Fate Discontinued
Founded 1905
Headquarters United Kingdom Luton, England, UK
Products Commercial vehicles

Commer was a British manufacturer of commercial vehicles which existed from 1905 until 1979. Commer vehicles included car derived vans, light vans, medium to heavy commercial trucks, military vehicles and buses. The Commer brand was exported widely, with examples, albeit now collectors' vehicles, still running far from the original UK manufacturing base. Commer designed and built its own diesel engine for its heavy commercial vehicles.


Commer light truck reg.999 BVT at NMM - IMG 2807

A Commer Light truck from the 1960's


1967 Commer-Santana ad

Commer truck of 1969 reg UVF 988H at NMM - IMG 2805

A Commer truck with double height dropside body

Commer Fire engine - JDF 234B at Toddington 2010 - IMG 4154

Commer Fire engine at Toddington 2010

The company was formed as the Commercial Car Company based in small premises in Lavender Hill, South London. In order to go into volume production a site was bought at Biscot Road, Biscot, Luton, where production of the first truck, the 3 ton RC type started in 1907. In 1909 the first bus was made. With the outbreak of the First World War the factory turned to the manufacture of military vehicles for the British Army and by 1919 over 3000 had been made.

In 1926, after being in receivership several times, Commer was taken over by Humber Cars, which then in 1931 became part of the Rootes Group. In the 1960s, there was a licensing agreement of some kind established with the Spainish Santana company, and Santana produced commercial trucks under license using the Commer-Santana brand.

The Commer name was replaced by the Dodge name during the 1970s following the takeover of Rootes by Chrysler Europe. After Peugeot purchased Chrysler Europe in 1978, the Commer factory was run in partnership with the truck division of Renault, Renault Trucks. It continued to produce the Dodge commercial truck range for some time, with Renault badges and a small amount of product development. Eventually Renault cancelled these in favour of the mainstream Renault models and switching production at the factory to production of Renault truck and bus engines in the early 1990s.

Many Commer vans and lorries are notable for being fitted with the Rootes TS3 engine, a two-stroke diesel three-cylinder horizontally-opposed piston engine, which came to be known as the "Commer Knocker" due to the unique noise it produced.[1] Newer Commer vehicles had Perkins and Cummins diesel engines, and less commonly Mercedes diesel engines. [2]



Main article: Karrier Motors
Commer truck with Skip loader gear at Donnington 09 - IMG 6208small

A restored Commer truck with Sheppard Equipment Ltd ship loader body

Commer flatbed reg 321 JTV at Donnington park 09 - IMG 6098small

A Commer truck fitted with flatbed body at Donnington Park CV show in 2009

Commer van at Donnington Park 09 - IMG 6112small

A Commer van at the Donnington Park CV show 2009

Commer acquired the Karrier company as part of Rootes acquisition of Karrier in 1934. In 1965 production moved to Dunstable where Commer, Dodge (UK) and Karrier were all brought together.

The Karrier trademark is now owned by Peugeot.


Commer produced buses and is recorded as delivering four to Widnes in 1909.[3] The Commando was released after WW2, and the Avenger on 28 February 1948, deploying the TS3 engine in the Avenger in 1954.[4]

Small commercial and recreational vehiclesEdit


Commer Cob 1965 reg DKY 32C at Donnington park 09 - IMG 6110small

A Commer Cob of 1965 in London Fire Brigade livery at Donnington Park CV show 2009

The Cob was a small delivery van based upon the Hillman Husky.[5] Later models were based upon the Hillman Imp.[6]


Commer became known in later years as a maker of vans for the British Post Office — particularly the Commer FC which was introduced in 1960 with many body styles, including a 1500 cc van. After engine and interior upgrades it was renamed the PB in 1967 and the SpaceVan in 1974. As noted above, it would be sold as a Dodge and Fargo model until 1976, when both Commer and Fargo names were dropped. These were rounded-front forward control vans with narrow front track — a legacy of their Humber car-derived suspension. Utilising at first the Hillman-derived 1500 cc 4-cylinder engine in the PA series, then the larger 1600 cc, and from 1968 onwards the 1725 cc unit in the PB, only the cast iron head version of this engine were used. A Perkins 4.108 diesel was also available.

The "1725 cc engine" (as it is known; it actually displaces 1724 cc) was available in the 1970s with a Borg Warner (BW) Model 35 3-speed automatic transmission with a dashboard mounted selector. This was not a popular option and few were built.

The 4-speed gearbox on manual transmission models was based on those fitted to contemporary Hillman Minx (of the "Audax" generation) and later Rootes Arrow series cars such as the Hillman Hunter.

