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North West tops in commercials

15th December 1979
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Page 39, 15th December 1979 — North West tops in commercials
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Graham Vontgomerie, in is -wo-section article, reports from a region bristlinc with activN. He reviews first ne chassis anc engine manutactuirers.

NORTH WEST is a region concentrated commercial i.tor industry involvement. list of companies in the area particularly comprehensive d includes almost every ect of the commercial vehicle ustry.

For example to name but a , we have Leyland and Sed n Atkinson on the chassis e, Crane Fruehauf and Dyson trailers, Boalloy and Jengs for bodywork and last, but no means least, we have rdner for engines.

In this issue, CA4 looks at the tory of these North-West mpanies and at their procts.

The formation of ERF came ut because of a difference of in ion on the relative merits of e steamer arid the dieselwered heavy lorry. Because was convinced of the potenI superiority of the diesel enne and his fellow directors at dens Ltd were not, Edwin chard Foden decided to go his n way.

The result was E. R. Foden d Son with the first chassis rrying the complete name of e company on the radiator. is was changed to ERF in 933 at the request of Fodens d. Every ERF up to the war was tted with a Gardner engine ith the first departure from this ractice (due to the lack of pacity at Patricroft) being the tting of AEC engines.

Once the constraints of warme production were lifted, ERF ent straight back to Gardner rid it was not until 1958 that a ajor policy rethink led to other ngines being offered.

The 1974 commercialehicle show saw the introducion of the B-Series models with he cab design comprising a igid steel sub-frame encased in anels made from smc (sheet oulded compound). In conrast to the traditional hand laid-up method of glass-fibre construction, smc is made by hot moulding the fibre/resin mix which ERF claims gives a much stronger panel.

Although the smc is stronger than traditional glass fibre, the strength of the cab lies in the sub-frame with the plastic panels being employed merely "to keep the weather out," according to the ERF engineers.

During 1978-9 tractive units accounted for nearly three quarters of ERF production, and this proportion looks likely to stay the same during 1979-80.

ERF sales director Bob Chad wick is certainly not afraid of thi competition: "It's about tim• we started clawing back th• importer's share." This vies, was echoed by chairman Pete Foden when he opened ne‘ premises for Reliance Garage in Hull two weeks ago.

On the export side, ERF i treating this as a low key exe cise and pulling out of fring areas such as certain parts of th Middle East. Again the questio of the importers' share has bearing on this. According I 3ob Chadwick, we shouldn't )e exporting on marginal profits vhen the home market is being )roded by imports.'' The ERF distributorship in gew Zealand has been taken )ver by the New Zealand Motor 2orporation, and this has Tened up the market for the ;andbach company. ERF is now :oncentrating on South Africa vhich has also been an immenely satisfactory market.

In 1977, for example, over ?2 per cent of the company irofit came from this area: ironic eally because ERF has an greement with Leyland South .frica for distribution th roughut that country.

As far as the future is conerned, ERF is building a new actory at Wrexham which is -2heduled to start production in ,ugust 1981.

This should boost the cornany's production potential by ver 50 per cent. Both Wrexam and the proposed lighteight range of M-Series trucks -iould allow ERF "to take a rger slice of the cake," accorng to Bob Chadwick.

From early beginnings with dustrial engines, threshing achines and traction engines, Foden family turned to adgoing haulage machines at e turn of the century, proicing steam-powered wagons ; late as 1931.

The first diesel-powered iden was built in 1931 with a ardner engine, Daimler :arbox and Kirkstall axle. odner engines were also used the single and double-deck is chassis which were proiced in the mid-Thirties.

Unlike the companies with lich Fodens Ltd is usually mpared ERF and Seddon Atkinson — Fodens used more "in-house" components. The famous worm-drive rear axle and seven and 12-speed gearboxes were typical examples to say nothing of the Foden two-stroke engines. Later, however, Fodens began to be built using more bought out components like Fuller gearboxes and Rockwell axles.

In 1977 Rolls-Royce attempted to take over Fodens (and Gardner too come to that); but this bid was successfully resisted. Although the company has had some extremely precarious years, financially, Fodens Ltd has stayed independent, Fodens' model range for the 1980s includes the various variations on the Fleetmaster and Haulmaster themes, while an attack on the bus market was launched in 1976 after an absence of about 15 years. Fodens hope to succeed with a double-decker which is currently undergoing extended service trials with UK authorities.

Fodens are also involved on the military front where the company has developed a family of vehicles for the Ministry of Defence and other specialist users.

The chassis are built to 4 x 4 medium mobility, 6 x 6 medium mobility and 8 x 4 low-mobility specification and have been designed with the concept of maximum interchangeability of components with military/civil use very much in mind.

One of Fodens' main assets as the company prepares to face the challenge of the Eighties is the automated assembly plant which was built in 1972. This is based around a continuous overhead conveyor for corn

ponents, with various feeder lines all leading to a groundlevel completion stage.

Fodens Ltd had a turnover of £51 million in 1979, a slight decrease on the 1978 figures.

The Seddon part of Seddon Atkinson began in 1 919 with the establishment of Foster and Seddon, but it was not until 1937, after many years in the distributorship and rebuild business, that Robert Seddon produced his own design powered by an 85bhp Perkins engine.

This was in fact the first time that a Perkins unit had been specified by a manufacturer as original equipment. Previously they had only been used on the replacement market.

Known merely as the Seddon six-tonner, it was produced at a rate of eight chassis per week until the war. Then the company was forced into building army trailers, although the Ministry of Supply later permitted the company to build limited numbers of truck chassis.

After the war the company moved from its original Salford premises to Woodstock, at Shaw, near Oldham, where it was renamed Seddon Motors Ltd. By the mid 1950s, singleand double-drive sixand eightwheelers had been added to the range along with alternative engines from Gardner and Cummins.

