(first posted 6/28/2014) In the early seventies, Trans-European road transportation was a booming business and to get the job done you needed a heavy long-distance truck. The UK-based American truckmakers, Ford and GM, naturally wanted a slice of the pie. The only problem was that neither of them had a heavy long distance truck in their Euro-portfolio, both could only offer light and medium sized short distance trucks.
Bedford, GM’s truck division in the UK, developed a whole new range of big trucks, resulting in the TM-series in 1974. Ford chose this route: Take a Louisville chassis, a big Cummins engine, a Fuller gearbox, axles from Rockwell and finally a steel cab from French truckmaker Berliet. Then ship those components to the Ford plant in Amsterdam to put them all nicely together. And then you come up with a perfect name: The Ford Transcontinental. That name was spot-on, since driving all the way to Africa and the Middle-East was also part of long-distance hauling in those days.
The Transcontinental was introduced in 1975. It was heavy-duty, powerful and for the era, the ride was very comfortable. The drivers really loved it; the whole package was simply ahead of its time. The cab was suspended on four coil springs with hydraulic dampers and an anti-roll bar at the front of the cab. The seats, of course were also suspended.
The Berliet truckmodel that donated its cab. Less “King of the Road” than the Ford though.
And that cab was also tall; by far the tallest factory truck cab on the market. In order to house the big Cummins, the cab was mounted high on the frame, the only way was up ! Therefore it was much taller than the contemporary Berliet long distance truckmodel that donated its cab.
Power was between 290 and 350 hp, GVW ratings anywhere between 74,000 and 110,000 lbs. Euro-countries had their own weight regulations. Fifty metric tonnes (circa 110,000 lbs) for a rig with six axles was fully legal in the Netherlands, while absolutely verboten in Germany, for example.
Complimenting the high quality heavy-duty frame and powertrain was a comfortable ride and cab. And despite all that, the Transcontinental never even came close to the success Ford had hoped for. There are several minor and major reasons for the paltry 8,735 units built over its 1975 to 1984 lifespan.
That’s a big Cummins alright. As you can see the gear lever and its linkages stay in position when the cab is tilted. You can also see the rear cab suspension.
It was heavy-duty alright, but even without the duty it was still too heavy for some countries, especially the UK and its low legal GVW ratings. Also, fuel consumption was high and a substantial portion of the engines used a lot of oil. I already mentioned that the cab came from France and we’re talking the seventies here… so the cab rusted like there was no tomorrow, owing to its horrible lack of rust proofing.
That’s a healthy climb after a greasy meal at the Truck Stop.
The more major reasons it failed were these: Ford Europe and its dealerships had absolutely zero experience in selling, servicing and repairing heavy long distance trucks; that requires many years to perfect. And last but certainly not least: there was no vertical integration of in-house components, completely the opposite of how mainstream truck makers from Continental Europe work, and what their clientele expects. When you bought a Scania for example, the chassis, cab, engine, gearbox and axles were designed, engineered and built by Scania. And every single Scania importer and dealership throughout Europe would then know all ins and outs of the whole truck, from front bumper to tail lights.
I’ve read that only one percent of the Transcontinentals survived. Most of them got scrapped for their precious high-quality components, which were valued more than the sum of the truck’s parts. The truck was right, it arrived at the right time and the drivers loved it. What a shame it didn’t succeed. In 1986 Ford sold its entire Euro-heavy truck division to Iveco (Fiat). If you want to see a whole truckload of Transcontinentals in company colors you can have a look here.
GMC Astro 95: It Makes Me Want To Go Boating
1957 Brockway 260: The Big Nor’easter
Thanks, I enjoyed this. How the world’s truck makers succeed or fail in each other’s home markets is really interesting.
Great tale Johannes.
I knew about the Berliet connection but not the American link, which accounts for the size of the thing and some of the issues you refer to. I assume the truck was built in the UK, presumably Ford’s facility at Langley?
The Bedford TM was not a great success either, and in the mid 80s GM sold off Bedford, and the new venture failed pretty quickly too.
And welcome to the CC team!
Thanks Roger !
The Transcontinental was built in Amsterdam.
(That’s why the Louisvillian went to Amsterdam in the first place 🙂 )
That Ford plant was closed down in the early eighties, after that about 500 Transcontinentals were built in a Foden plant in the UK.
