Seddon Pennine IV
Something to give Roger Cox the shudders ! In late 1968 Halifax Corporation borrowed the prototype Seddon Pennine IV demonstrator, though I wonder if the intention was simply to give the manufacturer some operational experience of their new model. Surely manager Geoff Hilditch could never have been serious about the department acquiring any. I believe this body design remained unique, as shortly afterwards the model was offered as a complete item with a more distinctive style. Hilditch later collaborated with Seddon in the introduction of the heavier duty rear-engined Pennine RU model, and the prototype of that soon appeared in Halifax on trial.
In the first photo it is seen passing along Waterhouse Street in the town centre. In the second, rather snatched and blurry shot, it is seen at speed on the A58 between Stump Cross and Hipperholme whilst operating the dreaded Meredith & Drew private hire return journey.
Photograph and Copy contributed by John Stringer
25/08/13 – 11:32
Good to see this bus in reasonable condition. It later became Seddon’s own works bus, used to bring staff to the factory off Shaw Road in Oldham. In this role it replaced the earlier Seddon that ran as West Riding 738 (EHL 500). Both of these vehicles were clearly non-PSVs as shown by their deteriorating condition. RBU 502F I don’t believe ever got repainted and ended up with several plywood "windows". It was still there when I was in the late seventies.
25/08/13 – 14:53
How right you are, John. I consider the Pennine IV to have been the most horrible vehicle of my experience, though the Cummins engined Leyland Lynx runs very close in second place. It was basically a crude, fragile, lorry derived design with primitive suspension and decidedly wayward steering characteristics. The ear splitting din from the Perkins 6.354 engine mounted in the front overhang made the Regent V sound like a trolleybus by comparison. I cannot believe that, having inspected this Emett inspired aberration, Geoff Hilditch even remotely considered it suitable for the taxing topography of the Halifax bus network. Robert Seddon had been very supportive towards GGH at an early stage of his engineering career, and it is fully understandable that he, GGH, would have wished to assist in the development of Seddon’s more determined incursion into the main bus manufacturing market. Though the Pennine IV sold reasonably well as a lightweight, medium duty coach, those who acquired the thing as an inexpensive bus soon found that it was not up to the job. Seddon then went on, with GGH’s encouragement, to produce the RU, and this, also, ultimately proved to be something of a broken reed. Only the heavier weight Pennine VII produced for the Scottish Bus Group showed that the firm could make a fully robust psv. I recall that my very first experience of a Seddon coach was in 1958, when, as an ATC cadet on summer camp at RAF Colerne, near Bath, I went on a chartered trip with the rest of the squadron to Wookey Hole. The vehicle that took us was a Seddon, probably the R6 powered Mark 11, as it had the engine mounted under a rather high floor of a front entrance coach body. My main recollection of the ride is the seemingly continual gearchanging (it had a two speed axle into the bargain) required of the torqueless, screaming engine that kept the driver fully employed throughout. I did take a picture of this machine with my Brownie 127, but the negative fell somewhere by the wayside during parental home removals when I worked elsewhere in the land. I wonder if anyone now can identify this beast or the operator.
25/08/13 – 19:52
Here is a photo of RBU 502F, which I photographed in Fred Winters scrapyard at North Cave in East Yorkshire, taken in 1982, still carries Seddon names on the side, but none standard windows.
26/08/13 – 17:12
It is interesting to note that the front wheels in particular are inboard of the body sides by quite a margin. With the weight of the engine in the front overhang, a relatively narrow track and presumably 8ft wide bodywork, does anyone know what it handled like?
27/08/13 – 05:39
Yes, Brendan. The Pennine IV handled like a pig. I drove one from Gomshall in Surrey to Loughborough, and the steering needed constant correction to keep the thing in a straight line, not helped by the bouncy suspension which could barely cope with the weight of the overhung engine. It had the worst road behaviour of any vehicle I have ever driven.
27/08/13 – 05:40
Didn’t KMB take 100 Pennine IVs with pretty-much off-the-peg Pennine bodywork around 1970? I think the only concession to Hong Kong conditions were full-depth sliding windows, whilst drivers sweltered behind BET windscreens, and the Perkins (V6?) engines sweltered behind grilles designed for temperate climates . . . I think nearly all were rebuilt with in-house fronts incorporating flat/opening windscreens and larger radiator grilles within a few years.
