GIVEN his passion for historic commercial vehicles it is only appropriate that Jonathan Jones-Pratt should be the first customer for a new line of Approved Used Mercedes-Benz trucks branded as ‘Evolution’ models.
Unlike his magnificent collection of heritage buses and steam locomotives, Jonathan’s Actros 2545 tractor unit incorporates some of the very latest road-going technology. What the pre-owned truck does share with vehicles like his beautifully restored Sentinel steam bus ‘Elizabeth’, is a striking appearance which means it is now turning heads wherever it goes.
Jonathan is Chairman of the family-owned JJP Holdings SW Group. Active throughout the South-West, but primarily in the Somerset and Bristol areas, its companies run local bus and luxury commuter coach services – this includes supplying transport in partnership with First Group to the Hinkley Point C power station construction site on behalf of EDF Energy.
JJP’s Vintage Road Rail & Steam business operates and markets the historic vehicles, while the Actros is providing the pulling power for its latest venture, JJP Heavy Haulage. Supplied by Dealer City West Commercials, the truck’s primary role is to transport locomotives and buses from the heritage collection to and from steam rallies, shows and other events nationwide. However, the entrepreneurial Jonathan is also confident of winning general and heavy haulage work for his new truck from third-party customers.
Created to generate excitement around the Mercedes-Benz Approved Used brand, and built-to-order, each Actros Evolution model will combine eye-catching good looks with an extensive list of comfort features and driver aids.
JJP Heavy Haulage’s vehicle started life in 2014, as a standard Actros 2545 with 330 kW (450 hp) straight-six engine and flat-floored BigSpace cab in white. On reaching the end of its two-year lease deal, and having covered some 265,000 km, the truck was returned to the Approved Used remarketing team at Mercedes-Benz Trucks’ Wentworth Park complex, near Barnsley.
All Mercedes-Benz Approved Used trucks are under seven years old and have less than 700,000 km on the clock. They are also subjected to a multi-point inspection by a factory-trained technician and sold with at least six months’ MoT and six months’ mechanical breakdown insurance cover.
Actros Evolution models, however, will benefit from an additional, painstaking makeover. Specialists in the Wentworth Park bodyshop removed the wheels and glass from JJP’s vehicle before stripping back the chassis then repainting it in black, and the cab in Blaze Red Crystal Pearl. Reassembly entailed fitment of leather upholstered seats and door trims, as well as a flatscreen TV, fridge and microwave, Lane Assist safety system and a dashcam.
Externally, meanwhile, the truck rides on alloy wheels and features a grille with chrome highlights, roof-mounted spotlights and an LED light bar beneath the bumper. Completing the look, the front wings bear the name of Jonathan’s four-year-old daughter Elena May, and proudly proclaim this as ‘2017 Evolution 1’.
The JJP Holdings SW Group operates from headquarters in Weston-super-Mare. Although it has its own workshops, the new truck will be inspected and serviced at City West Commercials’ Highbridge branch.
“We bought the Actros because it’s special, and because as well as being number one for me, it is also number one for Mercedes-Benz,” said Jonathan. “I view it as something of an icon. It has my company’s name on the side, and I want to be seen running prestigious kit which is going to get us recognised on the road, so that people stand back in admiration.”
Although most of the driving will be done by colleague Tony Jeff, Jonathan is also qualified to take the wheel having passed his test 18 months ago in the ERF tractor unit which also now wears the JJP Heavy Haulage livery. “We’re entering the market at 44 tonnes, but the plan, ultimately, is to specialise in rail movements, which will mean taking on more vehicles capable of moving bigger and heavier loads,” continued Jonathan.
“The Actros Evolution represents a great start, though. It’s a fantastic looking truck and a real pleasure to drive, while I was also impressed from the outset by the approach of City West Commercials’ Used Truck Specialist Tim Sutcliffe. He was very professional, brought the vehicle down to show me, and didn’t keep pressuring me – I like that, as I have a very busy working life, so don’t have time to keep taking calls from pushy salesmen.”
Dale Slee, the manufacturer’s Head of Used Truck Sales, added: “An Approved Used vehicle is the next-best thing to a new Mercedes-Benz, and every truck sold under this banner represents outstanding value. The Actros Evolution, however, is the pinnacle of our pre-owned offering. For owner-drivers, or companies seeking a highly-specified flagship, it adds up to a great deal of truck for the money.” – www.ukhaulier.co.uk