BMC Mobile Service School


BMC Service based in Cowley in late 1959 decided that although the company had permanent service schools in Canada, South Africa, Ghana, USA, and Australia. In the UK it had service schools at Longbridge Flight Shed, Ward End, and Cowley but these schools are only able to cater for staff from Distributors'.

Even if they had the space to accept more, the small Dealer with only two or three mechanics could not afford to lose a third of his labour force by sending a man on a week or fortnight's course.

So to address this problem BMC Service School based at Cowley decided that it would be a good idea to commission Marshalls of Cambridge to design a body based on the FFK 140 coach chassis. It was felt that by having a fleet of Mobile Service Classrooms they would be able to train mechanics in remote places in the UK and in Europe at the local agents or distributors.

So the interior was laid out as a classroom with all the necessary special tools and diesel calibration equipment.

The engine was the 5.7litre vertical diesel coupled to a 5-speed crash gearbox and the a Eaton 2.speed axle also the steering was power assisted. A few of the vehicles were LHD,
one interesting driving point on the FF K140 and FF K360 was that in Left Hand version the accelerator pedal was between the clutch pedal and the brake.

Because of this very futuristic Marshall looking cabin, it was necessary for the gear lever to be one foot longer than for production bodies.

As can be seen from the picture the one piece front screen was very large. Because of this and the possible breakage problems whilst abroad, the rear screen on the vehicle was the same as the front. so if the front screen got damaged, the rear screen could be removed and fitted in the front.

Initially the vehicles were called "Service Unit" and marked as such on the sides. In April 1963 when one of the units got to Dunkirk the French Customs were not happy with the wording on the unit. They said that "Service Unit" indicates a Mobile Workshop and therefore the Custom documents were incorrect. In the end, Customs did allow the unit to proceed to the French distributor of Messrs. Willeme, Paris. Because of this all the units were then repainted "Training Unit".

After a few years the MTUs were made redundant and sold off. One was converted by BMC Competitions Dept. at Abington for rally car transport and support. Others were converted into Motor Homes. Leyland Cars Service Marketing Dept, covered one in 1975 into a hospitality suite, this was painted white with a Red and Blue band down the side below the windows. It also had an awning and was used for at exhibitions, race meetings along with attending Leyland Cars Distributors.

50 Mobile Schools

WITHIN three years there will be no fewer than 50 BMC. Mobile Service Training Units in operation throughout the world. Controlled from England, they will be visiting some of the Corporation's 10,000 service stations giving technical advice and training to Distributor and Dealer personnel.

Although permanent service schools are in operation in Canada, South Africa, Ghana, U.S.A., and Australia, as well as those at Longbridge, Ward End, and Cowley in this country, these are unable to cater for more than Distributors' employees.

Even if they had the space to accept more, the small Dealer with only two or three mechanics could not afford to lose a third of his labour force by sending a man on a week or fortnight's course.

Well Equipped

B.M.C.'s answer to these difficulties was a mobile unit which could go to the Dealer and give the necessary training on his own premises. The first of the new fleet made its appearance in September 1960. and since then five more have gone into operation. The units are well equipped for their work. Work-benches, a full complement of service tools, and a diesel pump test equipment enable the highly trained staff to cover the whole field of car and commercial vehicle service.

Service School Germany
Service team outside the Salzburg Austria BMC Agent

Initially much of the training was done by lectures, but in the light of experience gained on the first trip it has now been modified to take a more practical form. When a unit visits a Dealer they find out what particular difficulties the mechanics have and are then able to show them the correct way to do these particular operations.

This practice disrupts the Dealer's normal business as little as possible ' for his mechanics are still doing their normal work but they are doing it under instruction. It frequently happens that an operation which previously took a mechanic perhaps four hours takes him only two once he has been shown the correct technique.

This system has also proved of the utmost value abroad, where language difficulties are involved. If an interpreter is used a one-hour lecture automatically becomes one of two hours and is also very formal. A demonstration cuts out the need for too much explanation and is more easily and accurately assimilated.

