Gem Luxury Coaches – Bedford OB – ETL 221

ETL 221

Gem Luxury Coaches
Bedford OB
Plaxton C29F

A rare sight today is this Bedford OB. Rare because it carries a Plaxton body rather than than the ubiquitous Duple Vista which survives in greater numbers. Chassis number 134198, body number 579 was new to C W Blankley (Gem Luxury Coaches) Colsterworth in June 1950. It is now owned by Mr Ken Edwards of Llanon in Cardiganshire and who shows it with pride at many events near and far every year. This view sees it in August 2016 at an event organised in honour of the memory of Stan & Wyndham Rees, formerly of Midway Motors, Crymych. Appropriately this well-attended event was held in fields directly opposite Midway’s depot in Pembrokeshire.

Photograph and Copy contributed by Les Dickinson

25/08/16 – 06:12

Now this is a real beauty and an interesting one because the door is positioned further forward than on the contemporary Duple Vista. Judging by the small window ahead of the door, it would appear that this coach didn’t have a front seat beside the driver. I may be in a minority but I’d say this Plaxton body beats the Duple version on looks and style but without that much coveted front seat, I’m afraid several points must be deducted!

Chris Barker


Southampton Corporation – Guy Arab – LOW 217 – 71

LOW 217

Southampton Corporation
Guy Arab III 6LW
Park Royal H30/26R

LOW217 is a Guy Arab III with Park Royal H56R body, new in 1954. It is still owned by Southampton City Council and we see it turning from Portswood Road – this section being known locally as Portswood Broadway – into (Old) St Denys Road. It is 30 May 2010 and there is a running day to mark the official (but not actual) closure of Portswood Depot. The actual closure was delayed by about three months because the new depot at Empress Road wasn’t ready.

Photograph and Copy contributed by Pete Davies

21/08/16 – 11:09

These buses looked rather old fashioned for 1954. By then rubber window mounts and ‘new-look’ fronts were well established. Perhaps Southampton valued standardisation more than up to the minute styling as these were the last of a very large batch of early post-war Guys.

Philip Halstead

21/08/16 – 16:17

Yes, Philip, I think you’re right. The next batch to arrive was the PD2 with Midland Red front, then the PD2A and Regent V before the Atlantean. Bill Lewis managed to modernise the livery on the Atlanteans to something like the Manchester style, and I’m not sure why he didn’t deal with the older vehicles as well. Perhaps Nigel Frampton can advise!
Bill had other difficulties with his Committee – they were adamant that they would not follow the trend to overall adverts – the best he could achieve for many years was the ‘wrap around’ style and, although other Councils, including our neighbours Bournemouth and Portsmouth had coaches or dual purpose vehicles for private hire work, Bill was not allowed to have them. I have a strong suspicion that the presence of a local coach proprietor on the Committee had more than some influence there! What about a declaration of conflicting interests?

Pete Davies

21/08/16 – 17:08

Arab III/Park Royal might look a bit old fashioned, but elegant at the same time, especially in the standard livery. I think you might agree that neither the PD2 or PD2A could be described as pretty, particularly in the "red look" livery. Wasn’t the livery on the Regent V/East Lancs/Neepsend pretty much the same as the Guys, except for no silver roof? As far as private hire was concerned, I think you are most likely correct & add in a number of rate paying coach operators in the district & there’s no contest!

David Field

22/08/16 – 05:45

Had this Guy Arab for my wedding on September 2011 taking us all from Fareham to Portsmouth and return. Great for me as provincial (my favourite operator) had many of this type. A proper bus, brilliant.

Arthur Syson

22/08/16 – 05:46

Wasn’t the Arab IV well established by 1954?

Chris Barker

22/08/16 – 09:23

I don’t recall Portsmouth Corporation having any vehicles for private hire work, be they coaches or DP type. It was a rigmarole for bus enthusiasts to get one of their buses for private hire outside the Portmsouth area, little more the Portsea Island, plus Leigh Park, a Portsmouth Council housing estate, where dispensation had been given after it was built. However, some arrangement enabled the open-topped TD4’s to go to the Epsom Derby.

