LOST CAUSES


| September/October 1997



Perkins Leopard 60 BHP chassis

The old-established concern of Halley Motors, Ltd., Glasgow, were among the first users of Perkins oil engines. This 1934 5-ton chassis had a Perkins Leopard 60 BHP unit and a vacuum servo for the mechanical braking. The unladen weight was 2 tons 7 cwt.

Many famous names have been associated with the commercial-vehicle industry since 1905, but not all have stood the test of fierce competition.

The following article is reprinted with permission from a 1955 issue of Commercial Motor Magazine, Quadrant House, The Quadrant, Sutton, Surrey, England SM2 5AS. It was sent to us by J.C.B. Mac Keand, 115 S. Spring Valley Road, Spring Valley, Wilmington, Delaware 19807.

It could hardly have been envisaged 50 years ago that the internal-combustion engine would be taking such an ordered part of our lives in 1955. Heavy road transport in those days was relying almost entirely on steam propulsion, the petrol engine being 'too feeble and unreliable' to handle loads in excess of two tons. Indeed, so young was the industry at that time that there were fewer than 2,000 heavy vehicles on the roads of Britain.

Since 1905, over 200 commercial-vehicle manufacturers have been in and out of business, and although dozens of concerns have stood the test of time and gone from strength to strength, many have had at least to stop vehicle production, if not completely close down.

My intention in this story is to call some of these 'lost causes' to mind, without necessarily giving reasons for their disappearance. It is, of course, impossible to deal with all the manufacturers, but those I have chosen should be familiar to many readers who have regretted their passing.

Some of the makers began business in the days of steel-tyred wheels, nonexistent brakes, hopeless roads and a general aura of steam and smoke. Steam was ruling the roost, but was not by any means reliable, and breakdowns and accidents were the order of the day. Two advocates of petrol engines were, however, receiving notice. They were Comer Cars, Ltd., and Dennis Bros., Ltd., and it is to them that some of the credit for the eventual overwhelming popularity of internal-combustion engines should most certainly go.

One of the greatest names in the world of steam wagons was that of The Yorkshire Patent Steam Wagon Co., who produced their first vehicle in the year 1900. This machine had the famous double-ended boiler, which de -sign remained with the company as long as steamers were made, and had a twin-, cylindered engine and gear drive to the rear axle.