AFTER NEARLY 50 YEARS IN THE UK, VOLVO TRUCKS HAS PROVEN ITS WORTH AS A HEAVY HAULAGE PARTNER, AS WELL AS A MAINSTREAM MANUFACTURER. IAN NORWELL CHARTS THE PROGRESS OF THE COMPANY – AND ITS VEHICLES – SINCE THE 1960S
Their previous visits to the shores of Anglo-Saxon England, in the final decade of the eighth century, were not celebrated by the local populace. In 793AD, Norsemen arrived in longships, with bad attitudes and steel helmets, and they left behind a trail of woe and destruction. Over 1,200 years later, they were back, but this time they brought with them lorries that were better made, more comfortable, safer, and cheaper to run than those built in Britain. In 1967, the new invasion landed at Grangemouth; Volvo trucks had arrived in Britain.
The history does bear a little examination, as it was a Scottish businessman who proved that he knew better than Volvo itself, when it came to what the UK truck market might be ready for. Jim McKelvie from Barrhead, near Paisley, had sold his transport business to TDG (transport development group) for an undisclosed, but reportedly healthy, sum. He had believed, for some time, that British hauliers were ready to pay more for better trucks, and a business associate agreed. Jim Keyden (then the managing director at Pressed Steel in Linwood) was to provide financial and manufacturing expertise, and together with McKelvie’s vision, it was game on.
Keyden had experience supplying steel panels to the British car industry, and he knew that the Swedes were his most demanding customer, having supplied the panels for the Volvo’s P1800 car. After negotiations with Volvo and Scania, McKelvie persuaded the bosses in Gothenburg that he should import their trucks, and the first chassis arrived in Grangemouth 1967.