I didn’t know Ford had a plant in Holland. What else did they build there?
The Amsterdam Ford plant opened in 1932, assembly of US and European Fords for the Euro-market. Like the Ford V8 in the thirties and later on the Anglia, Corsair, Cortina and Taunus. Even Mustangs ! From 1971 onwards only vans (Transit) and trucks.
Here’s a 1951 photo I found. (ANP – G. v.d Werff)
That’s cool. Where in Amsterdam was it located? And do any of the buildings remain? I lived there for three years and never heard about it.
Robert, the plant was situated in the “Westelijk Havengebied”, along the Noordzeekanaal. The plant had to be situated in a harbour, Henry Ford insisted on that. I’ve read that most of it has been demolished, the closedown was in 1981.
Here’s a 1969 picture and a link to more pictures:
THe TM wasnt much of a truck neither was the Louisville they were RHD assembled in Brisbane for the OZ/NZ market and while they made a big splash upon landing they disappeared pretty quick too driver comfort is paramount for linehaul work otherwise drivers walk off and do something else and the big Ford was an uncomfortable place to work.
Thanks Johannes, Euro trucks fascinate me and I always found it interesting that there seemed to be so little similarity to US long haul machinery, visually I think I’ve always been drawn to the big Volvo, Scania, and Renaults since I was a little kid, they just looked “right” to me.
Thank you Jim. Speaking of Renault: Renault took over Berliet in 1974. As I mentioned in the article, Ford used a Berliet cab for the Transcontinental. That cab was introduced on Berliet trucks in 1971.
After the integration of Berliet into Renault that same cab was used until 1996 on the Renault R-series trucks. Here’s a last gen R-series from the nineties, even now that cab still looks “fresh”. A timeless design indeed !
Looks like they extended the sleeper portion a bit. Like how the Fords here just have curtains.
Yes, the cab is a bit longer thanks to less rigorous length restrictions.
Johannes, thank you very much. Like some of my fellow U.S. commenters, European trucks have always fascinated me in how they were so different yet had the same goal as the big Kenworth, Mack, and Peterbuilt trucks here.
Thanks Jason. After watching Smokey And The Bandit and Convoy in the late seventies big US rigs have always fascinated me !
I at least have to give Ford some credit for a creative solution to the problem at hand, even if the solution didn’t 100% pan out. Their idea for pulling together existing parts had to be cheaper than the GM solution of sink a bunch of money into all new trucks.
Excellent summary !
GM used Isuzu to build its trucks the first effort here was badged Isuzu Bedford they superceeded the TM model later the Bedford badge was dropped altogether and Isuzu took the GM market, They are very popular in all sizes though not with some drivers used to low rev torque on American gear Jap trucks dont pull as well and need revs to generate torque where American gear will pull down into 3 figures before you need a shift an Isuzu pulls at 1650rpm and is dead at 1200.
When I look at this it doesn’t seem big enough to have a sleeper behind the seats. Yet in some of the pictures there seems to be a curtain. No long distance in the states without sleeping accommodations.
Sounds like they had a good idea but just a little too large.
Very interesting story. I greatly enjoy your perspective in the comments section (comments make the story complete for me) and this story was of similar high quality. Hope to see more of the european perspective from you.
I could be mistaken but I believe the curtains are more of a sunshade on these. They do have regular sleeper cab versions of most trucks in Europe but in this case since some of them do operate if very high heat / bright sun areas (think Spain, upper Africa etc.). KInd of like how lots of older luxury cars (and old Mercedes taxis) in paces like Morocco and the middle east have curtains in the back, both for privacy but also for sun protection.
The image below is of a model kit I built when I was a kid. Note that the cab is the same size as what is in this CC but the rear windows are non-existent. What was back there is a little cot-like bed and some shelving. I remember being fascinated by that part of the kit when I built it. Sleepers come in all different sizes, this is one of the smaller ones.
Sleeper cabs are generally smaller in Europe. You get a bed just wide enough for one person and that’s about it. Some of the newer trucks are a bit more spacious and have no passenger seat so you can stand up to get dressed, but often from the outside it’s hard to believe it’s a sleeper.