Halifax JOC’s [sic] Pennine RUs had a high/flat floor (they were kitted-out as DPs): did they have a high chassis frame or did Plaxton support the body floor in some way? and did any other RU operator opt for this high floor line? They also had narrow two-piece glider doors – in short, non of the advantages offered by the RU, but all the engineering problems . . . surely, Halifax’s usual Leopard/Reliance chassis choice would have done the job better. What struck me when they were introduced – and I was 5/6 at the time, so memory might be fading a bit here – was the way the lower back panels stepped out and that they didn’t have "modern" rear lights but the "old" two-piece/oblong units sort-of set into the rear panel . . . is anybody getting the gist here? I’m wondering now, I think they’d be 10 metre, so the step-out couldn’t have compromised length, but was it necessary to inset the rear lights into the body to accommodate the length of the rear overhang? (presumably the RU, squeezing everything behind the rear axle, had a longish overhang?). I think they may also have had coach-glasses below the rear window containing the registration and, either side, the Halifax coat of arms . . . I’m sure that’s the case, because it stuck in my young mind as being "inappropriate" for a bus (as opposed to a coach).
I guess that if I could be bothered to trawl flickr etc then the answers might be there, but I can’t, and anyway its much more interesting to see what this site might come up with . . . or not!
27/08/13 – 11:40
There is a photo of mine posted on ‘another website’ showing a rear view of one of the Halifax RU’s – complete with the stepped out panel. Here’s the link.
28/08/13 – 06:07
I didn’t move to Huddersfield until 1972 but I can’t recall the three Halifax Seddons having this unusual rear end arrangement at that time. At the time of the PTE takeover (yes, 1974 and outside the strict remit of this site), Huddersfield had two further Seddon RUs on order to be bodied by Pennine. We were instructed by Geoffrey Hilditch as PTE Engineering Director Designate to transfer the body order to Plaxtons who produced bodies similar to those recently delivered to Rotherham Corporation also on RU chassis. Whilst I can’t recall the floor layout, I am certain that those buses did not have the protruding rear panels as shown on Halifax 315. Could these have been to create a small luggage boot?? Engine access would have been restricted.
28/08/13 – 06:09
Thanks for that, John – well, thanks for both sign-posting your photograph and for having the fore-sight to photograph the rear-end, anticipating my musings of 40+ years later. In my mind, the coach-glass just had the crests either side of the registration, but can I make out Halifax in Gothic script above the registration? (the glass is deeper than I remembered); neither do I remember the reversing lights, nor the removable centre panel, nor the squared-off-compared-to-BET-standard rear window – but I think my memories were pretty accurate . . . . now, if only my mother would have given-in to my entreaties to ‘ride on one of the "white buses" to Huddersfield’ I might be able to recall what the interiors were like. The final "Halifax Passenger Transport" timetable (pre-WYPTE) contained a "glossy" colour section illustrating/detailing Halifax buses over the years: one of the Seddons was illustrated, and the description included the phrase (or similar) " . . . the design is still regarded as experimental . . ." – sadly, by 1974, I think the experiment was largely over as regards the Pennine RU drive-train.
Provincial took quite a number of Pennine IVs to replace its re-built Guy Arabs. Anyway, when I was trawling on-line to satisfy my curiosity as to how many, I discovered that the model had been offered with 3 choices of engine: Perkins V8 (eg., KMB); Perkins in-line 6 (eg., Provincial); and Deutz 6-cylinder (a sop to win the Provincial order?) – were any Pennine IVs actually built with the Deutz option?
28/08/13 – 15:07
The reign of the Deutz engine at the Gosport and Fareham (aka Provincial) company came to an end with the retirement of Mr H Orme White in 1967 at the age of 81. His successor, Mr Woolford, looked to get rid of the elderly AEC and Guy crew operated buses, several of which had been rebuilt with Deutz air cooled engines, and introduce a replacement fleet of one person operated single deckers. The Seddon Pennine IV/Perkins 6.354 was chosen, presumably because it was relatively cheap, and no doubt, it was felt that Seddon machinery would be more durable than the offerings from Bedford (history would prove otherwise). When these vehicles were delivered, the Deutz era at Hoeford was well past, so it is unlikely that a Deutz engined option for the Pennine IV would have enticed the then management of Gosport and Fareham. In the event, the G&F undertaking was swallowed up by the Wiles Group in 1969, and, thanks to Nigel Turner’s researches (see his comment on the ‘Gosport and Fareham (Provincial)’ gallery on this site) we now know that the Wiles (later the Swain) Group was one of the identities of the asset stripping Hanson Trust. Less than a year later, on 1st January 1970, G&F was sold to NBC. The possibility of a Pennine IV being offered with a Deutz air cooled engine utterly beggars belief. The racket given out by these engines became legendary. The Perkins engined version was deafening enough. A Deutz engined version would have required the entire passenger complement to wear industrial ear protection.
