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HISTORY | THE WORKS

OAKLEY CELEBRATES OVER 65 YEARS OF BUILDING HORSEBOXES

An early Oakley horseboxFifty Five years ago on the site of wartime allotments at High Cross near Ware in Hertfordshire, England and with no more than a small garage to work from, the company of Oakley Horseboxes was born. Today the company has a turnover in excess of £10 million and is renowned throughout the equestrian world for their high quality vehicles, which are a far cry from the first production horsebox model in 1959.

However, it was in 1947 as a boy of 14 that Brian Oakley had his original concept and first experience of building a horsebox. At school he was keen on carpentry and with his father, Charles, they constructed a box on an ex-army Ford chassis which had been bought for £40.

"When the vehicle was finished, my father sold it for £200 and since he didn't pay me anything, there was a good profit margin on the deal", Brian recalls.

There followed for Brian and his brother, Barry, apprenticeships in aeronautical engineering at De Havillland's in Hatfield (now part of British Aerospace) where they worked on the wooden frames for Mosquito aircraft. Then came a period of national service as an airframe fitter and engineer with the Royal Air Force. It meant working to a high degree of accuracy in wood and aluminium, experience which were to prove invaluable later in the construction of Oakley horseboxes.

With National Service behind him Brian decided to put his experience to the test. Armed with confidence but with hardly a penny to his name, he set up business at High Cross with his brother and Frank Lancaster, a commercial vehicle coach builder.

A Classic horseboxThe first boxes were built working in the open with illumination provided by electric lights hanging from an oak tree. Planning permission to build a proper factory was turned down by the local authority, but Brian and his team struggled on working under almost impossible conditions.

Help eventually came through the intervention of the Rural Industrial Bureau which took up the case and finally obtained planning permission for a 40ft x 60ft factory. It was the breakthrough that Brian wanted.

By 1964 the company was employing six on the shop floor and producing one mahogany box a week. Orders came flooding in and by 1970 a paint shop was added, the staff increased to 15 and production had stepped up to three boxes a week.

As each box left the factory the staff downed tools, rushed to their cars or any vehicle they could lay their hands on and gave a good, long blast on the horn. The tradition still exists today, but with the type of vehicle now being produced taking around 3000 hours to build the hooting and tooting is less frequent, much to the relief, no doubt of the Noise Abatement Society.

The company went from strength to strength until a disastrous fire in 1978 completely destroyed the factory and production was badly affected for nine months. However, this set back only made Brian Oakley and his staff more determined.

While a new factory was being built, work carried on in the open once again. The customers appreciated the difficult situation and rallied in support, underlining the excellent relationship that has always existed between them and the company.

As Brian Oakley explains: "Our policy has always been to build boxes to individual customers requirements and this calls for very close co-operation from the drawing board to the finished product. Working alongside our customers in this way has helped to forge long and lasting friendships and this has been a key to our company's success".

Oakley's business now stretches far beyond these shores with boxes being exported throughout Europe, Scandinavia, the Middle East, Asia and the USA.

The leading names in Showing, Show Jumping, Eventing, Dressage, Racing, Polo and Driving have Oakley horseboxes. They are also in service with most of the countries Police Forces, Horse Transportation companies, charity organisations and they have produced many vehicles for the Motor Racing fraternity.

Today's boxes are far removed from the simple mahogany vehicles built by Oakley's 65 years ago. Now they are aluminium panelled, up to 39ft long and have 6 star hotel class accommodation. They have every modern facility including continuous hot running water, under-floor / radiator central heating, power showers, Dishwashers / Washing machine / dryers, Satellite television, Cinema surround sound DVD, satellite navigation equipment, fully equipped hand built kitchens with marble/granite worktops, hand stitched leather upholstery, on board self monitoring generators and separate water tanks and hoses for washing and grooming horses up to peak show standard.

Among Oakley's more important pioneering achievements has been to incorporate the chassis cab into the bodywork allowing easy access between the two areas, whilst retaining the vehicles tilt cab with a fully waterproof seal and the hydraulically operated pull out side extensions to living accommodations, shower rooms and horse areas.

Oakley are considered to be the foremost horsebox builders in the world with exports likely to double that of last year and a healthy order book to take the company with confidence into the foreseeable future.

THE WORKS

A THOROUGHBRED TRADITION

An Oakley Horse box is a true thoroughbred. Each is a singular achievement of traditional skills and modern production techniques, unique in its bespoke attributes, designed and tailor-made to accommodate the individual customer’s precise requirements. And yet every one shares a proud tradition spanning over 60 years of painstaking craftsmanship; part of a pedigree which is unmatched worldwide for quality strength, style, comfort and innovation.

