Traditional Vehicle Livery Sign Writer – Staffordshire

Traditional signwriter with 40 years experience

With over forty years experience I offer a complete signwriting service for those in need of traditional sign writing on vintage British manufactured lorries, coaches and buses (including destination blinds and name glasses) alongside traditional sign writing on vintage and classic vans.

I regularly carry out signwriting and coach lining on pre-motor engine transportation era: steam trains, steam traction engines, electric trams with narrow boat sign writing work, which includes decorative pictorial painting that is associated with the art of narrow boat sign writing.

Wood Graining

  • Commercial Vehicles
  • Vintage Vehicles
  • Narrow Boats
  • Traction Engines

Some of my recent Vehicle Livery Projects…

My Career in Vehicle Livery

Jennings ex-employees, Grandfather and Uncle of brothers William and Victor Sant, formed the Lawton Motor Body Building Co Ltd. Lawton built bodies for commercial vehicles but mostly specialized in public service vehicles for local companies. During the early 1950s Lawton stopped making coach built bodies from the chassis up and focused on accident repairs, refurbishments and refinishing.

It was probably during the 1950s or early 1960s that the contract was agreed between Lawton and Plaxtons of Scarborough. When I started to work for them in 1982 the company was still reaping the benefits of this old contract that was still in power. Coach companies from wide and far, many from Wales were regular customers of Lawton. Resprays, refurbishments, major and minor accident repairs were all done there. When I became part of this company Mr. Roy Snape had recently retired and handed the title of managing director over to Brian Mottram. I was soon introduced to Roy Snape and then met and spoke to him again a few times as he was a regular visitor to Lawton. Suddenly though Roy passed away after a few months of me working there. The sad loss in the company could be immediately felt on the morning Brian announced Roy Snape had died.

Robert Stevenson - The Sign Writer, Staffordshire - Vehicle Livery, Lawton Bodies

Robert Stevenson - The Sign Writer, Staffordshire - Vehicle Livery, Lawton Motor Company

Robert Stevenson - The Sign Writer, Staffordshire - Vehicle Livery, Lawton Bodies

Robert Stevenson - The Sign Writer, Staffordshire - Vehicle Livery, Rear Lettering Example

Brian Mottram made it clear from the start that I would be working against the clock when he said, “You have got twelve months to learn the trade” So the pressure was on from the beginning and the way it remained. Many times, once a coach had been sprayed, there would be a team of men working on one coach with the objective to get it finished in a hurry. There would be coach builders putting back on the chrome styling, paint sprayers finishing off their work, mechanical and electrical work going on, interior of the coach getting cleaned. Name glasses that I had done early in the week were getting put back in, and amongst all these activities and at the same time, I was doing the signwriting. Then all of a sudden Brian would rush in the paint shop in a frantic panic, “How long are you going to be? They are on the way to pick it up”

When there was far too much work to be done occasionally Brian would get Bernard Platt in to give me a hand. Bernard ran his own paint shop nearby in Smallwood painting for E.R.F and local transport companies. I remember our first meeting. Bernard shook my hand and when Brian was out of earshot said “So you are Vic Sant’s apprentice, you did well to get anything out of him, when I worked here as a lad he wouldn’t show me anything.” Bernard told me he eventually gave up with Vic, left Lawton and went to Jennings of Sandbach to learn coach painting and his preferred trade signwriting. Bernard Platt became another one of my mentors even when I was still working at Lawton I would ring him up for advice. He was always willing to help and found me regular work when I went self-employed.

When I first started Lawton Vic said. “Jennings was the training school for sign writers and I am not showing anybody what I learnt there.”

J.H. Jennings Limited

When I went self employed and ventured deeper into Cheshire, Jennings of Sandbach was often discussed. People would say “You can always tell a Jennings body by the screws” All the screws lined up perfectly and the slots would be vertical. If threaded pins and the old style square nuts were used, the flat edge had to be in a perfect line. If the coachbuilder preferred the nuts could be turned obliquely, but all the corners of the nuts had to be in perfect alignment. At Jennings this same emphasis on high quality of work was throughout from coach building, painting and sign writing.

