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James Sumner produced a steam wagon in 1884, this was the first of his many inventions including a steam driven lawn mower and, later, a three wheeled motor car. J Sumner and Company was formed and George Spurrier later bought into the Company and in 1896 Spurrier and Sumner formed the Lancashire Steam Motor Company, in Leyland, Lancashire. In 1907 they changed the name of the Company to Leyland Motors Limited. Steam power dominated production in the early years, though an internal engine vehicle was produced in 1904. The last Steam powered vehicle was produced in 1926. Truck models in the 1930s included the Octopus, Beaver, Bison, Buffalo, Bull and Hippo. Leyland continued to grow and take over other truck Companies including Albion Motors in 1951, Scammell Lorries in 1955, AEC in 1969. Leyland was nationalized in 1975 and then sold to DAF in 1987. 

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 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.[1] 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.[2] 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.

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 1946, AEC and Leyland Motors worked to form the British United Traction Ltd.

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
  • 1960: Standard Triumph, cars, vans and some agricultural machinery interests
  • 1962: Associated Commercial Vehicles (ACV), which incorporated AEC, Thornycroft, Park Royal Vehicles and Charles H. Roe. Then Leyland Motors was renamed Leyland Motor Corporation
  • 1965: Minority (25%) interests in Bristol Commercial Vehicles and Eastern Coach Works
  • 1967: Rover cars

Donald Stokes took over as head of the company in 1964 and in 1968 it merged with British Motor Holdings (BMH) to form the British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC). BMH brought with it more famous British goods vehicle and bus and coach marques, including Daimler, Guy, BMC, Austin and Morris into the new organization.

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.

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 Dec21, Ashok Leyland has bought additional 49% stake in Optare totaling 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.

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 the TL12. Other engine options included a 200 bhp Leyland L11, Cummins 10 and 14 litre engines at 250/330 bhp.

Production began in 1973, and various shortcomings were noted, including below par heating and ventilation, and pronounced cab roll. however roadtesters of the time were very impressed by the truck's power and performance. In 1977 the "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, 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. 6x2 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 (up 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, although a small number of vehicle remain in use throughout the country as recovery vehicles.

The army made use of an 8x6 version of Roadtrain as a hook loader until recently. This is known to the British Army as DROPPS, Demountable rack offload and pickup system which has seen action Iraq and Afghanistan and are still in service, due to be replaced by MAN version.

The Rover Group plc was the name given in 1986 to the British state-owned vehicle manufacturer previously known as British Leyland or BL. Owned by British Aerospace from 1988 to 1994, when it was sold to BMW, the Group was broken up in 2000 with the Rover and MG marques being acquired by the MG Rover Group.

  • 1986: BL plc renamed as The Rover Group plc
  • 1986: Rover SD1 production ceases after 10 years and the car is replaced by a new model called the Rover 800 - the result of a joint venture with Honda which led to the manufacture of the Rover 800 and the Honda Legend.
  • 1987: The Leyland Trucks division (which by then included Freight Rover Vans) merged with DAF and then floated. (Note: After being declared bankrupt in 1993 the new DAF NV company split into three independent companies; the UK van operation became LDV, the Dutch operation resumed trading as DAF Trucks and the UK truck operation resumed trading as Leyland Trucks. Both truck operations were later acquired by PACCAR of the USA.)
  • 1987: Leyland Bus floated off; bought by Volvo Buses in 1988
  • 1987: Unipart spare parts division sold off via management buyout
  • 1988: Rover Group privatised; sold to British Aerospace
  • 1989: The new Rover 200 goes on sale, abandoning the four-door saloon bodystyle in favour of a three- and five-door hatchback. It is also sold as the Honda Concerto. Maestro and Montego production is scaled down as a result.
  • 1990: The Rover 400 - saloon version of the Rover 200 - goes on sale. Also going into production is the heavily updated Metro, which features modernised body styling, a reworked interior and a new range of engines.
  • 1991: The Rover 800 receives a major facelift.
  • 1992: Convertible and Coupe versions of the Rover 200 are launched.
  • 1993: The Rover 600 is launched, based on the Honda Accord but re-styled and using a mixture of Honda and Rover's own engines.
  • 1994: 31 January - British Aerospace announces the sale of its 80% majority share of Rover Group to BMW.[4]
  • 1994: 21 February - Honda announces it is selling its 20% share of Rover Group causing major problems in Rover's supply chain which was reliant on Honda.[4]
  • 1994: An estate version of the Rover 400 is launched, along with an updated Metro which sees the 14-year-old nameplate shelved and rebadged as the Rover 100. Maestro and Montego production also ends.
  • 1995: New versions of the Rover 200 and Rover 400 go on sale, though this time they are entirely different cars. The Rover 400 is a reworked, upmarket version of the latest Honda Civic, despite the Rover-Honda collaboration finishing a year earlier. The new MG F goes on sale, bringing back the MG badge on a mass-production sports car for the first time since 1980.
  • 1998: The Rover 75 goes on sale as a successor to both the Rover 600 and Rover 800.
  • 1999: The Rover 200 and Rover 400 are facelifted to be re-badged as the Rover 25 and Rover 45 respectively.
  • 2000: Land Rover sold by BMW to Ford
  • 2000: The new MINI launched by BMW, produced at the Cowley assembly plant.
  • 2000: Remainder of company sold to the Phoenix Consortium for a nominal £10 and becomes the MG Rover Group[7]

In 1957, Brown and Hurley switched its business and took on the Leyland agency for the Northern Rivers region and soon after, they obtained a contract to assemble Leyland Super Hippo trucks. Brown and Hurley were to sell 485 Leyland trucks before they swapped the agency for Volvo. It was the first dealer ship in Australia to do so, and still does, through their Kyogle, Townsville and Coffs Harbour branches.