By the late Sixties over 2000 chassis per year were being produced at Woodstock. In 1970 Seddon acquired control of Atkinson after a financial battle with ERF for a share majority.

On the Atkinson side, this began with the setting up of Atkinson and Co in 1907 as vehicle repairers — mainly of he steam-driven variety. In 916 the Atkinson brothers Edward and Harry) built their wn machine and the company ontinued in the steam business ntil 1928.

After some rocky financial ears, Atkinson Lorries (1933) td was formed to produce iesel-powered chassis with :-..iardner engines as the standard Dower unit.

Although four-, sixand eight-wheeled chassis were built, by the mid-Fifties over 90 Der cent of Atkinson's output was concentrated at the heavy -nd of the market.

After the fight with ERF for .7.ontrol, Seddon finally acquired 67 per cent of the share capital of Atkinson to form Seddon Atkinson. However, the juggling was not yet over as by mid1974 the giant American concern of International Harvester acquired the entire share capital of the combined company.

According to Barney White, the American managing director of Seddon Atkinson, the IH involvement is useful in several ways. For example, he claims that it is possible to get a better price deal from the component suppliers because of the IH "financial musclewhich helps to keep the price down for the operator.

Any new design that Seddon Atkinson comes up with (for example, a replacement for the 400-Series) is submitted to the Heavy Duty Truck Group of International Harvester. Although the -head office" in the USA

does not try to influence the vehicle design, it is often possible to share the tooling costs between several IH involvements.

For instance, if the Australian arm of IH had a new model in progress, it might be possible to use the same chassis crossmembers as the new UK model.

Although a wholly owned subsidiary of IH, Seddon Atkinson is not dependent on the USN. for immediate decisions, financial or otherwise. -I'm a separate profit centre,'" says Barney White. In contrast to many other people in the commercial-vehicle industry, Mr White is optimistic about the future.

"We're Committed to expansion. We have a E21/2m parts facility in Bamber Bridge which will be operational by June next year. I think there's a hell of a lot of money to be made and I don't share the pessimism at all."'

Since the beginning of November, there has been a slight restructuring of the IH European "family tree." Whereas Seddon Atkinson used to report to the USA via the IH Brussels office, the latter is now a regional office with the responsibility for selling the American-sourced vehicles in Africa and the Middle East.

In the Seddon Atkinson factories there are 1960 people in total working at Oldham and Bamber Bridge. This includes four Americans and one Canadian .,whose name is Atkinson would you believe?) The current production rate is about 17 chassis per day at Oldham and 11 at Preston, with over 40 per cent of the total output being 400-Series tractive units. As a comparison 25 per cent of the production is accounted for by the 200-Series 16-tonner.

Although it is true to say that there was a lot of ill-feeling between Atkinson and Seddon employees in the early days oi the merger, Barney White iE convinced that those days arE long gone. -There's nothinc like success to erase bac memories."

Although the vast BL organ. isation has many separatE groups, we are here concernec with the group which wa! known as Leyland Motors Ltd now part of Leyland Vehicles.

Leyland's early history wal concerned with lawnmowers steam-driven ones at that. Th( passing of the Locomotives or Highways Act in 1896 led to th( development of steam-powerN road vehicles. It was then tha the Lancashire Steam Moto Company was formed.

It was in 1904 that Leylanc produced its first petrol-engine( vehicle which was nickname( "The Pig." This had a carryin( capacity of around 30cwt and power output of 12 bhp; but i was not a success and wa replaced by a 24bhp versior known as the Y-Type.

Despite progress wit internal-combustion engineE steam wagons still formed large proportion of the compE ny's production and continue to do so until their manufactur ceased in 1926.

The comparative productio figures for 1907, for exampl( were 36 steamers and 1 petrol-powered vehicles. In thi year the company nam changed from the Lancashir Steam Motor Company to Le land Motors Ltd. It was not until 1933 that the st Leyland diesel engine was fered for sale, but within a ar of this announcement there )s a diesel unit, interchangele with the petrol engine, for e r y goods and passenger hide in the Leyland range. The vehicle-build programme Leyland covers those with the omatic Mark IV cab on the ods carrying side, as well as lantean, Fleetline and Leord chassis for the passenger )rket.

For the goods market, the assis produced at Leyland are ?. Buffalo and Lynx two-axle tchines as well as the Bison -wheeler and Octopus eightieeler. As well as producing -nplete chassis, Leyland also ilds engines at its Lancashire ytories including the 400, 11 and L12 series engines is the long-serving 680 for s application.

The T45 will be produced at /land in a new £32 million iembly hall, but Leyland is derstandably rather reticent nit the detail plans after so ny false starts in the past.

A pre-production facility in at was the old engine-test rtre is now turning out T45 ctive units for use in Leyd's own works fleet and with ?.cted operators. According to company the production 5 will be available in early rch next year,

\low part of the Hawker deley group L. Gardner and ns Ltd, manufacturer of at is advertised as "the endary Gardner engine," ted in the Stretford area of nchester under the leader ship of Lawrence Gardner.

The company moved into the oil-engined business in 1894 with a geographical move. to Patricroft taking place four years later.

The current Gardner engine range stretches from the 6LX8 marine engine at 95kW (127bhp) to the 8LXB marine unit capable of 195kW (260bhp). Gardner engines for automotive use are currently . listed by ERF, Fodens and Seddon Atkinson.

The six-cylinder 6LXB is rated at 135kW (180bhp), while the "C" version was launched at the NEC last year in 150kW (201bhp) form which made it capable of use in a 32 tanner, The eight-cylinder in-line 8LXB, which was introduced in 1970, produces 180kVV (240bhp) at the "typical" Gardner engine speed of 1850rpm.

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