Historic Truck Brands


Two South-German iron-working companies merged to form Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg AG in 1898. This was the origin of the name ‘MAN’.

Rudolf Diesel developed the first diesel engine in this Augsburg factory in 1893-97. It served as the basis for later engine generations in MAN commercial vehicles. 

In June 1915 a joint venture was established between Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg AG and Saurer, a Swiss producer of commercial vehicles. 

The first MAN-Saurer three-tonne truck soon left the joint factory in Lindau on Lake Constance. It was followed by the first buses that were bought by the Imperial Post Office and transported passengers as well as letters and parcels. 

One year later, production moved to MAN’s plant in Nuremberg and the company traded as ‘MAN Lastwagenwerke’ after the Saurer cooperation ended in 1918.

Man’s first customers were mills, breweries, building companies and timber transporters in Bavaria. MAN opened its first repair shop with an off-site spare parts warehouse in Munich Schwabing in 1920. (Back then, MAN offered maintenance, servicing and inspection to be performed at the customer’s premises and, by the end of 1938, there were 2400 MAN vehicles in 47 countries with service contracts.) 

In 1921, MAN and Gute Hoffnung Hütte (GHH) – another 19th Century iron-working company – merged. 

MAN showed its first vehicle engine with diesel direct injection, in 1924, at the Berlin Show. This four-cylinder, 45hp engine had the potential to reduce fuel costs by around 75-percent in comparison with petrol engines of the time, but it was very noisy. MAN had to retrofit it with spark plugs and a petrol fuel system. 

During the same year, MAN produced a low-floor bus with a specially designed drop-frame chassis, replacing the truck chassis that had been used previously.

In 1928 MAN released a six-cylinder, 150hp petrol-engined six-wheeler, rated at 10 tonnes capacity: the precursor of all subsequent MAN heavy-duty trucks.

The first three-axle buses with 120hp petrol engines and trolley buses were built by MAN in 1930. Some MANs had a drop-centre rear axle that lowered loading tray height.

With 140hp on tap, MAN’s S1H6, with its D4086 engine, was the most powerful diesel truck in the world in 1932. A year later MAN upped that output to 150hp and diesels predominated I the MAN line-up.

The 1933 range was powered by six-cylinder diesels of 6.7-, 13.3- and 16.6-litre capacity. 

In 1937, MAN improved on its fuel-efficient direct-injection diesel engine. The company was now focussed on military vehicle developments, including the introduction of all-wheel drive. World War Two production was mainly focussed on military vehicles, marine diesels, gun parts and tanks, but also some buses. 

Wartime trucks included the ‘Einheitsdiesel’ (uniform diesel) with all-wheel drive.  By the end of 1944, the assembly line buildings and production machinery were almost completely destroyed. 

Trucks were in demand during reconstruction work after the Second World War. MAN responded to demand with the MK truck models and MKN bus, powered by 110-120hp diesels.

The MAN F8 10-tonner, with its 180hp V8 motor,  aided reconstruction as part of the ‘Wirtschaftswunder’ (economic miracle) that was taking place in the new Federal Republic of Germany.

The F8 had a short bonnet, thanks to its compact V8 engine and its headlights were inset in the front mudguards. It was rated at  19 to 22 tonnes GCM and was the most powerful European truck of its time. 

In 1951 MAN produced the first German truck engine with exhaust-gas turbocharging; achieving a 35-percent performance improvement over a naturally aspirated one. The six-cylinder, 8.72-litre MAN 1546 GT’s output went from 130hp up to 175hp.

In 1955 MAN moved its truck and bus production from Nuremberg to a new plant in Munich, but engine production remained in Nuremberg. The first truck off the production line was a MAN 515 L1. Buses were built in conjunction with Krauss-Maffei and some were so branded or badged KM.

In 1961 the company introduced the 750 HO: its first modular design bus. This standardised chassis was used with different superstructure versions for public buses, intercity buses and coaches. 

In 1965 the 100,000th truck rolled off the Munich assembly line after only 10 years of operation. The most popular MAN trucks both on and off road for this decade were the Hauber and the COE known as the ‘Pausbacke’.

In 1971 MAN took over Büssing Automobilwerke and its plant in Salzgitter, after BA got into financial difficulties. MAN intended to close down its competitor’s production, but feedback from customers suggested otherwise.

As a result, MAN continued producing some of its former competitor’s proven vehicle models, with an MAN cab, under the name MAN-Büssing, including the MAN-Büssing 16 U. Its roomy cab and underfloor engine made an attractive alternative to MAN’s bonnetted and forward-control vehicles.

Büssing’s logo, the lion of Brunswick, has since decorated the radiator grilles of all commercial vehicles made by MAN. 

Also in the early 1970s  MAN collaborated with Bosch to test automatic vehicle guidance, despite the lack of digital control systems. A control cable set into in the centre of the roadway emitted audio-frequency control pulses and metal coils at the front and rear of the truck received these signals. It worked, but the test vehicle could be automated only where a control cable was laid. Today, ‘platooning’ is increasingly being taken up.

At the end of the 1970s MAN cooperated with VW in the light truck segment. The six- and eight-tonne trucks of the G-series were jointly produced until 1993. (Since 2011 MAN has been part of the VW Group.)

MAN’s best-known trucks were bonnetted types for construction work and heavy COEs for long-distance transport. Examples are the Type 19.280, which was the first MAN truck to receive the ‘Truck of the Year’ award in 1978 and the MAN F90, which picked up the 1987 award. 

The F90 was launched in 1986 as a COE vehicle with gross ratings from 18 to 48 tons. The truck was available with a day cab, long-distance cab and large-capacity cab to suit various applications. The engines used were five-cylinder, six-cylinder and V10-cylinder diesel engines with turbocharging and intercooling that covered an output range between 270 and 500hp. 

The most successful MAN truck model of the nineties was the F2000 that incorporated electronic injection control from 1994.

In 1992, MAN introduced the Lion’s Star coach: a high-decker for long distance travel that had a very low co-efficient of aerodynamic friction of only 0.41.

In 2000, the TGA set new standards for comfort and ergonomics, as well as new technologies that included MAN TipMatic and Comfort-Shift for optimal gear changes. 

MAN strengthened its position in the premium coach segment by taking over the Neoplan bus brand in 2001.

MAN has been part of the Volkswagen Group since 2011. 


MAN in Australia

Early MANs Down Under arrived in the 1930s and some pre-MAN Bussing vehicles were also sold here. 

MAN has never been a major player in the heavy truck market in Australia, but has had niche successes with fleets for its trucks and several bus orders for metropolitan authorities. There has also been success with its off-road vehicle line-up, but, as with all specialist models, the numbers weren’t high-volume until 2013.

The most recent order for Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles Australia (RMMVA) was in July 2013, to supply 2500 protected and unprotected medium and heavy logistic vehicles and 3000 specialist modules to the Australian Defence Force. The first vehicles and modules were delivered in April 2016 and continued to 2020.

Stay informed and receive our updates

From Jim Gibson & Allan Whiting directly to your inbox

You have Successfully Subscribed!