Delivered in 1975 to the Merseyside Passenger Transport Executive the ERF replaced a former military AEC Matador, which had been acquired by Liverpool Corporation in 1947. It took the AEC's place as fleet number 53, operated on trade plates, 079 KA and carried on the tradition of being called "The Jackwagon" which dated back to early tramway days! The Matador had struggled with the recovery of air braked rear-engined double deck buses delivered since the late 1960s as it did not have an air system to release the spring parking brakes or the lifting capacity to undertake rear end lifts on defective buses.
Painted in a very pale shade of yellow and fitted with a Gardner 6LXB engine and a Fuller 8-speed gearbox, it was supplied via Perris & Kearon, the local ERF dealership. The recovery equipment consists of a 20 tonne TFL hydraulic crane and a 50 tonne powered winch, which was very similar to that fitted to P & K's own ERF recovery vehicle, which had to be hired in on a regular basis when the AEC was either unavailable or not capable of recovering the defective bus.
No. 53 remained unregistered until January 1988 when it was registered Q700 GBG to comply with a change in the regulations which prohibited the practice of allowing recovery vehicles to operate on trade plates. Around the same time all ancillary vehicles were re-numbered into the 8000 series.
Allocated to the MPTE's Edge Lane Works, the ERF became a common sight on the streets of Merseyside attending defective buses. It remained unique in the fleet as the three subsequent recovery vehicles were all based on Ford D series chassis.
After the deregulation of the buses the ERF passed to Merseybus on its formation in 1986 and to its successor, MTL in 1992. However, by the late 1980s the rare original steel MW type cab was well past its best, so it was removed and a second-hand C series fibreglass cab fitted by MTL, although the job was completed by Perris & Kearon. During this time MTL extended its operations to other parts of the country and purchased large numbers of second-hand buses, not all of which were mechanically sound. Thus the ERF clocked up considerable mileage travelling around the country rescuing the dud buses.
After the closure of Edge Lane Works, the ERF was transferred to Carnegie Road Garage and continued to be used on a regular basis, although by this time it was beginning to look a bit worse for wear. In 1997 a change in company policy made both the full time recovery crew and the wagon surplus to requirements. It was parked up at the rear of Carnegie depot and forgotten about!
After 18 months of inactivity, the ERF was acquired for preservation by a member of the Mersey & Calder Bus Preservation Group in June 1998 and driven to Burscough. It later passed on long term loan to the Merseyside Transport Trust on its formation in May 1999. Unfortunately, the many years of neglect have taken their toll, and although it has made a couple of sorties to tow in fellow enthusiasts' vehicles, it is currently confined to "internal use" pending the re-paneling of the body and a couple of minor mechanical problems.
It is quite possible that the majority of the Trust's buses that operated for the MPTE after 1975 have been rescued in the past by the Jackwagon. Hopefully it will soon be ready to re-acquaint itself with some of its past charges should the unfortunate happen again!