PH Carpool: Thornycroft Nubian Major

Name:James Walker

Car (vehicle):Thornycroft Nubian Major (6x6 Airfield Crash Tender)
Owned since:Summer 2011
Previous owner:National Historic Vehicle Society

Why I bought it:
We bought the Nubian because of its rarity; it is a unique prototype model that was originally built for evaluation purposes. It was the first we had seen in over three years of searching, and for one to come up in such good condition made it a 'must'.

We also felt it fitted in with the other vehicles in our collection, particularly the Alvis Mk6 fire crash tender (otherwise known as the Alvis Salamander), because when dealing with an airfield fire, these would have operated as a pair - the Salamander fighting the fire, and the Nubian supplying it with water from its 1500 gallon tank. We think that getting them both restored beautifuly and paired up again would be a real showstopper!

On our first ever trip in it, the main luxuries I missed were being able to hear myself think, and to feel my feet. The heater was unfortunately not working and, despite there being a 14.8-litre Cummins V8 diesel only inches to my side, the cab was very cold.

Despite these inconveniences it was well worth buying. I think I would tell anyone thinking of buying anything of a similar genre to be confident, because these were built to last (the running gear looks indestructable), and that any problems like the odd dent or broken heater really fade into insignificance when you take a look around it and see how much character it has.

Things I love:
I love the way it drives, and the feeling you get from high up in the cab is great; you might be driving down a road at 40-odd miles an hour, and looking to the side you see a ploughed field, and the row of hedges that, but for your height, would be hiding it from you, you get a small but priceless buzz from knowing that you could just as easily be on the other side of the hedge, parallel to the road doing the same speed off-road.

Further to the driving experience, I love how easy it is to drive - everything down to the gearbox (which incidently has a chunky metal gate for the actual gearstick, just like an Audi R8...) is air-assisted, making the gear changes through the 5-speed "pneumocyclic" an absolute pleasure, accompanied brilliantly by the roar of the engine.

Things I hate:
The 'things I hate' paragraph was always going to be a short one, because if there were that many things to hate about it, we simply wouldnt have bought it! I suppose the fuel consumption isnt amazing, we reckon 7mpg, but even that isnt too bad, considering the size of the engine - our e39 M5 averages about 25mpg and that's around the 5.0-litre mark...


Other than the fuel issue, it really doesn't cost much to run at all. It is tax and MOT exempt on the basis of it being a) historic and b) a fire engine and insurance is remarkably low. Parts are mainly straightforward, because a lot of standard sizes are used, and the engine is seen regularly in drag tractors and the like. so manuals and spares come up on Ebay fairly regularly, allbeit for other similar models, so as long as we keep our eyes peeled for such items, we're sorted.

Where I've been:
So far, we've only had one trip to get to know it. It took the 120 miles effortlessly and never felt on edge (except for one occasion where our backup car pulled us over saying the blue flashing lights had been on the past 10 minutes - we had accidently knocked the switch inadvertantly while going through the control panel in search of the windscreen wipers(!) and then couldn't figure out which one it was to turn them off again).

What next:

In the future we intend to show it when we can. You will probably be able to see it in the metal next at Welland Steam Rally near the Malvern Hills this summer. We also intend to restore it as much as funds allow, but with the focus on functionality, not being polished to within an inch of its life! We feel that when something looks pristine, you become afraid to touch it, let alone play with it..

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (69) Join the discussion on the forum

  • DR10 16 Feb 2012

    What sort of power does it produce?

    Edit: Google tells me 288 BHP

    Edited by DR10 on Thursday 16th February 13:32

  • HorneyMX5 16 Feb 2012

    I love old trucks. You need to bring it home to the Basingstoke Festival of Transport, there's always a few interesting Thronycroft vehicles assembled there.


  • lazystudent 16 Feb 2012

    Lol. Love that!

  • GTiFrank 16 Feb 2012

    Brilliant carpool! Will always remember my ride in a green goddess at lasham airfield. "easy to drive" was not the 1st thing that sprang to mind though!

  • Tedz 16 Feb 2012

    Excellent, thanks! Surely one bit to add to the "Things I Hate" section, would be parking the thing?!

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