Old Bus Photos

Hebble – AEC Regent III – BJX 57 – 246

Hebble Motor Sevices AEC Regent III
Photograph taken by Robert Mack in 1956 copyright held by Don Akrigg

Hebble Motor Services
1950
AEC Regent III 9612E
Roe L27/26R

This a shot of a Roe lowbridge bodied Regent III owned by Hebble there as been a shot of one of their Willowbrook lowbridge bodied Regents on site before to view click on ‘Hebble’ in the left side bar. This bus is on route 17 which was Bradford to Halifax via Queensbury. Bradford Corporation did not have any lowbridge vehicles nor did Halifax and both ran services to Queensbury so why did Hebble only have lowbridge vehicles at the time this shot was taken. Hebble acquired their first highbridge vehicles in 1957 and were three rear entrance Regent Vs, there must of been another route that needed the lowbridge vehicles. Hebble did have a Bradford to Bingley route via Wilsden which may have encountered a low bridge of the old railway line. If you know why Hebble had an all lowbridge fleet until 1957 please leave a comment. This vehicle was originally numbered 46 but was renumbered in 1957 and was withdrawn from service in 1962 only twelve years.

A full list of Regent III codes can be seen here.

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Hebble had no highbridge buses until the depot was modified, after this highbridge buses for some years (Regent V’s) had cream fronts to distinguish them from lowbridge buses. The depot roof being raised but not the full area and thus there were dangerous places for high buses to go.
Oddly Todmorden had the same problem and both ended up as part of Halifax.

Christopher

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I had a very soft spot for these fine vehicles in their lovely traditional maroon and brown original livery.  They shared the Samuel Ledgard terminus in King Street Leeds by the GPO wooden parcels office, and appear in the background on many Ledgard pictures.
They set off here for Burnley or Rochdale on services 15 and 28, and left at twenty past and ten to the hour. A particularly congested time was from 5.15pm to 5.30pm Mondays to Fridays when there were six departures in ten minutes:- two of the fine Hebble vehicles and, four good old Ledgard’s, 5.27pm to Rawdon, 5.28pm to Guiseley White Cross, 5.29pm to Ilkley and 5.30pm to Ilkley. All were heavily loaded and the bus industry was still healthy, although about to "catch a cold" in those happy days.

Chris Youhill

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15/08/11 – 13:25

I rode on these often on the 17 Bradford-Halifax via Queensbury route.
This route was interworked with the Halifax-Bradford via Shelf Route 7 in that the bus started on Route 17 Halifax-Queensbury-Bradford then Route 7 Bradford-Shelf-Halifax then 7 to Bradford via Shelf and finally 17 back to Halifax via Queensbury.
It used to take two and a half hours full trip (I’ve done it). This arrangement survived the demise of Hebble when the routes become joint Bradford CT and Halifax routes 76/77 and then PTE routes 576 577. I remember round trips on Metro Halifax’s Alsia and the Metropolitan demo. Hope this may be of interest.

Kev

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15/08/11 – 21:49

Before using the 9.6 litre Regents on the 19 service, Bradford to Bingley, Hebble used their 1946 Regal II single decks, with Weymann bodies, new in 1946. 19 was on "home territory" and I do not recollect any lowbridge necessity on the route.
What intrigues me is why Hebble reverted to 7.7 Regents with the CJX Willowbrook batch.
I well remember some City of Oxford lowbridge utility Guys running, on loan, on the 19 route, but I cannot remember the year! Mind you, cannot remember much of note these days!

John Whitaker

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26/08/11 – 07:11

Hebble’s fifteen Roe-bodied Regent III’s 26-37, and 44-46 were 0961 or 9612E models with 9.6 litre engines and preselector gearboxes.
The four Willowbrook-bodied Regent III’s 67-70, were not 7.7 models, but type 9613A with 9.6 litre engines and D124 crash gearboxes. This previously long running and successful gearbox design proved troublesome when matched to the 9.6 unit and after a short time these four had them replaced with synchromesh boxes as used on the Regent V. Some late Regent III’s had this box fitted from new, being model 9613S, but these Hebble ones remained officially 9613A.
They were wonderful buses apart from the poor visibility through the front upper deck windows. Their interiors had polished woodwork which gave a much more quality feel than the painted wood of the Roe-bodied ones. They sounded great too.

