work force that grew to over 1,000 who enjoyed the benefits of the First Garden City. A proud history of production during the Second World War, where SD trained young women to become welders replacing traditional male labour, many hundreds of young men trained as apprentices who became a valued part of SD’s skilled workforce. In the late 1960’s the formation of the SD 40 Club, because so many had now completed forty years at SD. High quality, high reliability vehicles carrying out a humble but vital task. My understanding is that the SPV Division was not a great success but SD did supply the London Fire Brigade with 58 appliances – quite an achievement. That’s just a part of what there is to celebrate in 2022!
A final personal quibble. I’m sorry but it is simply untrue that I had any agreement to contact possible owners of SD vehicles to attend at Gaydon. I supplied a comprehensive list to Peter Johnston and Malcolm Bates where I felt I had permission to pass on details – that was, and is, my sole involvement. In so far as “Nobody knows how many SD’s survive.” With assistance from Aled Rees there is a comprehensive list on the SD Enthusiasts’ Club website and in addition the website https://www.howmanyleft.co.uk/make/sd shows 27 taxed and 16 SORN in the second quarter of 2021.
How sad that this VR article is so flawed! We deserve better than this.
[Both Malcolm Bates and Mike Forbes were made aware that I would be publishing this page.]
Note:- 7th December 2021
I have been saddened to be told that some people, on reading the above, have concluded that I’m not fully supportive of the event that is being organised by the team led by Peter Johnston and Malcolm Bates to put on a Grand Display of Preserved SD Vehicles at Gaydon on 11th & 12th June 2022. I sincerely apologise if my words gave that impression.
I wish to state publicly that I am delighted that there will be an opportunity to see a large gathering of Shelvoke & Drewry vehicles in 2022 – the centenary year of the founding of the Company. I am fully in support of the Gaydon event. When the initial plans were being formed I had to take the decision not to become involved purely because of the state of my health at that time. Should my health permit I hope to be at Gaydon on both days next year. I trust that this clarifies the situation.
Hon. Secretary the SD Enthusiasts’ Club.
Riddlesden, West Yorkshire.