Chris Hebbron

22/08/16 – 10:44

Portsmouth Corporation did operate some dual purpose vehicles in it’s final years. These were the three Leyland National 2s, nos 98-100 (CPO98-100W) with DP40F bodies, and a zig-zag red on white livery. These were delivered in 1980. In 1982, the Corporation added three Dennis Lancets (95-97), two were buses (B35F), and one (95, GTP95X) was DP33F. All three were bodied by Wadham Stringer. Finally, the Corporation bought a "proper" coach, secondhand from a dealer. This was a Leyland Leopard / Duple C57F, numbered 101 (AUS644S). Then, in the new era of Portsmouth City Transport "arm’s length" company from October 1986, they added two more second hand coaches. These were also Leyland Leopards with Plaxton C51F bodies, and came from Bournemouth. They were nos 104-105 (FEL 104-105L). Apparently PCT Ltd also hired two Shamrock & Rambler Leopard/Plaxton coaches in the summer of 1987. Several of these came under Southampton ownership when Southampton Citybus took over Portsmouth Citybus in July 1988. However it seems to be a quite complex arrangement as to who owned or borrowed which ones in this era. Then along came Stagecoach, then Harry Blundred, then First Group . . . all change! Sorry, this is a long way from the Guy Arab III in the original image. As a teenager, I often visited Southampton when these were the main components of the fleet, so the image brings back good memories. Also, as was mentioned above, some ended up with Provincial at Gosport and Fareham, joining that company’s very similar buses. Those purchases seemed a perfect fit, as even the destination screen arrangements were virtually identical – just the alignment in the front panel being the clue if you know what to look for.

Michael Hampton

22/08/16 – 14:01

I much preferred the Guy Arabs that Provincial acquired new, which had a less spartan interior finish than the Southampton vehicles, while the 5LW gave a better looking profile, but, of course, Southampton needed the 6LW for the long steep hills while Gosport and Fareham had few hills and nothing of any note.

David Wragg

23/08/16 – 06:08

Sorry Pete, I’m afraid I don’t know the reason why the Atlantean livery was not extended to the front engined types. I suppose one could speculate that it was a form of "OPO" livery, in a similar manner to the Bristol Omnibus Company in the few years just prior to the introduction of NBC standard liveries in 1972 – but it would be purely speculation.
I would also add that there was something of a tradition of specific classes of buses retaining different liveries in SCT. One commentator referred to the silver roofs of the Guy Arabs (double and single deck), the Park Royal bodied Leyland Titans and AEC Regent Vs, and the Nimbuses. As far as I know that feature was included at repaint. Then there were the Swifts and Seddon RUs – Swift number 1 always had a different layout of colours (and, I think, a different shade of cream). I also think that the Seddons had another, richer shade of cream.
It would not, of course, comply with modern thinking on corporate images, but I don’t ever recall thinking that the services were operated by anything other than one single operator! On the other hand, one could argue that the various livery layouts had been adapted to suit the respective vehicles. Now that’s something that today’s livery designers could learn!

Nigel Frampton

23/08/16 – 06:13

Well, thank you so much, Michael H, for clarifying the situation on Portsmouth Corporation’s DP buses and coaches. I left Portsmouth in 1976 and was not able to watch the twists and turns of Portsmouth Corporation in its later years and its death throes. I’ve looked on the web and can find no photos of any of the vehicles you mention.

Chris Hebbron

23/08/16 – 06:13

You didn’t mean it this way, David W, but your comment that "Fareham had ‘nothing of any note’ reminds me of an old tourist guide I read many years ago which described Fareham as being "devoid of interest"!