This one is typical.
Thanks Lee. Trust me, there is a bed behind those closed curtains. But due to length restrictions it’s rather (as in: very) narrow.
Years later those restrictions got less rigorous so the cabs could become longer and the beds wider.
But the width of the bed is not that important. What drivers really started to hate, as the years went by in the seventies, were these “qualities”: a harsh Fred Flinstone ride, noise (in the cab), vibrations and bad ergonomics.
And they wanted a walkthrough cab, as in “I can walk through my cab”. As you can see, the Transcontinental had a walkthrough cab !
I have to admit, I don’t find the headlights in the bumpers, that attractive. I can understand the practicality in placing them there, out of the way, for servicing the engine. But the truck looks especially utilitarian IMO. No points for style. I think in North America, they’d perhaps bring the headlights up into the grille area, if only to make the truck more marketable, with a more standard appearance. Being used to North American trucks, it almost looks like a shunter, with such a utilitarian cab.
You statement has me wondering if whether there might be height regulations for headlights on vehicles in certain countries within Europe. The next to last picture, with the Transcontinental next to the Ford car, shows the headlights at nearly the same height.
Don’t know. Do note, that ad above seems misleading in that the scale of the truck in the photo has been greatly enlarged beside that Ford Fiesta. In fact, it looks ridiculously large. I don’t recall even seeing an ad from the outlandish 1950s showing two vehicles so misleadingly out of proportion beside each other.
Unless, I’m misjudging them. They appear to be greatly out of proportion beside each other.
Trust me, no misleading in that brochure. The Transcontinental really was THAT big and tall.
I clearly remember the very first time I was standing next to one, being a 10 year old kid. I didn’t know what struck me, our DAF truck (which was a very decent truck) suddenly looked like a van or pick-up truck.
I drove both the transcontinental and the Bedford to back in the early eighties I personally preferred the Detroit powered T m as it had full leather interior and didn’t make you feel seasick trotting round London the trouble with British manufacturer s they were way too late in catching up with the Europeans
I’m 99.9% certain that headlights on European trucks must be quite low as per regulations.
European trucks are forced to have very tall and short cabs, because the overall length limits are much less than in the US. That is why they looked so boxy back then. The current ones are much more heavily styled, but are still very short and boxy, for the most part.
Truck design is often the result of regulations all over the world. In the US, back before the 70s-80s, the regulations on the East Coast were much more restrictive than on the West Coast, which resulted in very different approaches to truck design. East Coast trucks had very short hoods, or were COE, while West Coast trucks had very long hoods, long sleepers, and sometimes a huge space behind the cab before the trailer. These long and stretched-out West Coast trucks could only be used out there, and were a revelation to me when I first traveled out west in ’72.
Very interesting, thank you Paul. It certainly rationalizes the conformity of design of many global vehicles, not just trucks. Plus, you can see how this evolution has compromised style for regulation. And why North American cars/trucks now look more global than ever before.
Stuff goes on around us that we don’t notice. When I went to build the Hybrid Electric Trike I picked the brain of the local smog inspector/reserve deputy on lighting.
Here in Texas we have max/min limits on the height of lights and a few other things. One humorous “for instance” is the requirement for windshield wipers but no requirement for a windshield. My plan was to make a small plexiglas plaque somewhere up front and put wipers from a mercedes headlight on it. Unfortunately due to vandalism my running trike became something I just took parts off of for my next project.
How does that work on a “bro-truck” in Texas with a 12″ lift kit with a 12″ lift kit? All of a sudden the headlights (and/or bumper) are right at rearview mirror height…
That’s an excellent observation. I have no answer. I sure hate it when they come up behind.
When one compares these cowboys with the new ones you have to think they are in violation. Possibly just something pretty universally not enforced like the drug dealer tint on many windows.
Long wheelbase American trucks even in rigid cannot get around the corners on some of our highways in one lane, there fore we use shortwheelbase chassis as tractor units this water blasting rig I drove is an absolute nightmare on our twisty roads though standard length on your left coast, thats the reason we are limited to two trailers you have to be able to stay in one lane on turns on two lane roads and this yellow rig cant do that
That’s because it actually IS a utility vehicle. Do you want to make money with it or dance with it ? 😉
As I said above, drivers wanted good comfort, good ergonomics and a practical, roomy cab. Fancy shiny stuff in, on, and on top of trucks came later. Much of it has disappeared again, we like our trucks clean and with bright colors.
