Once the largest commercial vehicle company in the British Empire, Albion was established in 1899 in Scotstoun, Glasgow by Arrol-Johnston émigrés T Blackwood Murray and Norman Fulton. The firm manufactured cars to begin with, concentrating on its commercial vehicle business from the end of 1913. Albion’s motto ‘Sure As The Sunrise’, which reflected its reputation for dependability, inspired the distinctive design that featured on the radiator and badges of its many models. After its acquisition by Leyland in 1951, Albion’s independence gradually diminished and the range of models offered was slashed to just two: the Clydesdale truck and Viking bus. A management buy-out in the early 1990s took Albion Automotive, by this time a manufacturer of axles only, back into Scottish ownership. The firm was acquired by the American Axle & Manufacturing Company in 1998.
The Albion van offered here originally formed part of the fleet operated out of its Cadby Hall factory in London by J Lyons & Co Ltd, once one of the biggest names on British high streets, which is best remembered for its famous ‘Corner Houses’. A nationwide chain of teashops, the largest of which extended to several floors, the Lyons Corner House was part of everyday life in Britain from 1909 until the last of them closed in 1977. A vital part of the Lyons Group was Normand Garage Ltd of West London. Effectively the company’s engineering department, Normand not only serviced Lyons’ vehicles but also made bodies for its vans and lorries, a service it later extended to other firms. Normand also designed and manufactured much of the specialised equipment used in Lyons’ factories and restaurants.
This ex-Lyons Albion van was previously purchased from an owner in Braintree, Essex, joining the vendor’s Albion LK35 Lyons Tea lorry. The seller had made some progress with restoration but realised that the project was too much for him and advertised it in the Historic & Commercial Vehicle Society’s magazine as ‘Albion, ex-Lyons Swiss Roll van, 1935, chassis complete and partly restored, body totally disintegrated.’ The ensuing full restoration was undertaken between 2005 and 2008, drawing on the vendor’s extensive stocks of original spare parts. A detailed description of the restoration process (running to over 2,700 words) is on file. The Albion has also featured in various magazines.
Since completion, DLB 485 has finished runner-up at the HCVS London-Brighton Run in 2008 and won the ‘Best Vehicle’ award at the Society’s Trans-Pennine and Tyne-Tees runs in 2009. The present owner was also delighted, in 2017, when the Albion won the ‘Best Vehicle’ award at the Sprat and Winkle Run.
Under the current ownership, DLB 485 has undergone a no expense engine rebuild, carried out by ourselves, and an overdrive insulation carried out by Tim Payne. It has also had the radiator repaired, and a temperature gauge and flashing indicators fitted.
DLB 485 is in first class condition and comes with an old-style logbook.