An unusual feature of the model was that the handbrake operated on the front drum brakes.

One of the reasons that the van was less popular with fleet operators than the Bedford and Ford Transit models it sold against was like the BMC J2 and J4 models the forward-control design made engine changes labour intensive, the only way to remove the engine without dropping the suspension subframe was to remove the windscreen and crane the engine out through the passenger door.

Reportedly, one condition of the bailout of Chrysler's British operations was a commitment to upgrade the Spacevan, which was praised for its brakes, cornering, and price, but criticized for its power, comforts, and top speed. A revised Spacevan was thus introduced in 1977, using the same mechanicals but with numerous cosmetic changes, conveniences, and a new interior. Although outdated by its demise in 1982, by which time Commer had been taken over by Peugeot, the Spacevan remained a familiar sight in the UK thanks to its role with British Telecom and the Post Office — which were almost solely responsible for it remaining in production for so long. By this time, there were three engines: two 1.7 L petrol engines of 37 kW (with low compression) and 42 kW (with high compression), and a small diesel engine (31 kW), with a four-speed manual transmission and no automatic available. The last Spacevan was built in 1983.[7].

Military vehiclesEdit

Commer Q4 3308119051

Commer Q4

Commer made a range of military vehicles for WW2, with the range still in use in the 1980s.[8]


Commer designed and manufactured its own diesel engines for its heavy commercial vehicles and buses. They were low profile units designed to be deployed under the floor of the cab.


The TS3 engine was a two stroke diesel unit with three cylinders each containing a pair of pistons arranged with the combustion chamber formed between the crown of the piston pair and the cylinder walls. It was designed specifically for the Commer range of trucks.[9] The TS3 and derivative TS4 were unique in using rockers to deliver power to the single crankshaft.[10]


The TS4 engine ran 1.2million miles as a pre-production prototype. It was a 4 cylinder version of the TS3.[11]

Model Range Edit

Commer pickup - 1949

1949 Commer pickup

Related modelsEdit

Built under Renault

See alsoEdit


  1. "The TS3". Retrieved on 2008-11-04. “The engine was a direct injection, high speed diesel engine with three horizontal cylinders, each containing two pistons. Each cylinder had specially designed ports to control the inlet of air and outlet of the exhaust which are controlled by the pistons. The pistons which control the inlet ports are known as the air pistons (left-hand side of the engine) and the pistons which control the exhaust ports are the exhaust pistons.”
  2. "" section on Commer
  3. ""Commer" Commercial Cars Ltd Luton". Retrieved on 2008-11-05. “These four vehicles took 4 days to be delivered from Luton to Widnes in 1909. There was no motorways, roads were in general very poor and at a height of 16ft 6ins "still very high for a vehicle nowadays" quite a few tree branches had to be cut down to get to Widnes.”
  4. "Avenger Bus". Retrieved on 2008-11-05. “While not as common as other bus chassis, many excellent bodies were mounted on Avenger chassis, including Duple, Harrington and others.”
  5. "Old Commer van photograph in the archive at Classic Wheels". Classic Wheels. Retrieved on 2008-11-05.
  6. "1968 Commer Cob van APP520F at the Woodley Classic Car Meet, April 2007". Retrieved on 2008-11-05.
  7. "Dodge Spacevan / Telecom Van (Commer PA and PB vans, Dodge K-series)". Allpar, LLC. Retrieved on April 2008.
  8. "Truck 3 ton 4 x 4 GS Commer Q4". REME Museum of Technology. Retrieved on 2008-11-05. “Among the longest living of the Commer workshop trucks was the Telecommunications Repair variant, some being used into the late 1980s or later.”
  9. "The TS3". Retrieved on 2008-11-05. “The TS3 was initially designed by Rootes Power Units Chief Engineer Eric W Coy (and under him, designers Bennett and Mileluski) at the Humber plant (Stoke-Aldermore) in 1948. It was designed solely to meet Rootes production planning requirements for an underfloor 105hp diesel engine for the new forward control Commer range of heavy trucks.”
  10. "Other Two Strokes". Retrieved on 2008-11-05. “Many two-strokes used opposed piston layouts, but the design feature that set the TS3/4 apart from other two-strokes was the use of rockers to transmit the power from the piston to the crankshft and the use of a single crankshaft.”
  11. "The TS4 Prototype". Retrieved on 2008-11-05. “All the 14 prototype TS4s were test bed run initially. Six stayed in test bed work and eight were put in trucks for road evaluation, prior to going into production. The engines that were put in trucks ran up to 1.2 million miles between the 8 of them, trouble free, before being pulled out and scrapped on instructions from Chrysler to protect Chrysler’s joint venture in England with Cummins.”

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