Historic Truck Brands
The Associated Equipment Company (AEC) was a bus-manufacturing spin-off from the activities of the London General Omnibus Company that was formed in 1855 to unify operations of horse-drawn omnibus services in London. (Remember that ‘omnibus’ is Latin, meaning ‘for all’.)
LGOC began the manufacture of petrol-engine-powered buses in 1909 and ,in 1912, was taken over by the Underground Group that owned the London Underground train network and some tram operations. LGOC’s bus-making division was renamed the Associated Equipment Company (AEC).
AEC continued producing the LGOC-designed, double-deck open-top bus (somewhat like today’s popular tourist buses in many major cities around the world) with 30hp, four-cylinder power.
World War One saw AEC move into making three-quarter-ton trucks and the company produced more trucks than any other British maker, thanks to Europe’s first moving-track, truck-assembly line.
AEC’s Y-type truck developed in the 1920s into a five-tonner with a 45hp, fixed-head, side-valve S-type engine and a nearly ‘tractor’ model with 65hp.
A brief tie-up with British Daimler in 1926/27 expanded distribution around the UK, but when that co-operation ended, AEC moved into a new production facility. New truck models were powered by a removable-head version of the S-type engine and then a new, six-cylinder, overhead-valve engine.
In 1930 AEC introduced its first diesel engine and began the sequence of trucks with ‘M’ names: Mercury, Monarch, Majestic and Mammoth. Buses were ‘R’ names: Regal, Reliance and Regent. Engines were topped by 7.4-litre petrol and 7.7-litre diesel powerplants.
A notable vehicle, developed for Australia, was an 8×8, three-trailer road train that now has pride of place in the National Transport Museum, in Alice Springs.
AEC’s all-wheel-drive technology was the result of a controlling interest in the British subsidiary of the American Four Wheel Drive (FWD) company.
In 1938 AEC developed the landmark A185 bus chassis that was London’s standard double-deck bus until 1979.
For world War Two AEC’s principal product was the 10-ton Matador 4×4 gun tractor.
After the War AEC acquired Crossley Motors and Maudslay Motor Company, and several bodybuilders. In 1961 AEC took over Thornycroft and in 1962, merged with Leyland.
In 1964, both marques shared the Leyland-developed Ergomatic tilt-cab.
AEC’s and Leyland’s reputations weren’t helped by the 800-series V8 diesel debacle.
Another merger saw Leyland unite with the British Motor Corporation (BMC) to form BLMC. AEC had developed a cab-over-engine truck that became the Marathon – another disaster – and by 1977, the AEC badge disappeared.