The introduction of a new model means, of course, that special courses have to be run. One of the duties of the units is to familiarize Dealer staff with servicing techniques which are peculiar to a new model. Courses run for the Morris Mini-Minor and the Austin Seven were examples of this.

To staff the mobile units BMC. have already started to recruit and train demonstrator-mechanics. These men will specialize in either cars or commercial vehicles. When they are not on tour they operate in the permanent schools to bring their own technical knowledge up to date.

The scale of this operation is something quite new in the motor industry. By offering these additional services to Distributors and Dealers BMC. enables them in turn to give better service facilities to the customer.

In 1968 the BMC Commercial Vehicle School moved to Cowley Factory after 10 years

It was some ten years ago that the 'service school was established in the building familiarly known at Austin division as the Flight Shed. First the car service school moved to Cowley now with he gradual 'phasing out' at Longbridge of the commercial side, the move will be complete.

'It is expected that in mid-August the commercial service school will be established and operating from Cowley,' Mr Herbert Chaflenor, Longbridge commercial service school manager told BMC World.

Mr. Challenor, who joined the Austin Motor Co. in 1927 was appointed service school manager in 1960.


'Since we have been in operation we have made a great many personal friends in the trade-and, of course, the success of the school owes a lot to the qualities of our instructors.' At times, as many as 90 have been based at Longbridge, but with the school's gradual ran down only eight now remain. For these men, some of whom will remain with BMC, and others who have chosen to leave us it is with pride that hey look back on 10 years' of achievement.

Fitters, service managers, and even executives have come to the classrooms at Longbridge to be brought up to date on the latest service techniques and service tools, and of course, there are many tales (not all printable) about the instructors' experiences on the roads with the mobile training units.

Taking a break from this his last lecture to be delivered at Longbridge, senior instructor, or Jim Garvie recalled the time he was taking one of those 30-ft.-Iong units to Londonderry. On the way they passed a well-known circus making its way to the next 'pitch'.

For The Circus

On arrival at Derry the service vehicle was parked in the main square and the instructors went to arrange their hotel accommodation. When they returned a lengthy queue was waiting outside the vehicles-townspeople anxious to purchase tickets for the circus!

'We realized then that the "BMC" on the vehicle had been interpreted as Bertram Mills Circus and, of course, the penny dropped right away,' said Jim. 'We explained to the disappointed queue just who we were and when the circus booking office did arrive they enjoyed the joke and gave us 10 free ringside seats.

A less pleasant experience was recalled by instructor Derek Bailey who was in Izmir in 1964. 'We were lecturing, and I was sitting on a balcony listening to another lecturer when the chair I was sitting on moved.

'The audience knew at once what was happening "earthquake"! There was a dash for the open and for I minute and 35 seconds the world shook. 'It was a terrifying experience-and though the area we were in got off lightly, parts of Turkey suffered great loss of life and damage.'

'You have to be dedicated to work all hours, and to take the rough with the smooth,' explained instructor Albert Boswell.

'Our experiences with the mobile units have been amusing, sometimes frustrating and on occasions really frightening - but one of our everyday jobs at the school at Longbridge has been to deliver regular lectures, and trainees have been through here at the rate of about 6,000 a year.'

Walking Stick

'Not only are Distributors eager to send men to our commercial training school here, I remember one occasion when I was holding lectures in Vienna a man arrived in a sports car having driven right across Austria. He had a broken leg-but he was so anxious to bring his service knowledge up-to-date he had driven all the way using his walking stick to depress 'the clutch pedal.'

Instructors have sheltered from air raids during civil wars, have removed body mouldings from the side of their mobile training units to ensure they did not infringe vehicle width, regulations, and even on occasions produced documents describing the vehicles as 'personal transport' to conform to peculiar conditions of entry!

Sometimes a tour of duty can last for two months, sometimes nearer 10. Units go to the Arctic Circle, to the Equator-in fact, anywhere a BMC commercial has been sold.

