liter diesel inline-6
hp @ 2200 rpm
hp per liter
Press Release) They called it the millipede: The LP 333
• First truck
with two steered front axles
• Adroit response to new regulations
• Engine brake as standard
The three-axle LP 333
sixteen-tonner was a made-to-measure truck – an adroit response to
the dimensional and weight restrictions introduced in 1958 and a
configuration that stood out for its maximum payload capacity. It
also helped the cab-over-engine principle to its breakthrough.
Like no other truck, this model symbolized the transition from so
mewhat anarchic haulage in the post-war years to a continuously more
streamlined and well-structured transportation business that has
long since become a science in its own right under the generic term
‘logistics’. As a made-to-measure truck that made the best of the
given framework conditions, the LP 333 and its novel feature of two
steered front axles inspired a host of other special solutions ex
factory – solutions which are state of the art in modern trucks .
At the time, however,
resources were limited, and little experience had as yet been gained
with the new cab-over-engine design . Just one narrow step,
positioned at a lofty height ahead of the front axle, is all there
is to help you climb into the cab, for instance. This demands long
arms and tricky t wists of the body for the driver to heave himself
upward. Getting in is no easy exercise and getting out even more
However, once the driver
has settled behind the four-spoke steering wheel, the LP 333 pampers
him with unparalleled ride comfort. A truck like the LP 333, blessed
with two front axles, takes even rough bumps in its stride with
aplomb. For the driver, this means a high level of ride comfort.
Many a present-day articulated truck driver would be grateful for
this heavenly suspension com fort . And today’s spoilt drivers would
have nothing to criticize about the LP 333’s steering behavior,
Admittedly, the engine
tunnel bulges conspicuously into the cab, and does little to dampen
the sound of the 192 -200 hp pre-chamber combustion en gine . This
eleven-liter six-cylinder in-line engine produces an earthy sound
even in idle. The LP 333 was designed for a gross combination weight
of 32 tons, and it complied with the contemporary legal stipulation
of at least six hp per ton with bravado .
In touch with the engine and its pulse – that was the price to be
paid for this compact but otherwise highly modern cab-over-engine
design. The driver of the LP 333 was pals with his truck's engine.
Since the cab was still rigidly mounted to its frame, the engine
tunnel had to be tiltable and demountable to permit engine oil
checks and work on the engine.
Radical restriction of combination
design took its time in gaining a foothold in Germany in the 1950s
before it experienced a sudden boom in 1958, caused by the
restriction of combination length. The LP 333 proved to be a highly
modern representative of its kind, and not only by dispensing with a
nose which has disappeared almost completely today. Its single-plate
dry clutch, for instance, required astonishingly low pedal pressure.
Little strength was equally required for turning the almost
horizontal, ivory-colored four-spoke steering wheel.
A glance at the gauges
conjures up nostalgic feelings; they are the same color as the large
number of knobs in the instrument panel, which have to be pulled and
pushed, just like the stops of an organ. Times were different and
gauges weren’t the same as we know them today, as exemplified by the
round cluster with indicators for water as well as brake and oil
pressure: In the LP 333, oil pressure is still indicated in
kilograms per cubic centimeter .
The instrument panel of
the LP 333 also features a number of warning lights already. The
most original of these is probably the lance-shaped, sputnik-like
tip of the indicator lever on the left, which flashes in a reddish
shade when the indicator is activated. The most advanced warning
light (and one that is currently being considered again for trucks
with single-tire rear axles) is the yellow light in the left-hand
bottom section of the instrument panel, which comes on to indicate
insufficient tire pressure. Needless to say, however, the simple
mechanical solutions of the 1950s and present-day electronic systems
are worlds apart.
In the LP 333's day and
age, spring-loaded parking brakes were far from being state of the
art. And so the classic ratchet brake still emerges at an angle on
the left-hand side of the engine tunnel; it has to be pulled several
times to secure the stationary truck, to the accompaniment of its
characteristic sound. To release the parking brake, on the other
hand, it is enough to press a small transverse strut with the ball
of the thumb, to return the brake shoe on the driven axle, on which
the parking brake acts, to its waiting position.
With the standard engine
brake, the LP 333 introduced another brake system without which
modern trucks would be inconceivable. We are talking about an
exhaust flap which generates a build-up in the exhaust manifold,
thereby curbing the pistons' movement and decelerating the vehicle
on downhill stretches. The relevant button is projecting from the
cab floor in front of the driver’s seat and has to be operated by
the driver’s heel.
