FL6 and FL4
Volvo started its truck operations in 1928 with the production of medium-duty trucks. After that, Volvo successively introduced heavier and heavier trucks until the product programme included all types of trucks, from light-duty to heavy-duty.
Strangely enough, Volvo's success in the area of medium-duty trucks diminished to a great extent during the 1950s and 1960s, mainly due to the fact that medium-duty trucks were made in most of the export countries where Volvo sold its trucks and these were normally less expensive and perhaps not as rugged as Volvo's vehicles.
High ambitions for the medium-duty truck
In the 1980s, after the L42/L43/F82/F83/F82S/F83S and the F4/F6, Volvo had high ambitions for the medium-duty trucks and vast resources were available. The decision was taken to go ahead and develop a new family of medium-duty trucks from scratch (but utilizing of course the well-proven basic driveline components already developed for the new generation of medium-duty trucks).
In the late 1970s, a study was carried out on possible successors to the F4/F6 trucks. It was decided to introduce the new trucks in the mid 1980s, and that they should be designed and built in the modern Volvo facility in Oostakker, Belgium.
The new FL family
From the very beginning it was decided that the new medium-duty trucks should meet the same safety standards as heavy-duty Volvo trucks, while at the same time offering superior ergonomic properties compared with both previous Volvo distribution trucks and trucks from Volvo's competitors.
Soon, the shape of the new FL family (F=Forward cab, L=Low level cab) was decided. The basic design incorporated a low cab floor level for easy entry and exit, large windows for good vision and massive interior space, all within the limits of 2.3 m width to facilitate driving in confined areas.
Weight, power and strength
Naturally, there was a need for several weight classes, including a light class at around 7-11 tonnes (FL6L), a medium class of 14 tonnes (FL6M) and a vehicle, which was a very light heavy-duty vehicle (FL6H). Some years later the FL6H was succeeded by an even more powerful vehicle in the 18-tonne class, which was also available as a three-axle vehicle with GVW of 26 tonnes (FL6E).
The FL6 had power and strength enough to be used for lightweight long-distance transport as well so a long cab model was introduced as an alternative to the day cab (for community services such as for fire brigades etc. a crew cab was also introduced, initially manufactured by an independent supplier in Floby but now built by Volvo in Umeå).
To combine safety with easy manoeuvring, Volvo chose to equip the lightest trucks in this family of light-duty trucks with disc brakes on all wheels, since these are genuine stop-and-go vehicles for fast city conditions.
The FL6 was introduced in 1985, and in 1986 the even lighter FL4 was introduced. This was basically the same as the FL6L, but now with a light, fuel-efficient direct-injected Volvo TD41 engine, derived from the engine previously used in the F4 truck, and similar to the highly efficient marine engines utilized by Volvo Penta.
The US versions
Later in 1986 the FE6 and FE7 trucks were introduced in the USA, being versions adapted for North America. While the FE6 was very similar to the FL6, the FE7 was basically the same truck as the FL6, but with the more powerful 7-litre engine and the driveline components of the FL7 truck.
A very interesting addition to the FL6 range was the D6-250 engine with both a turbocharger and a mechanical supercharger, the first of its kind for truck use in the world. With this addition, the FL6 suddenly became powerful enough to perform transport tasks normally handled by trucks with much larger (and heavier) engines.