If only cars/trucks were sold strictly on their utility.
To elaborate, I’m not suggesting it needs chrome stacks or massive eagle graphics. Nothing ostentatious at all, using traditional stereotypes of North American trucks. I love clean styled cars/trucks. Just a bit of style. The fender flares seem like the most interesting design element. It looks a bit like an 18 wheeled version of a base Ford Fairmont.
All about personal preferences, but I call this “having style”.
Clean, simple, bright, and a tractor and semi-trailer in the same color scheme.
(Photo: Dennis Ellens)
The Bedford looks proper old skool. The tandem axle tilt, the fact they do a middle east run… I don’t recall seeing many big Bedfords growing up in the UK in the 80s, or a Transconti. It seemed most hauliers had gone to Volvo and Scania, with a few loyal to ERF and Foden.
Interesting article – I also had no idea Ford made trucks in the Netherlands, or of the history of the Transcontinental. I’m also surprised that the UK had lower weight trucks – it seems to be the opposite now, UK-international hauliers will run 4×2 trucks, whereas domestic operators have 6x2s as they can run at 44 tonne instead of 40. Maybe someone can correct me.
I wonder, are these allowed in the UK ? I read something about tests in the UK.
It’s what we call an LZV or EcoCombi. Max. length 25.25 m (circa 83 ft) and max. GVW 60,000 kg (circa 132,000 lbs). Similar rigs have become very common here now.
These days a rig or straight truck with 5 axles will do for 50,000 kg/110,000 lbs.
Still, no entrance into Belgium or Germany….
Length limit in UK for an “artic” is 16.5m or 18.75m for a “wagon & drag”.
A company called Denby was testing something similar to an Aussie “B double”, I don’t think it’s the same set up as your picture, that looks like a normal drawbar to me. I don’t think they managed to persuade the government it was a good idea. Personally, as an ex truck driver and knowing what country roads can be like here, I think the govt was right. There was talk of only using them on motorways, but in that case it seems rail could often be used instead anyway. And it’d take jobs away from drivers 😉
As far as weight, anything over 44,000kg is classed as a special load here, although not unusual, and unless things have changed in the last couple of years, UK operators use a 3 axle tractor unit for anything over 40 tonnes.
LZVs/EcoCombis come in all sorts of setups, like this “Things Go Better With Coke” rig with a Mercedes tractor. I think this is a B-double you mention. These combis are only allowed on motorways. Standard “go-everywhere” rigs have the max. lengths you mention. In that case you need 5 axles (in a wide-spread setup) for 50,000 kg/110,000 lbs GVW.
The Netherlands and Scandinavia have the heaviest trucks in Europe, it has always been that way, we’re kind of Pro-Truck here.
Kiwi rigs are similar but with tandem drive for better weight distribution. But we are only allowed 50 tonnes except for two specials with 7 axle Btrains that cart pulp wood locally.
That would explain why Volvos and Scanias are the commonest European trucks here in Australia. There are some Dafs and big Mercedes around, but the Americans still dominate trucking here. Might be different if I lived on an interstate route, but most of the loads of timber and hay passing through my town are pulled by Western Stars or Kenworths.
Pete, both Volvo and Scania are beyond 700 hp by a wide margin. Both from a 16 liter engine, the Volvo with a straight 6 and the Scania with a V8.
Thanks Johannes. European truck history is a bit sketchy for me, as I didn’t have a regular flow of info like I did with cars, from my perpetual subscription to auto, motor und sport. I used to read Big Lorry Blog, back when it was interesting, and learned quite a bit there. It’s format was something of an inspiration for CC.
European trucks evolved in rather different circumstances than in the US, but in the end, the Euro model is becoming increasingly adopted here (vertical integration), even if the trucks look different, due to the longer length limits here.
Just a few huge global companies are pulling the strings now when it comes to big trucks.
Mercedes-Benz (also owning Freightliner and Detroit Diesel)
Iveco (Fiat Group)
Volvo (also owning Renault and Mack)
Volkswagen (through MAN and Scania)
Paccar (Kenworth, Peterbilt, DAF)
I wonder what happens to International in the long run. Volkswagen shows up regularly when reading about them.