John Stringer

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27/08/11 – 14:18

The 9613A was fitted to quite a few post 1950 Regent IIIs and was not up to the challenge. Most were retro-fitted with syncromesh boxes – as was the case with Sheffield’s 1952 Roe bodied batch of 9. They were meant to be delivered with syncro boxes but apparently AECs own syncro box had not been developed sufficiently so they were delivered, in the interim, with D124 boxes. [So the story goes.]

David Oldfield

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01/07/12 – 09:48

This has been a very nostalgic visit. I was trying to find out what buses would take people from Bradford to Shipley Glen in 1959, and thought maybe it was the Hebble. Can anyone confirm that?
My mother used to say, ‘Time, tide and Hebble wait for no man and once you’re on ‘em, they can shek yer liver pin out.’ !

Lynda Finn

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04/07/12 – 05:10

Lynda It wouldn’t have been Hebble to Shipley Glen, the nearest they would be would be Cottingley Bar on the Duckworth Lane to Bingley route – a good 2 miles away.
Until the withdrawal of the trolleybuses the nearest you could get on the South side of the river would be Saltaire (either by Trolleybus or West Yorkshire Keighley bound buses – necessitating a walk down Victoria Road and across the river. When motorbuses were introduced Bradford City Transport (blue buses) introduced a service down Victoria Road to Salts Mill (23) which showed ‘Shipley Glen’ on the front but you still had to walk across the river – and then in all cases you had to either use the Shipley Glen Tramway if it was running or walk up the path to the Glen.
On the North side of the river West Yorkshire buses to Baildon via Baildon Green (61) got you a tad nearer and they eventually introduced a service 60 in the early 60′s along the Coach Road virtually to the bottom of the tramway. I think this also showed (more accurately) ‘Shipley Glen’. By the way – and John Whitaker will confirm – your Mum was absolutely right with her saying !

Gordon Green


 

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Eastern Scottish – AEC Regent III – GSF 645 – BB62

Eastern Scottish AEC Regent III

Eastern Scottish
1949
AEC Regent III 9612E
Duple L27/26R

This would of been a lovely shot apart from the glare on the front upper deck but then again it does not take anything away from the sleek lines of a Duple bodied bus. There is as usual the decoration associated with Duple more a coach than a bus builder on this vehicle which did spoil the looks sometimes.
I started looking into the history of this operator but what a minefield Scottish Omnibuses Ltd was made up of three separate operators Eastern Scottish, Baxter’s Bus Service and Stark’s Motor Services. I think the history of the Scottish Bus Group of Alexander, Highland Omnibuses, MacBrayne, S.M.T. and Scottish Omnibuses is far to complicated for this posting more for an article if anybody is up to it.

A full list of Regent III codes can be seen here.


I liked these Duple bodies with the mouldings. However, am I right in thinking that Duple only made lowbridge versions with these features? I can’t think of any highbridge examples. I’d love to be proved wrong.

Paul Haywood


As far as I know you’re dead right about there having been no highbridge Duples of this design on AEC chassis, more’s the pity. The Red and White group had a number of very nice examples of both lowbridge and highbridge design on Guy Arab III chassis though. In addition to the "home fleet" four highbridge models were delivered to the Venture, Basingstoke fleet in 1950. These were reallocated to the former Newbury and District fleet when only a few months old. Here they joined one highbridge and two lowbridge examples of a similar vintage, all of which survived in Thames Valley ownership until 1968. Newbury depot also had some utility highbridge Guys and, following a couple of low bridge incidents when highbridge vehicles had been allowed to accidentally strayed onto the Lambourn road it was decided to renumber them in a series H1-H16, the splendid Duple bodied examples being H10 (the original N&D example) and H13-6 (the former Venture vehicles). The two lowbridge vehicles, which had platform doors and heaters as well as what were effectively dual purpose seats from new and which had been chosen to compete with the Lambourn Valley railway on the Newbury – Lambourn routes, retained their original numbers, 170/1. I quite literally grew up with these buses and they were absolutely superb. The highbridge examples were a little less luxurious than the lowbridge but still of a very high spec. Despite being non standard in the Thames Valley Bristol/ECW fleet they were very well thought of by both drivers and engineering staff and were both well used and beautifully presented throughout their lives. The two lowbridge examples were still invariably on all day workings up to their withdrawal. Sadly, despite rumours to the contrary none survived to see further service or preservation as at the time of their withdrawal Gardner engines were worth a fortune and all seven of these are believed to have ended up powering junks in Hong Kong! The buses that they came from were all scrapped very quickly thereafter. A beautiful Red and White highbridge example lives on in preservation though.

