Historic Truck Brands
In 1903, together with his sons Max and Ernst, 60-year-old Heinrich Büssing founded H Büssing, Special-Fabrik für Motor-Lastwagen und Omnibusse (factory for truck and bus) company in Braunschweig, Germany.
Heinrich Büssing was born on 29 June 1843 in the village of Nordsteimke, now a district of Wolfsburg. After obtaining his leaving certificate from the village school, he trained as a blacksmith with his father.
Two years later, Büssing spent a year and a half wandering through Germany and Switzerland. The young craftsman discovered on his travels how radically industrialisation was altering life and working patterns.
Back home, he enrolled as a guest student at the Collegium Carolinum in Braunschweig, later the Technical University of Braunschweig and attended lectures in mechanical and civil engineering. In 1866, aged 23, he found employment in an engineering office that specialised in railway construction.
But he became self-employed in 1868, opening a velocipedes factory and workshop in Braunschweig where he built bicycles he designed himself. The young father of a family had no doubt that mobility would play a key role in the industrial age.
Büssing continuously improved his two- and three-wheeled bicycles, making them more elegant and affordable. He advertised them using letters, brochures and small ads, and presented them at exhibitions.
In the same year, Heinrich Büssing started up a mechanical engineering company, but incurred large debts. The tide turned for the inventor when he joined with Braunschweig merchant Max Jüdel, founding a railway signalling company in 1873.
Heinrich Büssing was chief designer in Eisenbahnsignal-Bauanstalt Max Jüdel & Co and applied for 92 patents. In 1902, he built his first experimental vehicle called the grey cat.
Heinrich Büssing wanted to further advance the mobility of people and goods, so in 1903 he and his sons founded H Büssing, Special-Fabrik für Motor-Lastwagen und Omnibusse in Braunschweig.
“We are building vehicles for people who would otherwise have to walk. Others may wish to build for people who previously drove in a carriage”, was how Büssing formulated his company’s objective.
That same year, the Büssings produced the first roadworthy truck driven by a two-cylinder petrol engine with an output of 9hp and a worm-drive rear axle.
1903 Büssing ZU-550 – Martin Hans V
In 1904, came the young company’s second coup: the production of a 20hp, chain-driven omnibus with a maximum speed of 30km/h. The bus could carry 12 people and soon went into series production.
The vehicle’s frame consisted of railway-origin U-beams, patented rear axle suspension and a differential lock. The wheels were shod with hard rubber tyres, but Büssing, in cooperation with Continental, started developing pneumatic tyres in 1906.
Heinrich Büssing distributed his vehicles with great success. As early as 1904, his buses operated in regular service under the umbrella of the Büssing-owned Automobil-Omnibus-Betriebs-Gesellschaft Braunschweig. Postal items were also transported by these buses.
From 1904, the company delivered 400 chassis to London, where they served as predecessors of the now-famous double-decker buses.
Expansion into international markets drove the company forward and, from 1908, branches were established in St Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev, Odessa, Riga, Warsaw and the Netherlands.
In the 1920s and 1930s, the company, which had been using the Braunschweig lion emblem for advertising purposes since 1913, rose to become one of the leading commercial vehicle manufacturers in Germany and Europe.
1918 Büssing five-tone army truck
Before World War I Büssing started to build heavy-duty trucks, powered by four- and six-cylinder engines, with GVMs of five tonnes and 11 tonnes, respectively.
In 1914 the Büssing A5P armoured car was developed at the behest of the German Oberste Heeresleitung and the company also produced trucks for the German Army during World War I.
After the war, reparations bit hard and Heinrich Büssing had to enter a Kommanditgesellschaft limited partnership that was converted into the Büssing AG joint-stock company in 1922.
In 1923, Büssing produced buses with three axles, with the two rear axles being driven. These buses were billed as the World’s Largest Motorbuses, exhibited at an international motor show in the Netherlands and trialled on the boulevardes of Paris.
The first Büssing bus with an underfloor engine was introduced in 1929. It was a three-axle, forward control vehicle with the type designation HAWA-Trambus. Underfloor motors had the advantage that they were very accessible for maintenance and gave more space for cab design. There was also less noise and odour in the interior.
Heinrich Büssing died in 1929 at the age of 86, after acquiring more than 150 patents in the field of vehicle development.
Büssing’s sons continued to run the company and later made a name for themselves with technical innovations, including a 1934 motorway bus with two 140hp diesel engines.
Büssing manufactured trolley buses between 1933 and 1966, producing approximately 71 models.
In 1934, Büssing took over Neue Automobil Gesellschaft (NAG) and Büssing used the brand Büssing-NAG until 1950.
From 1936, Büssing produced two-axle and three-axle tram buses with underfloor engines.
During World War II, the company produced crawler tractors, armoured scout cars, aircraft engines and trucks, including a light and off-road model, the Einheitsdiesel (standard diesel truck); 6×4 armoured cars and an 8×8 truck with all-wheel steering.
Along with several other Nazi-directed companies, Büssing NAG used inmates of Nazi concentration camps in Braunschweig, from 1944 until March 1945, for slave labour.
After World War II civilian production resumed, with five-tonne and later seven-tonne payload trucks.
In 1950, the company name became Büssing Nutzkraftwagen GmbH and production was concentrated on underfloor-engined trucks that soon became the firm’s speciality, in a market where nearly all prime movers and rigid trucks had vertical engines.
Büssing underfloor-engined trucks were exported to Australia, but we’ve had no luck so far in tracking down any survivors.
In the mid-1960s there was a version of the Commodore prime mover, the 16-210 (16 tonnes GVM and 210hp), with a horizontal diesel mounted under the cab, ahead of the front axle and the gearbox remotely mounted halfway along the chassis. Check out our Cab-under Truck Feature for another development.
1970 Büssing BS16, 310hp, underfloor-engine truck
Büssing took over the Borgward plant at Osterholz-Scharmbeck in 1962 and this plant used for building military four-tonne 4x4s. In 1968, this factory was sold to Faun-Werke GmbH.
Converted into a public limited company, Büssing AG last made a profit in 1960. Salzgitter AG merged with the company in 1962 and ran it until 1968. Production was relocated to Salzgitter in 1965.
In 1969, Büssing deeloped strong ties with MAN AG. MAN was a customer for some of Büssing’s innovative parts while it was promoting its own MAN line-up.
1976 MAN-Büssing underfloor-engine truck
Excessive development costs and other issues brought Büssing ever greater economic difficulties and it was eventually taken over by MAN in 1971.
MAN retained the Büssing corporate logo, the Braunschweig lion – the king of beasts. It still decorates the grilles of MAN commercial vehicles to this day, reminding us of the king of trucks and pioneer of mobility, Heinrich Büssing.