Hadn’t heard that about International and VW. Worked with some guys in direct marketing who did some work for them. Their big market in the US is fleet and government buyers, similar to Mack and Sterling (Freightliner & the ex-Ford heavy truck), although they’ve tried in recent years to appeal more to independent truckers. They generally make good, solid, standard trucks, but without the customization and level of amenities as Freightliner and PACCAR trucks.
BTW, you can also add White/Diamond Reo and GMC as Volvo legacy brands to your excellent list. Tot ziens!
I’m not sure what level of rights to the GMC brand Volvo retains. GM very much only sold off the Class 8 operation in the ’80s which was almost immediately rebranded “Whitegmc”, and has continuously built GMC-branded pickups and SUVs.
A very different situation from what occurred in Europe when GM sold the Bedford heavy-truck operation and the Bedford car-derived vans were rebranded Vauxhall in the UK within a year or two (they had always been Opels on the Continent).
Johannes International was taken over by Iveco (on the truck side of things at least), they still have a factory in Dandenong, Melbourne Australia and still make an International truck. I expect one will by my place in the morning to empty the rubbish bin!
Thanks John, but that must be the Australian division. Just like Ford sold its Euro-truck division to Iveco in 1986. International in the US is still International as far as I know.
Paul, you shouldn’t guide us to such sites…… there’s only so much bandwidth to go round……;-)
A very interesting piece, Johannes. I enjoyed this quite a bit. It should have come as no surprise that an American truck from the 70s would be something of a fuel hog by European standards. “One Ford” may not always be the best solution to diverse local markets.
Funny is that DAF, renowned for its excellent fuel efficiency, also used the big 14 liter Cummins engines about 20 years ago. At that time DAF’s own engines were too small to get 500 hp out of them, so they called Cummins.
And, also in this case, the cab had to be mounted higher on the frame than on the DAFs 95-series with DAF-engines. This is a DAF 95.500, 95 for 95-series and 500 for 500 hp.
That 510 CF I drove recently got a trip average of 30.65L per 100 kms thats running empty one way and 45,000kg return pulling an 8 wheel trailer, mind you that being driven for economy not absolute roadspeed, pulling on hills would see 300L/100 on the fuel computer quite easily. here it is pulled over for a tarp check actually an excuse to photograph a Roucsh Ford Sierra I spotted in a dealership for the cohort.
In the mid-nineties DAF introduced a brand new and bigger engine, big enough to go north of 500 hp, so exit Cummins for DAF in Europe. That engine evolved into the current 12.9 liter DAF/Paccar MX-13 engine.
I’m curious to know what the vertical bars over the round headlights on the blue Bedford and orange Transcontinental (with the hood open) are for.
I think they might be headlight wash-wiper systems, required in some countries in Europe and Scandinavia
Big Euro trucks remind me of 2 great quotes….
Being a truck driver is hard…change gears, double clutch, check your mirrors, change gear, murder a prostitute, check your mirrors….
Being a truck driver in the modern age no longer means that you have to show up with a shirt stained with egg and glove box full of strong pornography.
Well, now that you are bringing this up….Here’s the Yorkshire Ripper behind the wheel of a Ford Transcontinental Mk1. And the Ford did have a Fuller, so double clutching, change gears and murdering prostitutes is all fully correct in this case. I don’t know whether he actually checked his mirrors or not….
Only a nong like Clarkson would use every gear in the transmission pulling away from a stop.
Great write up! Its good to have some write ups from someone with knowledge of EU Trucks.
Johannes, let’s hear more from you!
I spent a while in this recently a 1995 ERF with 500hp Big Cam motor very comfortable to drive easily nicer to spend a day in than a 10 year newer American truck just as noisy though but with a big 6 and Jacobs who really wants silent like a Volvo or Iveco.
Sweet looking truck. I sure wish snub nosed tractors hadn’t all but disappeared from the USA. Variety is good. Having driven an Isuzu NPR box van across the country (twice) as well as selling/delivering furniture from one, I can vouch for the superior visibility and driving characteristics of the COE design. It doesn’t ride as smooth, but Ive always liked being able to feel the road anyway. Yes, youre right on top of the front bumper, but your feet are above the roofline of most normal cars anyway, so it makes little difference….
