Commercial Vehicles : Your help needed

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Mike Humble

The 1980 T45 Leyland is to be recognised only 33 years later - can you help?
The 1980 T45 Leyland is to be recognised only 33 years later – can you help?

They say that time flies, and how true is that sentiment? This month marks the 20th anniversary of the collapse of Europe’s largest truck builder – Leyland DAF. Way back in 1987, the two brands of DAF and Leyland were merged into one following the Conservative Government’s decision to start privatising the State owned-Rover Group.

Leyland Bus was sold to a consortium of bankers and its management (only to sell out to Volvo just 18 months later)  whereby Leyland Trucks Ltd and Freight Rover (amid much controversy) was sold to a much smaller truck builder that opened up new markets for all companies.

As many of you will already know, Leyland Trucks Ltd still produces commercials in the Lancashire town its named after. In fact, it’s the only part of the original BL empire that still functions in its original guise. Both DAF and Leyland are now under American ownership – Paccar and remain a dominant force on the European market.

A little while ago we introduced some truck features on the site and on the whole, we are pleased with the reception with some interesting comments from those who were not even aware of the importance of the truck division and well informed readers alike.

A short while ago, I was approached by an automotive publisher and asked what my thoughts would be on writing a publication on the Leyland T45 range. After some initial emotions of both flattery and sheer panic, I picked myself off the floor and accepted the challenge.

The Leyland T45 range first introduced back in 1980, was possibly the most significant and important event within British Leyland’s Commercial division since the creation of BLMC in 1968. A truly epic investment that covered not only a new range but plant and aftersales network really did turn its fortunes around.

The survival of  British Leyland, and the development of the car range throughout the whole of the late 1960s and ’70s totally depended on the cash that was syphonned away from the profit that the truck and bus division continued to make against all odds. The T45 ushered in a new era of truck that was not only pleasing on both the eye and the environment, but also made a case for itself on the balance sheets of operators, too. It’s an era that has been largely ignored by other motoring writers, but it’s a story that is interesting, entertaining and amazing considering the parlous state of BL as it entered the 1980s.

Big or small - like this 1984 Leyland Roadrunner, your experiences are valuable!
Big or small – like this 1984 Leyland Roadrunner, your experiences are valuable!

Your help is needed with the input. Some of you may have driven, sold, repaired, operated and bought this huge range of innovative trucks that spanned from the lightweight Roadrunner through the premium-weight Roadtrain. No matter how big or small your input, your experience or anecdotes are vital to create a fair and balanced account. The years covered will be 1980-1993 in order to keep my sanity and to keep the book within publishing and wordage constraints.

All parties who contribute and feature their input will gain a credit in the finished book upon its publication. At the moment it is still in the development and research stage and exact date of publication is to be confirmed. Anything could be of use from personal hands on experience through to pictures or spec sheets.

If you can help at this early stage in any way, you can contact me via leylandt45@yahoo.co.uk.

Mike Humble

Upon leaving school, Mike was destined to work on the Railway but cars were his first love. An apprenticeship in a large family Ford dealer was his first forray into the dark and seedy world of the motor trade.

Moving on to Rover and then PSV / HGV, he has circumnavigated most departments of dealerships including parts, service and latterly - the showroom. Mike has owned all sorts of rubbish from Lada to Leyland and also holds both Heavy Goods & Public Service Vehicle licences, he buys & sells buses and coaches during the week. Mike runs his own automotive web site and writes for a number of motoring or commercial vehicle themed publications

17 Comments

  1. Not trucks, but buses, I live 8 miles from the former Leyland Bus factory in Workington and worked there for 2 years when it was converted into a warehouse. This factory was purpose built for the new National range and later produced the Titan and Tiger coach. Unlike more infamous parts of the British Leyland empire, this plant rarely lost a day to industrial action and was a success for most of its 22 year lifespan. However, its remote location persuaded Volvo to centralise its operations in Preston and the factory closed in 1992.

  2. Indeed Glen

    Lillyhall became a Stobart depot and yes indeed, Volvo had a site in Preston that was a component plant.

    Olympian bus production moved from Lillyhall to Irvine in Scotland (a former Ailsa plant) after which only the chassis and axle casings remained true to the original Leyland design.

    Does anyone know what happened to the Leyland landmark made from Lakeland granite stone that was placed just outside the entrance to the plant off the roundabout??

  3. The excellent book ‘Beyond Reality – Leyland Bus The Twilight Years’ by Doug Jack lists the benchmark as being preserved but unfortunately does not list where it went.

    In its time Workington built, Leyland Nationals, National 2’s, Lynx’s, Railbuses (LEV’s), Class 140-142 Rail Vehicles, Titans, Olympians (Chasis and complete vehicles) and Volvo B10M Chasis. Not bad for what was supposed to be a one-product plant. It was also supposed to be where the Volvo B6 (Volvo’s competitor for the market storming Dennis Dart) but the closure meant it never went to Workington but straight to Irvine.

    The Olympian did live on for way longer than anyone anticipated, as part of its rear chasis formed part of the low-floor Volvo B10TL -The Super Olympian launched in 1998 as a tri-axle export double-decker. It lasted to 2004.

    It’s a crying shame when you see the money that was transferred from the profitable Bus and Truck division to prop up the ailing car division. It meant that this division was unable to invest properly to meet increased foreign competition. By the time of the arrival of the T45 range, the damage was already done. One of the saddest facts about Leyland is this. As recently as 1979 it was the largest producer of bus and coach chasis in Western Europe. By 1993…it was gone.

