Historic Truck Brands


In 1896 Adolph Saurer (1841–1920) took over his father’s Saurer machinery company and set it on the automotive path. He and his son Hippolyt (1878–1936) initiated the production of a phaeton body automobile run by a one-cylinder opposed-piston engine. In 1902 a first four-cylinder T-head engine model with touring car and sedan chassis was built.

From 1903 onwards Saurer concentrated on the production of commercial vehicles which soon gained a good reputation. 

The first truck was a five-tonner, powered by a 30hp T-head petrol engine, with cone clutch, four-speed transmission and shaft drive. A chain-drive bus chassis was launched in 1904. Later that year Saurer developed the world’s first exhaust brake.

By 1905 the range included 1-1/2-tone to three-tonners. The five-tonner was upgraded in 1906.

Unlike most auto makers of the period, Saurer was very export-focussed.

The company ran subsidiary companies in Austria (taken over by Steyr-Daimler-Puch in 195 ); France (taken over by Unic in 1956); the United Kingdom (taken over by Armstrong Whitworth as Armstrong-Saurer in 1931) and in Germany (taken over by MAN in 1918). 

In Italy, the Officine Meccaniche (OM) manufacturer was for many years licensee of Saurer engines and other mechanical units, which they used in their own ranges of trucks and buses. In Poland, license-built Saurer engines powered civilian and military vehicles, and Saurer coach chassis were used in Zawrat buses.

In the United States, the Saurer Motor Truck Company, headed by C P  Coleman, had the rights to manufacture and sell heavy trucks under the Saurer brand name at its plant in New Jersey. In 1911 the Saurer Motor Truck Company merged with the Mack Brothers Motor Car Company of Allentown, Pennsylvania, headed by J M Mack, to form the International Motor Truck Company (IMTC). IMTC made and sold trucks using the Saurer name until 1918. 

Several Saurer trucks made their way Down Under in the 1920s.

Saurer trucks were developed along the years into four basic ranges:A-type (1918); B-type (1926); C-type (1934) and D-type (1959). The B-type established Saurer’s international reputation as a builder of long-lasting trucks.

In 1929 Saurer acquired its Swiss rival, Motorwagenfabrik Berna AG, but the Berna name was allowed to continue, badging the very same Saurer models.

From 1932 on, trolleybuses were a very significant segment of Saurer production. Typically Saurer, or Berna, trolleybuses featured Brown, Boveri & Cie or Société Anonyme des Ateliers de Sécheron (SAAS) electric equipment and Carrosserie Hess bodies. Saurer trolleybuses operated in most of Central Europe countries, and still do in several of them.

Unfortunately, in World War Two, some restructured Saurer trucks were used in Nazi-run holocaust work.

In 1951 Saurer and its Italian licensee, OM, reached an agreement by which Saurer marketed OM’s light and medium-weight trucks and buses in Switzerland, using Saurer-OM and Berna-OM badges.

Declining sales in the early 1980s saw the two leading Swiss truck makers, Saurer and FBW, form a joint organisation called Nutzfahrzeuggesellschaft Arbon & Wetzikon, to make buses and trolleybuses under the NAW brand.

In 1982 Daimler-Benz acquired a major shareholding in NAW and quickly took control: dropping Saurer, Berna and FBW brands, while using NAW premises to assemble heavy-haulage versions of Mercedes-Benz trucks. 

The last Saurer-badged civilian-market truck was delivered in 1983 and, four years later, a model 10DM supplied to the Swiss Army was the last Saurer truck produced.

NAW went into liquidation in early 2003.

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