Another milestone was reached in 1963 when Brown and Hurley was contracted to sell American Kenworth trucks in Queensland. Priced at around £13,000 they were by no means a cheap truck, but sturdy construction and reliability soon had it well accepted by the logging industry. Kenworths are now seen in every sector of the road transport industry and there is no doubt that the hard work and commitment of Brown and Hurley have contributed to this. Their 2000th Kenworth was sold in 1995.

Top of the Leyland range in Australia was the Mastiff 12-tonne truck powered by a 180-hp Perkins 8-cylinder diesel engine. Top speed was around 85 km/h. The Leyland Hippos, Super Hippos and Buffaloes were also very popular trucks, as were the four-tonne Terriers and the Boxers, Reivers and Super Comets of the small to medium range. One feature about the Leyland range that appealed to larger operators was that the cabs, including the instrumentation, were completely interchangeable with all other Leyland models.

The mid 1960s saw over 35 independent heavy truck manufacturers marketing their product in Australia and American and British marques fought severely for dominance. Today, less than 10 of those producers remain active in Australia. This trend started in the early l950s when the giant Leyland Motors organisation acquired many of its smaller competitors, including Albion, Scammell and AEC before later adding Thornycroft, Guy, Austin and Morris to its impressive list of acquisitions and changing its name to the British Leyland Motor Corporation in 1968.
Then we move to the next thing of particular note about Leyland Motors Ltd, which was their decision during the 1920’s to assign their subsequent models animal names, and as would be obvious, these became known as the “Zoo Series”, and the first two named were the Badger, and the Beaver. Obviously, the name assigned to particular models matched their size or capabilities. 

The Octopus was their twin steering 4-axled (8-wheeled) version, whereas the Hippo was their prime mover, with the Rhino as the 3-axled version.

Actually the Rhino was the first model in which Leyland tried a diesel engine in 1925.

Some other members of their menagerie were: 
Bison, Buffalo, Bull, Bear, Steer, Lynx, and Cub. 

Two odd ones were a 6 x 6 Martian, and the Standard Atlas (from the 1961 Standard-Triumph takeover). 

Later, getting away from the Zoo, in 1947 there came the Comet, and the Super Comet, and curiously both names were re-allocated to current models in 1987. 

Then finally around 1960 there appears to have been a change of tack, and subsequent truck models were named after dogs, and for us P76 people, the best example is the Leyland Terrier, into which many of the surplus P76 V8 motors were installed after the cessation of P76 manufacture. This was actually the second series of Terrier trucks: the first had appeared 40 years earlier. Others were the Boxer; Reiver; Mastiff, and Retriever. 

The single-decked Leyland bus models were named after big cats, viz Cheetah, Tiger (+Royal Tiger & Tiger Cub) Leopard and Panther, but the double-deckers were another story, with names like Worldmaster, Titan, Olympic, Fleetmaster and Atlantean. Sydney at one stage had a large fleet of Atlanteans. 

Whilst the trucks had plain badging, the buses, particularly the cat series, boasted quite detailed, striking and colourful enamel depictions of each animal on their radiators or front aprons. It is not known when Leyland moved from the quite austere ” on the upper radiator tank, to the elegant scrolled version depicted here. 

And here we must try to get away from our car-oriented thinking, where the next year’s model or version brings with it another name. With trucks in general, and Leyland in particular, these models, or more accurately type names, particularly those of the Zoo series, continued to be made over a considerable number of years. 

Please note that the order in which I have listed the truck and bus model names is random only. 

Another way in which Leyland Motors attracted attention to themselves (deliberately!) was their clocks. 

In a rather clever advertising ploy, Leyland obtained permission to erect mostly free-standing railway station-type clocks large enough for motorists to read at strategic spots along England’s main roads. Apart from other considerations, this was quite a service to motorists who usually didn’t have clocks on their dash, as is the case today. To remind them of whom they had to thank for this, each clock had “Leyland Motors” in large lettering across the face. One can imagine how their competitors squirmed as they passed these clocks! 

And so we move to the present: what remains? 

Firstly there is the Leyland Motors Brass Band, founded in 1946, and still performing quite successfully. Works brass bands were very common across British industry, and were encouraged by the owners of the works concerned, because they believed it represented a form of leisure for their workers. 

Secondly, there is the old Leyland works site of 100 acres. This has been partly transformed into a museum by the town of Leyland. 

And finally, the Leyland Truck business of today is owned by Paccar Inc of Seattle, U.S.A., makers of Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks, who bought the factory and the name from DAF. Some useless information is that Paccar is a contraction of Pacific Car & Foundry. DAF was a Dutch truck manufacturing firm who took over Leyland Trucks in the wash-up of the British Leyland debacle in the UK. This was quite logical, given that DAF had been building Leyland trucks under licence since 1956, and had been using Leyland engines in their own vehicles since 1953. 

Finally Paccar Inc purchased Leyland-DAF Trucks, and continue to make them, minus the DAF name. What logo they use is unknown to me. 

Then, to add insult to injury, in mid-2000 BMW sold what was basically the original BMC (car) operation, which was still making Minis and had some 3000 workers, to a group of British Leyland executives for the record low price of £10. Of course, with this £10 went a £300million debt. 

And that brings us to today. Happy 30th Anniverary!!

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