Curbside Classic: 1970 Bedford TJ – Advanced Past Its Prime

Modern life is generally free of compulsory rituals. Instead, each individual, community, or tribe make their own as they see fit. And while academics find rituals ‘primitive,’ each of these little actions and ceremonies add meaning and sense to our lives. In the case of curbsiders, it’s each find that brings a certain sense of completion. A duty of sorts fulfilled. To preserve, at least in digital form, these pieces of our past.

If capturing curbside finds is a ritual, I almost transgressed in the case of this Bedford TJ, as I was reluctant to stop. We were on our way back home with my wife and a friend of hers, leaving a distant countryside town after a long family gathering. Needless to say, we were all exhausted and yearning to return to the city.

It was then that the TJ appeared. “Gosh, there’s no reason not to stop -went the voice in my head- I have the time! But my wife is probably tired and fed up with these sudden stops of mine by now. And what about her friend? She would think I’m a loon…”

So I slowly passed it by, hesitatingly. I attempted to console myself: “Well, it isn’t in great condition. I suppose I’ll find another in better shape some other time…”

Just then my wife called on me: “Ric! Why didn’t you stop? You already have one of those?”

Say no more dear! I’ll obey and fulfill my duty!

The TJ is, of course, a familiar sight to those who have travelled the lands once covered by the British Empire. Built from 1958 to 1998, they’re still fairly common in most of the Indian subcontinent, while being nothing but a memory in Europe. In the case of Central America, they were once ubiquitous, though dwindled quite quickly when imports ceased sometime in the ’80s. In my memory they used to be everywhere, until -as it’s inevitable- they weren’t.

The story of the TJ starts with the Bedford TA (above), and as many have noted, is itself a derivative of Chevrolet’s Advance-Design line of trucks. With WWII over, Bedford and its parent company Vauxhall were in dire need to renew their antiquated O, K and M prewar truck lines. However, good Vauxhall had its plate quite full between factory reconditioning and new vehicle lines to design. With their resources stretched thin in a multitude of tasks, GM thought best to expedite matters and offer their Advance-Design as a starting point for Bedford’s new lines of trucks.

As is known, GM’s studios had been playing with new ideas throughout the war, imagining the future of the automobile. The shape of the Advance-Design emerged from that unusual interlude in ‘civilian production.’ The final design is largely attributed to Luther W. Stier, who would become head of Chevrolet’s first truck design studio in 1949. As a side note; a young Chuck Jordan started his designer life in GM’s truck studio, sketching possible updates for the Advance-Design (above). GM had such faith in the Advance-Design that it reached showrooms in June of 1947, well before their new sedans appeared for ’49.

Talks between Vauxhall stylist David Jones and Harley Earl got underway in 1948, and it was agreed to use the Advance-Design as a template for Vauxhall’s trucks. Later that year, in November, a Chevrolet 3000 was delivered to Luton, with all design plans handed to Vauxhall’s engineering. The project was coded A-Series.

From the get-go there was no intention to just ‘trace’ Chevrolet’s templates, as Vauxhall’s available hardware made that impossible. Still, with the Advance-Design at their hands, Vauxhall had quite the tool to expedite their work. In short time the Advance-Design’s dimensions were adjusted to Vauxhall’s needs, while retaining the design’s proven body structure and stiffness. Not surprisingly, the TA’s cabin features and measurements were comparable to Chevrolet’s, though exterior dimensions varied (most notably on the fenders) in order to accommodate various loading capacities.

It’s evident in the TA’s final shape that some of the Advance-Design features where a bit too ‘advanced’ for Vauxhall’s production capabilities: the window arrangement was simplified, as well as hood, grille and fenders. Regardless, from all accounts Vauxhall was rather pleased with the final result.

Launch date for was slated for 1952. Chevrolet was already working on the Advance-Design’s replacement by then; but no matter, in the UK the TA’s styling was a cutting edge design. Advanced indeed.

And against the competition, the TA’s cabin must have felt like a revelation to drivers accustomed to confined and dated prewar truck cockpits. In printed material such TA features were extolled; its three seat capability, a better seating position, and its new ventilation system, among many others.

The line found a receptive market and ran until 1957, where a slightly revised version, the TD, lasted until ’58. It was replaced by the TJ, itself being a modernized version of the TA/TD platform. The TJ’s shape finally overcame some of the styling difficulties found on the TA’s development: fenders, hood, and windows looked appropriately more Advance-Design.

The lower capacity versions of the TJ had slightly different styling, with a toothy grille, eyelids over the headlights, and odd bulges on the fenders for a slightly pouchy look.

By the ’60s, the Advance-Design was looking past its sell-by date in a quickly changing European market. While selling in decent numbers during that decade’s first few years, the line was dropped in the UK in ’75.

Not that those in Pakistan or India would have known about such market issues, as the model remained available seemingly forever. The truck stayed in production in India, built by Hindustan Motors, until 1995. It served dilligently in those distant lands.


As is the norm with truck lines, especially long running ones, engine and loading capabilities vary widely. The line had the typical alphanumeric soups that marque specialists delight on: The J1, J2 and J3 were the light duty versions, with loading capability starting around 1500kg, and rising to 2 and 3 tons. The heavy duty lines were the J4, J5 and J6, that went from 4 to 6 tons respectively.

TJs could be had with gasoline (petrol?) and diesel engines, ranging from 214 c.u. to 300 c.u. Diesels were still somewhat of a novelty at Vauxhall, as the TA 4 and 6 ton models had been first in the company’s line to sport it.

The toothy grille in our TJ is a sign that it’s one of the light duty versions, either a J1, J2 or J3. I’ll admit this skull-like TJ is a bit of an oddity for me, as the cleaner looking heavy-duty models are the ones I remember mostly from my youth.

Year? I would be tempted to say early ’70s, but it’s not like there’s much left on this carcass to make a clear assessment. Information online is a bit hard to make out, but the toothy grille TJs seem to have died with the model’s pullout from the UK market in ’75.

With this find being out in a quiet countryside town, it meant that I was -for once- left alone while shooting. A rarity, and a welcomed one. I had a chance to take a few shots with calm, in spite of my wife’s friend frowned face (Look! It won’t take long!).

That serenity allowed me to shoot the interior. One of my few occasions. The interior suggests this baby hasn’t seen action in a while, but then again, I wouldn’t bet on it. You would be surprised at the condition of some of the taxis I’ve ridden in this country.

Yes, we hang on to our hard-earned material goods in these lands. A good number of my finds don’t look like they’ll ever see action again, but darn it if their owners are willing to part with them. “I’ll fix it or sell it someday…” Sure, to whom?

Not that I mind, I prefer for these clues of our past to remain around, scattered and battered as they may be.

Shots done, it was time to finally part back to the city.

So in the end, my wife got me to pay respects to this dormant/defunct TJ. Good thing, for I get a good deal of pleasure from appeasing the curbside deities.

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