Archive : Technical snags hit Leyland’s superbus

By. Clifford Webb Midland Industrial Correspondent

Leyland National
Leyland National

British Leyland have run into technical problems with the new Leyland National bus, the first in the world to be built by mass production techniques similar to those employed in modern car plants. Lord Stokes, BLMC’s chairman, has described it as
“at least five years ahead of world competition”.

Now following complaints frorn operators and months of rumours in the industry, British Leyland have admitted that fires have occurred in 18 of the new buses and shock-absorber brackets have broken off. In addition, users claim that doors refused to close properly. the rear engine access door persists in opening on the road and the bus is generally so unreliable that in one National Bus Co depot up to 75 per cent of the Nationals were off the road at the same time for repairs.

Last week Mr Ron Ellis, managing director of BLMC’s truck and bus division, told Business News: “There have been some problems in commissioning this radically new machine in service. We have identified them and have developed solutions which wve are implementing.”

Problems With the National have been reported in the trade press. Mr Ellis replied to criticism voiced in Motor Transport, a leading commercial vehicle journal. In a published letter he said: “Being the first company to put such radical beliefs into practice is a courageous step. particularly when an investment of £10m had to be made before the first production machine could be delivered.”

On the fires, he said: “The facts are we are approaching the production of our 1000th vehicle and to date 18 fires have been reported. Of these 12 occurred in the buses of one operating company which took the very earliest machines produced. The cause was traced and modifications to the routing of the wiring loom have obviated this fault.”

Shock-absorber brackets had also been modified to overcome breakages. Mr Ellis concludes: “We are well aware of our problems. There are no secrets about them. Action is being taken as a priority and our customers are kept fully informed.”

The bulk of the 900 or so Nationals delivered have gone to the National Bus Company, which is BLMC’s partner in the new Leyland National factory at Workington. This is fortunate in a way because it means that the burden of the “customer development work ” has not been spread over the trade as a whole. Despite the early problems many transport engineers believe that the National will one day be a real winner. Not only does its integral manufacturing techniques make excellent sense against a background of worldwide inflation, but the concept offers new standards of passenger comfort, safety and quietness.

Keith Adams


  1. Sadly the National was lumbered with the 510 engine, which had been rejected for HGV use as it was only 8.2 litres and heavily turbo charged. Early vehicles suffered from a weight imbalance that resulted in the move of the batteries to under the cab, reducing the tendency for the rear end to wander off.
    Again BL introduce a new product without finishing the development and then when they get it right, the market has moved on.

    • It is classic British Shed Engineering, where we attempt to resolve the limits of our resources with a greater ambition in the objective. Sometimes it works, as in the Spitfire, sometimes it fails ie Norton rotary motorcycle.

      When you look at the situation you have to ask why!

      Leyland export markets were into the Commonwealth where simplicity was desired (ie they were lost to likes of Hino with simple truck based designs) and their domestic market they had a Government protected monopoly through national Bus and they had no hope of breaking into the European market with the National because they had different regulations around Bus and Coach sizes and weights than the UK in mainland Europe for many years to come. So where was the advantage in a cash strapped company like Leyland pioneering new technology on a product it gave them no commercial advantage.

      • Because the National Bus Company demanded the new bus! Remember this was a joint product and if Leyland had not got the contract it would have gone elsewhere – probably a foreign competitor wanting to enter the UK market which Leyland had sown up. The main issue with the National was the engine – it was a poorly thought out solution that in reality would never work in the bus industry – just take Daimler and the Cummins debacle as another incident in the bus industry, and AEC’s V8 in the truck industry. We also forget all the profits from Leyland Truck and Bus were being shovelled into the car making business to rectify its faults so real investment in the commercial vehicle side of the business was not happening.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.