'We have seen BMC vehicles operating in frightful conditions-and the kind of service they give is a credit to the designers and the men on the lines who build them,' agreed the instructors.

'We would like to think that our service provided from Longbridge headquarters has been as reliable and efficient as our vehicles-and we are passing on to Cowley a very proud tradition.'


For the staff of the Longbridge school Mr. Challenor, the instructors, office staff, and not forgetting Mrs. Dora Waplington who has supplied more cups of tea than she cares to think about-it is the end of many happy years together. 'It has been teamwork from start to finish,' declared Mr Challenor.

Special Courses For ‘Crews’

The BMC. Advanced Driving School at Abingdon has recently widened its scope to provide a commercial driving course specially arranged for members of the BMC. Mobile Training Units.

Instructors and mechanic demonstrators who drive the Mobile Unit vehicles in this country and overseas are attending the these two-week courses of instruction in groups of four, and specially recruited to act as instructor for these courses is Dougie Bolton of Cars Branch Transport Department. Dougie has had considerable experience in the past two years in driving these vehicles in tours abroad including Italy and Sweden.

The course provides for 4 lectures in the first three days and follows the principles of the advanced driving technique with the necessary modifications and adaptation for the commercial type of vehicle.

Police Manual

The first practical work is confined to motor car driving in order to give the pupil practice in applying what he should have learnt from the lectures which, as with all the Driving School instructions, are based on the principles of Roadcraft the Police Drivers' Manual.

Following this he makes his first acquaintance with the Mobile Unit vehicle, with one hour spent on getting to know it thoroughly with such considerations to be taken into account as power assisted controls, a length of 30 feet, width 8 feet, height 9 feet 6 inches, the laden weight being nearly 7 tons.

It is only then that he is ready to take the vehicle on the road on a local tour. On the next day he will follow a route down to the coast and back. The second week begins with manoeuvring work on a disused aerodrome where obstacles are set up to make things awkward for the pupil and so give plenty of practice in getting in and out of tight corners and of course reversing. Next comes a full day's driving against a time schedule, and experience in London traffic. On the Wednesday a written examination on theory is taken followed by 150 miles driving.

Thursday sees the pupil speeding' up to 70 mph., on the Ml motorway, and on Friday he takes his test with the Chief Instructor of the Driving School, Mr. Harry Shillabeer, on a 25-mile course of varied roads.

The pupil then says farewell to his instructors carrying away a certificate which rates him in one of three classes and includes a report on his ability, complimentary or perhaps so unfavourable as to recommend him for a further course of instruction.

Mobile Training Unit - France

Letter from BMC Service Ltd Oxford to BMC Service School Longbridge.

Regarding the title of the vehicle "Service Unit", these words were a great source of annoyance, but since this particular vehicle went to France we have had all the titles changed to read "BMC. Training Unit".

It was this particular Unit that brought the matter to a head, the French Customs at Dunkirk did not like the term "Service Unit" either, they said it indicates a Mobile Workshop and therefore our Customs documents were incorrect.


Service Training School,
Flight Shed.,
9th June 1968.

Sir Donald Stokes

Dear Sir,

For the past 10 years the Service School at Longbridge have operated with considerable efficiency in field service. Operating in the UK and all theatres overseas via the mobile units. But now a decision has been taken to transfer all training to Cowley. All the present staff will be moved to various departments at Longbridge.

During our service we have represented the company in service training matters throughly and with loyalty second to none in the company having made ourselves the best in the trade.

We are now being told by personnel department to accept positions up to £7 per week below our normal and to move from staff to check forgoing our superannustion and attendant benefits. This we do not feel is a fair return for the hard graft that we have been called upon to do in the past. We would be indebted to you for arbitration in this matter, as it must surely be a waste to offer trained specialists to drive cars off the track.

On behalf of Service School personnel.

A A Boswell
Senior Instructor