L39 and L49
One of the most famous Volvo trucks of all time was the 'Titan', which was introduced in 1951, intended mainly for long-distance transport and demanding construction site operations.
"Titan" - the name for a big truck
The 'Titan' name actually came about slightly later than the introduction in late 1951 due to legal problems with Volvo's use of this name in marketing and sales. These problems were resolved, however, and the 'Titan' became one of the more famous model names in truck history.
The Titan was not a radical new design, but more an adaptation of existing and tried components to the rounded design standards of the 1950s, a trend basically begun in America.
The early L39 Titan was very much an updated L29 C (the diesel 'Longnose') but with improved driver environment and with a more efficient direct-injection VDF engine of 9.6 litres capacity (compared with 8.6 litres for the predecessor's VDB pre-combustion-chamber diesel engine).
Pioneering the turbocharged engine
The new VDF engine was an advanced power source, which was to some extent the result of Volvo's experience with light materials obtained during the design and production of piston aircraft engines. Soon, however, this relatively expensive engine was superseded by the more conventional D96 engine, manufactured from steel.
The Titan has, of course, been made very famous due to the pioneering role it held when, as one of the first trucks in the world, it was presented with a turbocharged engine in 1954. This was not a new idea - it had been used in ships, railway locomotives and aircraft engines - but the legendary team at Volvo, led by John Stålblad and including the famous engine designer Bertil Häggh, managed to incorporate a relatively small turbocharger under the bonnet of the Titan truck.
The result was astonishing: with an increase in kerb weight of just 25 kg, the engine output was increased by 35 bhp (from 150 to 185 bhp).
Filled with the most modern features
But it was not only the engine, which was developed during the 14 years of continuous production of the L39/L49 Titan.
In many respects, this truck family received many of the new features of modern trucks, like the air-operated brake systems (which facilitated the safe braking of a vehicle combination with a trailer), the power steering (which was important for driver welfare) and the Volvo Safety Cab, which was introduced in 1959/60 after rigorous design and testing by both the inventor Gösta Nyström (the founder of the Volvo Cab Plant in Umeå, Sweden) and the Swedish national safety administration.
The Titan grew during its production period into a very powerful heavy-duty truck, which at the end of production in 1963-64 made available a tandem-driven 6x4 Titan with turbocharged 230 bhp engine, power steering and air-operated brakes.