THORNYCROFT Cars, Buses, Coaches and Trucks 1896 till 1977


1934 Thornycroft dropside lorry

Preserved 1934 Thornycroft Handy dropside lorry

For the shipbuilder, see John I. Thornycroft & Company, for other uses, see Thornycroft (disambiguation)

Thornycroft was a United Kingdom-based vehicle manufacturer which built coaches, buses, and trucks from 1896 until 1977.


Thornycroft steam wagon, above and below (Rankin Kennedy, Modern Engines, Vol III)

Thornycroft steam wagon of 1905

Thornycroft started out with steam vans and lorries. John Isaac Thornycroft, the naval engineer, built his first steam lorry in 1896. Thornycroft’s first petrolvehicle was built in 1902 and the company completed the move into internal combustion engine power in 1907.

1902 Steam-Powered Thornycroft Bus

1902 Steam-Powered Thornycroft Bus

Thereafter the vehicle building firm and the marine side (later to become Vosper Thornycroft) were separate companies.

1904 Thornycroft 4 seater bs8239

1904 Thornycroft 4 seater bs8239

From 1931, Thornycroft used names for their vehicle range – descriptive and colourful ones.

1904 Thornycroft 4 seater gaydoncar

1904 Thornycroft 4 seater gaydoncar

In 1948, the company name was changed to Transport Equipment (Thornycroft) Ltd to prevent confusion with the shipbuilding Thornycroft company. The company was well known for providing fire-engine chassis, with multi-axle drive for uses such as airports.

1905 24 hp Thornycroft Bus at Five Ways, Birmingham

1905 24 hp Thornycroft Bus at Five Ways, Birmingham

They were taken over in 1961 by AEC parent Associated Commercial Vehicles Ltd, and production was limited to Nubians, Big Bens and Antars, although the Thornycroft-designed six-speed constant mesh gearbox was used in AEC and later medium weight Leyland and Albion trucks. ACV was then taken over by Leyland in 1962. They already had a specialist vehicle unit in Scammell, another manufacturer of large haulage vehicles. Thornycroft’s Basingstoke factory was closed in 1969 and specialist vehicles transferred to Scammell at Watford. The factory continued as an engineering works until the late 1980s when it was demolished to make way for a supermarket. The Milestones Museum is located a few hundred yards from the original site in Basingstoke and houses a collection of Thornycroft vehicles and other exhibits, mainly transport related.

1905 Thornycroft

1905 Thornycroft

Today, the Thornycroft name is used by a builder of marine diesel engines for private and light commercial use, the engines being based around small-capacity engines designed by Mitsubishi. Despite Thornycroft being effectively closed down by Leyland, the operation’s parent company is now the main provider of spare parts for Leyland-built marine diesels, which for many years were highly popular for use in canal barges and narrowboats (now a market making increasing use of modern-day Thornycroft engines).


Bus and Coach

1910 Thornycroft landaulette caronrun

1910 Thornycroft landaulette caronrun

  • Beautyride
  • Boudicea
  • Cygnet
  • Daring
  • Lightning
  • Nippy
  • Patrician
  • 1914 Thornycroft, type 2 Bison on display at Bovington 1917 Thornycroft  Bison concrete armoured lorriesThornycroft Bison




  • “Type J” 40 hp, 1913
  • “Type K” 30 hp, 1913
  • Hathi, 1924
  • 1919 Thornycroft Type J Replica Charabanc1919 Thornycroft Type J Replica Charabanc
four-wheel drive artillery tractor for the army
  • A1 RSW / A3 RSW, an off-road capable rigid six-wheeler to an army specification, 1926
  • QC / Dreadnought, 1930
12 ton rigid six-wheel chassis.
  • Hardy
  • Dandy
  • Sturdy – 5/6 tonner
  • Trusty – 8 ton forward control 4 wheeler
  • Bullfinch
  • Strenuous
  • Mastiff
  • Tartar 3-ton 6×4, both civilian & military versions and production (3,000 – 4,000) between 1938 and 1945.
  • Thornycroft Smallwood Logo
(see Thornycroft Bison for an unusual variant)
  • Taurus
  • Iron Duke
  • Amazon
  • Stag
  • Bulldog
  • Jupiter – 6.5 ton
  • Big Ben
  • Nubian
    • 3-ton vehicle
    • Available as 4 x 4, 6 x 4, 6 x 6
  • Antar
    • 85-ton
    • 6 x 4 pipeline and tank transporter

