Reprinted November 2011


The AEC Model (O)853 Matador and the Model (O)854

The AEC Matador Story by Steve Richards

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 From the author…

My introduction to this vehicle came in 1962 when, as a ten year old, we’d stopped for petrol on our way to the East Coast for our annual family holiday.  I spotted a recovery truck, which looked formidable on its four large wheels.  I liked the square, somewhat severe lines of the cab and asked my father what type it was.  ‘A Matador, son. I used to drive them in Germany after the war.’  My next encounter was about five years later when I saw the Airfix model of the type complete with a 5.5” gun.  I bought one for two shillings but didn’t actually construct it until quite recently.  Since those days my interest in the Matador has remained but has been frustrated by a lack of published material on the subject.

It is now seventy years since the AEC Model O853 Matador entered military service and so such an anniversary is a good time to pass on what I have managed to glean about the Matador and its bigger brother, the six wheeled Model (O)854. 

Original source material has enabled me to present aspects of the story which will be new to the reader.  I have been careful to write in a style that is engaging – there are lots of personal testimonies and anecdotes.  Not being an engineer nor especially technical, I have sought to understand the technical material and then relate it in an accessible way so as not to lose my reader.  I hope that I have succeeded.

Photography has been my passion for more than forty years and together with my ‘image enhancing’ friend Dave Heaney, we have put together some good illustrations, the majority of which will not have been seen in print before.  

The book falls into three parts.  The first deals with th Model (O)853 Matador, the second with the Model (O)854 and the third is a fascinating assortment of related articles by way of Appendices.  The last of these is compiled by John Harrington and lists more than 200 surviving Matadors. 

From Pat Ware’s Foreword…

‘Quintessentially British, the AEC Matador is one of the unsung automotive heroes of WW2.  Whilst there have been several histories of the AEC company which briefly touch on the model, this is the first time that the Matador has been the star of the show. Steve Richards is to be congratulated for this fascinating insight into the development and career of what is possibly AEC’s finest product…’

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Author: Steve Richards

Format: Laminated card cover.

Size:      280x215mm:  80 printed pages

Photos:  101 black and white and 68 colour

Price:     £15.99 plus postage -  UK:  £2.00

                                                   Eu:  £7.00

                                                   Rest of World: Surface mail  £4.00

                                                                           Air mail £10.50


ISBN:     978-1-904686-24-8


Section headings are:

Part One The AEC (O)853 4x4 Matador/Armoured Command Vehicle/Deacon SP Gun and Civilian Adaptations

     Named Matador

     Before The War

     Into Action

     Other Roles For The O853 Chassis

     Desert Victory And On …

     Telling Their Stories – The Men In Khaki

     RAF Service

     Telling Their Stories – The Men In Blue

     Post-War Production

     Design And Manufacture

     Civilian Use

     Telling Their Stories – Current Operators

Part Two The AEC (O)854 6x6 Refueller/Coles Crane/Mobile Oxygen - Nitrogen Plant

     What’s In A Name?


     Lift That Load

     It’s A Gas Working In Tandem

     Into The Jet Age

     Army Interest


Appendix A   Military colours



Appendix B   AEC Types Referred To In The Main Text

Appendix C   The Irish Matadors

Appendix D   FWD, Hardy and AEC

Appendix E   The Douglas Timber Tractor – Part of the Matador family

Appendix F   Flaming AECs

Appendix G   AEC 1912-1979

Appendix H   Getting To Grips With ‘All Wheel Drive’

Appendix  I    Surviving AEC O853/(O)854 Vehicles




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When ordering I was not sure the book was exactly what I wanted but it has exceeded all expectations. I have read and re-read it and regularly delve into it. You have done a brilliant job!

Daniel Seward, Auckland, New Zealand.


Just received my copy, I have waited 50 years for a book about the Matador.  My heart missed a beat when I saw a picture of 00BD82 thought it said 00BD33 a vehicle I did several thousand miles in.   Alas it ended up in the river Tyne at Hexam Northumberland. After my demob.   CONGRATULATIONS ON THIS BOOK, A MUST READ
Jim Chaney, Rayleigh, Essex September 2010

The Matador is undoubtedly is one of the great trucks, but – until now – I’m not aware of much in the way of published material beyond occasional magazine features.....  read more

Classic Military Vehicles April 2010


Congratulations on producing a splendid book on the AEC Matador ... It's a very fine book on a subject I have enjoyed and wanted to know more about for many years... There have been many cases recently of books on historic vehicles like this being based on pictures of still-existing preserved vehicles, without any real effort to do any serious historical research or uncover illustrations and photographs of the original product - but I'm happy to see that your book is not in that category, including as it does extensive information about the original production, and with some very high-quality illustrations from that period.
Nigel Williams, Berkshire


An extremely well researched and written book on an iconic lorry.