“Millipede” was the
nickname given to the LP 333 with its two steered axles by
contemporaries. This new feature in combination with the
innocent-looking, nicely rounded cab-over-engine design gave the LP
333 the likable appeal of a cute crawler. Its popularity among the
population was correspondingly high – hence the nickname it soon
Nevertheless, giving the
LP 333 its extraordinary design was making virtue out of sheer
necessity. In the course of the years, Federal German Transport
Minister Seebohm, who had come into office in 1949 and was to stay
until 1966, had developed a deep concern with regard to the growing
truck traffic in the 1950s. He vented his displeasure in a number of
decrees, seen by the haulage trade as substantial restrictions.
It started in 1953 with
a ban on the second trailer which had been widely used until then.
This ban was introduced together with a shortening of the
permissible overall length of a truck-and-trailer combination from
22 to 20 meters. One year later, some 45 percent of the goods
previously carried by truck were banned from the road and vehicle
and mineral-oil taxes were raised drastically. But this was still
not the end of it.
The haulage operators'
world almost collapsed about them when Seebohm amended the road
traffic licensing order in 1956, stipulating a reduction of the
gross combination weight from 40 to 24 tons and of maximum length
from 20 to 14 meters from 1958. Under the new law, trailers were not
allowed to be heavier than the truck – exit the combination of
two-axle truck (16 tons) and three-axle trailer (24 tons) which had
been so popular in Germany until then and was to become widely used
again at a later stage. Within the framework of an envisaged “road
relief law”, it was also planned to ban 45 percent of the transport
volume from the road, to cut road haulage lice nses by 25 percent
and to introduced graded tariffs in favor of the railways.
Things are never as bad as they
It was bad enough but
turned out not quite as bad as had been schemed in the end – and of
all things, this had something to do with the found ation of the
European Economic Community and European harmonization within the
framework of the Treaty of Rome of 1957. Seen from this angle, the
German haulage operators were among the first to benefit from the
The new law left certain
loopholes, accompanied as it was by a complex range of transitional
regulations. These were systematically exploited in the design of
the new LP 333 in order to provide buyers with a maximum of payload
capacity and productivity even under these extremely restrictive
The LP 333 used the
available scope intelligently. With its two steered front axles,
each with a load-bearing capacity of four tons, the LP 333 was
considerably lighter than a three-axle truck with two rear axles.
With a 16-ton trailer, the LP 333 became a 32-ton combination,
thereby giving the customer a payload capacity of a good 20 tons. By
comparison, a payload of hardly more than 15 tons was possible with
a conventional two-axle truck and trailer.
However, the gagging of
truck transport did not last long. The German stand-alone solution
was soon abandoned again (comparable restrictions were imposed
nowhere else in Europe, which is why Mercedes-Benz continued to
produce heavy-duty two-axle trucks for export parallel to the LP
333). As early as 1960, Minister Seebohm relaxed some of the
regulations and made substantial concessions where maximum weights
and dimensions were concerned.
Although the LP 333 owed
its concept to very special circumstances, its three-axle design was
to point the way far into the future. The three-axle tractor, the
LPS 333 derived from the millipede, served as a model in the design
of the extremely successful LPS 2020 tractor introduced in 1966.
With its steered forward-trailing axle, it combined perfect handling
with minimum tire way in exemplary fashion.
The second half of the
1950s was a hard time for trucks. Minister Seebohm enforced not all
chicanes in the pipeline but quite a few of them. This included
soaring taxes on heavy-duty trucks and diesel fuel. Seebohm intended
to shovel the 1.5 billion deutschmarks requisitioned in this way on
to the loss-making railways which were no match for the strong
competition. On top of that, a Sunday driving ban came into force in
March 1956, and a new transportation tax was levied on own-account
All this was poison for the truck business. Only the articulated
truck – a marginal phenomenon at the time – benefited from this
situation. With axle loads up to eight tons, it was able to de fy
the shortened truck-and-trailer combinations – especially after
getting rid of its tax burden which had been imposed back in pre-war
backpedaled on the issue. From 1960, a gross combination weight of
32 tons was permitted again – and raised to 38 tons in 1965. This
spelt a rapid end for the LP 333 which was replaced by two-axle
16-tonners. In 1961, another 354 units of the LP 333 came off the
assembly line, and that was the end of it. Overall, 1,833 units of
this special German truck and remarkable made-to-measure solution
were produced .