Thousands of ice cream van operators, known as 'mobilers' in the trade, play their evocative jingles on the streets of Britain, in the process selling over £100 million worth of ice cream each year.
One company contributing more than most to this thriving industry is Whitby Specialist Vehicles of Crewe, the world's leading manufacturer of ice cream vans and trucks, which exports its products as far afield as America, Russia, Middle East and the Canary Islands. Established since 1962 and marketing its vehicles under the Whitby Morrison brand, the company produces a range of custom-built vans, complete with freezers and soft ice cream machines, converts customers' existing chassis and even builds ice cream trailers, kiosks and tricycles for applications where vans are not suitable.
Ice cream vehicles are renowned for their bright, eyecatching liveries and the topcoat system for the Whitby Morrison range is manufactured by HMG Paints of Manchester, a leading supplier of surface coatings to the bus, coach and commercial vehicles finishing and refinishing industry. In addition to the bright reds, oranges, blues and yellows favoured by many mobilers, HMG provides all BS, RAL and OEM colours, matches special shades to samples of bodywork and other items, and recently provided fluorescent finishes for Whitby's latest show vehicles, which were well received by the trade.
Ice cream has always been a commodity that lends itself to being sold at the point of consumption, since it is best eaten straight away, and motorised vans have been popular since the 1950's. Founder and current Chairman, Bryan Whitby was then instrumental in revolutionising the industry, by developing a direct drive system to power the on-board soft ice cream machinery, thereby allowing refrigeration and dispensing equipment to be incorporated into lighter, lower-cost 15cwt vehicle chassis.
Today, the Whitby system is accepted throughout the world and is at the heart of all Whitby Morrison vehicles. Built mainly around Ford Transit and Mercedes Sprinter chassis, as well as Chevrolet trucks for the US export market, customised bodywork of various sizes and configurations is fabricated from glass reinforced plastic, a tough, lightweight, durable laminate that has a high strength-to-weight ratio and does not dent, rust or corrode.
At its purpose-built factory, Whitby Specialist Vehicles has separate moulding, fabrication, refrigeration, vehicle build and finishing areas, with each van customised to suit the customer's merchandising and equipment requirements. It also has the capacity to convert any existing chassis into a modern ice cream 'mobiling unit', while in-house refinishers, signwriters and vinyl lettering specialists personalise the external livery.
The HMG finishing system applied to all Whitby ice cream vehicles comprises its MPS4+1 Polykote primer and Acrythane XSC98 two-pack acrylic topcoat, both of which are proven products in the UK vehicle finishing and refinishing industry. Spray applied and fast drying, MPS 4+1 is an ideal primer filler / surfacer with good impact resistance; Acrythane XSC98 is a high solids system offering excellent scratch filling, fast throughput, superb long term durability and outstanding gloss and colour retention.
HMG's paint system affords extreme protection against the harsh weather conditions, atmospheric pollution, salt and grime, mechanical washes and chemical agents likely to be encountered by road-going ice cream vehicles, especially as mobilers increasingly operate on a year-round basis.
"As to quality, pricing and service, if HMG didn't live up to its claims, we wouldn't be buying paint from them," says Whitby's Chief Buyer, Colin Hockley. "So it speaks volumes that we've been dealing with them for ten years. Also, unlike small suppliers who can only offer standard BS shades, HMG can formulate virtually any colour, so if a customer asks us to match a pink filler cap from a cherished 50's van for instance, we can do it."
At a recent trade exhibition, Whitby displayed show vehicles finished in vibrant fluorescent colours, for added on-street impact, which prompted a favourable response from mobilers and attracted a number of firm orders. To help prepare the vans, HMG sent technical personnel to advise on applying the new system, which comprises a fluorescent base overcoated with two-pack clear lacquer, underlining the close working relationship between paint manufacturer and vehicle builder - both, incidentally, British and successful in their respective niche markets.
Further enquiries to:
Telephone 0161 205 7631
Crewe Gates Industrial Estate
Telephone 01270 581318