See also

1919 Thornycroft Works c1919

1919 Thornycroft Works


Author: Jeroen

In Dutch, my homelanguage: Ik ben Jeroen, tot januari 2015 was ik al dik 26 jaar werkzaam in een psychiatrisch ziekenhuis in een stad vlakbij Werelds grootste havenstad Rotterdam. Eerst als verpleegkundige/begeleider op high care, later op afdeling dubbeldiagnose (verslavingen) en ook nog een tijdje als administratief medewerker. Ik heb een spierziekte "Poli Myositis" (alle spieren zijn ontstoken) daardoor weinig energie. Sinds augustus 2015 is daarbij de diagnose Kanker gesteld, en ben ik helemaal arbeidsongeschikt geworden en zit middenin de behandelfase. Gelukkig ben ik daarnaast getrouwd, vader, en opa, en heb de nodige hobby's. Een daarvan is transportmiddelen verzamelen en daarmee een blog schrijven. Dit blog begon met bussen, maar nu komen ook sleepboten, auto's trucks en dergelijke aan bod. Kijk en geniet met me mee, reageer, en vul gerust aan. Fouten zal ik ook graag verbeteren. In English: I'm Jeroen, till januari 2015 I was already 26 years working as a nurse in a psychiatric hospital, near Rotterdam, Worlds biggest harbour with more than 98 nationalities living within it's borders. First I worked on closed high care ward and the last years on a ward with mainly addicted people. I liked my work very much. In 2007 I got ill. I got the diagnose Poli Myositis, a musscle dissease. Al my mussles are inflamed. And last august I got another diagnose. Cancer. It's plaveicelcel carcinoma and treated with Chemo and radioation. So I've even less energy than the last years. Still I try to make something of my life and the blog is helping with surviving with some pleasure.

5 thoughts on “THORNYCROFT Cars, Buses, Coaches and Trucks 1896 till 1977”

  1. Jeroen, ik ben verzamelaar en nieuwsgierig naar achtergronden van modelauto’s. Ik stuitte op jouw blog en vind hem erg interessant. Was eigenlijk op zoek naar de Scammell Highwayman, maar kwam terecht bij Thornycroft. Hier bezit ik ook wat van, dus ook leuk. Keep up the good work. Arie

    Liked by 1 person

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  3. The 1930 Central Australian Gold Exploration Company (C.A.G.E.) expedition, sometimes called the Lasseter expedition, used a Thornycroft A3 but it was not a “six wheeled Caterpillar Tractor”.


  4. John Springer
    19th March 2018
    I lived in Basingstoke and went to Queen Mary’s Grammar School.
    In 1939 a lorry-mounted WW1 anti=aircraft gun was parked behind the works in the area used for testing Bren gun carriers.
    In 1943 ambulance an train loaded with about 4oo patients reversed into Basingstoke’s Southern Railway goods yard at 01.30. I was one of eight or nine 14 year-old St John ambulance cadets ordered out by the police to help unload the train, put the patients into ‘ambulances’ and , 1 boy at a time, accompany the men on the approx 2 1/2 mile run to Park Prewett EMS.
    Before the train came in we had to blanket and stack the 8 to twelve stretchers eacn vehicle could load, As soon as the reversing train stopped the Yard lights came on – vehicles moved to an open door and stretchers were passed in the vehcles then drove to the far end and laden stretchers were passed out.
    6 – 8 boys were needed to catch a stretcher, level with train floor, and lower him to carrying level to be loaded into a vehicle.
    At least 3 of the converted (back cut out and dropped canvas sheet fitted, – stretcher rack at knee level each side instead of seats – 2nd rail at window level with hanging loops for outer handles to make numbers loaded possible.
    At least 3 of the regularly used vehicles we loaded over the next 3 years were Thorny’s.
    1932 and 1934 half cabs each loading 10
    Unknown date – short wheelbase – full width cab loading eight.
    I am in contact with Dennis about their Strachan-bodied vehicles on the same task.
    The son of the designer of the (I think 12 speed) gear boxes for the Mighty Antar – two tractors – one being pusher in the versions was a junior in Queen Mary’s. As a 6th former I met and chatted with his father.
    ‘Laddie’ Taplin was the firm’s test driver who drove their 8 wheeler under test load over the Horseshoe Pass.
    I worked with him as tool-holder when we were the only 2 volunteers regularly turning out to maintain Basingstoke St John Ambulance Division’s ambulances – A Buick straight eight donated by Buick in 1938/9 and 2 ex-army Austin K4’s – later fitted with ambulance bodies
    He and I drove those 2 down to Stokes Bay to provide FA cover for the Spithead review in 1953.
    I slept 3 nights in the back of 996, outside the FA station – and called out to render FA to people who had driven through the night to get prime spots and then fallen or bumped into something as they stumbled about in the dark.

    Liked by 1 person

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