Heritage Commercials January 2010


In a day when the British commercial vehicle industry is a teary eyed memory, the iconic names of the past are ever present in our hearts. In the case of AEC there is little doubt in my mind that they gave us two icons, the inevitable Routemaster bus and that bulldog of a lorry – the Matador.  .....    read more

Mark Barnes, Editor - The Pathfinder


An extremely well-researched and written book with many mainly previously unpublished photographs of these most iconic of WW2 vehicles. I particularly liked the anecdotes of both military and civilian drivers and operators of these fine vehicles. Well done Steve.

Richard Furniss, Warwickshire.



Sincere thanks for such a brilliant account of the AEC Matador.  Your research must have been phenomenal but the outcome must be very satisfying, not only for you, but all the potential readers.  Hope it is a great success on the open market.  I am very pleased to have contributed a minute portion (page 22) and will not forget the date of publication as it was my 86th birthday.

Dick Culpin (WW2 Matador driver), Lincolnshire



Excellent AEC Matador Book.

Martyn Callaghan (Matador owner), Yorkshire.



I have just finished reading your book "Taking the rough with the smooth". Congratulations Steve on producing a first class book, long overdue. Hope sales make your efforts worth while.

John Webster, (Matador owner), Ayrshire.



Until I read Steve Richards’ 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.  .....    read more

Pat Ware, Military Fighting Vehicles Historian, Norfolk. 



I'm impressed with the content. It's quite amazing that this is the first book dedicated to the Matador (that I'm aware of) to be published.  Congratulations on a job well done.

Neil Fraser.



Congratulations - many congratulations; a job that needed doing and you've done it really well. Thank you.

Robert Harris Editor of the AEC Society’s Gazette



New books on British soft skin military vehicles are something of a rarity these days and when one looks back over the past 3 to 4 decades they have been in the minority compared to armour books. .....   read more

Military Machines International January 2010, Les Freathy, Kent


Thank you for the copy of your excellent book on the Matador.  Already I have read the book word for word, cover to cover at least once, some parts more than once but cannot find anything incorrect.

Harry Pick first employed by AEC in Jan. 1939 and now Life President of the AEC Society

Author with Harry Pick


Thank you  for your work, resulting in your marvellous book on the Matador, a ‘must-have’ for all in our AEC-family.

Ernst Prak (Matador owner), Holland. 



The book is a great tribute to you for all your long, sustained and detailed investigation about all things Matador. It comes through as a labour of love undertaken with great care.  .....    read more

Reg Gilbert, Somerset. 


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AEC Society

The AEC Society - for those with an interest in AEC buses, lorries, coaches, engines etc


AEC Southall

For enthusiasts of AEC 1912-1979.  Southall, Middlesex was the location of AEC’s factory.  Plenty of photos.


Wythall Transport Museum

The Transport Museum at Wythall is home to a large collection of buses operated by Midland Red, Birmingham City Transport and West Midlands PTE, Walsall.  It also has two AEC Matadors in residence.


AEC Matador and Militant

This site contains information, history, pictures and technical details relating to the Matador 4x4 and its big brother 6x6, Militants Marks 1, 2 & 3 , Coles cranes, Douglas timber tractors and other vehicles based on Matador or Militant components.





The Tank Museum

Located in Bovington, Dorset, the worlds largest collection of tanks and armoured fighting vehicles.  Holds an archive with documentation and photos relating to AEC military vehicles of WW2.


IWM, Duxford

Duxford is Europe's premier aviation museum, as well as having one of the finest collections of tanks, military vehicles and naval exhibits in the country. Vehicles include a Matador, Dorchester and FWD R6T.


Calne Motor Museum, Wiltshire

This museum has an AEC O854 refueller sited out of doors.


National Transport Museum, Dublin, Ireland

This Museum has a surviving O853 Matador from the Irish Army's small 1950s batch.


Manchester's Museum of Transport

Operated by volunteers and owned by GMPTE.  The museum has a number of AEC exhibits including two Matadors, one of which is on display.



Information sought from AEC Matador owners/enthusiasts for inclusion in a pictorial database of surviving vehicles.  All 853/O853 and 854/O854 types, regardless of condition, qualify for the database. As many as possible of the following details are required:- 

Chassis number (crucial); Vehicle number from the Ministry of Supply brass plate and the registration number.

Two good quality digital photos of the vehicle are also required, one from the front/side and one from the rear/side.

By submitting photos to the database you are thereby giving consent for them to be published.

If you would like to contribute please send the required information and photos to Ian Rands at

Contact author

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Steve Richards



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