1939 Bedford WS

The Bedford W Series were built between 1931 and 1939. They were the first models entirely built by Bedford.

Bedford WHB and WLB

There has always been confusion over the Bedford chassis, the WHB & WLB. They were in many ways similar to the Chevrolet design (that had already been in production in Britain since 1929) and not as many thought, badge engineered Chevrolets.

They were first introduced in 1931 and the first Bedford PSV chassis to emerge from the Vauxhall Factory at Luton. They were both based on the 2 ton commercial chassis. The WHB & WLB were identical except for the wheelbases. The WHB had a wheelbase of 131 inches and the WLB had a wheelbase of 157 inches. The engine was Bedford's own six-cylinder 3177cc petrol unit giving 64bhp at 2800 rpm, It was rated by the RAC as 27 hp. The transmission was via a four-speed crash gearbox to a bevel drive at the rear axle. Brakes were rod operated via a Dewandre Vacuum Servo Unit and the electrical system was 12 volt.

The official body builder was Duple of Hendon (an association that carried on for may years to come) although other body builders including Waveney of Oulton Broad, Grose of Northampton, Rainforth of Lincoln & Jennings of Sandbach. Plaxton are also on record for supplying a 20 seat body for a WLB service bus in 1933. Seating capacity was nominally 14 for the WHB and 20 for the WLB. The WHB did not prove popular and production ceased in 1933 with only 102 being built. The WLB ran for a further 2 years until April 1935, when a total of 1892 had been built.

The WS

The WS was not strictly a PSV chassis but the 30 cwt WS chassis was introduced in 1932. It was really a good, strong chassis designed to carry goods although a number were bodied for use as rural buses and estate buses. Powered by the same six-cylinder 27hp petrol engine as fitted to the WLB, the WS had only single rear wheels. Very few are known to have survived although two almost identical vehicles with Churchill bodies have.


After the initial success of the WLB, Vauxhall Motors consolidated their place in the market place with the introduction in 1934 of the WT models. The WT models were designed to be goods chassis. The engine was moved forward over the front axle. The WT had a much shorter bonnet that the earlier WLB model, thus affording a higher seating capacity of up to 26 seats (on the buses). Early examples were built on the goods (WTL) chassis with Duple again being the 'preferred' body supplier, although like the WLB other body makers such as Plaxton, Thurgood, Burlingham & Wilmot bodied the WTB.

The engine still a six-cylinder petrol unit although it's capacity was now 3180cc. It was still rated at 27 hp by the RAC. The transmission was the retained four-speed crash gearbox and the brakes were again Dewandre servo assisted.

Early WTB models had a chrome plated straight fluted radiator grille, but in 1938 following an update to the WTB chassis, the 'bull nose' radiator which was to become a feature of the ubiquitous OB would become standard thus making the WTB similar in looks to the OB. Many people have been mistaken in identifying a WTB wrongly as an OB. The main distinguishing feature is that there is no external radiator cap on the WTB. At the same time, (1938) the engine was up rated to 3519 cc (28 hp RAC rating), which would go on to power the OB introduced as a replacement for the WTB in 1939. A total of 2320 WTB chassis were produced.