International Truck Stop - Take it to the limit

Thursday, July 5, 2018


Photo: Volvo Ailsa Edition FH16-750s are hard to miss out on the road.

For Europe’s truck makers there’s no better way of generating new excitement in an existing model than by offering a Limited Edition version.

In a world where everything looks the same there’s no better way to stand out from the crowd than with a limited edition lorry, especially if you’re a truck maker looking to revive flagging interest in a current model without paying the earth. Whether it’s celebrating a corporate milestone or simply to divert attention away from some Johnny-come-lately rival, Europe’s manufacturers can’t resist creating them. Just add the necessary ‘bling’...and watch the punters come running.

In the past 18 months no less than three of them have popped up. First in Blighty was Volvo’s Ailsa Edition FH. Back in 1967 Jim McKelvie and Jim Keyden, two farsighted, entrepreneurial Scottish businessmen launched Ailsa Trucks – the original UK importer – and kicked off the business with the little F86.


Photo: Actros1 on the road.

To mark the occasion Volvo Trucks UK & Ireland persuaded Gothenburg to build 50 special right-hand-drive Ailsa Edition FH-540 and FH16-750 tractors, each one sporting an eyecatching black and gold paint job along with a snazzy leather interior and specially designed 50th Anniversary logos. Ailsa Edition extras included Volvo Dynamic Steering, I-Park Cool stationary air-con, I-See Predictive Cruise Control, TomTom navigation and the latest media package for streaming. Inside the cab there was a microwave, TV, fridgefreezer plus a Personal Protection Package, featuring a security box, laminated door glass and alarm. There were even discreet Ailsa Edition door badges with Swedish and Union Jack flags. Meanwhile, over in Holland, DAF wanted to celebrate the fact that 90 years ago Hub van Doorne laid down the Dutch truck maker’s foundations. So naturally it wanted to build 250 90th Anniversary Edition 530hp XF Super Space Cab tractors to celebrate, complete with handcrafted versions of DAF’s original logo on the front, sides and back of the cab, as well as inside, for diehard retro fans. Every Anniversary Edition XF has its own unique number inside the cab – along with a neat DAF logo panel that ’s illuminated when you open the door. In addition there’s a top-of-the-range XF Exclusive trim package with an abundance of leather – a must-have on a limited edition motor – Climate Control, a roof-mounted parking cooler, TruckPhone, microwave, fridge, and DAF’s extra-secure Night Lock door locks. W hat ’s more, each Anniversary Edition buyer gets their own luxury gift set comprising a leather travel bag and jacket, a Waterman pen in a customised leather box, leather credit card wallet, and a 90th Anniversary Edition sketch signed by DAF’s chief designer, Bart van Lotringen.


Photo: The original Black Cat created by Foden dealers Forden Commercials.

However, the most recent arrival at the Limited Edition ball is Merc’s Actros1 – 100 exclusive 625hp Actros flat-floor GigaSpace right-hand-drive tractors, built not just for comfort but also safety. Standard kit includes Merc’s latest Active Brake Assist (ABA4) which automatically applies the brakes to avoid a collision (if the driver fails to do so) not only with other vehicles but also pedestrians. Inside, there are comfort leather seats with their own massage function, a Multimedia Radio Touch system and a 7-speaker sound system with 100W active sub-woofer, plus extra storage lockers on the back wall, fridge, microwave, ambient night lighting and a premium comfort mattress. On the outside, an illuminated three-pointed star grille badge and cab and door plaques provide that extra touch of class. To top it off you’ve a choice of green or silver paint jobs. There’s even a YouTube video to promote it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byXADxdEJz8 HOWEVER, the Granddaddy of all limited edition models – at least as far as Blighty is concerned – was created 27 years ago when a smart-thinking marketing man at Scania (Great Britain) called David Burke came up with the idea of marking the Swedish truck maker’s centenary with 100 limited edition right-hand-drive Scania 3 Series tractors called, naturally enough, the Centurion. Offered on either a regular R-cab or the original Streamline cabin, Centurion tractors had various extras like a CD player (big news back in 1991) auto reverse warning buzzer, chrome wheel covers, heated rear mirrors and headlight wash-wipe as well as their own unique badging, including monogrammed seat covers. The various owners even formed themselves into their own Centurion Club which met up regularly at UK truck shows. Owners also got an exclusive leather holdall with wash-bag and shaving kit. However, the pièce de résistance was undoubtedly the Master Centurion – the final truck in the limited run of 100.

