Leyland Bus was a British bus manufacturer. It emerged from the Rover Group (formerly British Leyland) as a management buyout of the bus business. It was subsequently acquired by Volvo Buses in 1988 and the name finally disappeared in 1993.
Leyland Buses pictures from Google images
- 1896 Formed as the Lancashire Steam Motor Company.
- 1907 Name changed to Leyland Motors.
- 1968 Merger with British Motor Holdings to form British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC).
- 1975 BLMC was nationalised and became British Leyland (BL).
- 1986 BL changed its name to Rover Group.
- 1987 The bus business of Rover Group became independent as Leyland Bus following a management buyout.
- 1988 The business was acquired by Volvo Buses.
- 1993 Volvo discontinues Leyland ending all production of the buses and the Workington factory, where they were built.
Leyland Motors Ltd
|Fate||Merged with British Motor Holdings|
|Successor(s)||British Leyland Motor Corporation|
|Headquarters||Leyland, England, UK|
Leyland Motors Limited was a British vehicle manufacturer of lorries, buses and trolleybuses. It gave its name to the British Leyland Motor Corporation formed when it merged with British Motor Holdings, later to become British Leyland after being nationalised. British Leyland later changed its name to simply BL, then in 1986 to Rover Group.
Leyland Motors has a long history dating from 1896, when the Sumner and Spurrier families founded the Lancashire Steam Motor Company in the town of Leyland in North West England. Their first products included steam lawn mowers. The company’s first vehicle was a 1.5-ton-capacity steam powered van. This was followed by a number of undertype steam wagons using a vertical fire-tube boiler. By 1905 they had also begun to build petrol-engined wagons. The Lancashire Steam Motor Company was renamed Leyland Motors in 1907 when they took over Coulthards of Preston. They also built a second factory in the neighbouring town of Chorley which still remains today as the headquarters of the LEX leasing and parts company.
In 1920, Leyland Motors produced the Leyland 8 luxury touring car, a development of which was driven by J.G. Parry-Thomas at Brooklands. Parry-Thomas was later killed in an attempt on the land speed record when a chain drive broke. At the other extreme, they also produced the Trojan Utility Car in the Kingston upon Thames factory from 1922 to 1928.
Three generations of Spurriers controlled Leyland Motors from its foundation until the retirement of Sir Henry Spurrier in 1964. Sir Henry inherited control of Leyland Motors from his father in 1942, and successfully guided its growth during the postwar years. Whilst the Spurrier family were in control the company enjoyed excellent labour relations—reputedly never losing a day’s production through industrial action.
World War II
During the war, Leyland Motors along with most vehicle manufacturers was involved in war production. Leyland built the Cromwell tank at its works from 1943 as well as medium/large trucks such as the Leyland Hippo and Retriever.
After the war, Leyland Motors continued military manufacture with the Centurion tank.
In 1955, through an equity agreement, manufacture of commercial vehicles under licence from Leyland Motors commenced in Madras, India at the new Ashok factory. The products were branded as Ashok Leyland.
On the other hand, Leyland Motors acquired other companies in the post war years:
- 1951: Albion Motors
- 1953: Collaboration with Danish Automobile Building (DAB), a bus manufacturer, later with a majority stake in the 1970s
- 1955: Scammell Lorries Ltd—military and specialist lorry manufacturer
- 1961: Standard Triumph (Standard-Triumph International Limited), cars, vans and some agricultural machinery interests
Holding company: Leyland Motor Corporation Limited
- 1962: Associated Commercial Vehicles (ACV), which incorporated AEC, Thornycroft, Park Royal Vehicles and Charles H. Roe.
- 1962 a new group holding company was incorporated to own Leyland Motors Limited, ACV and new acquisitions
- 1965: Minority (25%) interests in Bristol Commercial Vehicles and Eastern Coach Works
- 1966: Rover cars and their Subsidiary, car, aero-engine and armoured fighting vehicle manufacturers Alvis
- 1967: Aveling-Barford was acquired This company mainly made road rollers and dumper trucks.
Donald Stokes, previously Sales Director, was appointed managing director of Leyland Motors Limited in September 1962 originally a Leyland student apprentice he had grown up with the company. He became chairman in 1966. In 1968 Leyland Motor Corporation Limited merged with British Motor Holdings (BMH) to form the British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC). BMH brought with it into the new organisation more famous British goods vehicle and bus and coach marques, including Daimler, Guy, BMC, Austin and Morris.
British Leyland era
Further information: British Leyland
The BLMC group was difficult to manage because of the many companies under its control, often making similar products. This, and other reasons, led to financial difficulties and in December 1974 British Leyland had to receive a guarantee from the British government.
In 1975, after the publication of the Ryder Report, BLMC nationalised as British Leyland (BL) and split into 4 divisions with the bus and truck production becoming the Leyland Truck & Bus division within the Land Rover Leyland Group. This division was split into Leyland Bus and Leyland Trucks in 1981. In 1986, BL changed its name to Rover Group. The equity stake in Ashok Leyland was controlled by Land Rover Leyland International Holdings, and sold in 1987.
The bus operations were divested as a management buy-out to form Leyland Bus, and was subsequently bought by Volvo Buses in 1988, which discontinued most of its product range but adopted the Leyland Olympian, re-engineering it as the first named Volvo Bus model, the Volvo Olympian aside from minor frame changes the major alterations were the fitment of Volvo axles, braking system and controls. Both were the best selling double-deck bus chassis of their time.
- 1987 The Leyland Trucks division of Rover Group (formerly BL) merged with DAF Trucks of The Netherlands, and was floated on the Dutch stock exchange as DAF NV. The new company traded as Leyland DAF in the UK, and as DAF elsewhere.
- 1993 DAF NV went into bankruptcy. The UK truck division was bought through a management buy-out and became Leyland Trucks. The van division was also bought through a management buy-out and became LDV Limited. The Spare Parts Operation (Multipart) was also subject to a management buy-out before eventually becoming part of the LEX organisation.
- 1998 Leyland Trucks was acquired by the US truck manufacturer PACCAR. Leyland Trucks now operates as a division of PACCAR from the Leyland Assembly Plant in North West England manufacturing around 14,000 trucks per year of which about a third are sold in the EU, though not with the name Leyland.
The Leyland name and logo continues as a recognised and respected marque across India, the wider subcontinent and parts of Africa in the form of Ashok Leyland. Part of the giant Hinduja Group, Ashok Leyland manufactures buses, trucks, defence vehicles and engines. The company is a leader in the heavy transportation sector within India and has an aggressive expansionary policy. Ironically, since 1987, when the London-based Hinduja Group bought the Indian-based Ashok Leyland company, it is once again a British-owned brand. Today, Ashok-Leyland is pursuing a joint venture with Nissan, and through its acquisition of the Czech truck maker, Avia, is entering the European truck market directly. With its purchase of a 26% stake in UK-based bus manufacturer Optare in 2010, Ashok Leyland has taken a step closer to reconnecting with its British heritage, as Optare is a direct descendant of Leyland’s UK bus-making division. On 21 December 2010, Ashok Leyland bought an additional 49% stake in Optare, bringing its total to 75%.
Historically, Leyland Motors was a major manufacturer of buses used in the United Kingdom and worldwide. It achieved a number of firsts or milestones that set trends for the bus industry. It was one of the first manufacturers to devise chassis designs for buses that were different from trucks, with a lower chassis level to help passengers to board. Its chief designer, John George Rackham, who had experience at the Yellow Coach Company in Chicago before returning to England, created the Titan and Tiger ranges in 1927 that revolutionised bus design. After 1945, it created another milestone with the trend-setting Atlantean rear-engined double-decker bus design produced between 1956 and 1986.
- Q-type 4 ton
- SQ2 7 ton
- SWQ2 10-ton six-wheeler
- layland madion
- Terrier (G-series)
- Mastiff (G-series)
- Boxer (G-series)
- Clydesdale (G-series)
- Reiver (G-series)
- Marathon (Ergomatic)
- Bison (Ergomatic)
The G-series cab was built in Bathgate and was available with several different names, such as Terrier, Clydesdale, and Reiver. After this cab was replaced the tooling was shipped to Turkey, where BMC’s Turkish subsidiary built it as the “BMC Yavuz” and then as the “Fatih” (with Cummins engines) from 1986 until 1996.
The Marathon was Leyland’s answer to the booming “max cap” truck fad at the start of the 1970s. Imports such as the Volvo F88 and Scania 110/140 were selling very well in the UK thanks to the previously unheard of levels of driver comfort, reliability, quality and performance.
Leyland had insufficient money for development of a complete new vehicle at the time, so designers were instructed to utilise as many existing in-house components as possible. It was perceived at the time that the resulting model would be a stopgap until the new T45 range was ready for production toward the latter half of the 1970s.
The cab was a re-worked version of the “Ergomatic” tilt cab of 1965, heavily modified with different lower panels, raised height etc., and was available in day and sleeper cab form. Engines were decided from the outset to be in the higher power category to be competitive with rival vehicles. The only existing engine within the Leyland empire suitable for such an application (following the demise of the ill-fated fixed-head 500 series and AEC’s underdeveloped and unreliable V8) was the AEC AV760 straight-six, which was turbocharged and designated as the TL12. Other engine options included a 200 bhp Leyland L11, as well as Cummins 10- and 14-litre engines at 250 and 330 bhp, respectively.
Production began in 1973, and various shortcomings were noted, including below-par heating and ventilation, and pronounced cab roll. However, road testers of the time were very impressed by the truck’s power and performance. In 1977, the redesigned “Marathon 2” was launched, an updated and revised vehicle that attempted to address some of the previous criticisms of the earlier vehicle. Relatively few Marathons of all types were sold before production ended in 1979 with the introduction of the T45 “roadtrain” range of vehicles.
This was Leyland’s answer to the Ford cargo in the non-HGV 7.5-ton truck sector. Launched in 1984, it utilised a Leyland straight-six engine until 1986, when a 5.9L Cummins was introduced. It was notable at the time for its low-level passenger side windscreen, featured as a safety aid to enable the driver to see the kerb, although this was deleted on later models. The basic cab had a long service life, becoming later on the Leyland DAF 45.
The Leyland Roadtrain was a range of heavy goods vehicle tractor units manufactured by Leyland Trucks between 1980 and 1990. The nomenclature “T45” refers to the truck range design as a whole and encompasses models such as the lightweight 7.5-ton roadrunner, Freighter (4 wheel rigid truck) constructor (multi axle rigid tipper or mixer chassis-its chassis owing much to the outgoing Scammell 8-wheeler Handyman) and Cruiser (basic spec low weight tractor unit). The Roadtrain itself was a max weight model with distance work in mind.
The cab design was a joint effort between Leyland, BRS and Ogle Design and was seen as the height of modernity when compared with its predecessors, the idea being to have one basic design to replace the various outgoing models (for example, the Bathgate built G cab on the Terrier, the Ergomatic cabbed Lynx, Beaver etc.). This did indeed make good economic sense; however, there has been speculation that Leyland did in fact alienate a number of customers who had traditionally purchased other marques from within the Leyland empire—Albion, AEC, Scammell, etc.—who were now left with no alternative but to have a Leyland branded vehicle or purchase from elsewhere.
Throughout its production run, engine choices included the AEC-based TL12, a straight carry over from the preceding “stopgap” model Marathon range, The Rolls-Royce Eagle 265/300 and the Cummins 290 L10 and 14-litre 350 coupled to a Spicer or Eaton transmission, although all versions produced a distinctive whine from the propshaft knuckle joint when approaching 60 mph (97 km/h). The TL12 engine was dropped early on in the production run, with most large fleet buyers choosing the Rolls-Royce engine.
The Roadtrain was available in day- and sleeper-cabbed form, in high and low datum versions—this refers to the cab height—high datum versions were intended as long haul vehicles with higher mounted cabs and more internal space. 6×2 versions were built in high cab form only on a chassis that was basically that of the ageing Scammell trunker.
In 1986, the high roofed Roadtrain interstate was introduced, a top of the range long distance truck with standing room inside.
The Roadtrain was a common sight throughout most of the 1980s, with a great many of the major fleet users in the UK such as Tesco, Blue Circle (unusually with high datum day cabs) and BRS running them. The Firm of Swain’s based at Rochester in Kent had a number of roadtrains in its fleet which enjoyed a comparatively long service life (until the late 1990s) before being replaced by the newer DAF 85.
Production ended in 1990 with the sale of Leyland Trucks to Dutch firm DAF, although as a postscript DAF relaunched the model in low-datum form (it was already manufacturing the large DAF 95) as the DAF 80, using the Roadtrain cab with the DAF 330 ATi engine (quite ironic, given that this engine had its roots in the Leyland O.680). This model was produced for a relatively short time until 1993 with the launch of the brand new cabbed DAF 85.
Due partly to the cab’s propensity to rust and also to the admittedly short life of commercial vehicles, any Roadtrain in commercial operation is now a very rare sight indeed. However, a small number remain in use throughout the country as towing-and-recovery vehicles.
The army made use of an 8×6 version of the Roadtrain as a hook loader until recently. This is known to the British Army as Demountable Rack Offload and Pickup System (DROPS), which has seen action Iraq and Afghanistan and is still in service, but is due to be replaced by the MAN version.
