Historic Truck Brands
Sydney Guy registered Guy Motors Ltd in 1914, almost on the eve of World War One. His 1-1/2-tonner was built on a pressed steel, lightweight frame that tolerated rough terrain better than rolled-steel frames. Guy vehicles contributed considerably to the War effort, along with production of aero engines.
Post-War truck business was poor, thanks to many decommissioned vehicles entering the civilian market, so Guy went back to car production for a few years. In 1924 Guy released a bus chassis, with the UK’s first dropped-frame. It generated many sales, including several export deals, including Australia, following an exhibit of Guy 2-1/2-ton and 3-1/2-ton vehicles at the 1922 RAS Show in Sydney.
Two years later Guy announced a six-wheel bus chassis for double-decker and trolley bus work, and also developed a six-wheeler and a half-track for the War Office.
Guy worked with W A Stevens of Tilling Stevens who had developed a petrol-electric bus powertrain and these early hybrid buses were successful for several British operators.
Exports of Guy double-decker and trolley buses continued climb in the late 1920s and the company developed its own six-cylinder petrol engine.
The 1928 takeover of the Star motor Company proved unwise, when the Great Depression hit in the following year. Guy survived the early 1930s by making two-axle hybrids and scoring some export deals for conventional buses, including the diesel-powered Arab model that saw service during Word War Two and for many years afterwards. There were also orders for 6×6 and 8×8 military vehicles.
Heavy truck releases in 1931 were the Warrior (7-7-ton) and Goliath (10-12-ton) models, with Gardner 5LW or 6LW engines, four-speed main boxes with two-speed auxiliaries and vacuum-servo braking.
From 1935 Guy was involved with the British rearmament program and developed a new welded-construction, Quad Ant armoured vehicle that was cheaper to make and stronger than riveted types.
Buses were casualties of The London Blitz, so Guy was kept busy producing some 2000 double-deckers, between 1942 and 1945.
After the War, domestic and export bus sales grew, including more orders for the hybrid BTX designs. The Arab models were upgraded with a new Guy-Meadows 10.4-litre engines and Wilson pre-selector gearboxes.
In 1948 Guy acquired Sunbeam Commercial Vehicles and from then on, nearly all Guy’s trolley buses were branded Sunbeam.
Guy trucks received all-steel cabs in 1952 and a new range of two-, three- and four-axle heavies, using AEC chassis and axles was launched in 1954.
By 1955, Guy buses were being operated by 150 companies in the UK and in 26 countries around the world. Sydney Guy retired in 1957 and things went downhill from there.
A decision to lease, rather than sell, buses in South Africa proved financially ruinous and when the company rushed its revolutionary 1958 Wulfrunian bus into production, it proved unreliable. Offering disc brakes, air suspension and a mid-mounted engine, it should have received a lot more development before release.
Despite sales success with its truck and bus divisions, the financial strain of new model costs and the South African disaster proved too much and in 1961, Guy went into receivership.
Jaguar founder, Sir William Lyons, bought Guy and the company continued to develop new truck and bus chassis, notably the Big J truck and the Victory tram-bus. The Big J was originally designed for Cummins V6-200 power, but, when that engine proved to be a disaster, other engines were offered: Rolls Royce, Gardner, AEC and Cummins NH. Transmissions were from David Brown, AEC and Fuller and axles from Kirkstall and ENV.
The Big J’s non-tilt cab came from Motor Panels.
In the background the British motor industry was imploding. In 1966, Jaguar merged with the British Motor Corporation to form British Motor Holdings. This company then merged with Leyland in 1968, to form the British Leyland Motor Corporation. Leyland ceased the production of Guy-badged buses in 1972.
Despite the mergers, the British motor industry continued on a generally downward trend and British Leyland looked for where it could make savings.
Guy Motors was able to postpone closure, in part due to the success of its Big J range that made it one of the few companies owned by British Leyland that actually operated at a profit. Nevertheless, in 1981, Leyland shut the doors on Guy.