The skilled volunteers have fully rebuilt the rare vehicle and gas turbine starter over a two-year period in Hinckley, Leicestershire, and it now resides alongside XH558 at her Doncaster hangar home.
The period Commer was originally converted by Blackburn Engines, a manufacturer of ground support equipment used globally and a division of the Hawker Siddeley Group, in the 1960s and has covered only around 10,000 miles from new.
The truck and unit – which was found at RAF Woodford, where it was used to start Nimrods – has been gifted to the Vulcan to the Sky Trust, but required extensive recommissioning of the cab, driveline, interior and the turbo air starter unit. Blackburn Engines’ design supplied air to the jet engines, such as XH558’s Rolls-Royce Olympus units, ahead of the engine ignition sequence, therefore avoiding the need for cartridge systems or, depending on aircraft type, any onboard supply systems (APUs).
“The Commer truck and air starter unit restoration has been a resounding success, and the Trust is indebted to the skills of the five committed volunteers who embarked on this arduous process with no support from existing manuals or wiring diagrams,” said Dr Robert Pleming, chief executive of Vulcan to the Sky Trust. “She really is the perfect period accessory for XH558.”
The truck cab has been painstakingly rebuilt and painted with repair panels fabricated where required, and a number of cues to its stablemate, XH558, have been included. The truck required rewiring throughout, but rather than use like-for-like cabling, the team of volunteers have recreated the entire loom using aircraft-grade wiring as used in the restoration of XH558.
The interior retrim has also been carried out using a Vulcan parachute bag, and the material used for matting the floor is straight from a Vulcan cockpit. Arch liners and further sundries are also aviation-sourced.
The driveline required extensive renewal and the Humber Hawk four-cylinder petrol engine received a major service. Parts availability was a major hurdle for the restoration team of Simon Chipman, Mark Malin, Dave Seaton, Ron Cobb and George Barton; ancillaries such as the water pump were fully rebuilt as opposed to being replaced, for example.
One of the greatest challenges was the renewal of the air starter unit, which required extensive rebuilding and servicing before successful testing at Bruntingthorpe – it’s even been used as intended, helping out the Buccaneer team at Cold War Jets day when their usually reliable starting procedure failed.
The Commer truck and Blackburn air starter unit can now be viewed at XH558’s home at Robin Hood Airport, Doncaster, with a range of tours available. For further information, visit www.vulcantothesky.org