Modern cabovers are more comfortable to ride in/drive than your favourite armchair have better stereos than your house and are silent not quiet silent providing you get a European truck, American truck makers have fallen behind on operator comfort and previously only sold on price HP and image driver comfort and ergonomics have been much better on Euro trucks for decades, I know I drive both. The Japanese brands fall somewhere in the middle good ergonomics not enough torque reasonable comfort 540Jap hp pulls like 350 US hp.
I like snubnose pickups too….
…and these are irresistible!
Old school cabover what I began my driving career in no power steer no comfort and no horsepower the TK Bedford
Bryce, these were all over the place over here. Boy does this pic take me back.
Comfort levels in those and D model Fords turned me into a fruitpicker more money less pain trucks thankfully have improved and these old Bedfords are quite rare in working order now.
Can you help with a bit of truck spotting? There was a cabover type from about the same period as this TK that had little curved windows in the front lower corners of the cab. Can’t for the life of me remember the maker or find it online.
Don, do you mean this Austin/Morris/BMC truck? It’s a ’62 A200. I don’t know much about them, but there is the odd one still around here. Pic from wikipedia:
Bingo. Scott, you’ve done it again. Marry me.
Well I am single… 😉
Apparently they’re known as the FG series – loads of pics here: https://www.flickr.com/groups/1937261@N21/
I only knew because the ‘Ran When Parked’ facebook page often posts 60s/70s street scenes for people to guess what the assorted vehicles are. There was one of these trucks in a recent street scene they posted, and I knew they had been sold here in NZ, but couldn’t for the life of me remember what it was. 45 minutes of googling solved that wee issue! Glad it came in useful a few weeks later!
Local hardware store still used one of these to deliver bottled gas, until it changed hands last year, and on the old J-plate (’66-’67) too. So they’re still out there working.
Little Jappas like this Bongo Brawny are popular here this one has a factory steel dropsider deck, damn thought I had a shot of the 460hp Isuzu I was driving when I shot this waiting to load to show a modern Jap truck but no cant find it.
Johannes: thank you for a very interesting article! We chatted on another post a while back about the Transcontinental, as I have a Matchbox Superkings Transcontinental bridge layer that I received as a boy around 1984. Even though it was a diecast toy, I liked the styling of the cab. Really enjoyed reading your article!
Thanks Scott, and I do remember your Ford bridge layer !
Great piece of writing Johannes; it wasn’t until I started reading CC that I realised the paternity of trucks is definitely not determined by the logo on the front. Never heard of a Berliet.
I remember truck owners picketing outside Ford HQ over here because of troubles with (IIRC) the Louisville.
Looking forward to your next piece. And the one after that…
Oh, lordy lordy ! Just look at the size of that Porsche !
Eats Fiestas for breakfast…
You need an avatar pic, Johannes. Sometimes I think I’m just talking to an empty space. hehehe
I’ll see what I can do….But you’re not gonna tell me I’m talking to one of Jim Henson’s creatures here….
Happy 100th comment, Johannes.
Appalling NVH levels put Louis off the shopping list in OZ?NZ fairly quick, Ive driven bonneted versions, just awful.
One Ford badged concrete mixer I drove was actually a rebadged Nissan it seems they gave up somewhere in the early 90s.
Truck friendly? Oregon allows triple trailers; total combined length of the trailers up to 96 feet (29.2 meters), plus the tractor, No actual overall length restriction. Practically a road train, on busy city streets and freeways. You should see how these wag all over the road in a stiff cross-wind!
Yeah those things used to freak me out when I drove through Oregon. I think Utah allows them as well but not CA or NV, WY or CO, don’t recall seeing them in parts east of here either (NE, IA, IL). I’ve always wondered what they do at the borders or are they really single-state units? FedEx and Fred Meyer’s are the ones I always recall, I guess they have the largest fleets. And you aren’t kidding about the sway with the wind. You have to time your pass very well in some areas and not mess around.
Am I correct in thinking/recalling that the front axle of each of the trailers is removable so that you could take trailer #3 off your picture for example, remove the front wheel assembly and then hook the remainder to a standard saddle cab?
