Leyland’s medium weight Freighter was the company’s bright new hope of the 1980s, combining two previous ranges into one – and putting in a strong performance in what became the fast growing sector up to 17 tons GVW.
Mike Humble takes up the story.
The Boxer is beaten by a new middleweight
Even those unaware of trucks are bound to have heard of the Leyland Boxer and Clydesdales of the 1970s. It felt as though they were everywhere – these middleweight rigid chassis lorries sold in truly huge numbers to companies (many now long gone) including BRS, Road Line, British Rail and the Milk Marketing Board. Under their skin, the Boxer and Clydesdales were BMCs designed way back in the 1960s. No frills and no nonsense vehicles, these Leyland’s were hard working and reliable offering a decent payload and superb parts interchageability and availability.
Out with the old
The Boxer and Clydesdale ranges were a tough act to follow but Leyland’s T45 cab system replaced them with the smooth modern looking Freighter. Using a similar chassis, albeit updated, and modified axles from the outgoing models, the Freighter ushered in unheard of levels of comfort, practicality and driver appeal. The 11–16 ton sector had often been ignored by many truck makers, but Ford and Leyland pretty much changed the market forever with their futuristic range of trucks.
Power units were based upon the tough Leyland 400-series, available with or without turbo charging with ratings up to 160bhp. Transmissions were existing Turner all-synchro gearboxes with either a Maudslay or Albion rear axle, the latter having hub reduction gearing. Braking systems were improved over outgoing models with the heavier model Freighters sharing its front hubs and braking systems with the heavier Roadtrain range.
The Freighter could be ordered in day cab or sleeper format and very soon became a top selling truck in its class, selling strongly to most business sectors. Its biggest rival for most of its production life was the Ford Cargo and this weight sector rapidly became the quickest growing market for commercials in the mid-’80s. By the time Bedford ceased truck manufacturing in the UK, Leyland and Ford were left trading punches for the number one spot, but rival makers such as Mercedes-Benz were gathering momentum.
The other UK truck maker, Seddon Atkinson launched a revised 16-ton chassis called the 2-11, which featured an all new Perkins Phaser engine which sold well into public service fleets. It was powerful and economical and quickly, Leyland’s trusty 400-series engine looked dated and behind the times. A merger with DAF trucks in 1986 followed and the Freighter benefited from some credible engineering updates.
Much needed further investement
The Cummins-designed B-series diesel had developed into a world leading design, first seen in the Roadrunner, and the Freighter was also to adopt this engine in 1987. The 400 series engine was phased out in favour of higher-output Cummins power units with ratings up to 180bhp, though later variants would later offer 210bhp by means of intercooling. The Turner gearbox was not suited to the new higher power ratings, so a slick shifting and stronger ZF600 six-speed ‘box became standard across the range.
Naming Trucks? It’s a numbers game
By now, the Freighter at 18tons GVW became the most economical truck in its class and enjoyed healthy sales after this point. As the early 1990s arrived, the Freighter name was dropped as part of Leyland-DAF policy of giving trucks numerical badges. The Freighter became known simply as the Leyland-DAF 50-series and as a result of some much needed investment from DAF, the truck gained a smarter interior trim, better quality and much improved driver appeal.
The T45 cab 50-series continued in production until 1994 after which a DAF designed model – the 65 series, replaced the smaller motor panels produced cabs. Production of 18 ton GVW DAF trucks continues in Leyland in the form of the DAF CF.