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This small, four-wheel 2 tonner (2,032kg) was introduced at the Commercial Motor Show at Olympia, London, in November 1933 for the 1934 model year. Of distinctive, snub-nosed appearance thanks to its forward-control cab and short bonnet extension housing the radiator, the new Handy was powered by a 3,625cc FB4 four-cylinder engine giving 40bhp at 1,800rpm. The cab and bonnet extension were removable as a unit from the chassis by undoing five bolts and some connections, giving ready access to the engine, etc. Thornycroft claimed that five men could remove the cab/bonnet unit in six minutes and replace it in nine minutes. In addition to the forward-control BE model, of the type exhibited at Olympia, Thornycroft offered the AE normal-control model in normal and long-wheelbase versions.

A Handy forward-control lorry serving near Basingstoke, where it was built.

The Handy conformed to normal practice with rear-wheel drive connected by propeller shaft to the gearbox. The FB4 engine was in unit with the gearbox and mounted at three points, and a spiral bevel final drive, specially-designed for the Handy, was fitted instead of Thornycroft’s much-used worm drive arrangement. Solid front and rear axles were used, and brakes were operated through a Marelli floating bellows type servo motor. Floor boards were of metal-faced plywood secured by wing nuts and, a thoughtful touch, colour-coded sparking plug leads were fitted. During a test in 1933 by The Commercial Motor journal, a Handy returned an average fuel consumption of 16mpg (17.7 litres/100km), acceleration of 0 to 30mph (48.3kph) in 42 seconds and a maximum speed of around 43mph (69.2kph). For 1936, the Handy was updated with the improved FB4/1 engine, giving 50bhp@2,300rpm an impressive 25 per cent power increase over the FB4’s 40bhp@1,800rpm.

The Handy was listed up to and including 1938.

FB4 engine comments: Introduced in 1926, the four-cylinder, side-valve FB4 petrol engine was the smallest power unit offered for Thornycroft lorries when it was introduced, with a swept volume of only 3,625cc, and it remained at the small end throughout its production life. The latter, at 12 years, was relatively long, perhaps due to the FB4’s capacity for development. When it was introduced, the FB4 was rated at 36bhp@1,500rpm and, in due course, power rose to 40bhp@1,800rpm. Then, in 1936, the FB4 was given a Ricardo cylinder head, a higher CR (5.2 to 1), and revisions to port, valve and camshaft design, resulting in a 25 per cent power increase to 50bhp@2,300rpm. These mods improved breathing, and probably thermal efficiency, and the uprated engine was redesignated FB4/1. The Ricardo cylinder head extended the production life of side-valve engines in the face of increasing competition from overhead-valve engines, and Thornycroft was one of many manufacturers to use the Ricardo head.

“Handy” Class 2 ton (2,032kg) chassis, petrol-engined forward-control type “BE/FB4”

December 1933

Four-cylinder type FB4 watercooled petrol

  • Bore 3¾ins (95.3mm)
  • Stroke 5ins (127mm)
  • Swept volume 3,625cc
  • Maximum BHP40@1,800rpm

In-line cylinders. The cylinder block is cast in chromidium iron and the crankcase is of Electron. Side valves are housed in the cylinder block.

Valve actuation
The camshaft is gear driven.

Forced feed system from a pump. An oil filter is fitted.

Zenith UHY carburettor. The inlet manifold has an exhaust-heated hot spot.

Magneto, gear-driven.

By belt-driven water pump and two-bladed fan.


Clutch. Dry single-plate type.

Gearbox. Unit with engine and clutch, and providing four forward speeds and a reverse speed. Ground gears are used.

The overall gear ratios are as follows (including final drive)













Standard final-drive (rear-axle) ratio is 5.37, with 6.44 optional.

Propeller Shaft
Tubular one-piece type with two metallic universal joints.


One piece type

Kirkstall unit incorporating fully floating half-shafts, a spiral-bevel final drive and differential.

Semi-elliptic leaf type all round. Distance between rear spring eye centres is 4ft (1.22m).


Drum brakes on all four wheels with internal-expanding shoes, pedal operated through a Marelli vacuum-servo system. The diameter of all drums is 16ins (40.6cm). Shoes are 2½ins (6.35cm) by 13¼ins (33.7cm). Total frictional area is 275sq ins (1,774sq cm).

Operates on all wheels by non-servo mechanical means.

Right lock turning circle is 34ft 6ins (10.5m); left lock is 36ft (11m). Three turns of the steering wheel from lock to lock.

Parallel-sided, pressed steel with channel longitudinals, arched over the rear axle and continued forward at the same level over the front axle. Cross-members are of channel section made into box sections with plates welded on the open sides. A straight channel cross-member at the forward end, open side facing to the rear, joins the forward ends of the longitudinals.

Fuel Tank
A 15-gallon (68.2 litres) fuel tank is fitted.

Wheels and Tyres
Tyres are 32ins x 6ins (81.3cm x 15.2cm) on pressed steel wheels, single front, twins at rear. Alternative tyres are 6.5ins-20ins (16.5cm-50.8cm). The standard position for carrying the spare wheel and tyre is at the rear underneath the frame.


  • Chassis weight with cab1 ton 17cwt (4,144lbs/1,880kg)
  • Body 0 ton  8cwt (896lbs/406kg)
  • Pay-load incl. passenger 2 ton 0cwt (4,480lbs/2,032kg)
  • Driver 0 ton 1¼cwt (140lbs/63.5kg)
  • Spare wheel, equipment, etc0 ton  1cwt (112lbs/50.8kg)

An electric lighting set, speedometer, distance recorder, driver’s windscreen wiper, dynamo, etc, spare wheel, tyre and carrier.

The cab can be lifted off as a unit by undoing its five securing bolts and unplugging the head and side-lamp cables, giving access to the complete mechanism at the front of the chassis.


Information for these pages comes from contemporary Thornycroft technical and other data, as well as contemporary copies of The Commercial Motor.


Handy outline diagram 25kb pdf