Dai's inside story about life at ERF
A FORMER director at an historic truck manufacturer has written a book of his memories of the world-famous firm.
Dai Davies, who now lives in South Africa, worked for ERF for 43 years and in that time he climbed the ladder from apprentice to managing director for the southern hemisphere.
MEMORIES: Dai Davies, below, has written a book on his personal perspective on ERF from 1933 to 1997. Pictured above is the home of ERF Trucks, Sun Works, Middlewich Road, Sandbach, taken in 1936. Inset, Dai Davies, right, as an apprentice in 1955 with Fred Price.
Originally from Dyfed, in south Wales, he spent 20 years of his life in South Cheshire with ERF, which was based in Sandbach before moving to new premises in Middlewich in 2000.
Yesterday Mr Davies visited Crewe for the launch of his book, ERF: The Inside Story.
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He said: "There isn't a day in my life when I don't think about ERF. When I started in 1954 there were 23 British truck manufacturers and now there are none.
"I started in the design department, but once I had completed my apprenticeship I went into the service side of things travelling to visit customers who had problems with their trucks. In my early 20s I went to Montego Bay in Jamaica, Australia, Nigeria and Ghana.
"Then I was asked to go to ERF Australia and was told to close down the business. I had to sell all the parts, get rid of the staff and finish building the trucks.
"I was very sore about this, the problems in Australia were down to the man in charge and the wrong specification of trucks.
"Then in 1974 they asked me to go to South Africa, and after what had happened in Australia I didn't want to go.
"But when I got there, the assembly plant had only 14 employees. I fired half of them and by the time the company was sold in 1997 we had 335 workers in South Africa."
Mr Davies, now aged 71, made sure ERF South Africa employed black and white workers with equal rights. He built up a network of dealers, started manufacturing buses and expanded the business to Malawi, Kenya, Namibia and New Zealand. In 1993 he received an OBE for his services to the British commercial vehicle industry and exports.
His book has taken four years to write. It has 300 colour images and 160 pages on the history of the firm.
ERF was sold in 1997 to Canada-based Western Star following a downturn in production, but Mr Davies believes the company could have been saved.
He said: "The writing was on the wall, but if we had concentrated on niche markets it might still be here. There was an attempt to expand into Europe and that was a mistake."
In 2000, German trucks and engineering group MAN bought ERF, which first set up in Sandbach in 1933, for £118 million.
Still living in South Africa, Mr Davies is now a special correspondent for South African Truck and Bus, a monthly publication, and is the chairman of the Institute of Road Transport Engineers in South Africa.
Former ERF employee Ron Howard, aged 72, said: "It's brilliant to see Dai again. My son bought his book for me. Working for a company like ERF gives you something of an affinity, it was like a family.
"I remember working with Dai in the engine room and at break time I would play football the yard while he would have his head in a book."
When Mr Davies, whose real name is Tony, started at ERF he was paired up with another apprentice, Alan Foster. They enrolled at what was then Crewe Technical College and became friends.
Mr Foster, of Winterley, near Sandbach, said: "He was only five-foot nothing and very nationalistic. I remember he was singing at the top of his voice once and a six-foot lad told him to shut up, well Dai wanted a fight outside. From that moment I named him Dai Dower after the flyweight European champion and it stuck."
ERF: The Inside Story costs £25 and can be ordered on 01270 611665.