Historic Truck Brands


ERF had a forced beginning, following a boardroom disagreement at Foden Trucks. Edwin Richard Foden had started Foden Trucks back in 1898, making steam-powered machines, but, by the late 1920s the market was showing a preference for diesel power and insurers were becoming increasingly reluctant to cover accidents caused by steam boilers.

E R Foden wanted to design 6-8-ton trucks powered by the then new Gardner LW diesel engine, but the board wouldn’t agree. Edwin and his son, Dennis, left the company that bore their name and founded ERF – his initials.

The first ERF truck bore chassis number 63 – Edwin’s age – and featured a cab designed and built by coach-builder Jennings, with a Gardner engine, David Brown transmission and Kirkstall axles.

The CI4 – standing for Compression Ignition and four-cylinders – had a chassis weight of only four tons, but a payload capacity of 71/2 tons. The engine was a Gardner 4LW, coupled to a four-speed gearbox.

The CI5 and CI6 soon followed, with five-cylinder and six-cylinder engines and two, three or four axles. There was also a lightweight Gardner 3LW, three-cylinder CI3 model, with two tons payload capacity.

A twin-steer, single drive ‘Chinese Six’ followed in 1937.

ERF was requested to build 400 trucks each year during Word War Two and CI4 and CI5 trucks served with the military. ER Foden died in 1950, but Dennis and ERF carried on.

Post-War ERFs were more streamlined models – notably the 1956 ‘Kleer Vue’ (KV) cab with distinctive wrap-around, curved windscreens. Cummins and Rolls Royce diesels were added to the options list.

In 1961 the LV cab was released and Jennings was absorbed into ERF, to speed up production. In 1964 ERF launched a 32-ton GCM prime mover, with Roadranger transmission.

Fire appliance production began in 1967 and in 1970 ERF produced the new ‘A’ cab.Four years later the company introduced the ‘B’ tilt-cab that complied with the EEC’s cab-safety requirements. Eight-wheelers were the initial launch, followed by a 42-ton prime mover version. A sleeper version was released in 1977 and a low-entry version a year later.

ERF was selling trucks at the rate of 4000 per annum, until the 1980s recession that saw figures plummet to around 1000 per annum and never really recover their former market share. 

In 1996, then Australian-owned Western Star bought out ERF, giving WS access to a COE cab. The WS-ERF collaboration resulted in the 7564 COE being released in Australia, but it was no more successful than the company’s previous effort that used a DAF cab. 

In 2000, Daimler-Chrysler-owned Freightliner was negotiating the purchase of Western Star and ERF was surplus to D-C’s requirements. Western Star sold ERF to MAN prior to the Freightliner takeover.

The ink on these agreements was still wet when MAN noticed accounts discrepancies and, in 2002, sued Freightliner – Western Star’s legal successor – for damages and, five years later, received a US$500 million payout to settle the matter.

In the meantime, MAN kept producing ERFs on its Munich production line. The trucks were very much ‘badge engineered’ MANs, except for the option of a Cummins ISMe in place of the MAN D20 engine.

When Cummins baulked at meeting the next-generation EU emissions targets for the ISMe, it was withdrawn as an option, leaving ERFs with all-MAN components. The obvious end to this arrangement came in 2007, when the last ERF rolled off the production line.

Stay informed and receive our updates

From Jim Gibson & Allan Whiting directly to your inbox

You have Successfully Subscribed!