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ADVERTS • PHOTOS • DISCUSSION
Celebrating the products of AEC Southall Ltd, most famous as builder of London's buses.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 06, 2014 3:33 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jan 24, 2012 4:44 pm
Posts: 169
In the recent post about Rover, Alvis and Leyland gas Turbines I mentioned the unification of the British Leyland Truck & Bus Division sales force, one of the first indications of this was a double-page advert in the February 1971 Buses advertising the AEC Leyland and Bristol heavyweight coach chassis (scan of this attached). You will notice that two of the line drawings ostensibly show a Leopard and a Reliance but the line drawing of a Commander IV at the top of the page looks to be based on one of the Royal Blue Bristol LH6Ls delivered to Western National in 1970, the tell-tale being the forward-angled ‘Bristol Dome’ with prominent intakes on the forward roof sides for the forced-air ventilation system. No mention at the beginning of 1971 of the splitter gearbox or a five speed option in the Leopard (though the two-speed rear axle is promoted and said to give exceptional hill climbing, I suppose this was before the Trades Descriptions Act, but exceptional hill climbing in a Leopard?); the revised grant-compliant wheelbases are the main promoted feature of the Reliances, the RE gets the least space of the three but in that two paragraphs it mentions its dual-circuit air braking (from series II in 1967/8)and makes clear air suspension is now optional rather than standard, whilst only semi-automatic transmission with 4 or 5 forward ratios is offered; a clear implication is given that the Panther and Sabre coaches are discontinued; although the ECW bodied Sabre had only been shown at Earls Court the previous October: a decision had clearly been taken about the 800-series V8. Only the Reliance is noted as available at 12 metre although the REMH would remain on sale until 1973 and the first M class Leopards would have been bodied at Spa Road Dublin by then and a picture of a PSU5.2L chassis is pictured in the December 1970 number of the same magazine.

All the bodies drawn were obsolete, the Panorama Elite drawn as a Reliance with non-standard trim of the style used by World-Wide of London, had been replaced for the 1971 season by the Panorama Elite II and for the 1971 and 1972 seasons Duple catalogued the Viceroy for all chassis, including heavyweights, although the last Commander IVs for Maidstone & District on Leopard were very badly delayed, the last of an order due for the 1970 coaching season arriving in 1971 about the time the advert was published. The Leopard shield-badge was also discontinued soon after the time of the advertisement, although a high-resoultion scan suggests that the later block-letter badges were also drawn-in.

At high resolution the operator of the coach behind the fishing team can clearly be discerned as Flights Tours of Birmingham although the coach is clearly a Plaxton Panorama Elite, there is nothing to tell what it is although it Turns out Flights only took this body on AEC, two on G plaates and three H. Flight’s only Bristol, the first private sector RELH6L, being a Panorama I (JON700E) and its first Leopards being delivered in 1976.

The last home market Panther Coaches (Panorama Elite II XAU49-50J) were delivered to Skills of Nottingham in April 1971 and Lancashire Motor Traders had by then purchased the only UK market Sabre from BLMC, registering it in Oldham (CBU636J IIRR) and placing it with Best of London who in August 1970 had took the final Roadliner Coach (RAR678J) from Arlingtons; note that all four of these had J-suffix registrations which ran August 1970-July 1971.

Of course one of the consequences of unifying a sales force are redundant sales executives who immdiately seek rival products to sell. I know that the bus sales manager for Daimler, Bob Crouch (who identified a rear-engine as a sales point for the project that became the Fleetline (he had been impresed with the Yellow Coach ‘Queen Marys’ in New York before the Atlantean was announced) and convinced Cyril Simpson the chief designer that this was the path to take rather than a lowhieght CV-series) was taken on by MCW at the time Fleetline production was moved to Leyland but there were doubtless many others. Not all of whom would have sought an alternative UK product to sell…

In the late 1960s Jim McElvie, a haulier running a Leyland /Albion fleet in Ayrshire asked for a Leyland sales concession but was told Millburn Motors covered his part of Scotland, he thus obtained the Volvo Concession for the UK and in 1969 set up Ailsa Trucks to build rigid eight Volvos from kits supplied from Borås. In 1972 SBG approached him for a new design of double decker...

I think the last show appearance of Truck & Bus Division chassis complete with separate marque names was the 1971 Scottish Motor Show at the Kelvin Hall but the last new-model Albion trucks exhibited so badged were the 410-powered RE 41 and CD41 shown at Earls Court in 1970 with the Lynx/Bison/Buffalo style Ergomatic cab featuring a straight front frame to fit this and incorporating the Thornycroft gearbox. Neither model entered production as plans changed to Chieftains, Clydesdales and Reivers with the Bathgate G-cab from 1972, which year Leyland Scotland (as Bathgate had become) took over Albion.

It was incidentally January 1969 that the SRL8 was shown at Brussels as a Guy Conquest. The last time a Roadliner was exhibited at a show it was the same chassis at that November’s Kelvin Hall Show.

Best Wishes

Stephen Allcroft
Cardross
Scotland


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