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Celebrating the products of AEC Southall Ltd, most famous as builder of London's buses.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 21, 2012 12:45 pm 
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As I've namechecked the forum in this, send earlier today to Alan Millar, Editor of Buses, I'm forwarding it to the forum;

...In Sykes and a Bus, the point is Eric and his sister Harriet are actually allocated an RT whilst Eric hankers for a Routemaster, which is why he unofficially customises their bus , so when Derek Guyler (PC Korky) mentions playing his harmonium in the episode he is told by Hattie not to go on about two pedals, which shows that Eric Sykes, who wrote (as well as starring in) the long-running series, knew some subtleties in the differences between successive generations of London bus, notably the difference between pre-selector and direct-selection epicyclic transmissions; although a Yorkshireman, he had lived in London from the mid 1950s, founding a script-writing agency with Spike Milligan.

Pace Michael Dryhurst’s remarks: César Franck could not have known of the Leyland 500-series engine as he died in 1890 as the result (according to the shorter Oxford Dictionary of Music, published by OUP in 1968) of being run-over, at the age of 68, by an omnibus (horse-drawn) in Paris. If the one-time swain of Vera Darling is alluding to headlessnes of the 500 series engine, it’s origins are lost in a Fogg. The said Albert Fogg who was then LMCs engineering director, commissioned the headless wonder from a Mr Tattersall (who had previously devised the L60 Multi-fuel engine for the Chieftain Tank, also a notorious smoke-generator, hardly a tactical advantage at the height of the cold war…) to be the lowest-horsepower of the three Leyland Motor Corporation truck and bus engines for the 1970s, to weigh less and be more compact than the 400 and be suitable for 150-230bhp, (the 400 could just-about produce 125); in the middle was to be the AEC V8 for 250-300bhp applications and for 350-400bhp and more the Rover Gas Turbine. As it turned out, Southall’s V8 was a sick puppy and the Rover TS2/ 400 engine was powerful but chronically thirsty for Aviation Grade Paraffin, whilst the heat exchanger technology of the day was not up to its job so they were dropped by 1970 and the 500 was uprated to way beyond its capabilities, losing BLMC (as it had then become) a lot of its goodwill in the haulage market. I recall Doug Jack in ‘Beyond Reality’ quoting an exchange he overheard prior to the dropping of the 500 series where a Leyland Vehicles executive pointed-out to a shareholder that WO Bentley had used a fixed-head engine design in his famous cars; the Lancastrian shareholder replied:

“Aye! And it never worked in’t bloody Bentley neither!”

Also, to be fair to Michael Flanders and Donald Swann, they may have got the maximum cubic dimensions of London’s buses wrong, but 97bhp was the London Transport rating for the AEC 7.58 litre engine as fitted to their pre-war, and early post-war Regents and most wartime Daimlers. Also in their ‘Slow Train’ they mentioned railway stations that survived the Beeching axe and survive to this day (such as Chester-Le-Street, St Erth and St Ives) and their ethology of the hippopotamus does not stand up to current zoological scrutiny, but really, the songs amused and continue to, so who cares! I can not see a military history magazine complaining that no armadillos have been known to serenade abandoned tanks on Salisbury Plain…

AA Townsin is great and a contribution from him to your magazine is always welcome, but although his standards as an engineering historian are unimpeachable he is not entirely accurate in terms of business history, the acquisition of Associated Commercial Vehicles Limited by Leyland Motors that resulted in Leyland Motor Corporation was neither a takeover, nor a merger, but strictly a share-exchange. It can be argued that AEC would have fared better had they been taken over at a less-inflated valuation. AAT and many other Southall Loyalists forget that despite their 100% share of the Routemaster production programme and continued military contracts, in the main from the UK Ministry of Defence, that ACV’s trading position was very weak by 1960, this was mostly due to chronic loss-leader pricing in export markets, but it should be also noted that whilst Leyland Motors had used its subsidiaries Albion and Scammell to grow production and profits for the group, so that by 1970 Albion was producing twice as many chassis a year, and producing three times the unit profit than it had in 1951, with only a modest increase in staff and dramatic investment in production tooling (qv Ken McIver, Sure as The Sunrise) ACV had run down Maudslay and Crossley so that one closed in 1958 and the other became an axle factory with a quarter of the staff it once had. ACV were certainly much more ruthless with Maudslay and Crossley than LMC were with what remained of ACV, for instance retaining competing sales teams in the UK until the early 1970s, this is why Blackpool took the AEC Swift, because the AEC salesmen offered a better bulk discount than the Leyland ones did on the Panther.

