There used to be a time when, if you were driving on a motorway or dual carriageway, you looked in your rear view mirror and you would see, approaching rapidly, very rapidly, a Bedford Astramax van. You would be safe to make at least one of the following assumptions about this van.
- It would be white.
- It would be dirty.
- Someone would have written, with cutting and incisive wit, in the dirt on the back of the van with their finger “also available in white“, “clean me” or possibly “I wish my Missus was as dirty as this van“.
- It would have its headlights on whatever the hour of the day or night.
- It would be trying to overtake you, regardless of the car you were driving and what speed you were currently doing.
I’m not the first person to comment on the fact that the Astramax was in fact the world’s fastest production vehicle.
You don’t see that many Astramax’s on the road these days and even less of them in your rear view mirror. This is because they have been forced into near extinction by their successor; the British Gas van.
Like the Astramax these vans will be capable of outpacing the fastest vehicle on the road.
Unlike the Astramax these will not be white as they are painted in the blue, white and red corporate colour scheme of British Gas. They are frequently clean. But most of all, their drivers obviously have a special dispensation from the Government to drive in any way they so choose.
Whereas the Astramax driver would impatiently wait for you to move into a slower lane, often helping you to make the decision with a friendly flash of the headlights, the British Gas driver has no truck with such niceties as their speciality is the noble art of undertaking, especially if doing so causes another driver to slam their brakes on in order to avoid a collision.
The photo above was taken last night on the northbound M3, between Junction 3 for Lightwater and Junction 2 for the M25. You’ll have to take my word for it but in front of the Jaguar which I was following is a British Gas van which had just undertaken both of us. The same van proceeded to undertake another 5 cars before staying in the fast lane until the last moment before cutting across 3 lanes of traffic to join with the westbound M25 towards Heathrow.
I can only imagine the importance of the customer they were rushing to meet which gave them the ability to break so many of the rules of the Highway Code in so little a period of time. It is indeed a marvellous sight.