The Leyland Comet was introduced in 1986, specifically designed for export markets mainly in the developing world. As such, it was a no-frills vehicle of a simple and sturdy design, with five- or six-speed transmissions rather than the multi-speed units used on European models. The cabin was a simplified all-steel version of that used by the Roadrunner, designed to enable local assembly. The three-axle version is called the Super Comet.
Leyland Trucks Limited
|Type||Subsidiary of Paccar since 1998|
|Headquarters||Leyland, Lancashire, England|
|Key people||Ron Augustyn-Managing Director
Peter Jukes-Operations Director
Denis Culloty-Chief Engineer
|Revenue||Approx £850 million|
Leyland Trucks is the UK’s leading medium & heavy duty truck manufacturer and is based in the town of Leyland, Lancashire. It emerged from the bankruptcy of DAF NV as the result of a management buy-out in 1993, and was acquired by PACCAR in 1998, of which it is now a subsidiary. Since Leyland Trucks was acquired by PACCAR it has become the group’s established centre for the design, development and manufacture of light and medium duty trucks. Leyland Trucks operates out of one of Europe’s most advanced truck manufacturing facilities – the Leyland Assembly Plant, and currently employs 1000 people. In 2008 Leyland produced more than 24,500 trucks of which 50% were exported.
Its history lies in origins as Leyland Motors which subsequently became part of the nationalised British Leyland conglomerate. Upon the breakup of BL’s successor Rover Group, the truck making division merged with DAF’s truck business as DAF NV. When the new company became insolvent a few years later, Leyland Trucks emerged as an independent company.
- 1896 The Lancashire Steam Motor Company is formed by James Sumner at the Herbert Street workshops with 20 employees. Henry Spurrier financed the development of a 30cwt steam van which proved to be successful
- 1907 T Coulthard and Co, an engineering firm in Preston, was taken over by LSMC and the combined company named Leyland Motors Limited
- 1963 Leyland Motor Corporation is formed after Leyland Motors absorbs Standard-Triumph International and Associated Commercial Vehicles Ltd during the preceding years
- 1968 Leyland Motor Corporation and British Motor Holdings merged to form the British Leyland Motor Corporation, which was now the fifth largest vehicle producer in the world
- 1975 BLMC was nationalised by the government in response to the severe financial problems being experienced by the group. The corporation becomes British Leyland with Leyland commercials becoming part of the autonomous Truck and Bus Division
- 1978 Leyland Vehicles Limited becomes the new name for the division
- 1979 Production starts during September at the all new Leyland Assembly Plant. The first build being a Leyland Leopard bus chassis
- 1981 LVL split into three companies;- Leyland Trucks, Leyland Bus and Leyland Parts
- 1987 DAF Trucks take a 60% controlling share in Leyland Trucks and Freight-Rover and becomes Leyland DAF
- 1993 The Leyland factory is subject to a management buy-out and becomes Leyland Trucks Limited
- 1998 Leyland Trucks is acquired by PACCAR of the United States and incorporated as the Leyland Trucks subsidiary of that company
- 2000 Production of all Foden product is transferred to the Leyland Assembly Plant
- 2002 The Leyland designed and built LF wins the prestigious award ‘International Truck of the Year’
- 2005 Leyland Trucks starts painting truck chassis robotically on the moving conveyor, a first in the industry
- 2006 Leyland Trucks stops production of Foden trucks following the decision to retire the Foden brand
- 2007 In another industry leading move, Leyland Trucks starts production of the complete bodied truck. Bodies are built on the production line, under the same quality controls, and fitted directly to its chassis prior to delivery to the customer
- 2008 On 17 April Leyland Trucks produced its 300,000th truck. Mark Armstrong Transport Ltd took delivery of the DAF XF 105 direct from the assembly line
- 2008 Leyland Trucks built a record 24,700 trucks at the assembly facility (beating the previous 2007 record of 17,500), supporting DAFs Leading UK Market Share of 27.3%
- 2009 In April Leyland Trucks was awarded the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade.
- 2010 Leyland Trucks was awarded the PACCAR Chairman’s Award for 2009
|Predecessor(s)||British Motor Holdings (BMH)
Leyland Motor Corporation (LMC)
Leyland DAFLDV Van Group
|Headquarters||Longbridge (Austin Rover), BirminghamCowley, Oxford
1986 – 2005: Washwood Heath, Birmingham LDV Vans
|Key people||Lord Stokes
British Leyland was an automotive engineering, and manufacturing conglomerate formed in the United Kingdom in 1968 as British Leyland Motor Corporation Ltd (BLMC), following the merger of Leyland Motors and British Motor Holdings. It was partly nationalised in 1975, when the UK government created a holding company called British Leyland, later BL, in 1978. It incorporated much of the British-owned motor vehicle industry, and held 40 percent of the UK car market, with roots going back to 1895.
Despite containing profitable marques such as Jaguar, Rover and Land Rover, as well as the best-selling Mini, British Leyland had a troubled history. In 1986 it was renamed as the Rover Group, later to become MG Rover Group, which went into administration in 2005, bringing mass car production by British-owned manufacturers to an end. MG and the Austin, Morris and Wolseley marques became part of China’s SAIC, with whom MG Rover attempted to merge prior to administration.
Today, MINI, Jaguar Land Rover and Leyland Trucks (now owned by BMW Group, TATA and Paccar, respectively) are the three most prominent former parts of British Leyland which are still active in the automotive industry, with SIAC-owned MG Motor continuing a small presence at the Longbridge site. Certain other related ex-BL businesses (such as Unipart) continue to operate independently.
BLMC was created in 1968 by the merger of British Motor Holdings (BMH) and Leyland Motor Corporation (LMC), encouraged by Tony Benn as chairman of the Industrial Reorganisation Committee created by the Wilson Government (1964–1970). At the time, LMC was a successful manufacturer, while BMH (which was the product of an earlier merger between the British Motor Corporation and Jaguar) was perilously close to collapse. The Government was hopeful LMC’s expertise would revive the ailing BMH, and effectively create a “British General Motors“. The merger combined most of the remaining independent British car manufacturing companies and included car, bus and truck manufacturers and more diverse enterprises including construction equipment, refrigerators, metal casting companies, road surface manufacturers; in all, nearly 100 different companies. The new corporation was arranged into seven divisions under its new chairman, Sir Donald Stokes (formerly the chairman of LMC).
While BMH was the UK’s largest car manufacturer (producing over twice as many cars as LMC), it offered a range of dated vehicles, including the Morris Minor which was introduced in 1948 and the Austin Cambridge and Morris Oxford, which dated back to 1959. After the merger, Lord Stokes was horrified to find that BMH had no plans to replace these elderly designs. Also, BMH’s design efforts immediately prior to the merger had focused on unfortunate niche market models such as the Austin Maxi (which was underdeveloped and with an appearance hampered by using the doors from the larger Austin 1800) and the Austin 3 litre, a car with no discernible place in the market.
BMH had produced several successful cars, such as the Mini and the Austin/Morris 1100/1300 range (which at the time was the UK’s biggest selling car). While these cars had been advanced at the time of their introduction, the Mini was not highly profitable and the 1100/1300 was facing more modern competition.
The lack of attention to development of new mass-market models meant that BMH had nothing in the way of new models in the pipeline to compete effectively with popular rivals such as Ford’s Escort and Cortina.
Immediately, Lord Stokes instigated plans to design and introduce new models quickly. The first result of this crash program was the Morris Marina in early 1971. It used parts from various BL models with new bodywork to produce BL’s mass-market competitor. It was one of the strongest-selling cars in Britain during the 1970s, although by the end of production in 1980 it was widely regarded as a dismal product that had damaged the company’s reputation. The Austin Allegro (replacement for the 1100/1300 ranges), launched in 1973, earned a similarly unwanted reputation over its 10-year production life.
The company became an infamous monument to the industrial turmoil that plagued Britain in the 1970s. Industrial action instigated by militant shop stewards frequently brought BL’s manufacturing capability to its knees. Despite the duplication of production facilities as a result of the merger, there were multiple single points of failure in the company’s production network which meant that a strike in a single plant could stop many of the others. Dealers, starved of stock found their customers defecting to contemporary products from Ford, Vauxhall, and the burgeoning Japanese imports.
At its peak, BLMC owned almost 40 manufacturing plants across the country. Even before the merger BMH had included theoretically competing marques that were in fact selling substantially similar “badge engineered” cars. To this was added the competition from yet more, previously LMC marques. Rover competed with Jaguar at the expensive end of the market, and Triumph with its family cars and sports cars against Austin, Morris and MG. Individual model lines that were similarly sized were therefore competing against each other, yet were never discontinued nor were model ranges rationalised quickly enough – for instance BMH’s MGB remained in production alongside LMC’s Triumph TR6, whilst in the medium family segment, the Princess was in direct competition with upscale versions of the Morris Marina and cheaper versions of the Austin Maxi, meaning that economies of scale resulting from large production runs could never be realised. In addition, in consequent attempts to establish British Leyland as a brand in consumers’ minds in and outside the UK, print ads and spots were produced, causing confusion rather than attraction for buyers. This, combined with serious industrial relations problems (with trade unions), the 1973 oil crisis, the three-day week, high inflation, and ineffectual management meant that BL became an unmanageable and financially crippled behemoth which went bankrupt in 1975.
Sir Don Ryder was asked to undertake an enquiry into the position of the company, and his report, The Ryder Report, was presented to the government in April 1975. Following the report’s recommendations, the organisation was drastically restructured and the Labour Government (1974–1979) took control by creating a new holding company British Leyland Limited (BL) of which the government was the major shareholder. Between 1975 and 1980 these shares were vested in the National Enterprise Board which had responsibility for managing this investment. The company was now organised into the following four divisions:
- Leyland Cars (later BL Cars) – the largest car manufacturer in the UK, employing some 128,000 people at 36 locations, and with a production capacity of one million vehicles per year.
- Leyland Truck and Bus – the largest commercial and passenger vehicle manufacturer in the UK, employing 31,000 people at 12 locations, producing 38,000 trucks, 8,000 buses (including a joint venture with the National Bus Company) and 19,000 tractors per year. The tractors were based on the Nuffield designs, but built in a plant in Bathgate, Scotland.
- Leyland Special Products – the miscellaneous collection of other acquired businesses, itself structured into five sub-divisions:
- Construction Equipment – Aveling-Barford, Aveling-Marshall, Barfords of Belton and Goodwin-Barsby
- Refrigeration – Prestcold
- Materials Handling – Coventry Climax (incorporating Climax Trucks, Climax Conveyancer and Climax Shawloader)
- Military Vehicles – Alvis and Self-Changing Gears
- Print – Nuffield Press (which printed the company’s publications) and Lyne & Son
- Leyland International – responsible for the export of cars, trucks and buses, and responsible for manufacturing plants in Africa, India and Australia, employing 18,000 people
There was positive news for BL at the end of 1976 when its new Rover SD1 executive car was voted European Car of the Year, having gained plaudits for its innovative design. The SD1 was actually the first step that British Leyland took towards rationalising its passenger car ranges, as it was a single car replacing two cars competing in the same sector: the Rover P6 and Triumph 2000. More positive news for the company came at the end of 1976 with the approval by Industry Minister Eric Varley of a £140 million investment of public money in refitting the Longbridge plant for production of the company’s “ADO88” (Mini replacement) model, due for launch in 1979. However, poor results from customer clinics of the ADO88, coupled with the UK success of the Ford Fiesta, launched in 1976, forced a snap redesign of ADO88 which evolved into the “LC8” project – eventually launched as the Austin Mini Metro in 1980.
In 1977 Sir Michael Edwardes was appointed chief executive by the NEB and Leyland Cars was split up into Austin Morris (the volume car business) and Jaguar Rover Triumph (JRT) (the specialist or upmarket division). Austin Morris included MG. Land Rover and Range Rover were later separated from JRT to form the Land Rover Group. JRT later split up into Rover-Triumph and Jaguar Car Holdings (which included Daimler).
In 1978 the company formed a new group for its commercial vehicle interests, BL Commercial Vehicles (BLCV) under managing director David Abell. The following companies moved under this new umbrella:
- Leyland Vehicles Limited (trucks, tractors and buses)
- Alvis Limited (military vehicles)
- Coventry Climax (fork lift trucks and specialist engines)
- Self-Changing Gears Limited (heavy-duty transmissions)
BLCV and the Land Rover Group later merged to become Land Rover Leyland.
In 1979 British Leyland Ltd was renamed to simply BL Ltd (later BL plc) and its subsidiary which acted as a holding company for all the other companies within the group The British Leyland Motor Corporation Ltd to BLMC Ltd.
BL’s fortunes took another much-awaited rise in October 1980 with the launch of the Austin Metro (initially named the Mini Metro), a modern three-door hatchback which gave buyers a more modern and practical alternative to the iconic but ageing Mini. This went on to be one of the most popular cars in Britain of the 1980s. Towards the final stages of the Metro’s development, BL entered into an alliance with Honda to provide a new mid-range model which would replace the ageing Triumph Dolomite, but would more crucially act as a stop-gap until the Austin Maestro and Montego were ready for launch. This car would emerge as the Triumph Acclaim in 1981, and would be the first of a long line of collaborative models jointly developed between BL and Honda. By 1982 the BL Cars Ltd division renamed itself Austin Rover Group, shortly before the launch of the Maestro and Michael Edwardes was replaced by Harold Musgrove as chairman and chief executive. Jaguar and Daimler remained in a separate company called Jaguar Car Holdings, but were later sold off and privatised in 1984.
