Park Royal Vehicles Ltd. 1930-1980

Having previously used the premises for railway wagon repair, during 1924 the large Cardiff based concern, Hall Lewis & Co Ltd, that had several other transport operations around the country, established a coachbuilding facility on its site at Abbey Road, Park Royal.

The Hall Lewis company, that could date its origins back to 1889, was mainly concerned with the railway industry and its Park Royal operation proved very successful by, apart from constructing railway carriages, providing coachbuilding for both quality cars and passenger carrying vehicles. 

However, a decline in the company’s railway interests, along with considerable competition in the coachbuilding business, forced the Hall Lewis company into liquidation.

Thus on April 12th 1930 a new company, Park Royal Coachworks, was formed out of the Park Royal located liquidated assets of Hall Lewis, by one Harry Yager, a principal creditor of the Hall Lewis company. 

The operation remained under the control of the Yager family through the war years until October 1946, when the public company Park Royal Vehicles was announced to take over from the privately owned Park Royal Coachworks.

Founded in 1916, the Charles H Roe Ltd., coachbuilding company of Leeds, was taken over by the new PRV company in July 1947.  But the then larger PRV remained a public company for a very short period, being itself taken over during 1949 by Associated Commercial Vehicles Ltd. 

ACV had been formed recently (in October ’48) by the amalgamation of the Maudeslay, Crossley and, most importantly, the AEC concern based at Southall.  So now PRV was linked with the manufacturer of the chassis that much of its production had heretofore been based upon.

Whilst the Maudeslay and Crossley firms remained fairly autonomous, the already close collaboration between AEC and PRV, that was now strengthened by their joint parentage, made a very formidable team that supported the demanding requirements of London Transport let alone many other major fleet owners and operators.

In 1962 the ACV Group was merged with the newly formed Leyland Motor Corporation and in 1968 this business was once again renamed as the British Leyland Motor Corporation by the merger of Leyland and British Motor Holdings; the latter being an amalgamation of Austin, Morris and the Jaguar-Daimler-Guy group.

Ten years passed until the announcement of the intended closure of AEC in 1979.  Leyland was by then nationalised but providing much of the chassis production and a London based operation could not remain justified. 

Hastened too by much industrial unrest, it was not long before production of the Titan (the B15), designed and built by PRV, would be moved to Workington where less skilled staff could build the product.

So, since yet another London based operation could no longer be justified, the inevitable closure of PRV was announced that finally occurred in July 1980.

So PRV has really become a generic title for several companies that have operated since before 1924 on essentially the same site at Park Royal, albeit with increasing factory space and retained staff that, except for management, moved seamlessly through the organisational changes.

To complete the sad tale of the British Bus & Truck industry, and indeed the British motor manufacturing industry in general, British Leyland Motor Corporation that could date its heritage back to 1896, when the Sumner and Spurrier families founded the Lancashire Steam Motor Company at Leyland (being renamed Leyland Motors as far back as 1907) had, at its peak, by acquisition, a vast number of manufacturing plants and a very diverse product list. 

Its then merged companies, that were previously rivals, were allowed to continue with similar (in fact virtually identical) products competing in the same marketplace across which there was considerable replication.

British Leyland (or BL as it was known) found itself unable to manage the huge and complex variety of businesses and its failure to “rightsize” (no doubt partially due to the potential for industrial action) eventually forced it into bankruptcy in 1975 when it was effectively nationalised by the then Labour Government. 

Its following history was one of closures, the shedding of assets and ironically the loss of employment that might have otherwise been saved by the lost opportunity of appropriate streamlining.

In 1986 Leyland Trucks & Vans was bought buy the Dutch firm DAF which in 1993 sold off what was left.  The US conglomerate PACCAR, that had acquired Foden Trucks in 1981, bought DAF in 1995 and the residue of Leyland in 1998 that it integrated with Foden.

Also in 1986 the Bus Division became the subject of a management buy-out but was eventually sold to Volvo just 15 months later.  

These two actions in 1986 therefore heralded the demise of the UK Bus & Truck industry.