Mike Humble on how a piece of history lives on to this day – and he’s a part of it too!
Well, as some of you may know, I recently went back into the whirling dervish that is vehicle sales and although cars have been my comfort zone historically, its now buses and coaches. My last full time sales role back in 2008 was also in the PSV game, but now I am responsible for new vehicle sales. The company I work with are a huge DAF Truck dealer, but recently took on a franchise for King Long buses (a massive Chinese concern) and also BMC buses and coaches – I’m sure one or two of you may have heard those three initials before.
You would be correct in thinking that BMC stands for British Motor Corporation, because historically, it does. Back in the early 1960s BMC opened a plant in Turkey to assemble trucks for their market in kit form, just as BL in later years did with the Allegro in Belgium and various Austin models in Australia and South Africa. This alliance carried on through to the late 1980s with Leyland Truck and Bus, leading to Leyland Daf.
However, towards the latter part of that decade, BMC were bought from Daf and became a standalone company keeping the initials of BMC. A similar event happened in India with Ashok Leyland – that company still uses the roundel or ‘down the plughole logo’ of British Leyland.
What makes things even more interesting are the component’s used in production. BMC’s engines are sourced from Cummins Darlington plant here in the UK and the axles, steering and gearboxes are also from the UK via ZF. Indeed, on a recent visit to the company’s UK import HQ in Coventry, a closer inspection had me noting even more parts that one or two BL fans, especially those of Bus and Truck, may have seen once or twice before.
This is not unknown in the industry as Leyland Truck and Bus were often found rummaging through each others parts bins from time to time and even the market leader, Volvo, used common components here and there to scale down development costs where and whenever they could.
The picture above shows a Leyland Tiger coach with Belgian Berkhof bodywork. The Leyland part had the engine from a truck placed on its side and the front brakes of T45 series truck but, just to prove it’s not only BL that used the same parts where they could, notice anything about the side/headlights? You would be right – they were lifted straight from the Saab 900. It’s a shame this picture fails to show the rear lights as they are from the Austin Montego.
Many of us know that the first generation Land Rover Discovery used Maestro Van rear light clusters and Sherpa/LDV 400 series headlights while the top-selling Leyland Roadrunner/Daf 45 series 7.5 ton truck used the headlamps from the Maestro, but even heavyweight stuff shared parts from the BL parts bins…
The Seddon Atkinson 2-11 and 3-11 range as seen above used lighting equipment from BL/Austin Rover. However, I can say that I have driven one of these ‘Atkis’ at night and I would have seen better with cocktail sticks poked in my eyes – to say I was scared would be the understatement of the century. However, getting back to BMC buses, closer scrutiny reveals a Leyland truck pedal box unit lifted straight from the Clydesdale/Boxer/Terrier range of vehicles from the 1970s, while the steering column and indicator/wiper switches either side of the steering wheel are also Leyland parts as fitted in the aerodynamic T45 range of the Freighter, Cruiser and Roadtrain.
Some may be thinking these parts give the impression of an outmoded and out of date product, but quite the opposite is true. These vehicles are rugged, yet refined and priced keenly while coming with excellent warranties and running components that mechanics are familiar with. Just think on, then, when people bemoan the death of the British Bus and Coachbuilders – a piece of history lives on and pays homage to Leyland and I’m quietly pleased to be part of it.