Albion were known for their slogan “Sure as Sunrise”Albion is the ancient name for the British Isles.
The Albion Motor Car Company Ltd was once the largest automobile business in Scotland. It was founded in Scotstoun, Glascow in 1899 by Thomas Blackwood Murray and Norman Osborne Fulton (both of whom had worked previously in Arrol-Johnston). Murray was responsible for design elements and Fulton for financial and administrative management. Their first vehicle in 1900 and by all reports it was a rustic looking “dogcart” varnished wooden box mounted on a crude chassis powered by two cylinder 8hp engine capable of carrying ½ ton of cargo. In 1903 the engine was upgraded to 16bhp vertical twin and by 1906 they were using a 24bhp four cylinder. The last private Albions released were powered by 15bhp monobloc four cylinders of 2492cc. By 1909 Albion was concentrating its efforts into commercial vehicles. The turning point for Albion came in 1910 with the release of the A10 three tonner and the 1913 release of the A12 four ton version.
A few years later a third partner/ financier, John Henderson, joined the business. The factory was small originally employing only seven people. In 1903 the company moved to new premises in Scotstoun but growth was steady until the advent of WWI. The company had ceased producing passenger vehicles in 1915 and concentrated on truck manufacture. Like most other vehicle manufacturers war increased demand and production increased significantly with over 6,000 A10 models produced for the Allied Forces. These were powered by a 32bhp engine using chain drive to the rear wheels. Many of these were converted to charablancs after the war. One of Australia’s most renown users of Albion trucks during this period was Arnotts Biscuits which was established in 1875 by William Arnott. By the end of the 1920s the famous biscuit company boasted around 150 varieties of biscuits which it delivered to an evergrowing customer base in the company’s own fleet of Albion trucks. This is probably no co-incidence given that both the Albion marque and William Arnott had their origins in Scotland.
The Albion Motor Car Company Ltd was renamed Albion Motors in 1930 after Mr Blackwood Murray died. In 1935 Albion acquired Halley, a business that had recently progressed from producing steam trucks to petrol engine trucks. Again, growth was steady until WWII when Albion was again called on to contribute to the war effort. They produced around 6000 three and ten ton trucks and 1000 tank transporters. Immediately after the war Albion introduced names to their range that had previously been used by Halley such as Chieftain and Clansman. Albion became a leader in producing Cab Over Engine (COE) trucks.
Leyland Motors took over Albion in 1951. The 1957 Albion 4 axle Caledonian proved to be too serious a competitor for Leyland’s Octopus and was dropped from the range by the new management team.. It was the last new Albion model to be produced. When the British Leyland Motor Corporation was founded in 1968, despite widespread concern that the marquee would be dropped, production of the Albion Chieftain, Clydesdale and Reiver trucks and the Albion bus models continued. These were exported all over world including to Africa, Australia, India and Asia. Albion buses were given names beginning with ‘V’- Viking, Valiant, Victor, Ventura among them. The first Albion bus to come into Australia is believed to be a Viking in 1967 that went into service for Ventura Motors of Melbourne. The Viking bus went on to become one of the most popular models in Australia.
The 'Super Reiver' RE229T was introduced in 1969 and was specifically designed as a 6 cubic yard concert mixer quite different from the rest of the Reiver range. The power unit was an AEC AV505 oil engine of 8.2 litres capacity, which drove through a Thornycroft 10 speed gearbox to twin Albion hub reduction axles.
From 1972 until 1980 Chieftains, Clydesdale and Reivers were built as Leylands. In Scotland, many operators loyal to the Albion marquee went to extremes to remove the Leyland names and rebadge them as Albions. As such, some of the G-range cab-over trucks more than likely became the last built trucks to carry the Albion logo.
FT35. 1948-1952. Model names for commercial chassis were introduced for the first time in 1948 for the new Clansman and Chieftain. The Clansman was a lighter version of the Chieftain and could carry a payload of 5 tons.
