King of the road

Volvo Trucks in 1960s

In the 1960s, the truck was finally crowned transportation king. This was due in no small part to its flexibility and the fact that a national and international road infrastructure was in place that enabled fast, safe and efficient truck transportation.

The 1960s was, in other words, a good decade for drivers. In Sweden, certified safety cabs were launched on the market.

Cabs were fitted with rubber suspension systems, drivers enjoyed the benefits of sitting on sprung seats, and the new high F/COE-cabs afforded superb visibility.

Now sit back comfortably and learn more about the Volvo trucks of the '60s.

F82 and F83

When the great 'System 8' renewal of the Volvo truck product programme took place in 1965, there were two models, which were kept practically unchanged.

These were the F82 and the F83, named in accordance with the other new trucks, i.e. with an 'F' to designate Forward control, with an '8' to designate that they did belong to the new programme, and with '2' or '3' to designate whether they were the direct successors to the L42 or L43 families of trucks respectively.

No changes needed!
The fact was, of course, that the introduction of a diesel engine into these trucks in 1963/64 had actually converted them into quite efficient transport tools, and the forward control model offered favourable axle loads together with long platforms within relatively short total vehicle length. So there was really no reason for changes to be carried out on these trucks, especially since the numbers made were too small to make the design of a Volvo diesel engine in this class economically feasible.

The petrol-engine remains
There were still customers around who preferred good performance to low fuel consumption, so the petrol-engine option 'B36AV' (the powerful Volvo V8 engine) was retained, designating the petrol-engine versions of these trucks 'F82B' and 'F83B' respectively. This was not really surprising, since the distances covered by these trucks were sometimes as low as 20 to 30 km per day, distances where of course the fuel cost was of lesser importance even considering increasing fuel prices and the high consumption of the V8 B36AV engine.

The diesel engine was originally made by Ford, but in 1967 a more powerful Perkins diesel engine was substituted. This was later carried over to the F82S/F83S trucks in 1971 and to the F4 in 1975.

L46, L47 and N84

In the very ambitious renewal of the truck product programme that Volvo carried out in the early 1960s, no resources were left for the further development of the medium-duty N trucks introduced in the mid 50s. In mechanical terms, they were very similar to the trucks developed just before and after World War II.

Improvements under the skin
But in one way it would be incorrect to term the L46/L47 family of trucks as 'medium-duty', since these trucks were very often required to perform astonishingly heavy duties, especially in countries remote from Sweden where these trucks were being produced.

Continuous improvement and modernisation took place under the skin of these trucks. The new L46 'Starke'/L47 'Raske' trucks that succeeded the L37 truck in the early 1960s were available with power steering and improved Volvo safety cabs, something which contributed to improved active and passive safety.

Upgraded with more powerful engines
The heavy transport operations, which these trucks were often asked to perform were also facilitated by the introduction of slightly more powerful engine versions, with or without turbocharging (the latter only available for the L47 truck).

This truck was even included in the very modern 'System 8' truck family as the 'N84', basically with the same specification but now with an even more powerful engine with increased capacity, one factor which meant that this old-fashioned truck could be found in the global Volvo truck product programme well into the 1970s.

The end of an era
In 1972, however, this truck family (introduced in 1954) had finally become a little too old-fashioned even for markets favouring traditional trucks. Since then, no conventional medium-duty trucks have been produced by Volvo.

L4751 and F85

After the success of the light-duty and medium-duty L42/L43 forward-control trucks, Volvo wanted to go ahead and design F trucks in the heavier segment. This created serious discussions within the management and the design department of the company.

Initially, a traditional European design was discussed (the L382/L3851 F version of the Viking truck had been around for some time), but they embarked on more ambitious plans probably on account of experience gained in the USA (where Volvo was the only European manufacturer with a presence there at that time).

Towards cab-over-engine trucks
In contrast to the preferences in the USA nowadays, there was a trend away from conventional (N) truck and in favour of cab-over-engine (F) trucks in the late 1950s and the early 1960s in North America. This was a trend which had been forced through by legislation that restricted the total length of truck combinations.

The F trucks of America were, however, very advanced vehicles. Low weight of chassis was one feature, the tilting cab facilitating the work of the driver or the mechanic when performing service was another. The decision was taken that the new generation of Volvo heavy-duty trucks should include F trucks in all weight segments.

Introducing the modern tilt-cab
The first Volvo truck to receive a modern tilt-cab was also the first European truck of this type ever to be made in significant numbers. The cab was designed by the Volvo truck design department in Gothenburg under supervision of Sigvard Forssell, in close cooperation with the Nyström Cab factory in Umeå in the north of Sweden (which would before long become the main Volvo cab factory).

