Volvo Trucks is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first entry proper of Volvo trucks to the UK market with a new ‘Ailsa’ Edition FH.

The strictly limited edition has a production run of just 50 black-on-gold or gold-on-black FH 4×2 and 6×2 tractor units. There’s an FH16-750 option, while the FH is equipped with a 13-litre engine rated at 540 bhp.

Volvo said it looked back 30 years to 1987 and the launch of the first F16 and its new ‘straight six’, 16-litre 470 bhp engine. Now, the FH16-750 with the D16K750 engine produces 750 bhp and 3550 Nm of torque between 900-1400 rpm – with the full spread of torque available for use from the moment first gear is engaged.

The FH-540 ‘Ailsa’ Edition is fitted with the I-Shift Dual Clutch, which Volvo said pays homage to the driveline which has been at the heart of all its trucks since the F86. Launched in 2014, the I-Shift Dual Clutch ensures there is no interruption in power and torque delivery when changing gear.

Unique interior

Each ‘Ailsa’ Edition has a special custom interior, upholstered in black and gold leather, which complements the exterior with detailing that includes gold stitching and a specially designed 50th Anniversary ‘Ailsa Edition’ logo.

Floor and engine tunnel mats are finished in gold too. Drivers get Volvo Dynamic Steering (which reduces steering effort by up to 85 per cent), I-Park Cool stationary Air Conditioning, I-See Predictive Cruise Control, TomTom navigation and the latest Media Package for streaming.

It also has a full list of home comforts such as a microwave, television and fridge freezer, together with the Personal Protection Package which includes a security box, laminated door glass and an alarm.

To support the ‘Ailsa’ Edition, the truck includes a three-year full R&M contract within the price.

“The ‘Ailsa Edition’ project started back in summer 2016 and was driven by cab product planner Peter Lindgren in terms of supply and the agreement on the use of the Ailsa name as part of the Volvo brand canon,” said Volvo Trucks’ head of product management, John Comer.

“With its overwhelming importance on what would become Volvo’s future customer- and driver-focused direction in the UK, there was really only one name we could choose for this 50th anniversary truck – and that was the ‘Ailsa Edition’.”

Back in the day

In 1967, Jim McKelvie and Jim Keyden – two far-sighted, entrepreneurial Scottish businessmen – launched ‘Ailsa Trucks’, the company that first introduced Volvo commercial vehicles to the UK.

The Ailsa name is significant because, although the company traded as Ailsa Trucks, the name was only ever applied to one product: the locally developed Ailsa Bus, which was built at Irvine. The ‘Ailsa’ Edition is therefore the only truck to have ever carried the name.

Fifty years ago, via their company ‘Ailsa Trucks’, Jim McKelvie and Jim Keyden introduced the Volvo F86 to a market that McKelvie knew, from his previous experience as an operator of a fleet of over 350 HGVs, was being hampered by the lengthy waiting lists, often for up to two years, for other makes of truck.

As a customer and a haulier, he also believed UK manufacturers of the time were complacent with respect to sales and aftercare. An important aspect of the early years of Volvo in the UK is that the dealer network and training was established before the trucks arrived.

Likewise, following his time at Pressed Steel at Linwood, where the bodies were made for the P1800 sports car, Jim Keyden knew of Volvo’s focus on product quality. Together, the two Jims began a successful partnership with customers and dealers that has since delivered over 200,000 trucks to operators in the UK. 

Commenting on the ‘Ailsa’ Edition, Douglas, the son of ‘Ailsa Trucks’ founder Jim Keyden, said: “The choice of the name Ailsa honours the memory of my father and Jim McKelvie in their vision to succeed with Volvo, from the earliest days with the F86, by looking after their customers.

“Fifty years ago, they were one of the first to focus on helping their customers keep their trucks on the road and earning. To my father and Jim McKelvie, through the reliability and safety of the F86 and subsequent trucks, Volvo delivered value. What is more, the customers, distributors and employees were ‘family’. I don’t think you can do better than that.”

The F86 (the ‘F’ stood for ‘Forward Control’) with its steel-framed tilting safety cab, laminated windscreen, six-cylinder TD70A diesel engine developing 185/195 bhp (DIN/SAE), nine-speed synchromesh gearbox, full air brake system and all new ‘System 8’ driveline, was ahead of its time – and available for delivery much more quickly than other makes – and all for a purchase price in 1967 of around £3500.

It was also backed up by a 12-month parts and labour guarantee.