  4. I think the landmark may be in the museum at Leyland, but not 100% certain on this. Mike perhaps contacting Chris Long, at Long’s of Leeds might be wise? They were at one point almost 100% Leyland, and owned I believe the very first DAF 95’s in the country on D plates. They also ran unusual Chinese 6 curtainsider T45’s with daycabs, and roof mounted sleeper pods. the 7.5t fleet was DAF 45/Roadrunner, and they are still loyal to daf as the fleet is now 100% DAF, with the artics being 105XF’s. There is also a replica T45 Roadtrain restored to Long’s livery, owned by Sascha Hesling of Kippax. I actually worked for them in the early 1990’s, and they were a great bunch.

    It cannot hurt mate 🙂

    http://www.longsofleeds.co.uk/home.shtml

  5. Good luck compiling the book, I remember the T45 launch well. I did some development work at the Leyland tech Centre in the mid 90’s on people carrier projects that were going to be produced in Thailand (TRU) and Indonesia (Bakrie Beta 97). There still models of T45 based stuff kicking about in the offices.
    Put me down for a copy

  6. Good luck with the book. The best legacy of the T45 investment was the factory, which is still one of the most modern Truck factories around, and shockingly the only one left of any significance in the UK.

    I was actually offered a job with Leyland Daf in 1990, as a graduate trainee accountant, but turned it down as I had another offer (which wasn’t in Lancashire!), I enjoyed the 2 day milkround interview though, seeing their shop floor, and staying overnight in their training centre?

    If I had taken the job, I would have experienced the collapse first hand…

    I always thought it interesting, that the alternative offer for Leyland in 1987 was from Paccar, and that after the collapse of Leyland Daf, they ended up buying both DAF, and the Leyland! A shame the Leyland badge was deleted though.

  7. The ‘people carrier’ projects you remember from the 90’s, were actually contract jobs placed by Bill Lowe (after he’d left Leyland). They were styled, designed, and engineered by MGA in Coventry. The TRU project was called ‘Buddy II’. It featured a Peugot diesel engine, and leaf spring front suspension (!!!). The program actually was not just a ‘people carrier’ – that was a minibus by the way – the range also included a van, crew-cab, and pick-up varients.

  8. Worth a trip to Leyland to see the museum there in part of the remaining I think) South Works buildngs. The town is quite rightly proud of its heritage with a new statue on the High Street of a worker walkig out of the old North Works entrance – now an entrance to the market. As an aside, the old test track, built in the late 70s is about to disappear under another housing estate.

    Good luck with the book – looks like you have sold at least ten!

  9. The T45 was bang up to the job and state of art at time of production but unfortunately the story was very similar to the Rover Sd1.What looked to be so promising like the sd1, the execution let it down with alot of early rust problems and general quality control issues.A familar BL story , so very sad infact the last Marathons I drove were built so much better than the roadtrains at the time.I still love them and will by the book.

  10. zantimisfit
    I was a bit disappointed with the museum, considering it’s the National Commercial Vehicle museum, it was quite a small collection. The roof leaked also…

    Like the National Football Museum which was in Preston until it moved to Central Manchester, the location, while fitting, probably doesn’t help attract casual visitors.

    Talking of Manchester, the transport museum there has a MASSIVE collection of buses from the region, loads of Leyland PD2s.

  11. It is a bit pants is the museum in Leyland. They all seem to suffer from a case of permanent PMT and ‘fossil-itis’, like many museums, and if you saw the documentary about the place a while back, talk about backstabbing. They used the T45 Popemobile as a ‘confessional’ as well which added a bit of irony

  12. Hi Mike,

    Very good initiative. I will also be one of the buyers of your book.

    The idea was to relaunch Leyland in mainland Europe after some 10 years of very limited presence. The T45 was shown greatly as Interstate (together with Scammell S26 and TX450) in Brussels in 1987.

    In those days Leyland was also very much a favorite in European Truckracing.

    I know there are pictures in the Ending days of the Scammell factory at Tolpits Lane in Watford with Roadtrains, wearing the letters DAF under the windscreen, like the letters “LEYLAND” and “SCAMMELL” I think Dutch magazine Truckstar visited the Scammell plant in 1988 and by coincidence spotted them.

    Also when DAF went bankrupt, Leyland Trucks was reincarnated by the Leyland Management and they re-introduced the Roadtrain for foreign markets with the name Leyland again. Unfortunately it was dropped when Leyland and DAF came together again via Paccar.

    Also please don’t forget the Army DROPS and Australian or New Zealand Roadtrain-Roadtrains.

    On Internet I find following links are interesting:
    http://ccmv.aecsouthall.co.uk/p85578901

    http://flickrhivemind.net/flickr_hvmnd.cgi?method=GET&page=1&photo_number=50&tag_mode=all&search_type=Tags&originput=leyland,t45&sorting=Interestingness&photo_type=250&noform=t&search_domain=Tags&sort=Interestingness&textinput=leyland,t45

    I will try to find some pictures and mail them to you (May take some time)

  13. i thought you might like to know D705 RRN t45 interstate demonstrator you picture outside the old tank factory by the old test track, has been restored and is at the final commissioning stage another one we have got back

  14. Hi Mike, the book is an inspired idea whose time has come. There must still be a huge body of first hand knowledge ‘out there’.

    I’m in NZ, and own a Scammell S26 8×4, and have built up some data on the 1983-1989 story of Scammell S26s in NZ; there’s certainly some interesting background to why Scammels were introduced alongside ERF in such a small market!

    All the very best with the book, I’ll take a couple!

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