A rationalisation of the model ranges also took place around this time. In 1980, British Leyland was still producing four cars in the large family car sector—the Princess 2, Austin Maxi, Morris Marina and Triumph Dolomite. The Marina became the Ital in August 1980 following a superficial facelift, and a year later the Princess 2 received a major upgrade to become the Austin Ambassador, meaning that the 1982 range had just two competitors in this sector. In April 1984, these cars were discontinued to make way for a single all-new model, the Austin Montego. The Triumph Acclaim was replaced in that same year by another Honda-based product – the Rover 200-series.
In 1984 Jaguar Cars became independent once more, through a public sale of its shares. Ford subsequently acquired Jaguar. In 1986 BL changed its name to Rover Group and in 1987 the Trucks Division – Leyland Vehicles merged with the Dutch DAF company to form DAF NV, trading as Leyland DAF in the UK and as DAF in the Netherlands. In 1987 the bus business was spun off into a new company called Leyland Bus. This was the result of a management buyout who decided to sell the company to the Bus & Truck division of Volvo in 1988.
In 1986 Graham Day took the helm as chairman and CEO and the third joint Rover-Honda vehicle – the Rover 800-series – was launched which replaced the 10-year old Rover SD1. That same year, the British government controversially tried to reprivatise and sell-off Land Rover, however this plan was later abandoned. 1987 saw the Austin name dropped on the Metro, Maestro and Montego, signalling the end for the historic Austin marque, in a push to focus on the more prestigious (and potentially more profitable) Rover badge. In 1988 the business was sold by the British Government to British Aerospace (BAe), and shortly after shortened its name to just Rover Group. They subsequently sold the business to BMW, which, after initially seeking to retain the whole business, decided to only retain the Cowley operations for MINI production and close the Longbridge factory. Longbridge, along with the Rover and MG marques, was taken on by MG Rover which went into administration in April 2005.
Many of the brands were divested over time and continue to exist on the books of several companies to this day.
The Leyland name and logo continues as a recognised and respected marque across India, the wider subcontinent and parts of Africa in the form of Ashok Leyland. Part of the giant Hinduja Group, Ashok Leyland manufactures buses, trucks, defence vehicles and engines. The company is a leader in the heavy transportation sector within India and has an aggressive expansionary policy. Ironically, since 1987, when the London-based Hinduja Group bought the Indian-based Ashok Leyland company, it is once again a British-owned brand. Today, Ashok-Leyland is pursuing a joint venture with Nissan and through its acquisition of the Czech truck maker, Avia, is entering the European truck market directly. With its purchase, in 2010, of a 25 per cent stake in UK-based bus manufacturer Optare, Ashok Leyland has taken a step closer to reconnecting with its British heritage, as Optare is a direct descendant of Leyland’s UK bus-making division.
British Leyland also provided the technical know-how and the rights to their Leyland 28 BHP tractor for Auto Tractors Limited, a tractor plant in Pratapgarh, Uttar Pradesh. Established in 1981 with state support, ATL only managed to build 2,380 tractors by the time the project was ended in 1990 – less than the planned production for the first two years. The project ended up being taken over by Sipani, who kept producing tractor engines and also a small number of tractors with some modest success.
Notes for the timeline table
- The BMC trademark is registered (1564704, E1118348) to MG Rover Group Ltd in the UK. BMC is also the name of a commercial vehicle manufacturer in Turkey, formerly the Turkish subsidiary of the British Motor Corporation. It is believed that Nanjing Automotive may have purchased this from MG Rover, however the brand has not been reassigned as of 17 July 2006.
- The Wolseley trademark is registered (UK 1490228) to MG Rover Group Ltd for automobiles only. It is believed that Nanjing Automotive may have purchased this from MG Rover, however the brand has not been reassigned as of July 2006 to a different company. The UK building materials supplier Wolseley plc owns the rights to the Wolseley name for all other purposes. Wolseley plc is a descendant of the original Wolseley company.
- The Vanden Plas trademark is owned by Ford (through Jaguar) for use within the USA and Canada, and as (UK 1133528, E2654481) to MG Rover Group Ltd for use in the rest of the world. It is believed that Nanjing Automotive may have purchased this from MG Rover, however the trademark has not been recorded as reassigned as of 17 July 2006. This is why Jaguar XJ Vanden Plas models are branded as Daimlers in Britain. The last Rover to use the Vanden Plas name was the Rover 75 Vanden Plas, a long wheelbase limousine model.
- The Rover trademark was owned by BMW and was only licenced to MG Rover Group Ltd. BMW sold the brand to Ford in September 2006.
- Alvis was purchased from British Leyland by United Scientific Holdings plc in 1981, in 2002 Alvis merged with part of Vickers Defence Systems to form Alvis Vickers which was purchased by BAE Systems in 2004. BAE Systems did not acquire Alvis through their ownership of the Rover Group in the early 1990s. Production of Alvis branded cars ceased in 1967. The trademark is owned by Alvis Vehicles Ltd.
- The use of the Triumph name as a trademark for vehicles is shared between BMW and Triumph Motorcycles Ltd. The former for automobiles and the latter for motorcycles. The motorcycle and car business separated in the 1930s.
The car firms (and car brands) which eventually merged to form the company are as follows.
The dates given are those of the first car of each name, but these are often debatable as each car may be several years in development.
- 1895 Wolseley Motors
- 1896 Lanchester Motor Company
- 1896 Leyland Motors Ltd (commercial vehicles)
- 1896 Daimler
- 1898 Riley
- 1899 Albion
- 1903 Standard Motor Company
- 1904 Rover
- 1905 Austin
- 1912 Morris
- 1913 Vanden Plas
- 1919 Alvis
- 1923 MG created by Morris
- 1923 Triumph Motor Company
- 1924 BSA used as a car brand
- 1935 Jaguar
- 1947 Land Rover created by Rover
- 1952 Austin-Healey created by Austin division of BMC (see below)
- 1959 Mini : the car initially launched as the Austin Seven and Morris Mini-Minor became popularly known just as the ‘Mini’ and BMC recognised this by initially re-badging the Austin as the Austin Mini, and subsequently deleting both marque names from the car and effectively making Mini a marque name in its own right.
- The infamous Derek Robbins (RED ROBBO) Leader of the unions.
- Strike Meeting
- The workers turn against Red Robbo
- Wives or Women against strikes on the picket line at Longbridge.
- Pictures courtesy of Local newspaper.
- PLEASE NOTE THAT I HAVE OTHER STUFF TO POST WITH REGARDS TO TRANSPORT, BUT FEEL THAT I NEED A BREAK FROM THIS SO FOR THE TIME BEING I AM GOING TO DO SOME POSTS ABOUT PLAYERS WHO WERE FROM WALSALL AND PLAYED FOR WALSALL. pLAYERS LIKE DEAN KEATES AND KENNY MOWER, I HOPE THAT YOU WILL ENJOY THEM!
Albion Automotive of Scotstoun, Glasgow is a former Scottish automobile and commercial vehicle manufacturer, currently involved in the manufacture and supply of Automotive component systems.
Today the company is a subsidiary of American Axle & Manufacturing, and manufactures axles, driveline systems, chassis systems, crankshafts and chassis components. It is Scotland’s best known name in the motor industry. Albions were renowned for their slogan “Sure as the Sunrise”.
Originally known as Albion Motor Car Company Ltd, the company was founded in 1899 by Thomas Blackwood Murray and Norman Osborne Fulton (both of whom had previously been involved in Arrol-Johnston) they were joined a couple of years later by John F Henderson who provided additional capital. The factory was originally on the first floor of a building in Finnieston Street, Glasgow and had only seven employees. In 1903 the company moved to new premises in Scotstoun.
The Albion Motor Car Company Ltd was renamed Albion Motors in 1930.
In 1951, Leyland Motors took over. After the British Leyland Motor Corporation was founded in 1968, production continued with the Albion Chieftain, Clydesdale & Reiver trucks and the Albion Viking bus models. Production of these was then moved to the Leyland plant at Bathgate in 1980. In 1969, the company took over the neighbouring Coventry Ordnance Works on South Street, which it continues to operate from.
Leyland dropped the Albion name when the company name was changed to Leyland (Glasgow) and later to Leyland-DAF from 1987 when it became a subsidiary of that Dutch concern.
A management buy-out in 1993 brought Albion Automotive as it was thenceforth known back into Scottish ownership. A new owner, the American Axle & Manufacturing Company (AAM) of Detroit, Michigan, took over Albion in 1998.
In 1900 they built their first motor car, a rustic-looking dogcart made of varnished wood and powered by a flat-twin 8hp engine with gear-change by “Patent Combination Clutches” and solid tyres.
In 1903 Albion introduced a 3115 cc 16 hp vertical-twin, followed in 1906 by a 24 hp four. One of the specialities the company offered was solid-tired shooting-brakes. The last private Albions were powered by a 15 hp monobloc four of 2492 cc.
Passenger car production ceased in 1915 but in 1920 the company announced that estate cars were available again based on a small bus chassis, it is not known if any were actually made.
Although the manufacture of motor cars was the main industry in the first ten years of its existence, it was decided in 1909 to concentrate on the production of commercial vehicles. During World War 1 they built for the War Office large quantities of 3 ton trucks powered by a 32 hp engine using chain drive to the rear wheels. After the war many of these were converted for use as charabancs.
Trucks and buses (single and double deckers) were manufactured in the Scotstoun works until 1980 (1972 for complete vehicles). The buses were exported to Asia, East Africa, Australia, India and South Africa. Almost all Albion buses were given names beginning with “V”, these models being the Victor, Valiant, Viking, Valkyrie, and Venturer. Albion also made the Claymore with the 4 speed gearbox,The Reiver was a six wheeler. The Chieftain had a 6 speed gearbox,6th being an overdrive gear,with a worm and wheel rear axle.
The earliest buses were built on the A10 truck chassis with two being delivered to West Bromwich in 1914. Newcastle upon Tyne also took double deckers around this time, but Albion did not produce a purpose-built double deck chassis until 1931.
In 1923 the first dedicated bus chassis was announced derived from the one used on the 25 cwt truck but with better springing. Bodies seating from 12 to 23 passengers were available. A lower frame chassis, the Model 26, with 30/60 hp engine and wheelbases from 135 inches (3,400 mm) to 192 inches (4,900 mm) joined the range in 1925. All the early vehicles had been normal control, with the engine in front of the driver but in 1927 the first forward control with the engine alongside the driver was announced as the Viking allowing 32 seats to be fitted. Diesel engines, initially from Gardner, were available from 1933. The first double deck design was the Venturer of 1932 with up to 51 seats. The CX version of the chassis was launched in 1937 and on these the engine and gearbox were mounted together rather than joined by a separate drive shaft. Albion’s own range of diesel engines was also made available.
After World War 2 the range was progressively modernised and underfloor engined models were introduced with two prototypes in 1951 and production models from 1955 with the Nimbus.
With the Leyland take over the range was cut back. The last Albion double decker was the 1961 Lowlander and that was marketed in England as a Leyland, and the last design of all was the Viking, re-using an old name.
• Model 24 (1923–1924) First purpose built Albion bus chassis
• Viking 24 (1924–1932) Various wheelbases from 10 feet 9 inches (3.28 m) to 16 feet 3 inches (4.95 m) Front wheel brakes from 1927. Six cylinder engines available in Viking Sixes.
• Valkyrie (1930–1938) Forward control. 5 litre engine, 6.1 litre from 1933, 7.8 litre optional from 1935. Mainly sold as coaches.
• Valiant (1931–1936) Mainly sold to the coach market.
• Victor (1930–1939) Normal or forward control. 20 or 24 seater.
• Venturer (1932–1939) Albions first double decker. 51, later 55 seats. 3 axle version, the Valorous made in 1932, only one produced.
• Valkyrie CX (1937–1950) Engine and gearbox in-unit.
• Venturer CX (1937–1951) Double decker.
• Victor FT (1947–1959) Lightweight single decker
• Valiant CX (1948–1951) Mostly sold to coach operators.
• Viking CX (1948–1952) Mainly sold to the export market.
• KP71NW (1951) Underfloor engined chassis with horizontally-opposed eight cylinder engine; 2 built.
• Nimbus (1955–1963) Underfloor engine.
• Aberdonian (1957–1960) Underfloor engine.
• Royal Scot (1959) 15.2 litre underfloor engined 6×4 dirt-road bus. 20 built for South African Railways.
• Victor VT (1959–1966) Front engined, derived from Chieftain truck chassis.
• Clydesdale (1959–1978) Export model built on truck chassis.
• Talisman TA (1959) 9.8 litre front engined 6×4 dirt-road bus. 5 built for Rhodesian Railways.
• Lowlander (1961–1966) Double decker. 18 feet 6 inches (5.64 m) wheelbase. LR7 had air rear suspension.
