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Converting cars to ambulances in Manchester – ca. 1940

The Greater Manchester Transport Society have kindly given us permission to show these three pictures from the GMTS Collection. They date from early in World War II and show cars converted to ambulances by Manchester Corporation –either in the process of conversion in the Corporation garages or already converted.

Anders Ditlev Clausager has been able to identify most of the cars, but if anyone can tell us more we shall be most grateful to hear from them.

Anders tells us that in 1940 the civil defence authority was in need of ambulances to cope with civilian casualties from the expected bombing raids.  They bought up second-hand cars and converted them in various locations; Wolseley in Birmingham got a contract to convert some cars.  The civil defence obviously preferred large and powerful cars, which was a godsend for owners of such white elephants, since they were able to get rid of them probably at better than normal market values.  With the horsepower tax now at 25 shillings per hp and fuel rationing, such cars would be expensive to run, if they could be run at all, so they just sat around and were worth very little.

Now to the cars. The first picture shows two that have already been converted.  On the left is registration number CLC 400, a Standard from late 1935, probably a Flying Sixteen or Flying Twenty. On the right is registration number JA 4657, a 1934 Humber, probably a Snipe.

Standard and Humber

 

The second picture shows a Crossley from 1933 or 1934 closest to the camera, and a 1934 Buick further away.

Crossley and Buick

 

The final picture almost certainly shows the same 1934 Buick in the foreground (registration AVM 787), and another Buick behind, this time from 1935 (dated by its registration number BKA 612).

Two Buicks

 

There are some charming details in the pictures.  The first shows how well the two smiling ambulance drivers have been kitted out, with helmets, waterproofs and, just visible, the straps of their gas mask holders.  The cars have assorted headlamp covers for the blackout.  The second not only has a Manchester Corporation  bus in the background, but also a pile of discarded doors and the luggage rack from the converted Buick (see the unconverted car in the third picture).  The third picture includes a bus and a tram, and shows the white paint on the edge of the rear wing of the second Buick – an attempt at improving visibility of cars in blackout conditions.

Our thanks are due to the GMTS Collection for their permission to use these images.  If you want to know more about their magnificent collection of Manchester transport, visit the website of the Museum of Transport Greater Manchester: motgm.uk.


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