Chris Hebbron

23/08/16 – 06:13

Between 1949 and 1952 (when aged 7 to 10 years) I lived at Alverstoke, where the standard type allocated to the Gosport – Haslar route 11 was the 5LW Guy Arab III with Guy built bodywork on Park Royal frames. In appearance, they were essentially identical to the 6LW Southampton examples, which, to the delight of a visiting small boy, seemed to be operated in huge numbers in that city. Several of these would subsequently become part of the Provincial fleet. Much later, in the late 1960s/early 1970s, I would travel to the city for Institute of Transport meetings at Southampton University, and contrived to catch a Guy for the local part of the journey whenever possible. The Arab III/Park Royal combination is my favourite bus of all time, and I believe that its standard of ride, dependability and operating economics have never been equalled. Geoffrey Hilditch stated that a Guy Arab fleet could regularly offer a 98% standard of reliability, a figure that included engineering spares and buses on overhaul. Nothing else surely could match that. The 1951 Arab IV evolved from the 1950 specification issued by Birmingham City for their new Guys, and, in addition to the repositioned front bulkhead to eliminate the radiator ‘snout’, the updated chassis included features better to meet the requirements for 8ft wide bodywork. The Arab III was offered alongside the Arab IV until late in 1953, and Southampton’s Nos.67-73 batch must have been among the very last deliveries of the type. A picture of No.71 in service may be found on the OBP Southampton gallery. In 1961 Southampton plummeted from the sublime to the ridiculous with its PD2s, the execrable appearance of which led the Corporation to abandon Park Royal after a loyalty of some 33 years.

Roger Cox

23/08/16 – 06:16

Living in Southampton in the post war Guy Arab era, I have to declare a fond predilection for these vehicles.
Although the 64-73 batch were Mk III Arabs, they did have a different exhaust system layout to the earlier vehicles. This batch had a larger diameter system with the pipe located behind the offside wheels; all the other Arabs in the fleet had a smaller diameter system with the exhaust outlet in front of the offside wheels. In 1961, Mr Jenkins, the deputy GM always attributed their superior performance on the road to this difference.
This batch certainly had more oomph! than their predecessors and coped effortlessly on the hillier routes 4 and 6. Of the ten I always thought No 68 (LOW 214) was the pick of a very good bunch.

Peter Elliott

23/08/16 – 06:44


Slightly off subject, but I was told a story that the original So’ton livery was blue/white as per the Regent V BOW 507C in the photo (but without the P&O sponsorship!). This was changed to red/cream when So’ton gained a Labour council sometime between the wars, and there was no way they were going to have blue buses. Can anyone confirm this?


Also the first batch of Regent V’s might well qualify in the Ugly Bus page see photo of 318 AOW attached.
I think the Arab’s that went to Provincial were mainly from the earlier batches, which indeed had things like exposed bulbs for the interior lights, & a sliding window between the lower saloon and the cab, which allowed the conductor and driver to chat . Did you know that the good old "Jelly Mould" interior lights fitted to later models is still in production today . Sorry about the poor picture quality. The photos were taken at So’ton Centenary in 1979.

David Field

23/08/16 – 10:17

David F, I can’t comment on the reason for changing from blue to red livery, but the blue is certainly the pre-war livery. The Regent painted thus for the Centenary is one of the views in our editor’s file for consideration, along with a note on the reason for the P&O adverts.
Roger, you describe the Park Royal bodies on the PD2 as ‘excrable’. I’m sorry, but I didn’t think they were as pretty as that!

Pete Davies

23/08/16 – 14:01


Here’s a coloured photo of an early 1930’s Thornycorft Daring in Southampton Blue with blue roof. At some period, the blue roof was dropped.
The corporation favoured this local bus builder for a period and, guess what, they had Park Royal bodies!

Chris Hebbron

24/08/16 – 05:54

Sorry, Chris. Didn’t mean to offend Fareham. I was really writing about the lack of steep hills. My favourite Guy Arabs were the Southdown Mk.IVs of around 1956, with Park Royal bodies.

David Wragg

24/08/16 – 05:56

If your story is true, Davis F, it just shows how petty politicians can be. I recall that, when Big Ben was thoroughly renovated some years ago, it was found the the clock faces were originally blue and it was suggested that, in the interest of historical accuracy, the faces regain their original colour. Labour objected vehemently and it was not to be. How childish!

Chris Hebbron

24/08/16 – 05:57

Taking up the point made by Peter E about the livelier performance of the later Guy Arabs, Gardner introduced the ‘K’ type LW range of engines in 1950, which, for the 6LW, raised the output from 102 to 112 bhp. That should have made a difference, but I would have expected all the Arabs from No.184 onwards to have exhibited this improved performance. Perhaps that revised exhaust system did provide a magic ingredient.

