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Thornycroft Lorries 1933-1939

Thornycroft survived financial problems during the ’thirties to maintain its position as a major British manufacturing company, producing a wide range of products e.g. commercial vehicles, ships and other engineering products. If the era 1927 to 1932 was one of technical development, the era 1933 to1939 was one of improvement and refinement. During the era, Thornycroft produced a wide range of vehicles, all with class names which, for the most part, reflected muscular competence. There were four-wheelers, six-wheelers, artics, small lorries through to large ones, lorries with off-road capability, four-cylinder and six-cylinder engines, diesel and petrol engines, the latter being fitted with side-valves or overhead valves depending on the engine. The firm also built lorries for civil and military use. Towards the end of the era, six-wheelers were withdrawn temporarily from the UK market, although exported.

These pages provide a timeline history of the Thornycroft company's lorry-building activities during the period 1933 to 1939. In addition, data is given on Thornycroft's lorries for this period, in detail for nine selected models and in summary form for all the firm’s lorries. Road haulage expanded during the period covered in these pages, complemeting, and competing with the railways for the carriage of freight, resulting in tensions between advocates of road and rail transport. It was also a period when the UK was feared to be falling behind other countries, notably Germany, the USA and Italy, in providing a road system able to handle the increasing traffic, and wiser heads than those who ruled called for a national motorway system (we had to wait over 20 years before our first motorway was built). The resulting social impact of road transport is examined in terms of goods distribution, roads, road versus rail transport, employment, etc. Thornycroft lorry sales news items are summarised, over a wide spread of operators both at home and overseas. Contemporary diesel practice is discussed, and examples of Thornycrofts at work are recounted. Contemporary reference sources have been used, as well as archive photographs and current photographs of some of the HMS’s preserved vehicles.

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


  • AGM Annual General Meeting
  • AWD all-wheel drive
  • bhp brake horsepower
  • BRF British Road Federation
  • CI compression ignition
  • CR compression ratio
  • cu yds cubic yards
  • cwt hundredweight (112lbs/51kg)
  • GWR Great Western Railway
  • HMS Hampshire Museums Service
  • hp horse power
  • HT high tension
  • IC internal combustion
  • KBE Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire
  • LCC London County Council
  • LNER London & North Eastern Railway
  • lwb long wheelbase
  • M Inst CE Member of the Institute of Civil Engineers
  • mpg miles per gallon
  • mph miles per hour
  • ohv overhead-valve
  • RAC Royal Automobile Club
  • rpm revolutions per minute
  • RSW rigid six-wheeler
  • sv side-valve (L-head)
  • UDC Urban District Council
  • WO War Office
  • WW1 World War One
  • WW2 World War Two
This Speedy normal control petrol tanker looks rather car-like forward of the cargo tank


A bonnet extension indicates a six-cylinder engine for this forward-control Trusty