• Viking VK (1963-1983?) Mainly exported. Leyland O.370 O:400, O:401 engines. VK 41,55 were front engined; VK43,45,49,57,67 models were rear engined, Australian market had optional AEC AV505 engines.
• Valiant VL (1967–72) Similar to rear-engined Vikings but with tropical cooling unit as on VK45 and axles from Clydesdale.
Automotive components production
A complete change of profile went on in 1980. Since then, only automotive components, such as rear axles, have been produced.
Civil aviation After the Armistice it was decided that Daimler Hire should extend its luxury travel services to include charter aircraft through a new enterprise, Daimler Air Hire. Following the take-over of Airco and its subsidiaries in February 1920 services included scheduled services London-Paris as well as “Taxi Planes” to “anywhere in Europe”. In 1922 under the name of Daimler Airway services extended to scheduled flights London to Berlin and places between. Frank Searle, managing director of Daimler Hire and its subsidiaries moved with his deputy Humphery Wood into the new national carrier Imperial Airways at its formation on 1 April 1924. Searle and Wood and their Daimler Airway machines formed the core of Imperial Airways operations.
In late 1920s, it, together with Associated Equipment Company (AEC), formed the Associated Daimler Company to build commercial vehicles. The association was dissolved in 1928 with each company retaining manufacture of its original products.
Lanchester acquisition and badging
In 1930 the bulk of Daimler’s shareholding in its subsidiary Daimler Hire Limited was sold to the Thomas Tilling Group and, in January 1931, Daimler completed the purchase of The Lanchester Motor Company Limited. The new Lanchester 15/18 model introduced in 1931 was fitted with Daimler’s fluid flywheel transmission.
Although at first they produced separate ranges of cars with the Daimler badge appearing mainly on the larger models, by the mid-1930s the two were increasingly sharing components leading to the 1936 Lanchester 18/Daimler Light 20 differing in little except trim and grille.
This marketing concept already employed with their BSA range of cars continued to the end of Lanchester and BSA car production. Some very important customers were supplied with big Daimler limousines with Lanchester grilles. The Daimler range was exceptionally complex in the 1930s with cars using a variety of six- and eight-cylinder engines with capacities from 1805 cc in the short lived 15 of 1934 to the 4624 cc 4.5-litre of 1936.
Mid-term review and outlook
By 1930, the BSA Group’s primary activities were BSA motorcycles and Daimler vehicles.
It has been suggested Simms and Daimler soon withdrew from their initial association with Lawson because Lawson showed little potential ability for managing a manufacturing business. It was felt Lawson’s was an unsatisfactory group of people to be associated with. They were described by Frederick Lanchester as “the Coventry Company Promoting Gang”. Once relieved of Lawson, the next period, Sturmey’s chairmanship, suffered from the division between his supporters and his opponents. Sturmey departed in 1899.
Yet in the early 1900s, the achievement of a Royal Warrant and acquisition of some capable talent led to improved fortunes. Under the chairmanship of Sir Edward Jenkinson, an American, Percy Martin, a substantial shareholder and electrical engineer, was promoted to works manager and Ernest Instone to general manager. Jenkinson was succeeded in 1906 by Edward Manville, a distinguished consulting electrical engineer who was to become chairman of BSA. The involvement of the Docker family, father and son, beginning in 1910 failed to solve boardroom difficulties which transferred to BSA and in the end may have brought about disaster but in any case until the late 1920s the collective Daimler leadership did well and the business prospered. Its repute and its profits grew. “Side by side with an apprenticeship scheme which was as good as any in the trade, they had begun to attract pupils from public schools with such success that shortly before (World War I) there was a hostel full of them in a pleasant house in St Nicholas Street near the Coventry works.”[ During that war, the labour force grew from 4,000 to 6,000 men. The acquisition of Airco in February 1920 was a financial disaster for the BSA group, the blame since laid at Percy Martin’s door, and all dividends were passed from 1920 to 1924. Martin had been strongly in favour of its purchase with its extensive aircraft or motor vehicle production facilities near London and no one thought to exercise “due diligence”, which would have revealed Airco’s true circumstances.
All the quality car businesses experienced financial difficulties in the late 1920s. Daimler’s situation seemed particularly serious. Sales fell sharply in 1927–1928, a period of losses ensued and no dividends were paid between 1929 and 1936. The sleeve valve engine was now well out of date, Daimler’s production methods had become old-fashioned, and they had an extravagantly large range of products. Their bankers noted the dwindling sales volume, the equipment. Stratton-Instone’s new dominance of distribution was removed and new outlets arranged. The interests in Singer and the Daimler Hire business were sold and Lanchester bought. The in-house bodywork department was closed and by the spring of 1931 car production ceased, only commercial vehicle production and aero engine work kept Daimler in business.
Laurence Pomeroy joined Daimler in late 1926, at first working on commercial vehicles but from 1928 he worked at the products of the main Daimler operation. Pomeroy introduced redesigned poppet valve engines with the Daimler Fifteen in September 1932, developed new models of Daimlers, recommended what became the September 1932 introduction of the small BSA and Lanchester Tens with poppet valve engines to help Daimler survive the depression and according to Percy Martin these things rescued the business from total collapse in 1932. 1934’s new Straight-Eights were a personal triumph for Pomeroy.
poor performance for price and the need for installation of up-to-date machine tool
With the 1930s, another gradual slide began. Manville died in harness in 1933, Percy Martin was forced out two years later, and Frederick Lanchester resigned as consultant in 1936. That same year, Laurence Pomeroy was not re-elected to the board and left for de Havilland. Ernest Instone had left the works in the early 1920s to concentrate his efforts on distribution (Stratton-Instone) but he too died, in 1932. Daimler was not paying dividends and the 1936 BSA shareholders’ meetings were stormy. Attempted solutions had included the Lanchester acquisition and the introduction of smaller cars, the lower-priced 10 hp Lanchester and its matching but six-cylinder stable-mate the Daimler Fifteen (later DB17 and DB18) introduced in the early thirties. This particular product line as the Lanchester Fourteen and Daimler Conquest was to run through to almost the very end.
Edward H. W. Cooke attempted a revival and from 1937 introduced saloons with a freshness of design new to Daimler. The new products had successes in competitions and rallies. His policy was proved sound but another war, post-war austerity and yet more boardroom battles, this time in public, seemed to put an end to Daimler’s once-proud business.
Daimler’s semi-automatic transmissions
Daimler became a proponent of the Wilson self changing gearbox matched with Fottinger’s fluid flywheel further developed from Vulcan’s and their own patents. They were introduced by Daimler in October 1930 on their new Light Double-Six for an extra £50 and soon they were used in all Daimler vehicles. The chairman reported to the shareholders at their Annual General Meeting in November 1933 “The Daimler Fluid Flywheel Transmission now has three years of success behind it and more than 11,000 vehicles, ranging from 10 h.p. passenger cars to double-deck omnibuses, aggregating over 160,000 h.p., incorporate this transmission. . . . . it has yet to be proved that any other system offers all the advantages of the Daimler Fluid Flywheel Transmission. Our Daimler, Lanchester and BSA cars remain what we set out to make them—the aristocrats of their class and type. . . . We have also received numerous inquiries from overseas markets. (Applause)”. These transmissions remained in production until replaced by Borg-Warner fully automatic units beginning in the mid-1950s. Late in that period a new Lanchester model with a Hobbs fully automatic gearbox did not, in the end, enter full production.
A wide variety of engines were made in the earlier years. In an attempt to give some kind of indication of the complexities involved what follows is a list, by year of first supply, of the different engines in cars supplied to the King. In many cases a number of cars were supplied with the same engine and over a period of some years.
World War II work
War was declared on 3 September 1939. It would last until 15 August 1945 and again involve much of the world in the conflict.
During World War II, Daimler turned to military production. A four-wheel-drive scout car, known to the Army as the Dingo had a 2.5-litre engine and the larger Daimler Armoured Car powered by a 4.1-litre engine and armed with a 2-pounder gun were produced, both with six-cylinder power units, fluid flywheels and epicyclical gearboxes. These military vehicles incorporated various innovative features including all-round disc brakes. The Dingo was a BSA design, Daimler’s own design had proved inferior but the “Dingo” name was retained.
During the war Daimler built over 6,600 scout and some 2,700 Mk I and Mk II armoured cars. Tank components, particularly epicyclical gearboxes were provided for some 2,500 Crusader, Covenanter and Cavalier tanks. No complete aircraft as in the previous war but 50,800 radial aero-engines—Bristol Mercury, Hercules and Pegasus—with full sets of parts for a further 9,500 of these engines; propeller shafts for Rolls-Royce aero-engines; 14,356 gun-turrets for bombers including their Browning machine guns; 74,000 Bren guns—bombed-out that production had to be moved to a boot and shoe factory in Burton-on-Trent. Over 10 million aircraft parts were produced during the war. All this production is Daimler’s alone excluding BSA’s other involvements.
Daimler’s peak workforce, 16,000 people, was reached in this period.
After that war, Daimler produced the Ferret armoured car, a military reconnaissance vehicle based on the innovative 4.1-litre-engined armoured car they had developed and built during the war, which has been used by over 36 countries.
The original Sandy Lane plant, used as a government store, was destroyed by fire during intensive enemy bombing of Coventry, but there were by now ‘shadow factories’ elsewhere in the city including one located at Brown’s Lane, Allesey—now itself destroyed—but which after the Jaguar takeover became for several decades the principal Jaguar car plant.
Churchill, for many years a regular customer, did his electioneering for his first postwar election sitting on the top of the back seat of a discreetly fast and luxurious low-slung Dolphin two-door drop head coupé first registered in 1944. The government ordered new limousines for the top brass of the occupying forces. New straight-eights were supplied to the former colonies for the planned royal tours.
Foreign monarchs re-ordered to replenish their fleets. The 1946 golden jubilee of the founding of the business was celebrated with a luncheon at the Savoy.
However ‘austerity’ seemed infectious. The new Lanchester looked just like a Ford Prefect and its body was made in the same factory. A new model Eighteen with a lot of aluminium because of the steel supply shortage, a modified pre-war Fifteen, was introduced with technical innovations limited to a new cylinder head and curved glass in its side windows now framed by elegant chromed metal channels. Windows were ‘in’. The big DE27 and DE 36 models were the first series-built cars with electrically operated windows. Daimler ambulances became a common sight.
Then in June 1947 purchase tax was doubled—home market sales had already been restricted to cars for “essential purposes”. Petrol remained rationed, ten gallons a month. Princess Elizabeth took her 2½-litre drop head coupé, an 18th-birthday gift from her father, to Malta, where her new husband was stationed. The King took delivery of a new open tourer straight-eight in March 1949. In the commodities boom caused by the 1950 Korean War Australasian woolgrowers reported the new electrically operated limousine-division to be ‘just the thing’ if over-heated sheepdogs licked the back of a driver’s ears. The newest royal Daimler’s transmission failed again and again.
This schedule shows where what should have been Daimler repeat-orders went to. Daimler subsidiary Hoopers at least got to make some of the bodies.
Sir Bernard Docker took the extra responsibility of Daimler’s managing director in January 1953 when James Leek was unable to continue through illness. Car buyers were still waiting for the new (Churchill) government’s easing of the ‘temporary’ swingeing purchase tax promised in the lead up to the snap-election held during the 1951 Earl’s Court motor show. Lady Docker told her husband to rethink his marketing policies. 3-litre Regency production was stopped. In the hope of keeping 4,000+ employed the Consort price was dropped from 4 February 1953 to the expected new tax-inclusive level.
Stagnation of all the British motor industry was relieved by the reduction of purchase tax in the April 1953 budget. Daimler announced the introduction of the moderately sized Conquest in May (apparently developed in just four months from the four-cylinder Lanchester 14 or Leda with a Daimler grille).
Daimler and Lanchester (there were no more BSA cars) struggled after the War, producing too many models with short runs and limited production, and frequently selling too few of each model, while Jaguar seemed to know what the public wanted and expanded rapidly. Daimler produced heavy, staid, large and small luxury cars with a stuffy, if sometimes opulent image. Jaguar produced lower quality cars at a remarkably low price, designed for enthusiasts.
The BSA group’s leadership of the world’s motorcycle market was eventually lost to Japanese manufacturers.
Lady Docker’s Daimlers
Sir Bernard Docker was the managing director of BSA from early in WWII, and married Norah Lady Collins in 1949. Nora was twice-widowed and wealthy in her own right. This was her third marriage. She had originally been a successful dance hall hostess. Lady Docker took an interest in her husband’s companies and became a director of Hooper, the coachbuilders.
Daughter of an unsuccessful Birmingham car salesman Lady Docker could see that the Daimler cars, no longer popular with the royal family, were in danger of becoming an anachronism in the modern world. She took it upon herself to raise Daimler’s profile, but in an extravagant fashion, by encouraging Sir Bernard to produce show cars.
The first was the 1951 “Golden Daimler”, an opulent touring limousine, in 1952, “Blue Clover”, a two-door sportsmans coupe, in 1953 the “Silver Flash” based on the 3-litre Regency chassis, and in 1954 “Stardust”, redolent of the “Gold Car”, but based on the DK400 chassis as was what proved to be her Paris 1955 grande finale, a 2-door coupé she named “Golden Zebra”, the “last straw” for the Tax Office and now on permanent display at The Hague.
