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Feature: Creating bespoke trailer bodies with Cosby Suppliers

17 September 2015 #Features & Interviews #Trailer

Specialist trailer manufacturer Cosby Suppliers has built an enviable reputation for its high-quality, bespoke vehicle bodies.

Founded by Raymond Duffin in the Leicestershire village of Cosby in 1957, the company began life as a car dealer before moving into commercial vehicle sales. Vehicle bodybuilding soon followed as a sideline to the sales business.

The company continued to build general haulage bodywork until the late 1980s, when Phil Duffin, son of Raymond and the current Managing Director of Cosby Suppliers, saw an opportunity to grow the business into a new niche with more specialist trailers.

Operations Director Nick Hutchinson describes the turning point in the company’s history. “That side of things began in the late 1980s when we built some trailers for computer recovery. They were the first of the more specialist trailers we got involved in. At the time, Leicester was saturated with standard body builders.

“Back then we were building curtainsiders and all the usual bodywork, then over several years it went full circle. Now over 95% of what we build is of a very specialist nature. We never quite know what we’re going to do next or what we’re going to be asked to do next.

The specialist bodies built by Cosby Suppliers are usually one-off designs for particular clients. These can include exhibition trailers, outside broadcast vehicles incorporating a state-of-the-art editing suites for television companies, or elaborate trailers to transport racing cars and provide workshop facilities for motorsport clients.

“We don’t really build anything the same twice,” says Hutchinson. “It’s very rare that customers have two built simultaneously. If we build one and somebody wants another one, there will almost certainly be things that the customer wants done differently or we might say that since the other one was built, this item is better or more modern.”

Repair and maintenance work is also part of the business. It is quite usual for Cosby Suppliers vehicles to be fitted with generators or air conditioning, while expanding bodywork is often hydraulically operated. Most of the finished vehicles are fitted on standard truck or trailer chassis, but sometimes particular commissions will require Special Type approval.

Cosby Suppliers is still located in its namesake village in Leicestershire and employs around 24 people. All design work is done in-house.

“We’ve got a lot of very long-standing employees in the workshop”, says Nick. “We have a lot of knowledge and experience on the shop floor. They all started in haulage bodywork. The better ones in the area have migrated here and learned quite a few additional skills by being here.

The company prides itself on the quality and finishings of its products, which have to satisfy some very demanding clients. “You can’t see mechanical fixings on a lot of the things we do. They are finished to a very high standard. Customers like those in motor racing and outside broadcast expect the pinnacle in coach building and finish.”

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