Dave Wilder


19/09/13 – 18:08

This AEC Regent would have been new, or acquired, to SMT Scottish Motor Traction and is seen in a variant livery in the transition to Scottish Bus Group, which was created ca 1964 and reorganised the SMT companies into Western SMT, Central SMT and Eastern Scottish, and the Alexander’s empire into Midland, Fife and Northern. The Edinburgh SMT company had changed to Scottish Omnibuses, to differentiate itself from SMT Motors (the original parent), which continued as a Vauxhall dealership in Edinburgh Fountainbridge and Lothian Road.
Scottish Omnibuses had acquired/merged with Stark’s Dunbar, Baxter’s Coatbridge and Lowland Omnibuses (all over the Borders). The first two retained their liveries and identities into the 70s.

David Scott


09/10/13 – 08:29

Somewhat belatedly, may I add some clarification to one or two of David’s remarks?
This vehicle would have been new to Scottish Omnibuses: they had 20 in all, BB61-80, GSF644-GSF663.
All the constituent companies of the Scottish Bus Group pre-date its formation. Western SMT and Central SMT both date from June 1932. Alexander’s dates from 1914 although the familiar ‘W Alexander & Sons’ name was only introduced in 1924; prior to that, the company had been known as Alexander’s Motor Services. The ‘split’, which created Midland, Fife and Northern took effect on 15 May 1961 although the empire had been split, operationally, into Southern, Fife and Northern Areas prior to that, not to mention David Lawson of Kirkintilloch which was purchased in 1936 but retained as an operating subsidiary until it was absorbed by the newly-created Midland company in 1961.
The history of SMT and its various fleetnames is complex. SMT operated its first bus on 1 January 1906. The bus company split from SMT Sales & Servicing at the time of Nationalisation in 1949 but secured an agreement to retain the SMT fleetname for a limited period; the legal name became Scottish Omnibuses Ltd, though. Coaches started appearing with both SMT and Scottish Omnibuses fleetnames in 1959 although, in 1961, the SMT was dropped. In 1963 the fleetname ‘=Scottish=’ made its debut but the SMT diamond was resurrected after about a year, before the company finally settled on ‘Eastern Scottish’ in late 1964.
Stark’s Motor Services of Dunbar was taken over on 1 January 1964. From about the mid-50s, however, buses on the Dunbar to Edinburgh service, which was co-ordinated with the SMT and United services over the same stretch of route, carried SMT diamond fleetnames and a reversed SMT livery. After takeover, the Stark’s livery was slightly revised and Stark’s fleetnames were carried by all vehicles operating from Dunbar and North Berwick depots; the Stark’s livery was retained for 15 years. (And, yes, this does mean that the SMT fleetname was carried by certain vehicles when they were owned by Stark’s whilst the Stark’s flletname was carried after they were owned by SMT!)
Baxter’s Bus Service was acquired on 1 December 1962 and, initially, buses operating the former Baxter’s routes were painted in a revised version of the SMT light-green livery. The management in Edinburgh, however, not for the first time – or the last – out of touch with operations in the West of Scotland, seriously underestimated the loyalty of the people of Airdrie and Coatbridge towards their local operator; within a few months, after considerable disquiet and criticism in the local press, the management realised their error and Baxter’s blue livery and fleetnames started reappearing on Victoria depot’s buses. This arrangement remained until 1977.
When David mentions "Lowland Omnibuses (all over the borders)" he may be mixing the formation of Lowland Scottish in 1985 with the purchase of Lowland Motorways of Shettleston on 13 January 1958. Lowland Motorways’ services to the East of Glasgow and their vehicles, hitherto painted in an attractive livery of two shades of green, were all taken over and their livery disappeared. Lowland Scottish, on the other hand, took over all of Eastern Scottish’s depots in the Borders and, additionally, the former Stark’s depots at Dunbar and North Berwick. Interestingly though, in view of events 25 years later, in May 1960, Stark’s were short of vehicles and hired one from SMT; knowing of Stark’s liking for Leylands, SMT sent them the ex-Lowland Motorways’ prototype Tiger Cub H106, LYS943, and this operated for Stark’s for a very short period.

Alan Hall


 

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Chiltern Queens – AEC Reliance – KBV 778

Chiltern Queens - AEC Reliance - KBV 778

Chiltern Queens of Woodcote
1958
AEC Reliance MU3RV
Plaxton Consort C41C

The above AEC Reliance chassis No 1598 fitted with a Plaxton Consort C41C body No 2355 was supplied new to Batty Holt Ribblesdale of Blackburn Lancashire in 1958.
I bought the coach off a preservationist in Farnham Surrey in 1982 who had acquired it from Chiltern Queens of Woodcote, Oxfordshire where it had operated for a number of years in their fleet. Still in that livery I rallied it for almost 3 years before selling it to Whittaker Tours of Walsall who began to use it on vintage tours, weddings etc. It then went to some travellers where it has remained for a number of years gradually becoming more dilapidated. It certainly was a nice coach to drive and travel in 1950s opulence when I had it.