At the same time Lady Docker earned a reputation for having rather poor social graces when under the influence, and she and Sir Bernard were investigated for failing to correctly declare the amount of money taken out of the country on a visit to a Monte Carlo casino. Sir Bernard was instantly dumped “for absenteeism” by the Midland Bank board without waiting for the court case. Norah drew further attention. She ran up large bills and presented them to Daimler as business expenses but some items were disallowed by the Tax Office. The publicity attached to this and other social episodes told on Sir Bernard’s standing as some already thought the cars far too opulent and perhaps a little vulgar for austere post-war Britain. To compound Sir Bernard’s difficulty, the royal family shifted allegiance to Rolls-Royce. By the end of 1960 all the State Daimlers had been sold and replaced by Rolls-Royces.
In 1951 Jack Sangster sold his motorcycle companies Ariel and Triumph to BSA, and joined their board. In 1956 Sangster was elected chairman, defeating Sir Bernard 6 votes to 3. After a certain amount of electioneering by the Dockers an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting backed the board decision and Bernard and Norah left buying a brace of Rolls-Royces as they went registering them as ND5 and BD9. Many important European customers turned out to have been Docker friends and did not re-order Daimler cars.
Sangster promptly made Edward Turner head of the automotive division which as well as Daimler and Carbodies (London Taxicab manufacturers) included Ariel, Triumph, and BSA motorcycles. Turner designed the lightweight hemi head Daimler 2.5 & 4.5 Litre V8 Engines. The small engine was used to power a production version of an apprentice’s exercise, the very flexible Dart and the larger engine installed in the Majestic Major, a relabelled Majestic. Under Sangster Daimler’s vehicles became a little less sober and more performance oriented. The Majestic Major proved an agile high-speed cruiser on the new motorways. Bill Boddy described the SP250 as unlikely to stir the memories of such ghosts as haunt the tree-lined avenues near Sandringham, Balmoral and Windsor Castle.
The two excellent Turner V8 engines disappeared with British Leyland’s first rationalisation, the larger in 1968 and the smaller a year later.
A significant element of Daimler production was bus chassis, mostly for double deckers. Daimler had been interested in the commercial vehicle market from 1904. In 1906 it produced, using the Auto-Mixte patents of Belgian Henri Pieper, a petrol-electric vehicle and on 23 May 1906 registered Gearless Motor Omnibus Co. Limited. It was too heavy. Following the introduction of Daimler-Knight sleeve-valve engines re-designed for Daimler by Dr Frederick Lanchester Lanchester also refined the Gearless design and it re-emerged in 1910 as the KPL (Knight-Pieper-Lanchester) omnibus, a very advanced integral petrol electric hybrid. The KPL bus had four-wheel brakes and steel unitary body/chassis construction. Failure to produce the KPL set bus design back twenty years.
Introduction of the KPL was stopped by a patent infringement action brought by London General Omnibus’s associate Tilling-Stevens in early May 1911 when just twelve KPL buses had been built. This was just after Daimler had poached LGOC’s Frank Searle and announced him to be general manager of its new London bus service which would be using its new KPL type to compete directly with LGOC.
Some of LGOC’s vehicles used Daimler engines. With the collapse of Daimler’s plans Searle, an engineer and designer of the LGOC X-type and AEC B-type bus, instead joined Daimler’s commercial vehicle department. Reverting to (before LGOC) omnibus salesman Searle rapidly achieved some notable sales. 100 to Metropolitan Electric Tramways and 250 to LGOC’s new owner, Underground.
First Searle designed for Daimler a 34-seater with gearbox transmission (the KPL used electric motors each side) very like the B-Type and it was introduced by Daimler in early 1912. The main difference from what became the AEC B-Type was the use of Daimler’s sleeve-valve engine. In June 1912 what had been LGOC’s manufacturing plant was hived off as AEC. Between 1913 and 1916 AEC built some Daimler models under contract and Daimler sold all AEC vehicles which were surplus to LGOC needs. After war service now Colonel Searle moved to Daimler Hire Limited and its involvement in aviation. The Searle models were developed after World War I, but from 1926–8 Daimler entered into a joint venture with AEC vehicles being badged as Associated Daimler.
In the 1930s the Daimler CO chassis became the main model, followed by a similar, but heavier, CW ‘austerity’ model produced during World War II (100 with the Gardner 5LW engine (CWG5), the rest with the AEC 7.7-litre engine – CWA6) and in postwar years production worked through the Daimler CV to the long-running Daimler CR Fleet line, built from 1960 to 1980 (CVG5 and CVG6 had been a common type of bus in Hong Kong between 1950 to 1988 and Fleet line had also become a major type of bus in Hong Kong until 1995). Small numbers of single deck vehicles were also built. Many British bus operators bought substantial numbers of the vehicles and there were also a number built for export. The standard London double-decker bus bought from 1970 to 1978 was the Daimler Fleet line.
Daimler buses were fitted with proprietary diesel engines, the majority by the Gardner company, of Eccles, Manchester, although there were a few hundred Daimler diesels built in the 1940s & 1950s, and the Leyland O.680 was offered as an option on the Fleet line (designated CRL6) after the merger with Leyland. The bus chassis were also fitted with bodywork built by various outside contractors, as is standard in the British bus industry, so, at a casual glance, there is no real identifying feature of a Daimler bus, apart from the badges (Front engined Daimler buses retained the distinctive fluted radiator grille top). The last Daimler Fleet line was built at the traditional Daimler factory in Radford, Coventry, in 1973. After that date, the remaining buses were built at the Leyland factory in Farington, Preston, Lancashire, and the final eight years of Fleet line production being badged as Leyland’s. The last Fleet line built was bodied by Eastern Coach Works in 1981.
During that Jaguar-owned period 1960–1968, Daimler became the second-largest (after Leyland) double-decker bus manufacturer in Britain, with the “Fleet line” model. At the same time, Daimler made trucks and motor homes. BMH merged with the Leyland Motor Corporation to give the British Leyland Motor Corporation in 1968. Production of Daimler buses in Coventry ceased in 1973 when production of its last bus product (the Daimler Fleet line) was transferred to Leyland plant in Farington. Daimler stayed within BLMC and its subsequent forms until 1982, at which point Jaguar (with Daimler) was demerged from BL as an independent manufacturer.
Owned by Jaguar Cars (1960-1966)
In May 1960, the Daimler business was purchased from BSA by Jaguar Cars for 3.4 million pounds. William Lyons was looking to expand manufacture, wanted the manufacturing facilities and had to decide what to do with the existing Daimler vehicles.
Jaguar had been refused planning permission for a new factory in the area in which it wanted it to be. Daimler had shrunk to representing just 15% of BSA group turnover in 1959–1960 and BSA wished to dispose of its motoring interests. “Jaguars reiterate their previous statement that the production of the current range of Daimler models is to be continued. Furthermore, research and development work in connexion with future Daimler models will proceed normally. Jaguars deny rumours to the effect that sweeping changes, including even the extinction of the Daimler marque, are to be expected. The company’s long term view envisages not merely the retention of the Daimler marque, but the expansion of its markets at home and overseas, it is stated.”
Paul Skilleter, in his book “Jaguar saloon cars” states that Jaguar put a Daimler 4.5L V8 in a Mark X, and it went better than the Jaguar version, achieving 135 mph at the MIRA banked track, even with an inefficient prototype exhaust.
The Daimler Majestic Major and the sporty Dart, already in production, were continued for a number of years, using the Daimler V8 engine. In 1961 Daimler introduced the DR450, a limousine version of its Majestic Major with a longer chassis and body shell and higher roofline. It continued in production until the DS420 arrived in 1968, by which time it had sold almost as many as the “Major” saloon.
They were the last Daimlers not designed by Jaguar.
The last car to have a Daimler engine was the 2.5 V8 later V8-250 which was essentially, apart from a fluted top to its grille, different badges and drive train, a more luxurious Jaguar Mk 2. Its distinctive personality may have attracted buyers who would have avoided the matching Jaguar.
While this car became the most popular Daimler ever produced it had two remarkable characteristics:
• buyers did not include previous Daimler owners but rather people trading up from the bigger Ford, BMC or Rover cars.
• No-one traded their V8-250 for a new V8-250. This at a time when 60% of new Jaguars were sold in exchange for Jaguars.
Daimler Sovereign, now there would be no more than a Daimler label for a luxury version of a Jaguar car. After discussion it was decided it would not be a Royale but a Sovereign.
Daimler Company, owned by BMH (1966-1968)
Jaguar was taken over by British Motor Corporation (BMC), the new masters of badge-engineering, in 1966 and a few months later BMC was renamed British Motor Holdings (BMH).
Sir William Lyons
Though Jaguar had diversified by adding, after Daimler, Guy trucks and Coventry-Climax to their group they remained dependent on Pressed Steel for bodies. Once BMC had taken control of Pressed Steel Lyons felt compelled to submit to the BMC takeover. Lyons remained anxious to see that Jaguar maintained its own identity and came to resent the association with British Leyland. He was delighted by Sir John Egan’s accomplishments and by the new independence arranged in 1984.
In 1967, British Leyland’s New York advertising agency advised and it was accepted that there was insufficient in the group advertising budget to cope with maintaining the marketing of the Daimler brand in USA.
Owned by British Leyland (1968-1984)
Jaguar’s Daimler-trained chief executive Lofty England, a Daimler apprentice 1927–1932, joined Jaguar in 1946. His background was as Service manager, Jaguar Cars 1946–56, service director 1956–61, assistant managing director 1961–66, deputy managing director 1966–67, joint managing director 1967–68, deputy chairman 1968–72, chairman and chief executive 1972–74.
The Daimler DS420 Limousine introduced in 1968 and withdrawn from production in 1992 employed a strengthened Mk X Jaguar unitary carcass with a new roof and a rear extension—21 inches were let in to the floor pan behind the front seat by Rubery Owen. Finishing from the bare metal was carried out by Vanden Plas who had lost their Princess. The floor pan with mechanicals—a drive-away chassis— was also sold for specialised bodywork, mostly hearses. The very last hearse was delivered on 9 February 1994 to a Mr Slack, funeral director of Cheshire.
Though entirely a Jaguar the DS420 was unique to Daimler. These stately limousines, wedding and funeral cars and the hearses made by independent coachbuilders, their majestic bulk preceded by the fluted grille, are now the way most remember Daimler cars.
Daimler Sovereign, Daimler Double-Six
These were the first series of vehicles that were badge-engineered Jaguars (XJ Series), but given a more luxurious and upmarket finish. For example the Daimler Double-Six was a Jaguar XJ-12, the Daimler badge and fluted top to its grille and boot handle being the only outward differences from the Jaguar, with more luxurious interior fittings and extra standard equipment marking it out on the inside.
The Daimler name was dropped in Europe for two or three years in the early 1980s. Jaguar adopted the Sovereign designation. The Daimler name returned in Europe at the end of 1985. Jaguar decided it would have its part of the fortune European dealers were making from importing conversion kits of Daimler body parts to convert Jaguars to Daimlers.
Visitors to USA found fluted Daimlers labelled ‘Jaguar Vanden Plas’.
The Daimler brand was kept going by the local fleet market, a chairman could have his Daimler and board members their Jaguars.
When the new XJ40 came into production in 1986 the series III was kept in production a further six years to 1992 to carry the big Double Six engines.
Owned by Jaguar Cars (1984-1989)
If Jaguar was not to follow Daimler into becoming just another once iconic brand it needed immense amounts of capital to develop new models and build and equip new factories. This was beyond the ability of the BMH—now British Leyland—Group It was decided to market the Jaguar business by first obtaining a separate London Stock Exchange listing to fix a price then ensuring any successful bid for all the listed shares in the whole business would be from a bidder with, or with access to, the necessary capital. That bidder proved to be Ford.
1984 produced a record group output of 36,856 cars but less than 5% were badged Daimler. Two years later Daimler’s share had reached 11.5%—in fact almost 23% if the Vanden Plas for USA is included.
Owned by Ford (1989-2007)
In 1989 the Ford Motor Company paid £1.6 billion to buy Jaguar and with it the right to use the Daimler name. In 1992, Daimler (Ford) stopped production of the DS420 Limousine, the only model that was a little more than just a re-badged Jaguar.
When Ford bought Jaguar in 1990, the British press showed a coloured computer-generated image of a proposed ‘new’ Daimler car – not merely a rebadged Jaguar XJ..
Daimler remained the flagship Jaguar product in every country except the USA where the top Jaguar is known as the “XJ Vanden Plas” — Jaguar may have feared that the American market would confuse Jaguar Daimler with Daimler AG. Marketing of the Daimler name in USA had ceased in 1967.
Daimler’s centenary was celebrated in 1996 by the production of a special edition: 100 Double Six and 100 straight-six cars, each with special paint and other special finishes including electrically adjustable rear seats.