Yes; they’re three semi-trailers, with removable front axles. Sometimes another tractor will meet two of these at the border, and take up two of the trailers. It’s not uncommon to see the separate front axles “dollys” attached behind a trailer or two.
Ye gods they’re drawbar trailers no wonder they wobble all over the place.
Triple trailers are allowed here in parts of Australia, this was in South Australia on the highway north of Port Augusta heading for Alice Springs.
Yeah but on proper triaxle turntables eliminates any sway and they track properly.
Yeah that’s what I was wondering about that Dutch B Double, ie is it just a huge drawbar combo or did more thought go into it than that.
The experimental Denby truck in Britain had some thingy they patented iirc, which they claimed made it almost as manoeuvrable as an artic.
No those are A-trailers with a dolly for the last two, they are legal in more remote areas – the sort of places where if you needed to use the whole road plus some to do a turn at an intersection it wouldn’t be a problem.
They do have B-triples up to 36m/120′ in other areas although I think they can only operate on restricted routes. B-doubles are generally restricted to 26m/85′ length and about 65 ton and can use most main roads less some inner-city and mountainous areas – even though there are many places such a truck would not normally be driven in practice.
Outback areas of Qld, SA and WA allow a combination of 4 trailers up to 53m/175′ long. These often operate on unsealed roads, where oncoming traffic has to pull over and get off the road to allow the road train to pass.
That’s one good looking FedEx rig ! What’s the GVW ? I surely hope somewhere between 100,000 and 130,000 lbs, otherwise it’s driving around almost empty.
It would have to be used for bulky but light goods with just a single axle at the rear of the trailers.
Very much enjoyed reading this article and the replies. I have been in and out of the truck/fleet business for many years, and it would seem that Ford’s big truck reputation in Europe and Australia/NZ was similar in many respects to how they were viewed here.
Dear Johannes, great story about a forgotten hero, who really impressed the truck market back in ’76.
I remember having a fight on the road with a Dane in a black Trans, me in a Henschel and I mean a REAL Henschel not a Benz badged one (The big square cab Henschie )
The Dane won, much more powerrrrr on the Dutch flats !
The Trans had self setting fuses, a short did not mean yhou’d had to replace the fuse, but you could reset it.
And the cab-corrosion I was always told it happened to the first series mainly because the cabs were transported naked from Lyon France to Amsterdam.
Many great European truck brands have disappeared, but there is good news for you, FORD Turkey build a new long distance hauler more or less in the memory of the Transcontinental.
For non-Euro readers, here’s a picture fromt he seventies posing a Volvo F88 series the REAL king back then and a Ford Trans.
As you can see the Volvo’s cab looks cramped small and outdated next to the Ford’s
DAF alert !…in the background. (Nice picture BTW)
The Volvo F88/F89 surely was one of my favorites back then, as you may know.
But the undisputed (Euro) King Of The Road since 1969 is any Scania with a V8. Starting in 1969 with 350 hp and later 375 hp, from 14 liter displacement.
I found this one on Wikipedia, a 1977 Scania 141. The number 14 for 14 liter and the 1 for the second series. (Yes, counting started with the Scania 140, that was the first series)
Oh yes, the glorious Scania V8…that glorious hammering intimidating V8 sound, oh what a sweet lovely joy !!…..excuse me, I’ll have to change my underwear.
Cramped, small and outdated, you say? Alongside the Trannie, that Volvo is so utilitarian it looks like something left over from WW2.
The new FORD Cargo series, made in Turkey (where all Transits are made nowadays)
FORD are to launch it in Europe as well :
Ahem…I surely hope that Ford can find a way to resurrect the Transcontinental. Just with a longer cab, a wider bed and a new interior. Then they can call it a day.
You guys know, I Always had a crush for BERLIET, maybe cause I Always loved their frontwheels (may sound odd I know) but their cab over model, launched in 1969 ? did show the way to a new era in truck design.
I mean, here were those arrogant frogs, riding their Berli’ cabs, roomy, wide, tres wide and three wipers, yes gents three wipers and there you were in the large Henschel or F88 cab, but these were cramped compared to Le Berliet.