There are other photographs of the above Reliance to be seen here.

Photographs and Copy contributed by Gerald Walker

A full list of Reliance codes can be seen here.

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Several photographs of this vehicle appear on the website http://www.travellerhomes.co.uk under the ‘AEC’ heading. Be warned that the sections of this site are not in alphabetical order (it is, after all, run by hippies!) so you will have to scroll downwards to find the AEC bit. According to this site the vehicle was advertised for sale on eBay (or as they prefer "greedbay") in 2009. Has somebody bought it for re-preservation? I hope so.

Neville Mercer

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What a beautiful looking vehicle indeed. I have driven many a thousand very happy miles in virtually identical coaches with Wallace Arnold Tours of Leeds, who had a large number of them. They were extremely nice to drive, had an excellent performance, their reliability was legendary (no pun intended on the model name) and the passengers found them comfortable and pleasant.

Chris Youhill

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You lucky person, Chris. Reliances had left front line service by the time I gained my licence. I trained on an ex Chiltern Queen ZF 691 Reliance and ZF Reliances are my favourite vehicles. I was brought up in Sheffield on SUT Reliances of all descriptions.
Anyone need help to drive their preserved Reliance?

David Oldfield

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The magnificent ZF/690 Reliances caught us all napping at Wallace Arnold David.  Until you got the hang of the unfamiliar gearbox the way that third and fourth gears seemed to be "anywhere" between first and second on the left and fifth and sixth on the right could be most embarrassing – we desperately "stirred the tub of treacle" hoping to find third and fourth until it eventually dawned on us that there was a gentle spring preventing unintentional selection of fifth and sixth – and then these lovely smooth powerful vehicles showed their true gentle and civilised nature.

Chris Youhill

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Sounds as if you’re as big a fan Chris as I am! I was trained how to use the ZF. Good case for type training!!!

David Oldfield

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Indeed David – and on reflection I’m just wondering if my memory is playing tricks ?? WAS the gentle protecting spring on the right, or was it it on the left of the gate to prevent unintentional engagement of first and second gears ??

Chris Youhill

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I did my training on said vehicle when it was about 26 years old. I don’t know, or remember, how the springing was set up but it was supposed to centre the lever on the 3/4 axis. This it tended to do quite well, as I remember, although age wore the linkages – and with misuse (normally due to ignorance of how to use it) could make accurate selection of gears a bit haphazard.
I remember a Western National driver, shortly after they had taken over Devon General, making a total hash of driving a DG 6U3ZR from Plymouth to Exeter.
My problem, as a rookie, was selecting reverse rather than second – when setting off – due to being too brutal with the gear lever. My instructor reckoned I was responsible for many a case of "brown trousers" when I set off in reverse from traffic lights in Reading!
As you said (Chris) once you had learned to tame the beast it was a real pussy cat. [The same was also true of the ZF Tiger - especially a 260/Van Hool (ex Armchair) that became a favourite of mine!]

David Oldfield

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Thanks for those experiences David. I seem to remember now that 1/2/3/4th were normal and you had to overcome the spring to find 5th and 6th, and when changing down let the lever come out of the spring and locate and "settle" itself ready for 3rd and 4th.
This would explain the possible pitfall, which I also remember, of engaging second instead of reverse or reverse instead of second when moving off in one direction or the other.

Chris Youhill

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As a former Chiltern Queens driver I have happy memories of this vehicle as it was always a favourite with drivers, went well, and no body noise at all, the only problem was watching your speed as it went so well and ran quietly. Thanks for the memory.

Philip Smith

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Yes super vehicles, PMT had about 6 Duple Commander bodied coaches and if drivers tried to pull away in second gear they would tend to go over the second spring in the gearbox and select reverse gear whoops!! The secret with this gear box was to treat it like a woman, nice and gentle. Good fast buses.
PMT coach number C989 reg 4989 VT was an AEC Reliance 2U3RA ZF 6 speed gearbox won the Brighton Coach Rally in 1964.