Master Centurion was a definite one-off, being the first Scania R143 with the 500hp EDC V8 engine to appear in the UK, well ahead of the start of RHD production. With its Streamline cab resplendent in stunning pearlescent white paint, it had just about everything you’d want, like leather seats, alloy wheels, a Phillips radio/stereo and CD player plus TV and DVD, an in-cab phone and fax (yes a fax!), and luxury Liberty interior trim and bedding. Finally, for a touch of real class, its Centurion badges were made from special 24-carat electroplated gold. Nice...


Photo: Black Cat II.

In 1991 Master Centurion’s list price of over £100,000 was unheard of. It was ultimately sold through a special promotion in the UK trucking press with a sizeable donation from the proceeds going to the BBC’s annual Children in Need appeal. Since then Master Centurion has become a legend in the business, having had (as far as I can tell) fewer than half a dozen owners. The last I heard it belonged to an operator in Northern Ireland who’d refurbished it and brought it back to its former glory.

Some limited editions are limited indeed. In the mid-80s, enterprising Bristol-based Foden dealer Forden Commercials created two very special 6x4 S106T4 Foden tractors called Black Cat and Black Cat II respectively – the name coming from the fact that both had show-stopping black paint jobs and a 400hp Cat 3406B engine. Former Forden sales director and long-time kite marque connoisseur John Ormandy remembers them well. Having ordered the first of the pair in a metallic red shade, based on a picture he’d seen in a Kenworth brochure, Ormandy was keen to track its progress and get a firm delivery date. But when he phoned the factory he was dismayed to be told they were having problems with the colour and couldn’t say when painting could go ahead. Desperate to get the truck he told them “Paint it black and deliver ASAP!”

When a salesman colleague subsequently asked him, “ W hen’s that black Cat being delivered?” the name stuck.


Photo: Master Centurion Scania.

The original Black Cat Foden hit the road in 1985 and was soon turning heads and generating favourable comments on the CB – a big craze here at the time. Not long afterwards Ormandy took it to Truckfest (one of the biggest truck shows in Europe held over the May Bank Holiday) where a guy approached him and asked how much to buy it. “I told him it wasn’t available to sell until September and gave him a price. He said, ‘Consider it sold. I’ll come and pick it up in September.’ No deposit, just a handshake.” And he was as good as his word. With the original Black Cat collecting so much favourable publicity, the following year Forden created Black Cat II, complete with airbrushed artwork on the doors depicting the truck driving down Bristol Portway with Clifton Suspension Bridge behind it. Sadly, two weeks after appearing at Truckfest it was stolen from Forden’s Avonmouth yard, never to be seen again. How about one for you Kiwis? Following a long-running sponsorship deal between Iveco and the New Zealand Rugby Union, in 2016 as European supporter of the All Blacks Northern Hemisphere Tour, the Italians created a special All Blacks Stralis XP Emotional Truck which it auctioned in aid of UNICEF. It subsequently produced a special Limited Edition run of New Stralis XP TCO2 Champions bearing the team’s colours. Iveco has form when it comes to special edition tractors. However, its latest one takes some beating, not least as, for the moment, there’s only one. The 570hp Iveco Stralis XP Abarth celebrates the fact the Iveco is currently the official logistics supplier to Team Abarth Scorpion.

The Stralis 570 XP Abarth cab sports a white livery with red and grey finishes especially created by the Abarth Design centre, together with carbon fibre trimmed panels and colourmatched wheels. Its interior features red leather seats, steering wheel and door panels, similar to the driving compartment of an Abarth Spider 124 – the specially tuned version of the Fiat ’s 124 Spider convertible. Having said there was only one, and right now that ’s the case, I understand there’s talk of the company producing 124 limited edition XP TCO2 tractors based on it. The sad news for us in Britain is that they’ll only be offered in left-hand drive. In the meantime, enjoy the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5oa2sjsf-0s


Photo: DAF 90th Anniversary edition alongside classic 1968 DAF A1600. How times have changed.