To show you how advanced the design was, and how it lead the way back then, apicture of the F88 successor from Volvo the F12, there is a 25 time difference between the two trucks.
See what the Volvo’s cab is inspired on….
Johannes, am I right to suppose the European battle was won in the after-sales area, I remember DAF International Truck Service (I.T.S.) being introduced, one telephone number for a Europe-wide service and break down assistance.
Day and night night and day and really a 24/7 service that did NOT begin with a recorded message á la “Our offices are closed “but you got a REAL voice on the Phone.
Today, we have an old Iveco Cargo here and, when it broke down (something minor) in Belgium, a local Iveco dealer came, fixed the truck and the invoice was sent through our local dealer overhere. Very reasonable price and to be honest priceless service !
1.5 hours later, the guys were back on the road again.
I guess you should write about Volvo’s Tiptop Titan (the later F88 & 89 series) that were designed for the U.S. market but never made it and of course the other one that revolutionized the truck world, Renault’s AE better known as the Magnum…..
Yes, I remember the introduction of DAF’s International Truck Service, and they were the first with such a Trans-Continental (ha !) helpdesk for drivers. DAF has always been a relatively small truck maker (before they joined the shiny happy Paccar family anyway), but their long distance trucks (the 2800 series in the seventies) were everywhere in Europe, Africa and the Middle-East.
I didn’t know so few Transcontinentals were produced – that’s probably why I didn’t see many of them when we took road trips to seaside towns when I lived in England as a child in the late 70s and early 80s. But I always liked the look of them; had no idea the cab design came from a French company. Actually, this was a very informative piece.
European rules were all over the map, 74, they were going to standardize Europe and raise the weight limits at maximum length. Some countries were total size, some were trailer size, and all different weight limits. This new law was what it was built for.
Heavy frame, heavy engine, seventies gas crisis, sporadic dealership coverage, killed the program. My uncle had a 75. One of the first, delivered milk to the main station. All the other owner operators overloaded their trucks to the breaking point. But saved on diesel. While they were downshifting to low gears at every hill, we would pass out 4 or 5 on our way to CharlesVille, Ireland. Go to the website in Amsterdam go to Great Britain, the yellow “Donnie Salmon” was it. It was like the movie Smokey and the bandit when snowman drove past the convoy.
England had a maximum length with the Cab and did not raise the limit. So transcontinental’s with long bodies were exclusively used as pickup trucks, Ford trucks. Only truck at the time that could pickup the tractor and also pull the trailer.
I’ve never considered myself a big truck connoisseur, but this was a very enjoyable read about a truck I didn’t even know existed. I hope to read more from you here on CC. Well done Johannes!
The problem in the U.K was that Ford were banking on the government raising the gross weight limit, which at the time of the Transcontinental launch was a pathetic 32 tons. It was ultimately raised to 38 tons years later but too late for the big Ford. Simply put, the Transcon was overkill for what you could legally pull in the U.K, the high weight of the tractor unit with its heavy duty frame ate right into the legal payload you could carry, combine that with the thirst of the big Cummins and for many operators it made no economic sense, although many did try it and it was a popular choice for owner drivers due to the king of the road image.
To put things into perspective, operators in 1974 were still running British built lightweights with ally skinned wood framed cabs and 180 Gardner engines. Absolutely no power and slower than hell but they lasted forever and got 10 m.p.g whatever you did with them.
As for driving, there were some dynamic faults with the transcontinental, the main one being you couldn’t stop them. An aftermarket retarder or auxiliary brake was essential. Secondly you were advised not to tilt that teeteringly high cab when bob tailed facing downhill, as the whole lot would tip over forward and headbutt the pavement.
Bedford just didn’t do the market research with the TM. Wanting to keep everything in-house, it was launched with the Detroit diesel two stroke v6 and V8. U.k operators who tried it loved the power but gave the vehicle right back once they realised how fuel hungry they were. A truck getting 4-5 m.p.g won’t sell in the U.K with its historically high fuel prices. The other engine option was Bedfords own 500 series from the smaller TK, a real gutless wonder. It wasn’t until later on in production when the Cummins L10 was offered that it started to appeal to more people but it was too late by then. A shame, a Cummins powered TM was a fine machine, at least until the cab rusted away.