The Restoration of Morris Commercial PU 8cwt

Back in the early 1980’s I owned and restored 8cwt Morris Commercial PU 8 wireless truck. Due to various circumstances I had to sell it, and I have regretted it ever since- my two sons never forgave me. It eventually ended up in a museum in Austria.

At our area military show at Southsea one of these trucks was for sale. I say ‘rare’ as most of them were left behind at Dunkirk or in the Western Desert. That evening I told my son Rory and he arranged to see it. The result was a deal was struck and the Morris Commercial was duly collected. Rory used it for a while until the 25hp six-cylinder engine started making expensive noises and as the truck was not to our standard he decided to a ‘Ballard’ restoration.

When sold out of the Army the PU8 had ended up as a garage breakdown truck on trade plates until the owner died. By 1959, it had been restored in breakdown registered as ‘ROT.830G’ in 1968, a number we decided to retain as part of its history. Before it came into our hands, the vehicle had passed through a number of military club owners and it was believed to be a 1941 model. However, on cleaning the chassis, we found the original number ‘1803-PU-78.33’ and checking this with official documents it was confirmed as one of a 1940 batch.

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PHOTO: ‘ROT.830G’ in its breakdown truck form taken at Cookfield Rally in September 1969.

Armed with much information and photographs obtained from official sources, not least the Imperial War Museum in South East London, we were determined to get the restoration correct. I was stripped down to the last nut and bolt and in the process we found the chassis to be slightly bent. A previous owner lifting and towing a 7-ton horsebox apparently caused this. The chassis was shot blasted, zinc plated and painted. All mechanical parts overhauled or replaced and the ‘OH’ engine (which we found to have one odd piston) rebuilt.

Attention was then given to the body, involving the use of new ash framing and many new metal panels. Rory and another local member, Brian Lisher, carried out all the canvas work using original photographs as a guide and eventually we obtained the correct No. 11 Wireless Set from and Australian military vehicle owner who was also restoring a similar truck. We only know of two PU8 military trucks in Australia so spares down-under are non-existent. Rory is helping wtih parts exchange for the wireless set, feeling particularly lucky to obtain one as most of those used by the British Army were destroyed when superseded by later equipment. To the best of our knowledge there are only two examples in museums in England.

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PHOTO: PU8cwt Mark II owned by Australian enthusiast Colin Anderson of Victoria

One of our local Morris Register members Russ Headley, showed us a photograph of his father sat on the wing of one of these trucks at Tidworth on Sailsbury Plain, taken in 1941. His father, Sergeant Headley, had survived the evacuation of Dunkirk the previous year and was with the 1st Battalion of the Rifle Brigade. Thus inspired we used the Brigade markings of our PU8. Sadly, Sergeant Headley died before the truck restoration was finished.

On the first outing with the PU we went to the local Noggin & Natter and it was while we were in the pub meeting place that a generation came in asking who owned the truck. Apparently his father had also been in the Rifle Brigade and he had many interesting photographs to show us.

For the D-Day celebrations, Rory and I took our military vehicles over to Normandy. Mine being a rare 1943 Canadian Ford with an Anti-Aircraft gun on the back. Both vehicles performed faultlessly and we were lucky to be selected for the Bayeux Parade.

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PHOTO: Photographed in 1938, ‘HMD.602’ was a PU Wireless truck in service with the ‘A. Corps Signals’

PU 8cwt Data Sheet
Engine: OH 6 cylinder, 83mm bore x 110mm stroke, 3485cc. Rear axle: ¾ floating, spiral bevel type, reduction ratio 4.583:1. Wheelbase: 9′ 0″, Track: front 4′ 10½”, Track: rear 5′ 0″, Overall length: 12′ 9″, Width overall: (over front wings) 6′ 3″, Ground clearance under rear axle: 7.125″ turning circle: 33′ 0″, Tyres: Dunlop 9.00-13 low pressure tyres.

Dave Ballard