COVER STORY: Leyland Buffalo profile

By: Vivienne Haldane , Photography by: Vivienne Haldane


COVER STORY: Leyland Buffalo profile COVER STORY: Leyland Buffalo profile
COVER STORY: Leyland Buffalo profile These Leyland wheels keep turning COVER STORY: Leyland Buffalo profile
COVER STORY: Leyland Buffalo profile Ian added the air scoop to give more power COVER STORY: Leyland Buffalo profile
COVER STORY: Leyland Buffalo profile Proudly British COVER STORY: Leyland Buffalo profile
COVER STORY: Leyland Buffalo profile Ian McSporran COVER STORY: Leyland Buffalo profile
COVER STORY: Leyland Buffalo profile COVER STORY: Leyland Buffalo profile
COVER STORY: Leyland Buffalo profile The steel deck is light and versatile COVER STORY: Leyland Buffalo profile
COVER STORY: Leyland Buffalo profile COVER STORY: Leyland Buffalo profile

Deals on Wheels checks out a classic 1979 flat deck Leyland Buffalo used to transport vintage bulldozers and tractors

Ian McSporran bought his 1979 flat deck Leyland Buffalo to transport his vintage bulldozers and tractors. Deals on Wheels spoke to him to find out more.

Ian’s wife jokes that the thing he likes most about the Leyland is the throaty sound of its Detroit motor, but really, he is just machinery mad. He admits he loves it all, from its 13-speed road ranger gearbox, ergonomic cab (for its time), and the fact that is so darned handy as a transporter, whether it is his own—he has 11 Caterpillars—or others. As a member of the Hawke’s Bay Vintage Machinery club, he is often called on to help take other people’s tractors to various events.

He bought the classic Leyland Buffalo six years ago from his colleague Jim Tait.

"Jim is in our vintage machinery club, and we got talking trucks. I knew of the Buffalo and that he had it for sale, but the agreement was he wouldn’t sell it to me unless I had a shed for it to go in. That’s why it’s still in such great condition."

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However, when Jim bought it in 1983, it wasn’t in a good shape. It had suffered fire damage while in the workshop of the former Taradale carrying business, Mcdonald’s Transport Ltd. However, it was only three years old and had 123,000km on the clock and the damage was reasonably superficial.  "The cab was burned and windows had popped out. Jim did it up and brought it back to life," Ian says.

It is good for shifting his tractors around and was better than the four-wheeler dump truck he used previously, which he could only get one Cat D2 onto. The fixed sides on this truck also restricted the sort of machinery he could transport.

So how come there is a Detroit motor in Leyland? Ian explains, "This was the call of the original owner. It was retrofitted in the factory in New Zealand because the original 500-series engine, with fixed head motors, had a reputation for being unreliable."

The 500-series engine, launched in 1972 was between 200–260hp and was considered well advanced of its competition at the time. But it gained a reputation for being difficult to service and repair due to its fixed head layout. There were a number of problems, including cracked cylinder heads, oil leaks, and internal splits in the block.

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Leyland was ahead of the game with the ergomatic cab designed for driver comfort and safety and launched in 1964. "It’s easy to get in and out of and tilts forward so you can get to the motor easily. This was quite a breakthrough back then," Ian says.

He likes the Leyland’s road ranger gearbox. "Having 13 speeds helps it get along quickly and people might reckon it’s a challenge to use, but that’s what I like about it. However, I don’t like them off road so much because they are a crash box, so you cannot split the bottom four gears to gain momentum loaded up hill."   

The couple says their sons Glen and Stuart are always looking for a chance to drive the Leyland Buffalo with the 6-71 Detroit whistling in their ears, too.

Ian grew up on a farm near Takapau in Hawkes Bay and like most boys of his era, got behind the wheel as soon as he could, to help his father out. He learned to drive an S Bedford. "We used to cart stock between our two farms and from the farms to Whakatu meat works near Clive. The only piece of advice I received was I wasn’t allowed to change gear with the lambs on the back of the truck until I got onto the road, because, you see, Dad loved his stock and didn’t want any of them bruised through jolting.

"I was also told that whatever gear you went up the hill in, you had to go down in the same one because the old Bedford’s had little braking power if they got hot, for example, going down the Te Aute hill."

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Ian and Helen, who is also a machinery enthusiast, enjoy taking part in classic truck runs.

"We’ve been from Cape Reinga to Bluff with the Leyland. In 2012, we did the South Island run down the west coast and up the east coast with 120 other trucks and lots of stops along the way. Then in 2014, we did the north island with 90 trucks. It’s fantastic and very well organised."

Ian says that the Leyland has served him well. "It is marvellous:  and useful for the machines I have. I can put 8–10 tonne on it, and it has a hoist too plus its original sheep crate."

Any servicing that needs to be done gets carried out at Young Motors in Bayview where it has been serviced for 33 years to current COF standard.

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