X300 1994–1997 SWB LWB
Daimler Six 1,362 1,330
Daimler Double Six 1,007 1,230
Daimler Century Six 100
Daimler Century Double Six 100
The single 2-door 4-seater convertible built in 1996 to commemorate Daimler’s centenary and called Daimler Corsica was based on the Daimler Double-Six saloon. The prototype, which lacked an engine, had all the luxury features of the standard saloon but a shorter wheelbase. Painted “Seafrost” it was named after a 1931 Daimler Double-Six with a body by Corsica. Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust have decommissioned it to operate as a fully functional road-legal car and it is on display at their museum at Browns Lane in Coventry, England.
1997 saw the end of production of the Double Six. It was superseded by the introduction of a (Jaguar) V8 engine and the new car was given the model name Mark II XJ. The engine was the only significant change from the previous XJ40. The replacement for the Double Six was the supercharged Super V8, the supercharger to compensate for the loss of one-third of the previous engine’s capacity.
X308 1997–2003 SWB LWB
Daimler Eight 164 2,119
Daimler Super V8 76 2,387 Daimler Super Eight
After a three-year break a new Daimler, the Super Eight, was presented in July 2005. It had a new stressed aluminium monocoque/chassis-body with a 4.2 L V8 supercharged engine which produced 291 kW (396 PS; 390 b.h.p) and a torque rating of 533 N•m (393 lb•ft) at 3500 rpm. This car was derived from the Jaguar XJ (X350).
Owned by Tata (2007-)
At the end of 2007 (the formal announcement was delayed until 25 March 2008), it became generally known that India’s Tata Group had completed arrangements to purchase Jaguar and Daimler.
Tata had spoken to the press of plans to properly relaunch England’s oldest car marque. In July 2008 Tata Group, the current owners of Jaguar and Daimler, announced they were considering transforming Daimler into “a super-luxury marque to compete directly with Bentley and Rolls-Royce”. Until the early 1950s it was often said “the aristocracy buy Daimlers, the nouveau riche buy Rolls-Royce”.
The Daimler Company Limited, now The Daimler Motor Company Limited, is still registered as active and accounts are filed each year though it is currently marked “non-trading”. Until 20 December 1988 its name was The Daimler Company Limited.
All the Daimler shares were purchased from BSA by Jaguar Cars in 1960. After the introduction of the Daimler DR450 new models used Jaguar bodies with Daimler grilles and badging. Daimler remains in the ownership of Jaguar Cars which now belongs to Tata Group of India.
Before 5 October 2007 Jaguar, while still controlled by Ford, reached agreement to permit then de-merging DaimlerChrysler to extend its use of the name Daimler. The announcement of this agreement was delayed until the end of July 2008 and made by Jaguar’s new owner, Tata.
By 2007, Jaguar’s use of the Daimler brand was limited to one model, the Super Eight, which was to be last Daimler model to be produced.
In 2009, Jaguar lost the right to trademark the Daimler name in the United States.
Other concerns of similar name
In 1895, the Daimler Motor Syndicate obtained from Gottlieb Daimler and Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft (DMG) the right to use the Daimler name and the British rights to Daimler’s patents. This is the sole link between the British and German entities. The Daimler Motor Syndicate sold these rights to the Daimler Motor Company in 1896, which was bought by BSA in 1910 and renamed The Daimler Company. Jaguar Cars bought the Daimler Company in 1960 and renamed it Daimler Motor Company in 1988.
Austro-Daimler bought similar rights from DMG to use the Daimler name and patents in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Austro-Daimler was later absorbed into Steyr-Daimler-Puch. The automotive division of this corporation was eventually absorbed by Magna International and renamed Magna Steyr. The military vehicle division was renamed Steyr-Daimler-Puch Spezialfahrzeug GmbH (SSF) and was bought by General Dynamics.
DMG used the Daimler name on all its cars until 1901, when it began using the Mercedes name on some of its cars. After 1908, all DMG cars used the name Mercedes. In 1926, DMG merged with Benz und Cie to form Daimler-Benz. This name continued until 1998 when they merged with the Chrysler Corporation to form DaimlerChrysler in 1998. Upon selling Chrysler in 2007, the company was renamed Daimler AG.
Daimler another Midlands Motor Company sent to the dogs, to keep British Leyland going. They BL went the same way as all of these big companies who think that they are safe and cannot go the same way as the companies they destroy.
The Daimler Fleet line (known as the Leyland Fleet line from c.1975) is a rear-engine double-decker bus chassis built between 1960 and 1973 in Coventry, Warwickshire, England, and from 1973 until 1980 in Farington, Lancashire, England. However, the last complete vehicle did not enter service until 1983. It was superseded by the Leyland Olympian.
The Fleet line was built mainly for the United Kingdom market, but a number of Fleet lines had been exported to Portugal, South Africa and Hong Kong.
It was the second of three bus models to have a marque name as well as an alphanumeric identity code. The other two were the Fleet line and the Road liner.
Daimler had a long and respected image in the eyes and hearts of many a transport manager as a builder of rock solid and cost effective buses right up the brands disappearance in 1973. Where Leyland was king of the corporate fleets that existed before the creation of the National Bus Company in the late ’60s, Daimler buses were the backbone of most of your Council or Municipal undertakings up and down the land.
Traditional half cab decker’s featuring a lazy Gardner engine, an open rear platform featuring a conductor complete with bell punch machine and leather money satchel evoke many a fond memory of buses.
Leyland had amazed the bus scene with its all new rear engine Atlantean in 1958, and at this time both Leyland and Daimler were bitter rivals in every sense. Not wishing to be outsmarted by the Lancastrian Empire, the good men of Daimler at Radford in Coventry, under William Lyons’ instruction, set upon designing their own rear engine front entrance bus chassis.
A prototype was developed with bodywork by Birmingham based Metro Cammell. A vertical Daimler D6 engine was used with transmission of semi automatic design by Coventry based Self Changing Gears Ltd. After a period of testing and consultation, production versions rolled off the line in 1961 with established Gardner 6LW power units.
Daimler continued to produce traditional half cab buses with its CVG5 and CVG6 throughout most of the 1960s with Northampton Corporation taking the very last ever open platform bus as late as 1968. What made the Fleet line different to its similar looking, Leyland Atlantean, rival! Was the fitting of a drop-centre rear axle as standard, whereas the Leyland only offered it as an expensive option! This allowed lower height bodywork to be fitted where obstructions such as railway bridges dictated the maximum overall height of a bus. It was not long before the Fleet line became a popular chassis with UK operators.
The Fleet line was a favourite amongst Municipal Corporations. This one is from the vast Birmingham City Transport fleet.
Whereby the Atlantean was Leyland-engine, Daimler remained loyal to Gardner and following the launch of the more powerful and economical 6LX engine range, the Fleet line was soon the only credible alternative to the Atlantean prior to the Bristol VRT. Engine options did change following the creation of British Leyland and the same Atlantean power unit of the 0.680 Leyland engine became optional in the Daimler. After the spectacular flop of the single deck Roadline chassis, the Fleet line was quickly redeveloped to be available as a single deck bus though no where near as popular as the double deck variant.
Leyland remained jealous of Daimler even though they were both now part of the same family; and one or two tactics were played out in order to make the Leyland Atlantean seem a better option. Raw chassis prices were regularly hiked up along with parts costing’s, yet operators continued to buy them partly spurred on by Leyland’s worrying attitude of ‘we know best’.
Operators still viewed Daimler as a respected concern despite its new parentage and despite some truly disastrous Leyland designs like the 0.500 diesel engine for example. Another event that was seen as a disruption and an attempt to stem the Daimler’s popularity came in 1973.
Owing to the success of the Jaguar XJ6, production was ramped up at Radford, and British Leyland opted to remove all the bus production tooling, after a production run of more than 7000 units, and move it all up to Lancashire – rather than extend the Radford plant. This event caused huge disruption to Fleet line production, and delays soon backed up. Those cunning Leyland men offered readily available Atlantean’s at favourable prices to compensate for delays. Some took the offer but most held out for the Fleet line, but another kick in the teeth for ‘dye in the wool’ Fleet line operators came in the form of the Daimler name being dropped, all future chassis were known as Leyland Fleet line.
West Midlands PTE bought the Coventry designed Fleet line in huge numbers most with locally made MCW bodywork.
Another sacrificial Leyland Lamb
It was reported that some of the tooling was damaged or broken either before or during the 1973 move to Leyland and it was also alleged that vital parts were missing upon arrival. Delays continued but Fleet line production recommenced and after a trail batch of both Atlantean and Fleet line types, London Transport (LT) placed an order for 679 Fleet lines built to a specification partly dictated by LT.
These proved to be problematic in service though later it was proved that this was caused by LTs refusal to change their engineering plans to match the bus as previous LT designs had been designed bespoke for them right from the drawing board. They were soon withdrawn from service yet dozens of operators snapped them up as soon as they were put on sale.
Other users found them reliable and cheap to run, the ultra long lasting and economical Gardner engines made the Fleet line popular as far north as Scotland or as far east as China who bought them by the hundreds. By 1980 new laws were coming into force relating to safety and noise levels and Leyland stopped production of the Fleet line in July of that year. Leyland had wanted ride of the Fleet line years before and just as the parent company had done with AEC and Bristol despite operator outcry, once great names were killed purely to keep the Leyland name on life support.
Due to bodybuilder backlogs, the last ever Fleet line to enter service rather fittingly went to a Municipal operator – Cleveland Transit in November 1982.
The Fleet line was the second rear-engine double deck bus chassis to be launched by a UK manufacturer, following Leyland’s introduction of the Atlantean in 1958. From the outset, the Fleet line had a drop-centre rear axle fitted as standard, enabling low-height bodywork to be fitted without necessitating an inconvenient seating layout in part of the upper deck, as was the case with early Atlantean’s. Leyland responded by offering a drop-centre rear axle as an option on the Atlantean, but after the two companies came under the same ownership in 1968, the low-height Atlantean option was discontinued.
The prototype Fleet line was fitted with a Daimler engine, but when production started only the Gardner 6LX or 6LW engines were offered. By 1968 Gardner’s new and more powerful 6LXB was also an option, and in 1970 Leyland’s 0.680 engines became available. Gardner engines had an excellent reputation for reliability and economy while Leyland engines were livelier and thirstier. Most Fleet line customers preferred Gardner engines, but the Leyland engine became popular – particularly for a period in the 1970s when Gardner could not meet demand.
In late 1960s, Daimler developed the longer 36′ double-deck Fleet line which was based on the single-deck Road liner chassis. This chassis had a longitudinally-mounted Cummins engine at the rear offside corner. It was designed mainly for export, but one was built for Walsall Corporation Transport.
In mid-1970s, Leyland developed a special version of the Fleet line, known as the B20, with Leyland 0.690 engine, chimneys on both sides above the engine compartment and reduced noise levels. All of these went to London Transport.
As with many British bus chassis including the comparable Leyland Atlantean, the bodywork was supplied separately by a range of different companies to their own designs, meaning it can be difficult to identify the chassis. Some, but not all, vehicles have a manufacturer’s badge on the rear. A notable difference between the Atlantean and Fleet line is that the front of the engine cover, towards the rear of the lower deck, is sloped at about 10 degrees on the Daimler, but is vertical, with a notch at the top, on the Leyland.
Daimler Fleet line chassis designations started with the letters CR, of which the C is reported to stand for Coventry, and the R stands for Rear-engine. For single-deckers this became SR (although not on the earliest examples which were referred to with the standard CR).
This was followed by a code to indicate the engine fitted: D6 (Daimler 6-cylinder, prototypes only); G6 (Gardner 6-cylinder, more often than not this was expanded to the more specific G6LW, G6LX or G6LXB); L6 (Leyland 6-cylinder); C6 (Cummins 6-cylinder).
The standard length of the Fleet line was 30′ but lengths of 33′ and 36′ were also available, which were sometimes (though not consistently) identified by a suffix of -33 or -36 (sometimes with an oblique stroke in place of the hyphen).
Later Leyland Fleet line chassis designations were different: FE for Fleet line, followed by 30 or 33 (length in feet); A (if applicable) for Air brakes; G for Gardner or L for Leyland engine; R for Right-hand drive.
The prototype London DMS-class Fleet line (left) next to the AEC Route master rear-entrance class which it was meant to replace, but which eventually outlived the DMS in London service
London Transport was the largest British Fleet line operator, whose DMS and DM classes totalled 2,646 vehicles (the last 400 were built as B20s), in addition to the earlier XF (experimental Fleet line) class of eight buses. At the time of delivery of London Transport’s first DM/DMS class Daimler Fleet line (December 1970), the Fleet line was a successful model (when comparing sales against other chassis), more than 3500 Fleet line buses having been produced for other operators.
The DMS and DM-class vehicles were fitted with either Park Royal or MCW bodywork, and were given fleet numbers (DMS 1 – DM 2646) under the drivers’ window on the offside and at the rear of the nearside of the vehicle.
The first vehicle into service was DMS 1 at 0454 on 2 January 1971 from Shepherds Bush Garage on route 220. However, celebrations at the garage meant that the bus left two minutes late and thus DMS 31 at Brixton Garage actually entered first at 0455 on route 95. The last vehicle was DMS 2438 also on 2 January, in 1993, returning home in the dark at 1845. This bus operated a farewell tour between Croydon Garage, Chipstead Valley and Hammond Street, London on special one-day only route 459.