FT36. 1948-1952. The Clansman FT36 bonneted model is was the same as the FT35.
FT38. 1948-1950. This was a bonneted Chieftain listed only as an export model. Albion had dropped the bonneted models for the home market after the war although they were supplied locally by special order only.
FT102. 1949-1951. This was the bonneted Clydesdale model. The four cylinder EN286 oil engine drove through a five speed gearbox to heavy duty axles front and rear.
FT104. 1949-1951. This was a 6x4 three-axle 7-1/2ton Clydesdale bonneted mode for the export market.
PF102 / PF108. 1956. Albion ceased their bonneted range from September 1952 however one was created by Albatros Automobiel Maatschappij N.V. of Amsterdam, who imported components in packing cases and produced a number of models which were not available in the UK or elsewhere.
HD53. 1950-1952. This was the last new model range to be introduced by Albion before the Leyland takeover. It replaced the six cylinder CX range. Apart from having a curved dash like the revised Chieftain, it also had a larger radiatorfor the ‘overseas’ market. It had the addition of sun-rays spreading from the 'Albion' script on the top tank. It was powered by the 9.9 litres EN253 engine. The chassis was available in four wheelbases, two of which were haulage models capable of hauling separate trailers.
HD55. 1950-1952. This model was a six wheeler with payload of 12 tons equipped with an EN253 oil engine but was also also produced with a petrol 10.5 litre EN257 engine with two carburettors.
HD57. 1950-1954. The HD57 was considered top of the range. It was a 14.5 ton eight wheeler with Clayton Dewandre air pressure brakes operated on 3 axles only (the leading axle was not braked).
HD73. 1953-1954. The Albion HD trucks were directly competitive with the 0.600-engined Leylands. In an effort to ensure Albion customers switched to Leylands after the HDs were dropped all two and three axle Albion chassis were fitted with Leyland 0.600 engines from September 1952. HDs with Leyland engines were then numbered in the 70 series.
When Albion was taken over by the Leyland Group in 1951 and by 1972 Albion’s “Sure as Sunrise” motto and famous sunburst logo disappeared under the Leyland marketing umbrella. Back in Scotland Leyland had taken over the neighbouring Coventry Ordinance Works in 1969 where Albion’s descendant company continues to operate from. Leyland had dropped the Albion name publicly when the company name was changed to Leyland (Glasgow). In 1987it was again changed to Leyland-DAF when it became a subsidiary of DAF. In 1993 Albion returned briefly to Scottish ownership until in 1998 when the American Axle and Manufacturing Company of Detroit (AAM) took over.
Australia had seen the first of its Albion trucks in the early 1920s and for the next 50 years they were a big force within the road transport industry, gaining a reputation for reliability and quality.
One Australian operator who used Albions was HH Murrays of Balgownie, NSW, in their logging operation. They hauled logs up to 40 feet long down the notorious Macquarie Pass without ever having a mishap. Arthur Murray most of these early trucks were fitted with cable brakes and said these were sheer murder, claiming you could always tell when they were fitted to a truck by the big dent in the back of the driver’s seat from pushing the brake pedal to the floor!
Another Australian Albion operator, Ray Gilleland (the Nullarbor Kid) operated his ‘Perth Express’ run in an Albion HD54 recalled the hum of the oil pump being unnerving to those “not in the know”. Operated by centrifugal force the hum would continue for about 30 seconds after the truck was switched off and this tended to spook newcomers who’d pulled up at some lonely remote outpost for a nap in the black of the night.
Long before Ed Cameron’s name became famously linked to the Kenworth marque his transport business operated a variety of trucks, usually English marques such as Fodens and Albions. The well known firm of HH Gillot also operated a fleet of Albions in their mixed business in Sydney NSW. Perhaps the most famous of Albion fleets in Australia was Arnotts Biscuits who went to great lengths to achieve the famous glossy effect of red paint and the parrot on the side of their Albion truck fleet.