L4951, F88 and G88
The history of the Titan TIPTOP/F88/G88 is extremely exciting. The importance of these truck models to Volvo truck history cannot be overestimated.
This truck, which was to conquer practically all of the world with the exception of America, was originally intended for America, not for the rest of the world outside America!
The history of the Titan
To understand the history of the Titan TIPTOP/F88, we must return to the early history of Volvo and especially to the mid 50s marketing strategy of the Swedish Volvo marque. Sweden is a small country, and in order to survive and grow, export sales were necessary. This meant also, of course, that all Volvo products had to stand up to all kinds of severe conditions, this being one of the major reasons behind the overall quality of a Volvo truck in any part of the world, for any transport task.
Of course, the fact that Swedish transport conditions (with practically unlimited Gross Combination Weights and harsh climate conditions) were extremely severe also made a major contribution to the characteristics of Volvo trucks, especially in the heavy-duty class.
Success in the US
In the mid 1950s, Volvo cars met an immediate success in the most demanding car market of this period, the USA. The management of Volvo also considered that trucks should be introduced into North America, to earn valuable dollars for Volvo which was in need of a sounder economic base for future international growth.
Volvo trucks, of conventional N type configuration, were introduced in 1958-59. After a short time, it was clear to Volvo market strategists that the trend in the USA in this period was towards cab-over-engine F trucks. In a relatively short time, a few specimens of a prototype model were developed, of which at least one had a short day cab and was used for tests in Sweden, while at least one specimen had a sleeper cab and was put into 'field-test operations' in North America.
Soon, however, it was clear to Volvo that the specific market requirements of North America could not be met by Volvo trucks of that period. The introduction was halted and the design of future Volvo trucks also took North American requirements into consideration.
How could the new F configuration Titan truck be utilised? As a prototype for future long-distance European trucks of course! Intense development work took place to prepare the new 'Titan TIPTOP' for the severe competition of Europe's increasingly truck-oriented transport industry.
From N bonnets to F trucks
Parallel to this development in America, a move away from bonneted N trucks to F trucks was taking place in Europe, forced to a great extent by legislation in Germany, in which the government tried to protect the position of the train by obstructing efficient truck transportation. One of the steps taken was to restrict vehicle combination length and permitted axle loads.
The introduction of the F truck as a standard vehicle for long-distance international European transport was a successful way of protecting the efficiency of good trucks, thereby preserving the possibility of transporting goods fast, safe and at low cost.
The Titan TIPTOP/F88 came with perfect timing for Volvo. When it was introduced in 1964/1965, it was met favourably by the truck transport industry. But why did it meet with such success? The answer can be split into three separate reasons, each of which in itself could supply the answer.
The competing trucks of the 1960s from Volvo's competitors had one major weakness: they all had a fixed cab and thereby could be serviced only with great difficulty involving a major loss of transport revenue during service and standstill. The efficient tilt cab of the Titan TIPTOP gave even better access to the basic components than an N truck.
Superior ergonomics and increased safety
The ergonomics of the new Titan TIPTOP/F88 truck were unique and the sleeper cab offered very good living quarters for one or two drivers. The safety of the crash-tested cab was perhaps not the most discussed feature, but safety was (not least due to the discussion in North America, introduced by Ralph Nader) increasingly a focus of attention.
A fourth reason behind the success of the Titan TIPTOP/F88/G88 was of course also the new engine, transmission and chassis components, which were all shared with the conventional N88 truck. The most important parts in this area, of course, were the 10-litre engine prepared for turbocharging and high outputs together with the all-synchronised range-change 8-speed gearbox.
A prologue to the F88
The L4951 (two-axle) and the L4956 (three-axle) trucks were produced only for a year, and can be described in terms of being a prologue to the F88 truck. This truck really is so famous, that no further description is necessary.
It must be mentioned, however, that it played a major role when introducing the Volvo make of trucks into countries like Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Australia, as well as serving well on extreme long-distance transport operations from Europe to the middle east or even to Asia.
Meeting length legislations
To meet legislation demanding maximum length between first and last axle of a vehicle combination ( in accordance with the so-called 'Bridge Formula') the G88 version was introduced in 1970, with the front axle moved slightly forward. This solution, forced by legislation, was not favourable for driver comfort due to shorter front springs, typical of the disadvantages often created by legislation not being consistent with transport efficiency and driver care.