A total of 60 garages operated DMS’s in London. The smallest allocation was at Willesden where just 10 vehicles in total ever operated, and the largest at Croydon with a huge allocation total of 417 spanning a period of twenty years from 1973. In the Croydon example, an allocation could be as short as two months or as long as ten years. Croydon were the last garage to operate the type in normal passenger service in what became known as DMS heartland principally because of the other large operational garages at Brixton, Merton, Sutton, Catford and Thornton Heath.
The first batch of London Fleet lines had Gardner engines, but Leyland engine the majority. The final type of DMS, the B20, appears to have been the least reliable and several were fitted with Iveco engines during the 1980s.
DMS’s proved unpopular in London, mainly due to the slow boarding times compared to those of the open-backed Routemaster class. To counter this, London Transport trialled the AFC (Automated Fare Collection) turnstile entry system on some of the fleet. This was coin operated and was intended as a quicker, second boarding option as an alternative to paying the driver. However, the AFC system proved unpopular due to unreliability and by 1977 the trial had been abandoned.
Maintenance was also another major issue, as the parts became defective much sooner. Maintenance costs for rear-engine, front entrance buses were much higher than the older half-cab models due to the inability to separate the body from chassis for modular overhaul. This was also exacerbated by the presence of a 50% Government grant for new vehicles at the time, rendering withdrawal a cost effective option at or around the time of their first (7 year) recertification for service.
Withdrawal commenced in 1979 with the early vehicles being the first to go, the first to leave the fleet in this way being DMS 251 in February 1979, quickly departing for bus breaker Wombwell Diesels in Yorkshire. The very first vehicle to leave the fleet was DMS 1248 which was completely destroyed by fire whilst in service on route 280A from Sutton Garage in August 1978. In London, the successors of the DMS/DM buses were the Leyland Titan and MCW Metro bus.
Many of the sold Fleet lines were sent to Ensign Bus in Purfleet as a dealer for onward sale or spare parts. So many vehicles were despatched there between 1979 and 1983 that the yards became known as the ‘DMS graveyards’ as not enough buyers could be sought. Often vehicles could not be brought out and so rotted away where they sat.
However, hundreds of London Fleet lines proved popular second-hand purchases for operators throughout Britain from 1979 and during the 1980s, including the aftermath of bus deregulation. In some cases, the special modifications which had been built into the buses to meet London Transport’s own specifications were removed at the request of the purchaser, to improve reliability and restore standardisation with other Fleet lines in their fleets. There was also a number of DMS/DM buses sold for export, many departing for the Far East in Hong Kong. In addition, nearly 50 vehicles found operations in the USA for open-top sightseeing work.
Few vehicles have entered preservation, DMS 1 being with the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden, DMS 132, 999, 1051, 1052, 1515, 1601, 1868, 2375, 2456 and appropriately DM 2646 with the Ensign Bus Museum. DM 2646 has been preserved in the Shillibeer livery which it carried back in 1979. DMS1515 is still in its Super car incarnation, from when the Travel card was instigated. 2008 saw a resurgence of fleet lines being bought for preservation and DMS’s 115, 550, 1002, 1911, 2216, and 2357 also reached cherished status, albeit work-in-progress. April 2010 saw DMS2127 enter the ranks of preserved DMS’s, fresh from service at Whipsnade Safari Park.
West Midlands PTE operated over 2,000 Fleet lines of varying types
Second in fleet size was Birmingham Corporation and its successor West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive with well over 1,000 buses, including the first single-deck Fleet lines in 1965. Other constituent municipal fleets – and Midland Red – also contributed Fleet lines to the WMPTE Fleet line fleet to boost the number to over 2,100. The Daimler factory in Coventry was, of course, in the WMPTE area.
West Midlands PTE preferred the Gardner engine, but received 220 Fleet lines with Leyland engines during 1974-76 when Gardner’s were hard to obtain. However, the Leyland’s were found to be less reliable, particularly in the hilly Black Country, and most received Gardner engines during the early 1980s. The 700 or so Fleet lines inherited by West Midlands Travel in 1986 all had Gardner engines and the type lasted with WMT until 1997.
Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive purchased over 500 Fleet lines in addition to a similar number inherited from its constituents (although even in such numbers they were still outnumbered by Atlantean’s). One of these, numbered 583 (BCB 613V) of the Lancashire United (subsidiary of GMPTE) was sold to Chester City Transport in 1992, numbered 79. It remained in regular service until May 2007 and it is now preserved in the Chester City Transport livery that it carried when withdrawn from service. It regularly attends rallies and when withdrawn was believed to have been the last closed top Fleet line in regular stage carriage service in the UK.
South Yorkshire PTE (SYPTE) operated a significant number of Fleet lines during the late 1960s and 1970s. Some were quite short lived although one example ‘1515’ OKW515R saw service in London and Sheffield, then onto private operator Andrews of Sheffield where it served in competition to SYPTE for many years. Preserved in the late 1990s, the vehicle is said to be under local restoration for future bus preservation rally duties.
Another preserved fleet line from SYPTE ‘WWJ754M’ is owned by the Sheffield Transport Group and housed at Sandtoft, a museum near Doncaster. The vehicle was widely applauded as one of the best designs of double Decker bus from the 1970s and is a centrepiece of local rallies. Using Sheffield Transport livery, it is said to be one of the last remaining examples of its type.
SYPTE also saw a number of inherited 1973 ‘L’ registered Fleet lines from Doncaster independents. These were operational on the popular Rotherham to Sheffield route 69 for almost 15 years boasting low floors, large luggage and buggy storage plus blue coloured interior lighting near the cab area.
Most notably though, SYPTE fitted all its vehicles with comfortable sprung leather or fabric seats.
Ending their life with the PTE in the early 1990s, the remaining Fleet lines were placed on short duties between Rotherham bus station and the nearby Asda supermarket formerly at the Eastwood Trading Estate. Upon re-location of the supermarket, the dwindling remaining members of the fleet were sent to Ipswich and Scarborough with the SYPTE choosing Dennis as replacement across the whole county.
Other English PTE’s, plus many fleets in the municipal, such as Cardiff Bus with 90 examples, BET Group, Scottish Bus Group and independent sectors purchased Fleet lines.
Unusual Fleet lines
Walsall Corporation specified some non-standard short-wheelbase Fleet lines, the first of which, 1 UDH , was only 25 ft 7 in long, had no front overhang and had its entrance behind the front axle. The next 29 vehicles were 27 ft 6 in long with a short front overhang and again only an entrance behind the front axle. The remaining 69 were 28 ft 6 in long, with a narrow entrance in the usual position along with the entrance behind the front axle. 1 UDH had Northern Counties bodywork with wrap-around windscreens on both decks, similar to that specified by Barton Transport on AEC Regents and a Dennis Loline.
Several operators purchased single-deck Fleet lines (Birmingham was the first, in 1965). Rotherham Corporation purchased two 33′ single deck fleet lines with 45 seat Willowbrook dual purpose bodies, no’s 169 and 170. Mexborough and Swinton Traction Company ordered 3 similar vehicles with Marshall Bodywork for White Rose Express services. However they were delivered as Yorkshire Traction 228-230 following the takeover in October 1969. In late 1970, Yorkshire Traction purchased nine 36′ Fleet lines with dual door Walter Alexander W type bodywork, no’s 357-365.
Walsall Corporation purchased one 36′ double-deck Fleet line CRC6 in 1968, which is now preserved.
Unusual engines temporarily fitted by operators in Fleet lines in the 1960s included a Perkins V8 installed in Walsall 8, and a BMMO 10.5 litre unit in Midland Red 5261. Most remarkably, in 1972 a Rolls Royce LPG engine was fitted in Teesside Municipal Transport (ex-Middlesbrough) S470.
Two of the many books available.
May I thank Old Buses and Show bus for the use of their pictures. I have not been able to use my own pictures due to problems with my Laptop ( my pictures are on a seperate harddrive which is unavailable to my laptop for reasons unknown to me!) I will get it sorted,
Simms and the Daimler engine the History
Engineer Frederick Richard Simms was supervising construction of an aerial cableway of Simms own design for the Bremen Exhibition in 1889 when he saw tiny railcars powered by Gottlieb Daimler’s motors. Simms, who had been born to English parents in Hamburg and raised by them there, became friends with Daimler, an ardent Anglophile who had spent from autumn 1861 to summer 1863 in England, working at Beyer-Peacock in Gorton, Manchester. Simms first introduced Daimler’s motors to England in 1890 to power launches. In an agreement dated 18 February 1891, he obtained British and Empire rights for the Daimler patents. That month, DMG lent Simms a motorboat with a 2 hp engine and an extra engine. In June 1891 Simms had set up a London office at 49 Leadenhall Street and founded Simms & Co consulting engineers. That month, the motorboat, named Cannstatt, began running on the Thames from Putney. Simms later established works premises at Eel Pie Island on the Thames where the Thames Electric and Steam Launch Company, owned by Andrew Pears of Pears Soap fame, had been making electrically-powered motor launches. The launch business rapidly gained momentum. Simms’ Daimler-related work was later moved into his new company named The Daimler Motor Syndicate Limited, which formed 26 May 1893.
Simms plans to make cars
Following the success of Daimler-powered Peugeots and Panhards at the 1894 Paris–Rouen competition, Simms decided to open a motor car factory, possibly the UK’s first motor company. On 7 June 1895 Simms told his board he wished to form a company to be known as The Daimler Motor Company Limited. The company would acquire both the right to use the name Daimler and the British rights to the Daimler patents. It would manufacture Daimler motors and cars in England. He detailed his plans to form The Daimler Motor Company Limited and to build a brand-new factory, incorporating light rail, for 400 workmen making Daimler Motor Carriages. That month, he arranged an agency for the Daimler-powered Panhard & Levassor cars in Britain. Simms asked his friend Daimler to be consulting engineer to the new enterprise. Simms later continued with his plans for the new business and new factory, selecting a six-acre site at Cheltenham. At the June board meeting, Simms proudly produced the first car licence. It was for a 3½ hp Panhard & Levassor (later referred to as a ‘Daimler Motor Carriage’). Bought in France by Evelyn Ellis, who had three Daimler motor launches moored by his home at Datchet, it was landed at Southampton on 3 July and driven by Ellis to Micheldever near Winchester where Ellis met Simms and they drove together to Datchet. Ellis later drove it on to Malvern. This was the first long journey by motorcar in Britain
In order that the Daimler licences could be transferred from Simms to the new company, all the former partners would have to agree to the transfer. By this time, Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach had withdrawn from Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft’s business to concentrate on cars and engines for them. Simms offered to pay DMG £17,500 for the transfer and for a licence for Daimler and Maybach’s Phénix engine, which DMG did not own. Simms therefore insisted that the transfer be on the condition that Daimler and Maybach rejoined DMG. This was agreed in November 1895 and the Daimler-Maybach car business re-merged with DMG’s. Daimler was appointed DMG’s General Inspector and Maybach chief Technical Director. At the same time Simms became a director of DMG but did not become a director of the London company. Those close to Daimler considered it ‘no mean feat’ that Simms had managed to obtain Daimler’s signature to the proposed re-amalgamation.
Simms sells out to Lawson
Investor Harry John Lawson had set out to use The British Motor Syndicate Limited to monopolise motor car production in Britain by taking over every patent he could. As part of this goal, Lawson approached Simms on 15 October 1895, seeking the right to arrange the public flotation of the proposed new company and to acquire a large shareholding for his British Motor Syndicate. Welcomed by Simms, the negotiations proceeded on the basis that this new company should acquire The Daimler Motor Syndicate Limited as a going concern, including the name and patent rights.
Acquisition On 14 January 1896 Lawson incorporated The Daimler Motor Company Limited. A prospectus was issued on 15 February. The subscription lists opened on 17 February and closed, oversubscribed, the next day. The Daimler Motor Company Limited bought The Daimler Motor Syndicate Limited as a going concern. Simms was appointed consulting engineer to the new business but was not to be on the board of directors, possibly because he had become a director of the Cannstatt firm. One of Lawson’s associates had for sale an empty four-storey cotton mill in Coventry which was promptly purchased for use as Britain’s first automobile factory. Another deal was concluded with Panhard & Levassor in which the Cannstatt firm would receive a commission of 10% on British sales.
1896 passed with car sales limited to imported Panhard and Peugeot cars. Aside from engines Cannstatt seemed curiously unable to supply ordered components or specially commissioned working drawings. Four experimental cars were built in Coventry and some (redesigned in detail) Daimler engines.
The first car left the works in January 1897, fitted with a Panhard engine, followed in March by Daimler-engined cars. The first Coventry Daimler-engined product made its maiden run on 2 March 1897. By mid-year they were producing three of their own cars a week and producing Léon Bollée cars under licence. Lawson claimed to have made 20 cars by July 1897 making the Daimler Britain’s first motor car to go into serial production, an honour that is also credited to Humber Motors who had also displayed, but in their case their production models, at the Stanley Cycle Show in London in 1896. The Daimlers had a twin-cylinder, 1526 cc engine, mounted at the front of the car, four-speed gearbox and chain drive to the rear wheels.