Michael Crofts

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I was highly amused Michael to read of your most gallant method of remaining in favour with the ZF gearbox, and I would totally agree that it is the best course of action. It has to be said though that the theory can by no means be applied universally to other gearboxes, and I can think of a few models which would treat such gentlemanly conduct with noisy and stubborn contempt – I’m sure other people have had similar "confrontations" with challenging but nevertheless noble vehicles – the Foden PVSC6/Gardner 6LW remains etched in the distant memory, and must take credit for ensuring that I still have a seemingly healthy ruddy complexion half a century after my last battle with the type !!

Chris Youhill

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Interesting comments about Reliances and ZF gearboxes. Maidstone & District used this combination in their express coaches, (‘SC’ in M&D terminology), and they were an absolute delight to drive. Based at M&D’s head office in Maidstone in 1966/7, I had the rare privilege, whenever I went up to London, of being able to suggest to the driver that he might care to take a rest, and drive the coach myself instead. They were just exhilarating: very fast, comfortable and extremely well-mannered in every respect.
However, I was mildly surprised to read about people making mistakes when operating the lovely 6-speed ZF gearbox, and Chris’s and David’s comments on accidental selection of the wrong gear rang no bells at all. (You’re right, Chris, the spring was between the 3rd/4th gate and the 5th/6th gate, so when changing from 5th to 4th, say, the technique was to drop into neutral, then hold the lever gently against the spring.
Maybe my ignorance of any difficulty with using the ZF box was because the vehicles were then brand new and had suffered no wear in the linkages, but as Michael Crofts points out, they responded best to gentle treatment, and the lovely M&D was a very gentle company!

Roy Burke

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Roy. Chris and my post are almost a year old. My problems were when I was learning (before I passed my test) and, to be fair, Chris probably meant on first encountering the beast.
Subsequently, I have driven thousands of miles with no problems with AEC, Leyland, Volvo, DAF and Dennis applications of the 6 speed ZF.

David Oldfield

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Roy and David, yes, just to confirm my comments on WA drivers being "caught napping" with the new AEC Reliances and the freshly introduced ZF six speed gearbox – a gearbox so totally different from the previous very familiar positive and easy five speed one with which we were all so familiar daily. Of course, as with the norm, there was no mention by the Company of the development and no familiarity training of any kind, and so a little "puzzlement" was to be expected – but we soon came to grips with it and, as everyone above has agreed, the gearbox and the chassis in general were superb – smooth, quiet and fast but totally civilised. I don’t think I dare put in print the top speed that the Reliances could achieve, but they improved the Leeds – Southend Airport feeder running times to come a close second to the aged aeroplanes in which our passengers were to cross the Channel !!

Chris Youhill

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Pre-tacho and motorway speed limits, I was a passenger on a 760 which did over the ton – EASILY, and with no effort – on the A1, south of Scotch Corner!

David Oldfield

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I have no further questions Mi’ Lud !!

Chris Youhill

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All this talk of speed awakens more memories: when driven in a way of which Chris would disapprove, some buses (not coaches)- possibly CVD6′s- or aged Barton PD’s ?- used to "chuff" when "given their head" on the open road: they were probably doing all of 50…? Could we have an expert interpretation?

Joe

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Well, David, I just can’t compete with your experience of going at over a ton on the A1; 70mph on the Swanley by-pass was the best I ever managed, but weren’t the Reliances lovely when they were moving at speed? As for Joe’s query, could the ‘chuffing’ be the effect of the governors?

Roy Burke

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Reliances were lovely at any speed but not for nothing do I dub them them RR of coaches!

David Oldfield

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We had two batches of AEC Reliance 590 with ZF gearboxes at PMT. The six Duple Commander bodied coaches were prone to overheating when driven for long periods in 6th gear. We blanked off 6th gear on all of them for a time and fitted C991 with two radiators in tandem in an attempt to cure the problem. Time dulls the memory, I can’t remember the conclusion to either experiment. The other five had Weymann DP bodies and spent most of their time on stage carriage work, latterly as OMO vehicles. To say they were unsuitable for this work is an understatement!! Most drivers managed to find 2nd and then the next gear was 5th!! I have to confess that I never mastered the 6 speed ZF – nor for that matter the AEC 6 speed constant mesh fitted to the short Reliance coaches. The ex Stratford Blue Tiger Cubs were easy (to me) by comparison.

Ian Wild

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As I have said elsewhere, Ian, the 590 was AEC’s Achilles heel which gave them an undeserved reputation through its propensity to boil. It was a wet liner. Its predecessor and successors were dry liners – and didn’t have this problem. Unfortunately the damage was done and many, including Wally Arnold forsook AEC for Leyland.

