Time for T
If anyone ever tells you the Scania T-cab wasn't one of the most – arguably the most – eye-catching trucks of all time, just try putting the words 'Scania T-cab' into Google. We did, and we got 7.3 million results back in return (in just 0.36 seconds – how do they do that…?) many of which come in the form of stunning photographs of the big bonneted beautiful Swede.
Word has it that T, in Scania's case, stands for Torpedo, and the T-series certainly is a truck which blows others out of the water. Technically, it's a normal-control model, which mean the pedals come back from the engine room to the driver's feet – as opposed to a forward-control cab-over, where the controls come forward from the engine. But that's enough of the technicalities; the thing about the T-series is that no matter where its pedals come from, it just looks so damn good.
Scania, a firm with a longer history than most, has been building bonneted trucks since 1902. In fact, it's very first truck, which also happened to be Sweden's very first truck, had a bonnet. Incidentally, as you might be able to see from our photo, that vehicle was badged 'Vagnfabriks Aktiebolaget i Södertälje' a snappy little moniker that abbreviated to Vabis, which a few years later coupled up with Scania to form Scania-Vabis. While that early offering bears little resemblance to the bonneted Scania-Vabis's that would follow, the die was none the less cast – you can just imagine the admiring glances that driver in that rather splendid hat must have got from trucks spotters of his day!
Fast forward 99 years to the day Gordon Longthorne bought his first T-truck. "It was brand new, and I kept it for six years before selling it on," he recalls. "I used to love driving it, and I have to say I did regret parting with it in some ways...I suppose it was always in the back of my mind to get another."
Gordon is a third generation member of his family firm, Longthornes of Hedben. "That's not Hebden Bridge, by the way," adds Gordon quickly. "We're the Hebden near Grassington, about 20 minutes out of Skipton."
Hebden is farming country, and livestock transport is what Gordon's granddad Herbert built his business on. In the early '60s, Gordon's father Ken joined the firm and added limestone movement to the company's portfolio. Today, Longthornes is run by Gordon and his two brothers Jonathan and Mark. A successful business it is too, with its present-day fleet of 29 engaged in a variety of operations from limestone haulage to shifting sand to taking cattle to market.
Despite being a member of a winning team, the desire for another T-truck quite never left Gordon.
"Eventually, I started looking around for another. That was six or seven years ago, and in the end I bought one I already knew. It was one of the very last T-cabs ever built (Scania ceased its production in late 2005) and it had started its working life with a scrap haulier in Bradford before being sold on to A.W. Blake in Carlisle. I bought it from them, so I'm its third owner. And I think I'll be keeping it for quite some time yet!"
It's not hard to see why. Gordon's tag-axle T580 tractor unit is one hell of a truck, with enough customisation and detailing to get the juices of even the most diehard enthusiast flowing. The reason this truck is so special is due in no small part to the man responsible for pimping it – Banbury customising ace Gary Coles.
"I went to Coles Customs because I wanted a stainless steel front bumper," says Gordon. "But then Gary talked me into a bit more…and a bit more…and a bit more. I ended up with a stainless steel rear bumper, stainless steel chequer plate, a Kelsa light bar, air horns and a custom interior with leather seats and a specially painted dash.
"The paintwork was by Ian Bones & Son of Carlisle. It's a brilliant job; the base blue is metallic, and there's a metal fleck in the lacquer too to give it an extra bit of sparkle. The chassis is flat Post Office red and to finish the job off I fitted easy polish construction style alloy wheels from Tyretracks of Stafford."
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Gordon's truck is despite its concours appearance, this is a working truck. Yes, you did hear that right; a working truck.
"Although I don't use it all year round," says Gordon protectively. "It's done five or six winters with me, but I've decided to take it off the road for winter now and save it for summer."
"Totally unique and simply amazing. It's a real truck, isn't it – it's got the looks, the performance and that sound; there's nothing like the noise of a V8!"
A unique driving experience
The Scania V8: King of the Road, all the power you'll ever need and more, and a sound to die for. But what's it like piloting a big vee, especially when it's fitted under the bonnet of a Scania T-cab? In the case of Gordon Longthorne, his truck has 580 horses and is plated at 44-tonnes gross train weight – more than enough if you work on the old haulier's mantra of ten horsepower per ton.
"It's an experience like no other," says Gordon. "Totally unique and simply amazing. It's a real truck, isn't it – it's got the looks, the performance and that sound; there's nothing like the noise of a V8!"
"We're in the Yorkshire Dales, hill country. If you're not going up, you're going down. So I need the power to get me up as quickly as possible to keep journey times down. "
"Being a T-cab, the truck needs a shorter trailer to stay within the law, but that's not an issue for us. The bulk tipper I use is 20 years old now – I used to use it with my first T-truck – and it's about a metre shorter than a full length trailer. That's fine when you're hauling limestone, aggregates or sand as you weigh out before you cube out. I did get stopped once and measured, but I was about half a metre within the limit, so there's no problem there."
"How would I sum up the T-cab? It's a fabulous vehicle that's got it all. I'm a proud owner and I'm delighted to be keeping this unique piece of trucking history on the road, and taking it to the occasional show or event for others to enjoy."