By 1977 J.H Jennings were owned by E.R.F and building fire engines under the name of Cheshire Fire Engineers. By 1981 CFE had closed and the following year three ex employees formed Saxon Sanbec and continued building fire engines. Jennings trained Geoff Cooke of Cooke Coachbuilders introduced my name into Saxon. I started doing sign work for Saxon around 1991 when they were in School lane. Many Cheshire companies who went to Jennings continued the tradition by going to Saxon. It was from here where I started doing work for Gordon Plant, a transport company and cattle dealer Geoff Kirk of Mobberley. The sign work I did for Saxon varied from trailers, trucks, and mahogany name boards on the fire engines to general site signs for their premises. The Sign-writing done for Saxon Sanbec had to be of the highest standard and with their historic background it was a great achievement in my career to do work for this company. They moved again to third larger premises, so the future for them looked well, but the end of an era was near. In 2004 the company was closed and a very long history in vehicle coach building came to an end. From the beginning of Jennings in 1764 through to Saxon Sanbec the reputation on exemplary high standards of craftsmanship never faltered.

Also in Station Road there was a haulage company that I did work for. J Chadwick. I did work for Jack and his son Gordon for a number of years until they decided it was time to come out of the haulage business and sold up. Sign writing an E. R. F cab for Chadwick’s one day, I heard a voice say “Has Clearie been looking after you.” This was the first time I met Stuart Evans, a coachbuilder who worked for Jennings, E.R.F and Boalloy. Yes I said “Clearie has helped me out many times.” Jimmy Clearie ran the sign writing shop at Boalloy curtain sided trailers. Years earlier I needed some screen ink to letter five trailers for Century Oils in Hanley. “I am desperate for curtain ink, Century Oils green, can you help Jim.” I asked, “Not a problem make your way and we will mix you a gallon. Boalloy originally traded as Bowyer Bros, and along with Jennings also made cabs for E.R.F, but decided to make trailers and changed their name to Boalloy. Gerald Broadbent who designed the K. V cab for E.R.F, now with Boalloy designed and patented the revolutionary Tautliner and the business grew and grew and grew. Boalloy at its peak was a colossal place. Bernard Platt when he gave to me Clearie’s contact details; said “Boalloy use time saving methods to do sign writing.” When I went Boalloy I discovered they made a pounce drawing by tracing an image that was projected onto a wall. I remember saying, “It is a quicker way Jim, but it is also cheating.” I know he replied, but here we need a fast turn around.” Few years later, this time with my long time loyal helper and friend Ian Griffiths by my side (another Lawton man) we went to Boalloy to do some curtains for Jim to help him catch up with a backlog. In the same room, the projector had gone and had been replaced with a computer and a vinyl plotter cutting out paint masks. The future of the sign industry could really be seen written on the wall this time

Returning to my home ground in Stoke-on Trent Beech’s Garage was the distributor for E.R.F trucks. My father worked for Beech’s from the 1960s to the middle of the 1970s. He was a diesel fitter so did mechanical repairs and engine rebuilds. The legendary and E.R.F favourite Gardner engines were his speciality. He re-built that many Gardner engines he often boasted, “ I could build one up wearing a blind fold.” One day his work colleagues decided to put him to the test. All the parts and tools required were laid out on a bench and my dad re-built a Gardner engine whilst wearing a blindfold. So where as my dad, also named Robert, had a career fixing trucks and keeping them running, I entered a career that made them look nice. While working for Beech’s my father did work for many of the local haulage companies and he also worked part time for Hannah Griffiths of Fenton and Shirley’s Transport of Cellarhead. I began doing work for Beech’s late 1980s many of the older members of staff were still there and remembered my dad well. The first sign writing I did for Beech’s were for A. & H. Davey (Roadways) Ltd. With the contacts I gained from Beech’s and long time contact HGV electrician John Bratt passing on my name and number; work poured in, my reputation spread and my customer list grew and throughout the 1990s I became very busy indeed.

Robert Stevenson - The Sign Writer, Staffordshire - Vehicle Livery

Robert Stevenson - The Sign Writer, Staffordshire - Vehicle Livery
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Robert Stevenson - The Sign Writer, Staffordshire - Vehicle Livery
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Robert E. Stevenson – The Signwriter

Traditional Signwriting for Heritage, Commercial & Vintage Projects