David Oldfield

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In 1981 during a get-together in Leeds we were taking on an excursion to York in a 6-speed Leyland Leopard that sounded different from the near-silent ZF unit. I asked the driver, who told me it was an AEC six-speed box. Back at Leeds he kindly offered me a go round the block. The change was beautifully positive and you could hear the engine just well enough to get clean changes. It struck me that this was an ideal chassis-gearbox combination. I can’t remember the name of the coach company or the registration of the Leopard or why it had been so fitted. Triple amnesia!

Ian Thompson

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The ZF Leopard was offered as a sop to disgruntled AEC operators when AEC was closed down in 1979.
Famously, both Yelloway and Premier of Cambridge has ZF Leopards after they could no longer get 760 ZF Reliances. Many went straight to Volvo (B58 or B10M) and missed out Leyland. I know a number of southern independents bought ZF Leopards in single numbers but I’m not au fait with Leeds area to know who might have had your ZF Leopard.
It would never have replaced – or bettered – the 691/760 Reliance, but just think how much better the Leopard would have been had they offered the ZF earlier.

David Oldfield

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01/11/11 – 06:46

Going right back to Neville’s very first posting regarding this fine vehicle, I have many times looked sadly at the pictures found on the Travellers Homes website and at the dreadful state that this poor coach had been allowed to get into..see here http://www.travellerhomes.co.uk/?p=6445 Then tonight, by chance I came upon this Flickr website and found that thankfully, a major restoration has been undertaken and it is now once more gleaming! See here http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnmightycat/6121759708/in/photostream/
There is a conflict of dates as the "hippy" website claims it was awaiting sale in 2009 but the post restoration picture appears to be January 2008…maybe the camera date coding is wrong but whatever the reason..KBV 778 lives!

Richard Leaman

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01/11/11 – 16:15

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the photo on Flickr was taken in 1986 – see the original text under the photo on this website for the reference to it being preserved in "Whittaker" livery. The date of 2008 on Flickr refers to the time when the photo was scanned and uploaded. If only you were right!

Neville Mercer

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02/11/11 – 07:08

Neville…  I’m sorry. I just did not realise what "86 JL" meant and was pleased to see the coach apparently restored.

I’ve gone back through the travellers website to check on how my confusion was fostered seeing the coach in a new livery.

1. In Geralds original picture it is in Chiltern Queen’s dark/light green scheme.

2. I now know it was changed to Whittakers grey/cream style.. http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnmightycat/6121759708/in/photostream/

3. After sale to the travellers it must have gone to a maroon/cream format as here.. http://www.travellerhomes.co.uk/?p=1894

4. Then back to something like the original dual green with an orange roof after which it was badly treated.. http://www.travellerhomes.co.uk/?p=2270

5. Getting worse.. http://www.travellerhomes.co.uk/?p=3734

6. Forlorn in 2009.. http://www.travellerhomes.co.uk/?p=6445

It’s such a shame and I guess may by now have been broken up or at best deteriorated even further.

Again, my apologies to everyone for the confusion and hoped for "restoration".

Richard Leaman

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02/11/11 – 09:29

We can live in hope, Richard – but more to the point – we can help and support those wonderful people who are able to restore and preserve these classic vehicles – and even better – run them at special gatherings throughout the year.

David Oldfield

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03/11/11 – 06:32

David.. indeed you are right about appreciating the work and skills of the restorers. After my last posting above, I noticed that on one of the earlier pictures it now says "Sold in 2010 to..?" so it appears to have moved on but to what fate?

Richard Leaman

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03/11/11 – 08:45

………and we should mourn the breakup of classic bus collections, like CPPTD in Broad Street, Old Portsmouth, forced on them by re-development and an unhelpful local council. Also, the likely demise of Aston Manor Road Transport Museum, under threat of closure. With additional council rent, they would have to charge £8pp for ALL visitors. And the purchase, the price was exorbitant.

Chris Hebbron

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05/01/12 – 17:00

Ah what happy memories, the Reliance with ZF 6 speed gearbox, although I worked for Southdown at Eastbourne depot I got to drive East Kent’s 590 engined models on the old South Coast Express service to Bournemouth etc as changeovers with drivers, usually from Thanet depot, was a regular occurrence especially in summer, after our usual fare of manual gearbox Leopard’s this was pure Heaven. Other of your correspondents have commented on selecting 3/4 gears I always found that when coming out of 2 or 5/6 that taking all pressure off of the lever using only the palm of your hand would let it stand in the centre of the gate just right to gently slide into 3rd or 4th gear, a gentle touch was all that was needed. Any attempt at heavy handedness almost always ended in failure and confusion all round used properly along with the performance available they were a total pleasure to drive the powerful brakes and light clutch only improved the experience.