To stress the fact that the new cab was tilting for easy access to the engine a name was allocated to the new trucks featuring this cab; the 'TIPTOP' (always written with capital letters).

Only top-of-the-range components
The first truck to feature the new tilting cab was introduced in 1962, and was based on the proven mechanical components of the L475 Raske. The resulting name of the new truck became 'Volvo L4751 Raske TIPTOP'.

To optimise the performance and economy/efficiency of the new Raske TIPTOP truck it was decided to equip it with the top-of-the-range components of the L475 Raske. The new Raske TIPTOP was therefore the first truck ever to be equipped as standard with a Turbocharged engine (no naturally-aspirated engine was available to the customers). Power steering was another standard feature not commonly found on distribution trucks of the era.

Reintroductions and new versions
The L4751 became very popular, and was re-introduced in 1965 (as part of the 'System 8' family) as the F85, with a slightly bigger engine but in other respects mainly without major changes. A slightly down-rated version was introduced in 1968 as the 'F84', while the final version of the Raske TIPTOP/F85 was presented in 1976 as the 'F85S', with an even more powerful engine with slightly increased capacity.

This family of trucks was followed by the F6S and is the ancestor of today's extremely efficient FL family of trucks.

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.

New requirements
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.

Perfect timing
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.

L4851 and F86

The decade-long popularity of the Viking together with the good reception by the customers of the revolutionary L4751 Raske TIPTOP with its tilting F cab made it natural to also present a tilting cab as an alternative to the L48 Viking.

Further use of the F cab
The modern cab of the Raske TIPTOP was the natural choice, since it offered not only perfect access to the engine (even better than on a conventional N truck with a bonnet) but unique ergonomic properties.

Even if the Raske had benefited from the F cab, the advantages of the TIPTOP cab were perhaps even more obvious for the Viking. The Viking was the obvious choice as a two-axle tipper truck for solo use, having as alternatives the Raske (where less power was needed) and the Titan (where extremely high power was needed).

Benefits that brought success
The F truck model offers unique qualities for this transport task. These consist of favourable weight distribution (necessary since overloads sometimes add extreme tension to the chassis, suspension and the axles) together with the possibility of using a shorter wheelbase - a major improvement in construction site transport where building sites are often crowded and manoeuvrability is of utmost importance.

The introduction of the L4851 Viking TIPTOP took place in 1964. The truck immediately met high demand from the customers, especially on the home market in Sweden. Enormous success would not occur, however, for another year. Then the successor to the Viking TIPTOP was introduced, the F86, perhaps the most beloved truck in Volvo's history....!

The System 8 family
The F86 was presented in the summer of 1965 as part of the 'System 8' family of trucks. The cab was almost identical to the cab of the Raske TIPTOP (the only exception being a larger engine tunnel, necessary to house the larger 7-litre engine). The bench for two passengers in the Raske TIPTOP had given place to a single passenger seat.

Despite the close resemblance to the L4851, the F86 was completely new 'under the skin' (= the TIPTOP cab). All the basic mechanic components of the new F86 truck were identical with the components of the renewed N86 truck, being the successor to the L48 Viking.

The two most obvious changes were the completely new engine (preserving the cylinder dimensions) which was prepared for high-output turbocharging together with the range-change 'R50' eight-speed fully-synchronized gearbox which made life much easier for the driver. With the new engine and the new gearbox came completely new frame rails, suspensions, brake systems and steering systems.

The most popular truck in Britain
Despite the technical novelties, however, the F86´s greatest importance for Volvo as a truck producer lay in its amazing export success. In the mid 60s, the F86 was introduced in Great Britain, and soon manufacture of the F86 was started in Scotland. Result? Volvo F86 became the most popular truck in England, and Volvo became as a result the major make of truck in the British Isles! A parallel history took place in Australia, where the F86 won unique acceptance by the customers and drivers.

A third market where the F86 played a major role for Volvo was the USA, where the F86 was introduced in 1974 and soon became a much-loved truck, albeit in limited numbers since growth in this 'biggest country in the world' can only been obtained after a long enduring service of quality trucks (Volvo has since become one of the major makes of truck in America).

Fitted for any transport task
Perhaps the most important explanation behind the success of the F86 (together with utmost reliability and almost unlimited service life) has been the possibility of adapting the F86 to any transport task, from distribution of goods in city areas to community service, construction site transport (even in the tandem-driven four-axle model) and long-distance transport (with a portable bed serving to make the day-cab of the F86 into a very efficient 'sleeper cab').

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