There’s something about Steve’s half smile

He’s been a colour man for donkey’s years here at Cranfield and for much of that time he has maintained his enigmatic and characteristic half-smile. It seems Steve concluded some years ago that the half-smile is not dissimilar to a ‘stand by’ mode on an electrical device, requiring the least possible energy to switch to the opposing emotions of disappointment or happiness.

But normally the half-smile is leaning towards happiness…

…especially when Steve remembers some of the eccentric characters and practices that marked the colour industry in the 1970’s and 80’s. Steve remembers the days when our products were delivered around the country in some of the most unreliable commercial vehicles imaginable.


yellow van

The team at Cranfield have always been multi-skilled, able to match colour, manufacture paint and ink, and when required make deliveries. Before air conditioning, safety belts or power steering, when full-beam headlights were operated by a foot-switch on the floor, Steve would play his part behind the oversized steering wheels of various company vans. The roll call of dreadful vehicles included a Bedford CF2, Ford Transit Mk1, a short-lived British Leyland Maestro van, a Morris Mini van, a series of Leyland trucks that we naively hoped would improve with each newly launched model, an Iveco Dailey and in the 1980’s, a Fiat 60 van. This last vehicle had been ‘pimped’ by one of the staff with the CB radio and cow catching grill popular (in fact considered essential) at the time. This van proved so unreliable that it was generally held that the CB radio should be used to alert the AA each time the van left our yard.

The nominated driver for the Fiat was Stuart who reputedly went into the motor factors and asked ‘Can I have a windscreen-wiper for my Fiat van?’ ‘Okay’ replied the garage attendant, ‘it seems a fair swap’. A story as impossible to verify as the Fiat was impossible to start.

The fashions have changed, the vans rather more reliable, but the essence of who we are at Cranfield remains constant. It’s people like Steve with his steady and dependable nature, his passion for excellence in everything we do and his love and knowledge of colour that makes it a genuine pleasure to work here. Steadiness, consistency and good humoured company are traits evident in our products and our team. Its people like Steve that make such ‘great role models’ or is it such ‘salutary lessons’… Whichever it is, be sure to give Steve a smile when you visit the factory…