Known as Britain’s oldest car manufacturers, Daimler became the official transportation of royalty in 1898, after the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, was given a ride on a Daimler by John Douglas-Scott-Montagu later known as Lord Montagu of Beaulieu. Scott-Montagu, as a member of parliament, also drove a Daimler into the yard of the British Parliament, the first motorised vehicle to be driven there.
In early 1900, Daimler had sold the Prince of Wales a mail phaeton. In 1902, upon buying his second Daimler, King Edward VII awarded Daimler a royal warrant as suppliers of motor cars. It was in mid-1900 that Frederick Simms, as a director of DMG, proposed a union between the Daimler Motor Company in Coventry and DMG in Cannstatt, but nothing came of the proposal.
In 1903, Undecimus Stratton met E. G. Jenkinson, the chairman of Daimler, when Jenkinson’s Daimler was stranded by the roadside. Upon seeing the stranded motorist, Stratton stopped his Daimler and offered assistance. Jenkinson was impressed by Stratton and by his motoring knowledge. At the time, Jenkinson was looking to replace the head of Daimler’s London depot, a particularly sensitive position because of the royal cars. Taking the position, Stratton soon found himself having to select better royal chauffeurs and mechanics. He quickly became an occasional motoring companion to the King. In 1908, through Stratton’s Royal connections, Daimler was awarded a “Royal Appointment as suppliers of motor cars to the Court of Spain” by King Alfonso XIII and a Royal Warrant as “Motor Car Manufacturer to the Court of Prussia” by Kaiser Wilhelm II. Stratton also sold Daimlers to the Sultan of Johor. In 1911 he spent some weekends at Sandringham tutoring the new Prince of Wales on the workings and driving of an automobile.
In 1921 Stratton went into partnership with Daimler’s commercial manager Ernest Intone. Stratton and Intone took charge of the Daimler showrooms at 27 Pall Mall, naming the business Stratton-Intone. Stratton died in July 1929 after a brief illness. His successors and Intone bought out Daimler’s interest in 1930 and renamed the business Stratstone Limited. The following summer the future King Edward VIII rented Stratton’s house at Sunningdale from his widow.
Every British monarch from Edward VII to Elizabeth II has been driven in Daimler limousines. In 1950, after a persistent transmission failure on the King’s car, Rolls-Royce was commissioned to provide official state cars and as Daimlers retired they were not replaced by Daimlers. The current official state car is either one of a pair which were specially made for the purpose by Bentley, unofficial chauffeured transport is by Daimler. Her Majesty’s own car for personal use is a 2008 Daimler Super Eight but she is also seen to drive herself in other smaller cars.
Fluted radiator Since 1904, the fluted top surface to the radiator grille has been Daimler’s distinguishing feature. This motif developed from the heavily finned water-cooling tubes slung externally at the front of early cars and clearly visible in the photograph of the 1903 car to the right. Later, a more conventional, vertical radiator had a heavily finned header tank. Eventually these fins were echoed on a protective grille shell and, even later, on the rear licence plate holder.
Sleeve-valve engines Attracted by the possibilities of the “Silent Knight” engine Daimler’s chairman contacted Charles Yale Knight in Chicago and Knight settled in England near Coventry in 1907. Daimler contracted Dr Frederick Lanchester as their consultant for the purpose and a major re-design and refinement of Knight’s design took place in great secrecy. Knight’s design was made a practical proposition. When unveiled in September 1908 the new engine caused a sensation. “Suffice it to say that mushroom valves, springs and cams, and many small parts, are swept away bodily, that we have an almost perfectly spherical explosion chamber, and a cast-iron sleeve or tube as that portion of the combustion chamber in which the piston travels.”
The Royal Automobile Club held a special meeting to discuss the new engine, still silent but no longer “Wholly Knight”. The Autocar reported on “its extraordinary combination of silence, flexibility and power.” In recognition of the design’s success the RAC awarded Daimler their coveted Dewar Trophy. Daimler bought rights from Knight “for England and the colonies” and shared ownership of the European rights, in which it took 60%, with Minerva of Belgium. Daimler dropped poppet-valve engines altogether. Sales outran the works’ ability to supply.
Daimler’s sleeve valve engines idle silently but when they left royal engagements Daimlers often departed in a just-visible haze of oil smoke. These engines had quite high oil consumption, oil being needed to lubricate the sleeves particularly when cold, but by the standards of their day they required almost no maintenance. Daimler kept their silent sleeve-valve engines until the mid-1930s. The change to poppet valves began with the Fifteen of 1933.
Impact on British life and culture, 1896-1910 In 1899 a Daimler 6 hp was involved in the first motor accident in the UK to be recorded as having involved the death of the driver. A young engineer was killed when the rim of a rear wheel collapsed and the car he was driving collided with a wall on a sloping road in Harrow on the Hill. The engineer’s passenger was thrown from the car and died in hospital three days later.
Owned by BSA (1910-1960)
Acquisition by BSA Under an agreement dated 22 September 1910 the shareholders of The Daimler Motor Company Limited “merged their holdings with those of the Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA) group of companies”. They handed in their Daimler shares for new BSA shares This business deal was engineered by Dudley Docker, deputy-chairman of BSA, who was famous for previous successful business mergers.
Daimler, a manufacturer of motor vehicles, had a payroll of 4,116 workmen and 418 staff immediately before the merger. BSA produced rifles, ammunition, military vehicles, bicycles, motorcycles and some BSA-branded cars. The chairman of the combined group was Edward Manville., who had been chairman of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders – founded by Simms – since 1907 However the merger was not a great success. By 1913 Daimler had a workforce of 5,000 workers which made only 1,000 vehicles a year.
Transport of emperors, kings and princes By 1914 Daimlers were in the service of royal families including those of Great Britain, Russia, Germany, Japan, Spain, Sweden, Greece; its list of owners among the British nobility “read like a digest of Debrett; the Bombay agent supplied Indian princes; the Japanese agent, Okura, handled sales in Manchuria and Korea.
World War I work
War was declared on 4 August 1914. The military took the normal production cars, lorries, buses and ambulances together with a scout army vehicle and engines used in ambulances, trucks, and double-decker buses. Special products included aero-engines and complete aircraft, tank and tractor engines and munitions. Aero-engines manufactured by Daimler included the French-designed Gnome Monosoupape rotary, the RAF 1 and 1a air-cooled V8s, the RAF 4a V12, the Le Rhone rotary, and the Bentley BR2 rotary.
Daimler trained air force mechanics in its works and its training methods became the standard for all manufacturers instructing RAF mechanics. Having its own body shop, Daimler built complete aircraft. By the end of 1914, they had built 100 units of the Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2c. These were followed by the BE12 and RE8. Their own test-ground beside the factory was compulsorily purchased and became the main RAF testing ground for aircraft built in the Coventry district. Although Daimler tooled up for production of the Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.4 bomber the aircraft was cancelled due to poor performance. The last wartime aircraft produced was the Airco DH.10 bomber when they were building 80 aeroplanes a month.
The first special production in late 1914 were the power trains used in the Fosters of Lincoln artillery tractors built to haul 15-inch (380 mm) howitzers. As a result Daimler produced engines for the very first British tanks ever built (“Little Willie” and “Mother”). One major difficulty for the tanks was the fine oil haze above their Daimler engines which the enemy quickly learned meant tanks were operating nearby if out of sight. The early tanks weighed up to 28 tons. They were all Daimler powered. Modifications designed by W. O. Bentley upgraded output from 105 to 125 horsepower during production. Derivatives included a gun-carrier and a supply vehicle and a salvage machine to rescue broken-down tanks and heavy guns. Daimler made more twelve inch (305 mm) shells than any other business in the country, 2000 a week. Each was machined from a 994 lb forging down to a finished weight of 684 lb.
Originally known as Dennis Brothers Ltd, the company was founded in 1895 by John (1871–1939) and Raymond (1878–1939) Dennis who made Speed King bicycles which they sold from their shop, the Universal Athletic Stores, in Guildford. They made their first motor vehicle in 1898, and in 1899, their first car; though shown at the National Cycle Show, it was never produced or sold. They entered car production around 1900. About this time John Dennis built the Rodboro Buildings, the first purpose-built motor vehicle factory in Britain, to manufacture motorcars in the centre of Guildford. Larger models followed with a 35 hp (26 kW; 35 PS) model in 1906 powered by a White and Poppe engine; this power unit soon fitted to all their models. Commercial vehicle activity was increasing with the first bus being made in 1903 and fire engine in 1908. Cars soon took second place and it is doubtful if any were made after about 1915. In 1913 Dennis moved to a larger factory at Woodbridge, on the outskirts of Guildford. In 1919 Dennis bought White and Poppe and transferred engine production from Coventry to Guildford.
The Karnataka Fire and Emergency Services owns a pumper that was built by Dennis Brothers and delivered to the erstwhile Kingdom of Mysore in 1925 from England.
In 1972 the company was acquired by Hestair Group and renamed Hestair Dennis after a few years of financial difficulties. It was sold to Trinity Holdings (formed from a management buyout from Hestair Group) in 1989 and then to Mayflower Corporation in October 1998.
As of the 1990s, the company was no longer a single integrated whole, but was three independent businesses which their parent company is Dennis Group plc, namely:
• Dennis Fire – manufacturer of fire appliances.
• Dennis Bus – manufacturer of buses and other public transport vehicles
• Dennis Eagle – manufacturer of dustcarts/refuse lorries (municipal vehicles). This company also incorporated the remains of the Eagle Engineering and Shelvoke and Drewry concerns.
Dennis Group plc also owned Duple Metsec, the bus bodywork builder which usually supplied body kits for assembly overseas.
Mayflower Corporation sold Dennis Eagle in July 1999 and purchased by Ros Roca in 2006. Dennis Bus and Dennis Fire were incorporated into Transbus International (now Alexander Dennis) in 2001.
Alexander Dennis was formed as TransBus on 1 January 2001, after the merger of Mayflower Corporation-owned Dennis and Alexander, and Henlys-owned Plaxton, all based in the United Kingdom.
TransBus had a variety of factories around the United Kingdom from all three merged companies: the former Alexander factories at Falkirk, Scotland and Belfast, Northern Ireland, the former Plaxton factories at Anston and Scarborough, the former Northern Counties factory at Wigan, and the Dennis factory at Guildford.
At the height of TransBus, the company produced a range of both bus & coach chassis and bodies as well as fire engines. Included among its range of chassis were the Dennis Dart, one of the all-time best-selling buses in the UK, and the Dennis Trident. TransBus also produced export variants for service in New York City, Hong Kong, and other locations. The Dennis Trident is the most common bus model in service in London.
Since the creation of TransBus merged both Plaxton and Alexander, the TransBus range included Plaxton coaches as well as two double-decker bodies (the Plaxton President and the Alexander ALX400), the Alexander ALX300 citybus and the Pointer body built in quantity on the aforementioned Dennis Dart chassis, which replaced the Alexander ALX200 body built previously on a Dart chassis.
On 31 March 2004, the Mayflower Group was put into administration and by default TransBus also entered administration. On 17 May 2004, the Plaxton coach business was sold to its management and returned to its separate Plaxton identity (TransBus had been in the process of eradicating the traditional company names from the vehicles). Four days later, on 21 May 2004, the remaining part of TransBus (Alexander and Dennis) was bought by independent business men (one of whom was Brian Souter, owner of the Stagecoach Group, although the acquisition was kept separate from the bus and train operation). The new company became Alexander Dennis. The sale did not include the former Alexander Belfast plant, which later closed down.
On 26 January 2005, Alexander Dennis’s Wigan plant was closed after finishing the orders of its President body.
Since the administration period and restructuring of the former TransBus International, Alexander Dennis has secured a number of major orders from UK operators, and is the favoured manufacturer of the Stagecoach Group. The company has also continued to find success in its predecessors’ traditional markets of Hong Kong and the Republic of Ireland, with the Enviro500 securing orders in both markets, and the ALX400 double-deck body remaining the Dublin Bus standard vehicle until production ended in 2006.
Alexander Dennis is also building its share of the North American market, securing £25m worth of orders in 2005 for its Enviro500 model from customers in Victoria, British Columbia, New York City (open top models), San Francisco and Las Vegas.
The order book remained strong in the first quarter of 2006 and the company unveiled two new models, the Enviro400 double-decker and Enviro200 Dart midibus.
In early 2007, Colin Robertson replaced Jim Hastie as the CEO of Alexander Dennis. In May of that year Alexander Dennis purchased Plaxton, thus reuniting the two former TransBus businesses.
Alexander Dennis saw reduced orders due to the Financial crisis of 2007–2010, the company laid off almost 100 employees in Falkirk in spring 2009 and introduced short-time working in late 2009. But between 2009 and 2010, bus operators in England and Scotland received awards from the Green Bus Funds to encourage the purchase of more environment friendly buses, and several hybrid buses were ordered by organisations such as Stagecoach and Transport for London.
In May 2012, New Flyer Industries and Alexander Dennis Limited announced a new joint-venture to design and manufacture medium-duty low-floor bus (or midi bus) for the North American market. New Flyer will handle production and marketing, and Alexander Dennis will handle the engineering and testing.
Photos curtesy of AlexanderDennis Library
In 7 June 2012, Alexander Dennis Limited acquired Custom Coaches, the Australian bus bodybuilders and bus seating manufacturers.