Diesel Dave

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06/01/12 – 07:02

When I moved from Tynemouth and Wakefields ‘Northern General’ to Armstrong Galley the coaching division of Tyne and Wear PTE, most of the coach fleet was made up of Leyland Leopards with semi auto air change boxes, but we had two older Duple bodied AEC’s with six speed ZF’s, as a result all our drivers had to have any type licence. I don’t know if they had a 590 or a 760, but if they could get a grip I’m sure they could have scaled the North Wall of the Eiger. I would say they were a better vehicle than the Leopard, although the steering on the Leyland was more positive and the AEC’s had a tendency to wander slightly in comparison to the Leyland, but overall they were a nice vehicle to drive.

Ronnie Hoye

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06/01/12 – 07:02

My first experience of the ZF gearbox was in the Aldershot and District Park Royal bodied 4MU4RA Reliances, which had the AH 470 engine. I did much of my PSV training and a great deal of subsequent driving on the Halifax Nimbuses, which had a six speed constant mesh gearbox that responded to light, sensitive handling. As I recall, the ZF boxes had a similar gate layout to the Albion, and light detente springs centralised the stick in the 3rd/4th plane. The subtlety of this arrangement was entirely lost on those of the ham fisted fraternity who would berate the gearbox on account of their own incompetence. Properly used, the ZF box was very satisfying and gave even the modestly powered Aldershot examples a fine turn of speed. Later, I drove several of the more powerful 590 engined/ZF model, which confirmed my earlier impressions.

Roger Cox

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07/01/12 – 08:49

The 6-speed gearbox of the 4MU4RA was quite different from the one on the the 590s, and I always understood it was an AEC unit, not ZF. The code after the U is 2 for Monocontrol, 3 for synchromesh, 3Z for ZF synchromesh (although I’m not sure that the Z was added on the earliest ones) and 4 for constant mesh.

Peter Williamson

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07/01/12 – 10:16

Peter. The 590 ZFs were 2U3RA (or 4U3RA air suspension variant). The Z was only added when the 6 variant (691 and then 760) was introduced [6U3ZR]. The A was dropped from the end because, by that time, there were ONLY air brakes offered.
The 6 speed constant mesh (as in 6MU4R) WAS an AEC unit, only available on the medium weights.

David Oldfield

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08/01/12 – 08:03

I have read somewhere that the AEC six speed constant mesh gearbox was originally a Thornycroft design. Until the death knell of the Leyland coup de grâce, Basingstoke works became the main AEC gearbox factory after the Southall takeover. Alan Townsin’s book, Blue Triangle, seems to make no mention of the AEC 6 speed constant mesh unit being fitted to the Reliance, though this is not absolute evidence. The fifteen 1963/4 Park Royal bodied Reliances numbered 466 to 480 of Aldershot and District were early examples of the 36ft long variant, and I am sure that the gearboxes were of ZF manufacture. Chassis of the same specification were supplied to City of Oxford. A later Aldershot and District batch of five Park Royal bodied 36 footers had the standard 5 speed synchromesh gearbox.

