Truck Talk: DAF LF – The British light fantastic

Mike Humble:

LF Hybrid

This years marks the 20th anniversary of the collapse of Europe’s largest builder of commercial vehicles – LEYLAND DAF. After some frantic negotiations and backing from Managers and Banking Corporations, the UK division based in the Town that gave its name to some of the worlds most renown buses and trucks was saved. LEYLAND Trucks was in effect reborn into a private enterprise that continued to build commercials for the DAF network who in turn had been purchased by the U.S based PACAAR  corporation. LEYLAND remained to be owned by its management until 1998 whereby the same U.S company bought LEYLAND bringing the two organisations under the same stewardship.

The LEYLAND assembly plant (LAP) was completed in the early ’80s to produce the T45 range of trucks – the launch model Roadtrain went on to win design council awards and the coveted ‘International Truck of the Year’ award for 1981. By 1986, a new 7.5 tonne chassis (Roadrunner) was launched with a blaze of publicity and went on to become an instant success, stealing the limelight from Fords Cargo and the Mercedes Benz LN. Other rivals fell by the wayside – namely the Bedford TL but the Roadrunner continued to evolve into a brilliant truck following engineering partnership with Cummins to replace the elderly Leyland 6.98 series engine. The Roadrunner became the DAF 45 in 1991 and was fully re-engineered.

The plant opened in 1980 and is the worlds most efficient. They can produce one truck every five minutes.
The plant opened in 1980 and is the worlds most efficient. They can produce one truck every five minutes.

The DAF 45 continued to offer a package that offered a brilliant payload capacity, superb manoeuvrability, a rugged chassis and excellent running costs right through the `90s until it was redesigned featuring a new range of four and six cylinder Cummins iSB engines and a new cab to be shared with Renault and Volvo. The new truck was called the ‘LF’ and was designed and engineered at LAP using a chassis that was based on the outgoing 45 albeit revised and improved upon.  Critics applauded this new truck and it gained the 2001 Truck of the year award exactly 20 years after its spiritual big brother (Roadtrain) did. Leyland have since designed an LF hybrid model and now produce all right hand drive DAF trucks. The plant has never been busier with the 100.000th LF model rolling off the line a little while ago.

The original ethos that went right back to early days of Roadrunner relating to low running costs and maximum payload potential still continue with the LF, the truck remains to be one of the best selling 7.5 tonne chassis of all time. Best of all… is the fact its designed, engineered and produced here in Great Britain.

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The factory was opened in 1980

The LF covers the 7.5 to 18 tonne G.V.W sector

The engineering partnership with Cummins paved the way for the B series and iSB engines (also UK produced) to be the worlds most popular power unit of its size

They produce trucks for the European DAF & North American Kenworth and Peterbuilt network

Models built for the European market in RHD form: LF CF XF105

Leyland Trucks is the Worldwide centre for medium weight truck expertise employing 100 design engineers at Leyland.

The LAP can produce up to once complete truck every five minutes

50% of all UK LAP production is exported

Leyland currently employ over 1000 at the plant

LAP covers over 710.000 Square feet

LAP is the most efficient truck plant of anywhere in the world


  1. You know, I’d forgotten all about LAP until now!
    Isn’t it true that they still trade under the name of “Leyland Trucks”, or is that urban myth?

  2. Their website is so yes, it’s still Leyland. Their history page is very funny – in it’s brevity. They do seem to have a very selective memory…

  3. The LF is a nice machine to drive, I was recently at the helm of a tiny miler 13 plater that felt a bajillion times better than a German rival I drove recently, but I wasn’t overly keen on the automated manual. Give me 6 on the floor any day.

    • Automated manuals…

      I recently had a drive of an Iveco Daily with an automated manual gearbox- very strange compared to either a conventional automatic ‘slush box’ or a full manual. It felt as if a disembodied foot was engaging a clutch and an unseen hand was changing gears manually- quite odd, not least when it would downchange as you would slow for lights. Upchanges would occur much earlier than you’d choose, and it was pretty slow -witted if you needed to pull out and make progress.

      Much prefer manual Dailys meself- nice light clutch and fluid gearchange, Prefer them to Sprinters, and the disadvantage of poor nearside mirror visability isn’t so bad if you are 6′ tall.

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