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Royal Mail Puch mopeds

by Phil Rogers

With the demise of the BSA Bantam in the early 1970s, the Post Office evidently felt able to experiment with the more widely available alternative - the moped.  A large trial saw the purchase of small batches of Garelli, Honda, Motobécane Mobylette and Steyr-Puch Maxis as replacements for the ageing Raleigh Runabouts and Supermatics.  A total of 25 Steyr-Puch Maxi machines was purchased in 1971 as part of this evaluation; this after the company demonstrator, UAU 86H, was shown to the Post Office.  These 25 Maxis were the first and last to be used by the Post Office as the corporation elected in favour of the larger Puch MV50.  This machine was, along with the BSA Bantam, to prove the mainstay of the two-wheeled operations in the 1970s.

The initial batch of deliveries was split between Postal and Telegram operations with the former taking 170 and the latter 190.

These early machines were a pedal-start, two-speed version finished, as were all of this type, in Post Office red.  Additions were front number plates, steel leg shields and a small 'toast rack' carrier over the rear mudguard to fix the two panniers to.  These canvas panniers were used mainly on telegram bikes while the postal versions were fitted with a steel frame carrier that was bolted on and used to carry the postman's canvas mail pouch.  All Royal Mail mopeds were single-seat bikes.

The Royal Mail serial number was always stencilled on the near-side of the petrol tank in white letters, using a prefix of 'P' for postal work and 'T' for telegram duties.  Each moped had its own fleet number, known as a serial, and the system used from 1971 is still in use today.  Consisting of seven figures, the first figure denotes the year of purchase, so current vehicles are entering service with a figure '5' indicating 1995/96 fiscal year of purchase.  The second and third digits denote the vehicle type with the final four digits denoting the individual vehicle in a series from 0001 upwards for each type.  Other markings included the tyre pressures in white on the near-side mudguards (25 front, 32 rear) while the leg-shields on the early examples carried 'PO' in shaded gold block letters vertically on both sides (the same style as the 'GPO' lettering used on the leg-shields of Bantams).

Post Office Puch moped

The 1976 delivery of Puch MV50s found the type fitted with a larger fuel tank as per the Puch M2 in place of the MS50 style tank.  The need for a front number plate had been dispensed with, although several mudguards were drilled out for fitting.  Another change was a new style of leg-shields, which were of white self-coloured glass fibre design.

The normal practice was for the Queen's Cypher sticker (gold on a red square) to be fitted to the near-side while on the offside a similarly coloured sticker bore the legend 'POST OFFICE' vertically.  This was the correct way to position the stickers although several were noted the wrong way round.  The final delivery of these bikes took place in 1979 with the bulk being used for telegram deliveries.  The major change on this 'moped' was a kick-start in place of the old pedal start and, in place of the hand-change gears, it had a foot-change system - basically, the moped had become a motorbike.  This last batch of MV50s was, like the 1976 batch, slow in entering service, mainly being stored until needed.  This process could be lengthy: I have a 1976-built bike that was not registered until 1979.  A lot suffered accidents with young riders and a fair proportion was stolen, so keeping a reserve fleet in store was good housekeeping by the corporation.

The demise of the telegram was on the cards during the late 1970s.  With the split up of the old Post Office into two corporations the end was in sight.  In 1969 there were 1,500 vehicles involved in telegram delivery work but this had shrunk to about 400 by 1981.  Telegrams, although delivered by the postal service, were deemed a Telecom function and this meant that one corporation delivered the loss-making telegrams for the other corporation.  Just a handful of Bantams supported the Puch fleet on telegram duties right up until the end of service on 1st October 1982.  Disposal of these vehicles was carried out at a local level with most being sold through the various Head Postmasters, normally at very reasonable prices.  Several of these machines carried on finding work on postal duties before the arrival of the Honda City Express.

The mopeds have survived quite well since withdrawal although, as is the case with most mopeds, they have to be dug out of garden sheds.

Serial Model Notes Year
1660001 - 1660025 Maxi   1971
2070001 - 2070170 MV50   1972
2630191 - 2630190 MV50   1972
(2630191 - 2630209) MV50 from 2070001 batch 1972
3070001 - 3070050 MV50   1973
3630001 - 3630450 MV50   1973
3630451 MV50 experimental machine, frame number 5522021 1973
(3630452 - 3630460) MV50 from 307001 batch 1973
4070001 - 4070160 MV50   1974
(4070161 - 4070190) MV50 from 4630001 batch 1974
4630001 - 4630540 MV50   1974
(4630541 - 4630551) MV50 from 4070001 batch 1974
5070001 - 5070060 MV50   1975
5630001 - 5630140 MV50   1975
(5630141 - 5630151) MV50 from 5070001 batch 1975
6070001 - 6070189 MV50   1976
(6070190 & 6070191) MV50 ex 6630063 & 6630050 1976
6630001 - 6630260 MV50   1976
(6630261 - 6630363) MV50 from 6070001 batch 1976
9070001 - 9070068 MV50   1979
(9070069 - 9070073) MV50 ex 9630003, 9630035, 9630036, 9630056, 9630058 1979
9630001 - 9630584 MV50   1979

Those shown in parentheses have been renumbered.

Totals: Puch Maxi = 25, Puch MV50 = 2,862.

First published - December 1995

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