Roger Cox

24/08/16 – 10:17

It’s all right, David W; I was amused, not upset!

Chris Hebbron


Douglas Corporation – Leyland Comet – KMN 519 – 21

Douglas Corporation - Leyland Comet - KMN 519 - 21

Douglas Corporation
Leyland Comet CPO1
Park Royal B30F

We don’t often see a Leyland Comet with bus or coach body, as it was normally considered to be a lorry chassis, and we see even fewer in Municipal liveries, but Douglas Corporation’s fleet was renowned for being "different"! KMN 519 is an example of the CPO1 model, with Park Royal B30F body, and we see it in Bold Street, Fleetwood, on 18 July 1999. It is taking part in the Tram Sunday event.

Photograph and Copy contributed by Pete Davies

20/08/16 – 05:56

Just look at that enormous bonnet, the steering wheel and imagine the driving position in relation to it. To pull up behind a small car in heavy traffic must require some careful judgement!

Chris Barker

20/08/16 – 10:25

No problem at all, just stop where you can still see Tyres and Tarmac, shouldn’t be any closer anyway.

John Lomas

20/08/16 – 10:25

The Douglas fleet always seemed to be immaculately maintained and turned out. It had several quirky features. In addition to these bonnetted Comets it had Guys similar in design to LT’s GS class which had huge destination boxes front and back for the very informative route blinds. There were also some ‘conventional’ saloons with the same arrangement. Some of the Regent V double deckers also had the large destination displays. Brings back happy memories of holidays spent on the island in the summers of 1967 and 1970. Another quirky feature in those days was the pubs being open all day!

Philip Halstead

20/08/16 – 11:09

Interesting thought from Chris, and reply from John. I used to work with a fellow whose parking idea in the office car park was to apply the handbrake when he hit the wall. One of my neighbours uses the same method. He calls it ‘parking by braille’. . .

Pete Davies

21/08/16 – 11:07

OPB 536

Actually, Chris, the driver’s view from the cab of the Comet was not as bad as the picture of the Douglas example suggests. That photo has been taken from a position quite low at the front, which exaggerates the bonnet height and length. I frequently drove the former Brown Bus (A.T. Brady of Forest Green) Comet CPO1 on the Forest Green – Ewhurst – Wallis Wood – Horsham route on my weekend moonlighting job (excuse mixed metaphor) when the Brady business was taken over in 1971 by J.D. Wylde t/a North Downs Rural Transport. Initially, the Comet model was powered by the 75 bhp Leyland O300 5 litre diesel, though a petrol option was offered for export. The direct top five speed gearbox had sliding mesh engagement for first and second, and constant mesh for third and fourth. A Girling hydraulic braking system was fitted. In 1950 the engine became the 90 bhp O350 of 5.76 litres, and the model thus became known as the Comet 90. The bonnet structure was the product of Briggs Motor Bodies which also supplied the front end for the LT Guy GS bus, as well as Ford and Dodge goods models. When Ford took over Briggs in 1953, the supply to other manufacturers ceased. Here is a picture of OPB 536, a 1950 CPO1 machine with a Duple C32F body, taken at Forest Green. The Comet was a pleasant vehicle to drive, and the gearbox quite easy to use. Its only vice was the abysmally large turning circle that required precise placing of the machine on tight corners. I recall reading somewhere that OPB 536 was originally supplied with a petrol engine but was quickly converted to diesel, though this seems improbable to me. I understood that OPB 536 was subsequently bought by preservationists but I can find no recent references to it, so one must fear the worst.

Roger Cox

21/08/16 – 16:19

Actually, Roger, the view was taken at my normal viewing height of camera to eye – I’m 5ft 8in – and with my feet on the road. I suspect your view of OPB might have been taken from a grassy bank. Yes, the angle of view does affect the perception quite a lot!

Pete Davies

22/08/16 – 17:01

Parking by Braille was fine when cars had proper bumpers; these days breathing too heavily near the car might need a respray! (only a slight exaggeration)

David Todd


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Old Bus Photos from Saturday 25th April 2009 to Thursday 25th August 2016