TILLING – STEVENS Ltd. Maidstone, Kent, England UK 1897

1920 Tilling Stevens logo




since 1930

1907 46, Tilling Stevens TS3 AT 5306 1907 Tilling Stevens Bus K1536 1907 Tilling Stevens Charabanc - Britains Motoring History Card 1907 Tilling Stevens Open

1907 ?

W.A. Stevens was established in Maidstone, Kent in 1897 by William Arthur Stevens and had by 1906 built its first petrol-electric vehicle using designs patented by Percival (Percy) Frost-Smith. A petrol engine was connected to an electrical generator and the current produced passed to a traction motor which drove the rear wheels. According to the website of the Birmingham and Midland Motor Omnibus Trust the simpler to operate petrol-electric transmission was popular among bus drivers rather than the conventional crash gearbox (in the days before synchromesh) as few bus staff had previously driven motor vehicles.

1908 X2 with the very ornate Tilling 34 seat open top body with Quorn station as the backdrop

1908 X2 with the very ornate Tilling 34 seat open top body with Quorn station as the backdrop


Tilling-Stevens factory was situated in St Peter’s St, Maidstone. The factory buildings, built in the 1920s in the Daylight style, survive as of 2012. They were Listed as Grade II in July 2011. It is described as “one few buildings of this style not to have undergone significant alteration from the original”.

1909 Tilling lf9416 1909 Tilling Stevens  001



The petrol-electric transmission was fitted to chassis built by J.E. Hall and Co, of Dartford, (who used the trade name “Hallford”, so these were known as “Hallford-Stevens”) and Dennis Bros, of Guildford (as “Dennis-Stevens”), until an arrangement was agreed with a large bus operator, Thomas Tilling, who wanted to produce their own vehicles which were named Tilling-Stevens. The ease of driving and soundness of construction of these vehicles soon led to the company supplying chassis to many bus operators in the UK, and several abroad as well.

1910 Pa-MC5 Tilling 1910 vulcan old


Tilling-Stevens Motors Ltd consolidated its position with bus operators in World War I because the petrol-electric chassis were not considered suitable by the Army for use in France. However, many men were trained to drive in the War on vehicles with conventional gearboxes which led to a decline in popularity of Tilling-Stevens’ system. By the 1930s, chassis were being produced with conventional petrol/diesel engines, gearboxes and transmission.

Minolta DSC


Tilling-Stevens split from Thomas Tilling in 1930 and renamed itself T S Motors Ltd (TSM) in 1932, but were again renamed Tilling-Stevens before World War II had broken out.

1912 Transport Postcard - Bus - Tilling-Stevens TTA1 No.K1631 - December 1912 2873


Tilling-Stevens was still manufacturing buses after World War II, with a large order built in 1947/1948 for export to Hong Kong (China Motor Bus (108) & Kowloon Motor Bus (50)).

Goods vehicles

Tilling-Stevens also produced goods chassis available with either petrol-electric or conventional gearbox transmissions and built many trucks during World War I. Their cast aluminium radiators were distinctive, with “Tilling-Stevens” cast into the top and either “Petrol-Electric” or “Maidstone” into the bottom tanks.

Vulcan lorryPost-war Vulcan truck fitted with Perkins diesel engine. On show at Bromyard, England in 2008

After the war, they failed to invest in updating their products and acquired Vulcan Trucks of Southport, Lancashire in 1930 to extend their range (and use Vulcan petrol engines). Production stayed at Maidstone.

Tilling-Stevens petrol-electric searchlight lorry

petrol-electric searchlight lorry

The unusual electric transmission became less of an advantage as other makers developed their simpler mechanical transmissions to be reliable and easier to drive. Tilling-Stevens specialised in some unusual markets where the transmission could offer a particular advantage, by also using it as a generator. Some early turntable ladder fire engines were produced where arc lamps for lighting and the electric motors to raise the ladder could be powered by it.

1913 Autocar-ThosTilling 1913 Chassis Tilling-Stevens TTA2 Engine Tilling-Stevens petrol Transmission Electric Traction Motor Body Thomas Tilling 34 seatsvo9926 1913 Vulcan truck, from The Automobile, May 15


In the 1930s the lorries also lost the large cast radiators in favour of first a thinner cast aluminium shell and then a cheaper steel pressed bonnet and a small diamond-shaped “TSM” badge.

1914 Craftsmen at work on an StevensTillingL bus, Chiswick Works 1914 POSTCARD RP LIVERPOOL CORPORATION TILLING STEVENS BUS TTA1 NO K 1593 1914 POSTCARD TILLING STEVENS 46 SEAT DOUBLE DECKER BUS ISLE OF MAN 1914 Tilling Stevens Petrol Electric Bus 1914 Tilling Stevens TS3 Petrol Electric with 1908 Bus Body 1914 Tilling--Stevens petrol electric omnibus London 1914 tilling-stevens petrol-electric 1914 Tilling-Stevens TS3 1914 Tilling-Stevens 1914 Transport Postcard - Liverpool Corporation - Tilling-Stevens TTA1 1914 U778 1914 Vulcan Demonstration Van 1914 Vulcan Driggs-Seabury


Leading up to World War II they specialised in the searchlight trucks for which they are probably still best known today.

1914 Bus Postcard - B.C.T. 1914 Tilling Stevens - Petrol-Electric Bus U130

1914 Bus Postcard – B.C.T. 1914 Tilling Stevens – Petrol-Electric Bus U130

Rootes Group

In 1950, the company was sold to Rootes Group, and complete vehicle production ceased soon afterwards. The plant continued to produce light commercial engines (particularly the iconic Commer TS3 2 stroke diesel) and vehicle bodies, before finally closing in the 1970s, some years after the group had been acquired by Chrysler.

1918 (DA 1551) Tilling-Stevens TS3 Fleming B30R in service 1918-1929 Wolverhampton 1918 Tilling Stevens 1918 Vulcan Clarinda



The Tilling-Stevens petrol-electric bus is interesting as an early example of a hybrid vehicle, although without any direct engine propulsion or battery storage. As the petrol engine ran continuously, it was almost certainly less fuel efficient than a competing petrol engine, which may have contributed to its demise. However hybrid petrol-electric cars, such as the Toyota Prius, are now seen as being a partial solution towards cutting carbon dioxide emissions and reducing the risks of damaging global warming.

1919 Tilling Stevens bus in Amberley

1919 Tilling Stevens bus in Amberley