TAKING THE ROUGH WITH THE SMOOTH
The AEC Model (O)853 Matador and the Model (O)854
The AEC Matador Story by Steve Richards
Until I read Steve Richardsí excellent new work on the AEC Matador I had no idea that so many had survived... and that so many of the survivors represent the truck in post-war civilian service. In one of the appendices to the book the author lists 207 vehicles out of the 'hundreds of the survivors' which he believes exist to this day. A list which makes it all the more surprising that this is the first book to be published which is devoted entirely to what was described as 'the best tractor in the medium class in either of the opposing armies'.
The book is arranged in three parts running to eighty well-illustrated and clearly laid-out pages. The first tells the story of the iconic and well-loved Matador 4x4 Model O853, and includes information on the armoured truck and self-propelled gun variants. The second part describes the much rarer 6x6 Model O854, which was widely used by the Royal Air Force and few of which have survived. A series of useful appendices include data on military colour schemes; AEC types referred to in the text; the Irish Matadors; the relationship between Hardy Motors, FWD and AEC; a short history of the AEC company; the development of all-wheel drive; and, of course the list of survivors already described.
In recounting the story of the development and service of what is possibly AEC's finest truck, the author is to be congratulated for also allowing veterans and operators to tell the story of their own experiences of the Matador. This really brings the truck to life and introduces a genuine sense of nostalgia to subject matter which, so often, is approached in an overtly technical or clinical way.
The medium armoured car, which was based on Matador automotive components, is not covered but perhaps this could form the subject of a second volume.
Do not be put off by the fact that this is a self-published work. The author has clearly done his research well, knows his stuff and, what's more can write entertainingly. Even if this were not the case, the book would be worth buying for the pictures alone. Many of the photographs of Matadors in military service have never before seen the light of day, but there are also plenty of shots of restored vehicles and of trucks which were photographed during their second careers as recovery vehicles, timber tractors and even fairground transport.
If you have anything more than a passing interest in Matadors, make sure that Steve Richards' excellent book appears on your Christmas list.
Pat Ware, Military Fighting Vehicles Historian, Norfolk.
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