AEC may not have wanted to associate with Leyland but ACVs attempts to be taken over by British Motor Corporation had failed earlier in 1962, as had a three-way tie up involving Rolls-Royce as well as BMC. Guy, who had followed AEC down the loss-leader road in export markets was declared bankrupt, and just then the cash-rich Chrysler Corporation whose head office was in the Chrysler Building, Manhattan, New York City, New York State, USA, expressed its interest in taking over both Leyland and the Rootes Group; Sir Henry Spurrier the third, Chairman and MD of Leyland Motors responded that he would buy ACV, no matter what the cost, to prevent takeover-interest in Leyland from the USA; perhaps he feared that unless Chrysler were rebuffed General Motors and/or Ford would follow… this gave ACV’s shareholders two options, to follow Guy into the arms of receivers, or be rescued by the white knights from Lancashire: one Leyland Share for one ACV share gave ACV shareholders a huge leverage over the new company despite the near-failure of their company; and that, I think, crippled LMC to an as yet unrecognised extent. On honest valuations Leyland were paying at least twice as much for ACV as it was worth, but thus left the Americans to nibble away on Rootes (pun intended).

Many people commenting on the Leyland Motor Corporation period (especially on the AEC society’s web forum) think that if AEC had have been thoroughly ‘Leylandised’ in the way Albion had been, then AEC (and the wider LMC group) would have been more successful, however, just after the share-exchange Sir Henry Spurrier (III) resigned because of the onset of a terminal illness. The man who had ‘Leylandised’ Albion, Stanley Markland, was at that time completing his radical re-engineering of Leyland’s recent purchase Standard-Triumph cars, halving staff and allowing new models (the 2000, Spitfire, Vitesse, GT6 and TR4) to be produced efficiently whilst making current ones (especially the Herald) saleable; thus he was not able to claim the succession that many think was his due, as a result Donald Stokes took over as Managing Director of Leyland Motor Corporation and WR (Bill) Black, by then 72 years of age, and a time-served coachbuilder, who had come to ACV through Park Royal, became (because of the former ACV shareholders ) the chairman. These commentators think that the misguided engine policy of the late 1960s would not have happened had Markland the engineer (rather than Stokes the salesman) have been at the helm of LMC.

As I understand it three FRMs were sanctioned by Park Royal, FRM1 and one each for Sheffield Transport and Yorkshire Traction, with the two Yorkshire examples scheduled for the AEC and Park Royal stands at the 1966 Earl’s Court show. However, I can understand LMC cancelling the other two as they felt earlier in 1966 they were about to get control of Jaguar, and thus the Daimler Fleetline, which they did only two years later; if you produce the number two double decker in the market it’s perhaps worth producing another, especially if the type is designed for London who seem to be favouring the rival, but if you own numbers one and two, and have thus guaranteed the London business, a third is a waste of development time and money.

I also seem to recall reading the London Transport Executive saying (in a BI circa 1968) that FRM1 was a basis for future development; that actually did happen with the Park Royal factory building the first third of Leyland B15 Titan production. If they had received FRM-prefixed fleet numbers rather than T then a lot of ACV fans would have loved them, likewise if the BLMC Marathon lorry, which had an ACV name, had also carried a blue triangle…
I’ve now looked back to the mid-2000s article about FRM1 and what LTE wanted to develop from the FRM was a three-door 36-foot double decker designed specifically for off-bus-ticketing; that is what they have just managed in the 21st century LT. Regarding Roy Grande’s letter, perhaps the 1929 LT was the ancestor of the modern bus in the Metropolis, for the rest of us (allegedly benightened provincials) it had arrived a year or two earlier in the form of the Leyland TD1 Titan.


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