Book Review
AEC Matador
AEC Matador - Taking the Rough with the Smooth
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by: Alan McNeilly [ ALANL ]


I came across this publication on a recent visit to Hannantís Model Shop. Written and published by Steve Richards, the book covers both the Associated Engineering Company (AEC) vehicle 853 and 854 designs.

Whilst there have been several books written about the AEC Company, Iím led to believe that this is the first book dedicated to the actual vehicle.

The AEC saw service in most, if not all, of the British Theatres of Operations during WW2 and was a reliable and versatile vehicle.

The Book

The book is an A4 size colour publication comprised of 80 pages of text and pictorial references. Itís a soft back but of decent quality and was written from the authors obvious frustration at the lack of published material on the subject.

The vehicle design was developed into many versions. The book concentrates mainly on two, the (o) 853 Matador 4 x 4 gun tractor and the AEC (o) 854 6 x 6 Fuel Bowser. That said there is plenty of additional material related to both versions as these venerable old vehicles soldiered on well past their sell by date both in the Armed Forces and Civilian Life.

The book is divided into two parts: Part 1 covering the 4 x 4 version and Part 2 covering the 6 x 6 Bowser version.

The book is logically laid out and covers all the main developments both pre and post war. It has additional input from the drivers of this vehicle during wartime service in the Telling Their Stories sections for both the Men in Khaki and the Men in Blue.

Worth noting at the start is a note to the reader on the contents page which reads: AEC prefixed their model type numbers with an ĎOí to denote that the vehicle was fitted with a diesel oil engine rather than a petrol one. In this book when (O) prefixes the model number, it refers to both petrol and diesel engine types!

The 853 model was used by all the armed services, itís primary role with the military being that of a Gun Tractor used to tow heavy artillery and anti aircraft guns, but it also came in a GS version for stores and troop movements. The REME converted a number of Matadors for recovery work and spin offs included the Dorchester and Decon. Various other house type bodies were also added to the vehicle. The RAF used them as Platform Lorries, Air Traffic Control lorries and Radio Communications Trucks. The range of Mks is well represented in the book.

There are charts of technical data and examples of the drivers controls and chassis arrangement.

The 854 model is similarly well depicted showing its use and development as a primary refuelling vehicle for the RAF bombers. This model was also developed by the RAF with the addition of a Coles Crane.

There are a number of Appendixís at the end of the book covering, Military Colours, ACE Types, Irish Matadors, FWD, Hardy and Ace, The Douglas Timber Tractor, Flaming ACEís, ACE 1912 - 1979, Getting to Grips with All-Wheel Drive and a listing of known surviving ACE 853ís and 854ís.

A Bibliography, Acknowledgement and a list of abbreviations used in the book are also included.


This is an easy to read book, clearly showing the authorís interest in the vehicle. It contains a large variety of photographs of the vehicles which are of good quality and useful references on the different types. It also contains many pre and post war photographs of the vehicle which would be of interest to scratch builders.

The focus of the book is not specifically Ďmilitaryí, it covers a much broader scope as it spans a wider time frame than WW2, but that adds rather than takes away for the content.

I was delighted to come across this publication, and if and when a Matador in 1/35 scale becomes available it will be a very useful reference. I donít know what the chances of ever seeing an 854 Fuel Truck are, nor one with a Coles Crane, but both would be super trucks and very useful with the proposed C47 and Dakota.

This one should be of interest to both military modellers and aircraft modellers, and particularly to those who might like to scratch build some of the many possibilities.

A walk around of the Matador can be found here on site:

AEC Matador
Highs: Good technical data well supported by clear photographs.
Lows: The inclusion of some scale drawings would have been very useful.
Verdict: Recommended.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 978-0-9563708-0-8
  Suggested Retail: £15.99
  PUBLISHED: Dec 24, 2010
  NATIONALITY: United Kingdom

About Alan McNeilly (AlanL)

Greying slightly, but young at heart. I've been teaching adults off and on for most of my life. Left the services in 85 and first started modelling in about 87 for a few years. Then I had a long spell when I didn't build anything (too busy) and really just got started again during the summer of ...

Copyright ©2021 text by Alan McNeilly [ ALANL ]. All rights reserved.


Thanks James and Alan I will buy this My Granddad drove one of these with the 8th Army Andy
DEC 24, 2010 - 05:57 PM
Hi Andy, Merry Christmas and hats off to you Dad. These seem to have been a highly respected and 'prized' vehicle as they could pull most things and handle rough terrain with ease. Lets hope for a 1/35 scale version! Al
DEC 24, 2010 - 08:46 PM

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