Whether you choose the very latest streamlined, state of the art "Supremacy or Supreme” vehicle, the uncompromised quality of the materials and workmanship is immediately apparent. To the eye. And to the touch. Virtually every detail, every panel, and almost all the fixtures and fittings right down to the hinges and catches on the doors have been manufactured on site by our own experienced, highly skilled craftsmen. Even the leather upholstery has been fashioned in-house from meticulously selected hides!

Step inside an Oakley Horse box and you can feel its superior solidity in the satisfying clunk of a flush fitting door, in the ingenious use of space and the zealous attention to every last detail. And, like everything that’s the very best of its kind, an Oakley horse Box is a valuable investment you’ll appreciate for years to come - an investment in the safety security, comfort and convenience of you, your horses, their grooms and your guests

MASTERS OF THE COACHBUILDER’S ART

Because every customer has different requirements we believe that bespoke is best - consequently we can build to any specification on almost any chassis cab. And while we maintain the time-honoured coachbuilding skills of the traditional Mahogany Ash vehicles, it is the light, hard-wearing and streamlined metal body that appeals most to today’s discerning customers. Housing anything from two to Fourteen horses, with or without luxurious living quarters, these are hand-built with aluminium panels on a light alloy frame, avoiding the weight and corrosion potential of steel in the interests of durability and increased payload, except for reinforcing the all-important ramp area, where stainless steel is used. For the utmost comfort and minimum noise, both floor, roof and wall panels are fully insulated, keeping you and your horses cool in summer and warm in winter.

 

THE ULTIMATE COMFORT FOR YOUR HORSES

At Oakley, we devote as much care to your horses’ comfort as to yours. This is evident in the vital finishing touches such as the rubber ramp and floor coverings which ensure steady footing, the flush fitted lights, the strengthened panels designed to withstand a racehorse’s kick and the solid floor, constructed in strong, resilient aluminium tongue and groove planking. Whether configured in forward-facing or "Herringbone" fashion, the stainless steel fittings and partitions are fully adjustable and easily manipulated, while secure storage racks and roof vents are thoughtfully positioned with the grooms’ convenience and the horses’ safety in mind. Air conditioning is an optional extra but a pleasant, thoroughly hygienic atmosphere with ample ventilation is guaranteed as standard by the stainless steel fittings which ensure maximum water and rust resistance, enabling the entire area to be easily and effectively hosed or steam cleaned.

THE ULTIMATE IN COMFORT FOR YOU AND YOUR GUESTS

We pride ourselves on the ingenuity with which we put the smallest space to work, so you can expect all the comforts of home in an Oakley Horse Box! No two vehicles are made exactly the same but, generally speaking, dishwashers, washer / dryers, microwave oven, DVD surround sound system, air-conditioning, Sky Plasma Television systems and mains electricity from an internal push button start generator can all be fitted. Other usual amenities include the refrigerator / freezers, cooker and hob, hot and cold running water, ample wardrobe and cupboard space, but there’s almost no limit to the additional luxuries you may choose to include! In any event you can be sure that every furnishing and fitting is sumptuously appointed and elegantly designed to provide luxurious sleeping accommodation as well as a comfortable space in which to relax and entertain. The driver’s cabin, for example, is integral with the living area for ease of access and communication to horses as well as passengers, while the fully fitted shower room ensures that it’s not only the horses that are immaculately groomed throughout the show!

THE FINISH

Whether it’s achieved by the steady hand of the old fashioned signwriter or the refined touch of the modern paint sprayer you’ll find that the finish on your vehicle is second to none. The modern metal bodies, in particular, can be coachpainted in any colour and to any design, so you can be sure that your investment really is in a class of its own. And, regardless of where your horses finish, an Oakley horse Box shows you’ve arrived, making every event a real occasion.

THE CARE A THOROUGHBRED DESERVES - OAKLEY AFTER SALES CUSTOMER CARE

Invest in an Oakley Horse Box and you forge a long lasting relationship with an organisation committed to customer service. Your vehicle has been built to last and, to assist you in keeping it in prime condition, we offer a comprehensive range of support services. Because virtually all our parts are manufactured on-site, we’re able to offer next-day delivery in most cases, to produce specific items to your own specification and to make available a wide range of extras and accessories. No-one knows your vehicle more intimately than us. There’s no-one better qualified, therefore, to carry out every service and repair operation you could ever need. Call upon us for routine and major engine or bodywork servicing, interior and exterior refurbishment, accident and insurance work and M.O.T. preparation. You’ll find we can offer nationwide collection and delivery, work on-site or at your premises and - for routine operations - provide a same day service. Naturally our highly skilled supremely well-informed staff are always on hand to help in any way they can with general advice and while-you-wait estimates for repair, servicing and insurance - since they have had a hand in its creation, you’ll find they’re as proud of your vehicle as you are!