history

From the early 1950s, founder Bryan Whitby was busy developing his expertise and knowledge as a vehicle bodywork specialist. Having completed an apprenticeship with the renowned coachbuilders J H Jennings of Sandbach, he soon qualified as a skilled vehicle builder. However, he was soon called to National Service, where he gained further experience of commercial vehicles in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps.

On his return to coach building, Bryan spent some time at the Rolls Royce Motor Co. in Crewe and also back at J H Jennings. Yet it was at S C Cummins in Shavington, near Crewe, that he found the demands of the ice cream mobiling boom to be especially challenging. His was the key role in developing the new body designs and associated equipment. With his practical skills, Bryan was able to progress the design completely through from basic concept to the production of the first prototype.

After refinement of the prototype, the design would then be a set standard for the production vehicle-builders. The chassis used at this time varied enormously with ex-military types being converted alongside new vehicles like the Morris J Type, Bedford CA, Austin A40, and Fordson E83W, to name but a few.

The rapidly growing mobile ice cream market made continuous demands of the vehicle bodybuilders for a better sales van. Although the market was booming, with plenty of sales opportunities for the various vehicle builders, it did remain competitive. To secure a future as a major supplier to the ice cream mobiling trade, the answer was simple, a builder would need to specialise. S C Cummins became that first specialist builder.

For Bryan Whitby, this growing industry also brought challenges and an opportunity to commence business in his own right. By 1962 he was established as an independent manufacturer of custom bodywork and refrigeration equipment for ice cream vehicles.

The deep freeze cabinet fitted to an ice cream vehicle was different than that at home or in commercial premises. Whilst a vehicle is out on the streets it has no mains electricity supply, therefore the deep freeze needs to be what we term as a holdover design. Basically the cabinet is constructed as a heavily insulated metal tank with eutectic plate panels, which are 'frozen' by overnight charging from a mains electric powered condensing unit. Although a simple principle, there is considerable work in manufacturing such a cabinet. Bryan's expertise soon gained him recognition as the industry expert.

The mobile soft ice cream revolution, which had started in late 1958, had brought with it even more demands of the vehicle bodybuilders. The first soft ice cream vehicles were known as Mobile Ice Cream Factories, and to power the soft ice cream machine independently an engine-driven generating set was fitted at the rear of the chassis. This method succeeded in enabling mobilers to sell soft ice cream around the streets, but at a price. Electricity generating sets cost serious money to buy and as substantial pieces of equipment there is a weight penalty.

In order to maintain a reasonable payload, heavier and more expensive chassis were required. There was an alternative in the lighter Onan generator, but both purchase and running costs remained very high. Clearly the industry was ripe for innovation. Then in 1962, the problem was solved by Bryan Whitby, who developed a direct drive system to power the soft ice cream machinery. It was an idea that was set to revolutionise the industry.

Having looked at the problem Bryan thought that there must be a simpler or less-expensive means to power soft ice cream machines. At that time, several companies were experimenting with all sorts of ideas and the nearest to success was a belt drive system powered by a Vellocette LE motorcycle engine. The result was not as reliable (or quiet) as the designers hoped for. Yet the concept inspired Bryan to employ the belt drive, although he questioned the need to carry a secondary power unit. As with most good ideas, Bryan's idea was simple, as he says, "I thought why not use the vehicle engine to power the ice cream machinery via drive belts from the crankshaft pulley and a shaft mounted electro magnetic clutch".

The direct drive was set to radically change the production of ice cream in vehicles, and hence alter the market for the product. By eliminating the need for a generator and separate engine, it was then possible to feature soft ice cream equipment in the lighter and lower cost 15cwt chassis like the Bedford CA or Ford Thames. In addition to the lower purchase price, the running costs were more economical, and thus the system was of great appeal. In January 1965, Bryan Whitby and S C Cummins filed a patent application for Mobile Ice Cream Producing Equipment, which featured an 'engine - driven vehicle with a compressor for the soft ice cream refrigeration and a beater for soft - ice whipping, comprising shaft - driven electromagnetic clutches both energised by the battery, which was also charged by the driving mechanism'. Today the Whitby system is the accepted standard and is in use all over the world.

From those early days Whitby Morrison has continued to set the standards and we now provide a 'one stop' package for today's discerning Mobiler. With our heritage dating back to the 1950s and with such a wealth of knowledge and experience, Mobilers worldwide depend on us with confidence. In recent years the Whitby business has continued to enjoy a high level of success and progression. The world's leading manufacturer of Ice Cream Vehicles has now moved into it's third generation with Bryan's grandson Edward joining the company.

With a wealth of skill, experience and tradition amalgamated into one highly specialist company, Whitby are able to meet the most exacting requirements of customers in a worldwide market.

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