Truckstop Classics: FTF Trucks – Screaming Jimmies Going Dutch

Middenmeer, nieuw type 1979

Before the Second World War the Floor brothers from Hilversum, the Netherlands, were forage dealers and ran a haulage company. After the war they immediately restarted their business and in the late fourties they expanded their company by building trailers. Their next step was the production of semi trailers in the early fifties.

The brothers’ business was doing well, since there was a strong and steady demand for all kinds of road haulage vehicles. Moreover, the Floor trailers and semi trailers had gained a very good reputation because they were able to take some abuse (read: overloading).

As an aside, the national legal weight limit has been 50,000 kg (circa 110,000 lbs) as long as I can remember. For that segment of trucks a combination (either a straight truck towing a trailer or a tractor towing a semi trailer) had to have at least six axles. But for hauling clay, sand, building materials etc. that weight limit was not enough. Somewhere around 130,000 lbs was a more realistic number and starting point. And so it went….These days a straight truck with five axles will do for the 50,000 kg legal weight limit.

Back to the Floor family. In 1955 Floor became the country’s official Mack importer. An excellent match, Big Mack Diesel Trucks, another name with a very good reputation. A Mack towing a Floor (semi) trailer, in those days there was nothing like it when it came to carrying heavy loads all day long without the rig falling apart.

Mack RB-11-53

1956 Mack B42S truck with a Hulo crane for loading and unloading bricks. (Photo courtesy oudedaf.nl)

 

Later on Floor started to assemble Mack trucks in their new plant in Wijchen, in the southeast of the country. Sadly the Floor-Mack marriage ended in the mid sixties, Mack bought the Bernard truck factory in France and wanted to build their trucks for the European market over there. However, by then Floor was already thinking about building their own trucks, so those plans suddenly gained momentum.

Floor wanted to build a truck that was in the same league as Mack: heavy-duty, reliable, durable and with powerful diesel engines. What they basically did was developing and building a truck in true American style, by buying the truck’s hardware from independent manufacturers.

Zandbergen 1e type

One of the first FTF trucks (with Floor’s own cab)

 

That truck was completed in 1966; the very first FTF truck was introduced at the big and important biyearly truck show in Amsterdam, the letters FTF standing for Floor Truck Fabriek (fabriek means factory).

The giant had a Detroit Diesel two-stroke V8 engine (the 8V-71N), an Allison automatic transmission, Mack axles (Floor still had some Mack hardware in stock) and Spycer frame rails. Is that a truck in true American style or what ? Initially Floor built their own cabs, yet only a few FTF trucks were made with the square in-house cab.

FTF BB-71-30

FTF tractor with the Motor Panels cab, a Detroit Diesel V8 and an Allison automatic transmission. Front and rear axles from Kirkstall

 

Buying a complete cab structure from Motor Panels (England) turned out to be a much better solution. The Motor Panels cab was basically a complete tilt-cab without a front, so every truck maker that used that cab could design its own front. Or face, if you wish. The front panels, designed by Floor, and the fenders were made of polyester.

Motor Panels, Detroit Diesel and Allison (both automatics and semi-automatics) have been inextricably linked with FTF trucks since the beginning. Other components, like axles, came from a whole range of suppliers. To name them all: Mack, Timken, Kirkstall, Hendrickson, Steyr, Faun and Kessler. The transmissions, along with Allison, also came from Fuller, Mack, ZF and Eaton.

Meanwhile, in 1967, someone knocked on the door of the Floor’s residence. Well how about that, parblue, the Mack brothers ! Back in town, after a complete (financial) disaster in France. They asked if Floor wanted to represent the Mack brand on the European market again. So now Mack and FTF trucks were assembled by the same company, and a series of FTF trucks has been built with Mack engines and transmissions. But not for long, the second Floor-Mack marriage ended in 1973. From that year onwards an other Dutch company was the official Mack importer.

Baldwins

Heavy haulage tractor with a Detroit Diesel Dirty Dozen, the 12V-71N engine. A former Dutch Army tractor. (Baldwins from the UK, steering wheel on the left)

 

FTF trucks were popular among heavy haulage specialists, for them FTF started to offer Detroit Diesel’s V12, the 12V-71N engine. Its brute power, close to 500 hp, was unheard of at that time, we’re talking 1970. Other Detroit Diesel engine options were a V6 (6V-71N) and the V8 (8V-71N) I already mentioned above.

Leger

 

In 1972 FTF got a unique order from the Dutch Army. It was about time for a successor of the Thornycroft Mighty Antar (what a fantastic name) tractor for the transportation of battle tanks. FTF developed and built the heavy MS-4050 tractor (MS=Military Special), it had a 475 hp V12 Detroit Diesel and an Allison semi-automatic transmission. These huge tractors, 39 of them in total, served in the Dutch Army until 1994.

Croonen Deest

Typical old-school Dutch brick hauler. An FTF 8×4 truck with a V8, towing a Floor trailer. Fully loaded circa 60,000 kg GVW (132,000 lbs).

 

The cabs remained pretty much unchanged for a long time; due to new legislation the head lights next to the grille had to move to a lower position, so they ended up in the truck’s steel bumper.

Greving 5 asser (1)

FTF 10×4 dump truck with a liftable tag axle.

Double steering front axles may not be common in the US, but they were here.

FTF nieuw

Another brick hauler. The tractor has the 1979 Motor Panels cab, the last axle of the semi trailer is steerable.

 

A brand new Motor Panels cab arrived in 1979, offered as a day cab and a sleeper cab. Bigger, taller and with a more up-to-date look. And again, Floor designed and built its own front. From that moment on the V12 was no longer available, since the Detroit Diesels 8V-92T and 8V-92TA were more than powerful enough for any job. V6 power came from the 6V-92T or the 6V-92TA engine.

FTF could basically build any truck you wanted. From a relatively simple 4×2 tractor to a 10×4 straight truck. Of course they also still built special tractors for heavy haulage, mining trucks, oil field trucks, and other specials. Any combination of axles, transmissions and suspensions was possible. One thing was for sure: they always had a Screaming Jimmy under the Motor Panels cab.

Kandt BV, laag dak

Heavy haulage tractor with a lowered cab. You can see why.

 

But around 1990 times were getting hard for FTF. By then every mainstream truck maker could offer special heavy duty models with powerful diesel engines. Realistically, the good times for small independent truck makers were past and gone. The costs and financial risks to develop a whole new line of heavy truck models would be unacceptable for such a small company (Note that FTF built less than 700 trucks in total). And so the very last FTF truck left the factory in 1995. No more Screaming Jimmies, roaming the roads of the Low Countries. Floor continued building their trailers and semi trailers, as heavy duty as ever.

FTF trucks now have a cult-status among truck enthusiasts here. Luckily a decent number of them is still around, mostly in a beautiful restored condition. Saved from a Junk Yard Find.

Several good videos with FTF trucks on YouTube, like this one.

Most pictures courtesy oudedaf.nl. More of their FTF pictures here.