Roger Cox

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08/01/12 – 16:29

Hebble had four Park Royal-bodied service buses (131-134, BJX 131-134C), and two Duple Commander-bodied coaches (18/19, DJX 18/19D) on Reliance 470 chassis fitted with the 6-speed constant mesh gearbox. After this their next shorter coaches were 505 models, reverting to the AEC 5-speed synchromesh box, and the longer ones were 691 models with the ZF 6-speed synchromesh box, before then going all Monocontrol. A few years back some work colleagues of mine owned a preserved ex-Greenslades Harrington Cavalier (with Grenadier front), which also had the constant-mesh box. This constant-mesh box produced an entirely different sound to the synchromesh one – deeper and less whiney.
Another former work colleague of mine at Halifax had been a fitter in the last days of Hebble. He recalled one of their Reliance 505/Plaxton coaches (20, FJX 171E) suffering a gearbox failure in Cheltenham whilst on its way to Paignton on the South West Clipper. A changeover had been provided locally, but by then no other operator would provide assistance to Hebble, since it was becoming too frequent an occurrence. Rather than the suffer the ordeal of trailing from Halifax to Cheltenham and back with the tow-wagon, he and his mate were instructed to fetch Park Royal bus-bodied 134 (BJX 134C) in out of the yard, remove its constant mesh gearbox and take it down to Cheltenham in the van, where they were to exchange it for the synchro’ box in the coach, which could then replace the changeover, presumably on its way back from Paignton, and return home. The failed box was returned in the van, quickly repaired, and then rather than wait for 20 to come back home, it was fitted straight into 134 so that it could get back out into service. So for the rest of their working lives 20 and 134 had the ‘wrong’ gearboxes. Eventually 134 passed to Halifax J.O.C. as their 3320, but it was withdrawn before I had the chance to drive it – the other three 131-133 passing to Yorkshire Woollen.
During the West Yorkshire PTE era, Calderdale District were briefly allocated two 36ft. Reliance 505/Plaxton coaches transferred from Bingley’s (52/53, OWT 297/8K). These had the AEC constant mesh box also, and though the older private hire rota drivers seemed to manage with them, on the occasions they found their way onto normal service trips, the regular drivers seriously struggled, most never having encountered crash gearboxes before. Our hilly terrain, and the lack of ‘go’ from the 505 engine in a 53-seater coach didn’t help.
My only encounter with the ZF box was in the later Leyland Tiger coaches. As Roger says, the secret of selecting 3/4th gears was to almost let go of the lever and let it find its own position between the détentes, then lightly push or pull the lever. It was OK when you were out on the open road – able to plan ahead and keep your cool. The trouble was that when you only drove them occasionally, and maybe not for very far, when driving in heavy urban traffic situations you could suddenly find yourself having to do an unexpected quick change and get in a panic. Then it could all go horribly wrong ! On one of them, Jonckheere had lowered the driving position, and in the process had to bodge all the linkages. This one was absolutely dreadful. Getting a bit too modern now though, so I’d better finish.

John Stringer

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09/01/12 – 07:14

Just in case anyone notices that Bus Lists On The Web has A&D 466-480 as 4MU3RA, this is probably a red herring, as Peter Gould’s site agrees with Roger that they were 4MU4RA. As I said above, the 4 means constant mesh (well strictly speaking it means non-synchromesh, since synchromesh gearboxes are constant mesh as well!). We know that the 3 could refer to one of several synchromesh gearboxes, so it is theoretically possible that the 4 could refer to more than one gearbox as well. But the crucial thing is no synchromesh. Personally I have never heard of a ZF box without synchromesh.

Peter Williamson

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09/01/12 – 07:15

North Western’s last batch of Reliances were 36 foot long machines, fifteen being buses and twenty dual-purpose, all on 2U3RA chassis. The last ten (941-952) were fitted with the ZF six-speed gearbox which I believe is what is being referred to here. Peter Caunt, in his book on driving reminiscences with North Western, recalls these as having a close gate, as described, which took some getting used to. He had little chance to wind them up but says then when you changed up from fifth (at about 55 mile/h) to sixth what usually happened is that speed dropped by about 10 mile/h! I suspect there was quite a ratio gap and the engine was delivering sufficient power at the low revs.

David Beilby

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09/01/12 – 13:44

As ever, 6 speed ZF covers a multitude of sins – many different versions with differing ratios. The AEC application – only on heavyweights – had an overdrive sixth gear. [That would explain the speed drop - although it did not necessarily happen if driven "properly"]. When Leyland withdrew the Reliance from the market and offered a 6 speed ZF on the Leopard, in 1979, the Leyland application had a direct sixth gear (1:1). The Dennis Dorchester and Seddon Pennine VII had there own versions (Eastern Scottish even having a 4 speed ZF variant).
The early 36 footers for North Western and the batch including No.9 for Devon General shared the same 4 speed synchromesh AEC gearbox as the SUT BWB registered Plaxton coaches of 1962. As such, they sounded totally different – more like a Regent V.

David Oldfield

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10/01/12 – 16:32

Peter, having trawled again through all my literature on AEC, I confirm that you are correct on the subject of ZF gearboxes fitted to Reliances – they were always synchromesh. For the last fifty years I have laboured under the misapprehension that the A&D 466-480 batch had ZF boxes. We are never too old to learn!

Roger Cox

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10/01/12 – 18:04

…..but ZF’s latest, superb, gearbox – the AS-tronic automated gearbox – has no synchromesh on it at all. [The computer doing the changing, the extra weight of the synchromesh was thought to be superfluous.] Volvo obviously agree as their iShift is similarly endowed, as is, I believe Scania’s version.

David Oldfield

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