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Virtual Earth map of Mann ERF Truck Plant Middlewich Cheshire UK

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Back in 1881 the first traction engine built in Sandbach owed a great deal to the late E.R. Foden's ideas. And in 1898 he went on to influence truck design by designing the first steam wagon (on steel tyre wheels) which had a very successful run up until 1913. As a result of solid rubber tyres coming into favour, E.R. Foden introduced the first pneumatic-tyre steamer, but as steam transport appeared to be going out of favour, E.R. Foden turned his attention to the production of a 6-8 tonne chassis fitted with the Gardner oil-engine. At the beginning of the 30's, Britain's industry was struggling to survive the worst recession in living memory, and unemployment had broken through the 2 million barrier. At this time insurers were becoming increasingly reluctant to underwrite welded steam boilers, as a result E.R. Foden believed the future of the trucking industry lay in diesel. Unfortunately for him though, the boardroom didn't and he was forced into retirement at the age of 60. Few could have guessed though that at this time of economic strife, E.R. Foden would make a comeback and form a company that would flourish as many others fell by the wayside. The Midnight oil could be seen burning at his home, and with the help of his son Dennis and two former colleagues, E.R.Foden was working to build the very first E.R.F diesel lorry. "People didn't take us seriously, they said, what can they do. They're just three men and a boy." Late in 1933 'E.R.Foden & Son Diesel' made its debut at the motor show in Olympia. Due to the war the Gardner 4LW diesel engines had to be reserved for military vehicles with an AEC 7.7 litre used for civilian trucks. Despite the change the C14 and C15 - powered by a Gardner 5LW - sold well, but by the end of the war output had dipped to 237. Steel rationing was now accepted as a way of life for the foreseeable future, luckily ERF was now a well established name and gearing up for a radical new truck that would take the market by storm… but the end of the 40's brought a new blow. The death of Edwin Richard in 1950 at the age of 80 meant the loss of an acute business brain, and a leader who had nurtured ERF's family atmosphere from the beginning. His son Dennis became Managing Director and the company went public in 1954. Dennis shared his father's flair for design and sensed that a radical change was needed. The Klear View, or KV cab quickly became the epitome of 1950's style. Quirky but utilitarian, futuristic and imaginative. Operators fell in love with its distinct rounded shape and the truck, with its Gardner engine, became a legend Due to the war the Gardner 4LW diesel engines had to be reserved for military vehicles with an AEC 7.7 litre used for civilian trucks. Despite the change the C14 and C15 - powered by a Gardner 5LW - sold well, but by the end of the war output had dipped to 237. Steel rationing was now accepted as a way of life for the foreseeable future, luckily ERF was now a well established name and gearing up for a radical new truck that would take the market by storm… but the end of the 40's brought a new blow. The death of Edwin Richard in 1950 at the age of 80 meant the loss of an acute business brain, and a leader who had nurtured ERF's family atmosphere from the beginning. His son Dennis became Managing Director and the company went public in 1954. Dennis shared his father's flair for design and sensed that a radical change was needed. The Klear View, or KV cab quickly became the epitome of 1950's style. Quirky but utilitarian, futuristic and imaginative. Operators fell in love with its distinct rounded shape and the truck, with its Gardner engine, became a legend. In 1958 though a decision was taken to offer customers more choice, which led to the beginning of ERF's switch to Cummins - which led to a strong relationship that the two companies still share to this day. By the end of the 50's, production had reached the 500 mark for the first ever time. If the 1950's were years of consolidation, the 1960's were years of technical advancement. Yet the decade began under a cloud with the death of Denis Foden. Peter Foden then only 30 years of age took over the business and set about a programme of change.The LV made its appearance in 1962 and combined a stylish appearance with luxury internal fittings. The cuts in rail lines during the 60's really worked in ERF's favour as did the 1964 Construction and Use Regulations which permitted 32-tonne gross-weight articulated vehicles. This change in policy was one that ERF anticipated and were able to capitalise on fully. Buoyant export trade however matched growing domestic success, and although hauliers were still smarting from a 50 percent increase in road tax, ERF remained committed to technical improvement. The 70's really did start off with a bang; record sales of £9.7 million were accompanied by the debut of the new A-Series truck. Despite its similarity to the LV, the A-Series incorporated several new innovations including: A weight saving frame, power steering, longer springs and bigger dampers. "By May 1980 it just collapsed on us" Cyril Acton Managing Director At the end of 1979 ERF were building 16 trucks a day. In the depth of the recession it was just 16 a week. The bottom had fallen out of the market and by the end of 1983, the Sandbach workforce had been trimmed from 1,400 to just over 600, with the factory on a 2 day week. An ambitious plan for a Wrexham assembly plant had to be abandoned and the Fire Engineering Division put up for sale. What's more, an agreement with Japanese truck maker Hino to manufacture 12 to 15 tonners at Sandbach was killed off by a change in the value of the Yen. ERF battled on though and in the autumn of 1983, it unveiled its own 16 tonner with a revised C-Series cab. ERF also began looking beyond its traditional heavy truck home ground and also set up its own sales and marketing force. Also ERF rationalised its product range, the result of which was the Common parts Series which would prove highly popular with hauliers. By 1986 ERF had bounced back and unveiled the E-Series tractor along with a more aerodynamic SP4 cab. Truck buyers now came flooding back and by the end of 1988 ERF had registered 3,740 trucks in the UK to win 10% of the 16 tonne market. The next big news was the signing of an agreement with an Austrian truck maker called Steyr, under which ERF would use Steyr's all-steel cab on its attractive ES6 and E8 trucks. Stepping into the 90's and responding to developments and trends, ERF in May 1993 introduced the EC range. This coincided with the company's diamond jubilee and used 'Driving the Future' as a theme. Again, the EC used the established SP technology with new styling, however this was more than a revamp. After 4 years development and a £14 million investment, a new tractor and rigid truck range was produced. This EC range turned out to be ERF's best ever selling product. 1996 saw the take over of ERF by Western Star, a Canadian based company with interests in various parts of the world. ERF also started to diversify into the municipal market with 2 new products, the EM central steer cab and the EU cab. As the old millennium drew to a close, ERF started construction on a new factory in Middlewich, Cheshire. This would bring the company under one roof for the first time in many years. "By May 1980 it just collapsed on us" Cyril Acton Managing Director At the end of 1979 ERF were building 16 trucks a day. In the depth of the recession it was just 16 a week. The bottom had fallen out of the market and by the end of 1983, the Sandbach workforce had been trimmed from 1,400 to just over 600, with the factory on a 2 day week. The year 2000 has seen many new beginnings for ERF. In March, ERF was bought by German company MAN. The summer of 2000 saw ERF launch not one but two new products, the ECS and ECX. For the first time ERF offer a steel cab to its customers. To round off a hectic year ERF moved into its new £28 million state of the art administration and production facility at ERF way, Middlewich, Cheshire. http://www.erf.com/ http://www.manerf.com/



 

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