29/08/13 – 06:36
Mention of the Deutz engine being fitted to Seddons rang a distant bell from the time years ago when I used to read the weekly ‘Motor Transport’ newspaper and took a bit more of an interest in trucks than I do these days. I recall a variant of the 13:4 truck chassis (to which the Pennine IV was probably related) which was sold under the Seddon-Deutz identity and was clearly aimed at wooing overseas customers, so it seems likely that it could have been offered in the Pennine IV also. I have found a link to a website showing an item of literature about the truck version (though unfortunately it reveals little else) here: http://www.commercialmotor.com/big-lorry-blog/that-maggie-was-a-seddonanothe
29/08/13 – 06:37
Roger, I just want to be clear about this – you don’t think that a Deutz-engined Pennine IV would have been the most refined vehicle on the market?
In one of the wonderful ways of this site, I hadn’t realised that the Wiles Group was the acorn from which Hanson Trust grew. At its peak Hanson Trust included Courage Brewery, Golden Wonder snacks, hotels, and much more, on both sides of the Atlantic – but they over-reached themselves with a bid for ICI in which some shady business practices were exposed, and I now understand that they’ve contracted to be a largely UK-based supplier of brick/concrete/aggregate to the construction industry.
The Hanson family’s bus/coach operations, petrol stations, car/PSV driving school, travel agencies, and road haulage operations (principally based around Huddersfield) all remained family-owned businesses outwith the Hanson Trust. JET petroleum, one of the first discounted petrol retailers, was started by a consortium including the Hanson family but was disposed of when it had grown to a size where substantial investment in refining capability would have been required.
Anyway, back to the Pennine RU (if not the Pennine IV): according to Vol2 of Duncan Roberts’s history of Crosville (TPC/NBC) problems with the short drive shaft inherent in the RU’s design led to Crosville’s specimens being modified by having the engine set back by 8-10in to accommodate a slightly longer drive-shaft, which resulted in a slight bustle effect in the bodywork . . . could this have been a late modification to Halifax’s RU’s pre-delivery? something that was incorporated into the overall body-work design/dimensions in the later vehicles to which Ian refers?
29/08/13 – 19:15
Crosville had the largest fleet of Pennine RUs at 100 some of which were dual purpose Crosville did not go back and quickly disposed of the ones they owned The next largest fleet was the 49 owned by Lancs United These had Plaxton bodywork with a very old fashioned front with a two piece separate wind screen Prior to this LUT had bought both REs and LHs so the choice was somewhat surprising At the time the RU was seen as a version of the RE which would replace the expected model cull by Leyland to make room for the National which was just off the drawing board
29/08/13 – 19:16
Philip, I suspect that any operator that bought a Deutz engined Pennine IV would have gone bankrupt within a week; nobody would have ventured to take a second trip on such a raucous machine. Seddon did offer a version of the Pennine IV with the engine, a turbocharged Perkins 6.354, set lower at the front beneath a high floor level, and called it the Pennine 6 (reverting to Arabic numerals), but I believe that few were sold in the UK. A picture of a Willowbrook bodied example may be seen here:- www.flickr.com/
It is noteworthy that a more substantial/wider track front axle seems to have been fitted to this model. The Wikipedia entry for the RU confirms that the Crosville examples were modified as you describe. I think that they just about managed to get a ten year life out of them. It is surprising that, given Seddon’s decidedly chequered history as psv manufacturers, the Scottish Bus Group entrusted the firm with the design and manufacture of a Gardner engined "Leopard clone". In the event, the Pennine 7 proved to be a robust and reliable model. Turning to the subject of Hanson, my initial encounter with this name came when, as a Traffic Clerk at Halifax in the mid ‘sixties, I came across it as a bus operator and haulage contractor in Huddersfield. Much later, in 1984, Hanson bought out the old London Brick Company, famous for its fleet of red AEC lorries, for a song when the share value fell below its asset value (notably the land). Now the vast acreage of former brick clay workings between Yaxley and Peterborough is the location of a horrible, high density, new town development named ‘Hampton’ (whoever dreamed up that name should get out a bit more.) Brick making remains only on a very reduced scale at Kings Dyke near Whittlesey.
01/09/13 – 14:08
Roger, giving some thought to things, just how much of a Seddon product was the Pennine VII? When did the first Pennine VIIs enter service – 1973/4? Seddon had acquired Atkinson in 1970 . . . and presumably the designs to the Atkinson Alpha. SBG wanted an underfloor saloon with manual gearbox following withdrawal of the Leopard PSU3/3R in 1970/71 – Seddon wouldn’t have been required to design de novo, just polish-up (eg. get rid of the vacuum brakes) the old Alpha design (last built 1962/3 for Sunderland). Does anybody out there know just how much – if anything, I stand to be corrected – the Seddon Pennine VII owes to the Atkinson Alpha? Did any of this factor in SBG’s thinking? . . .
Again an aside, generated by trawls initiated by this site: I hadn’t known that, until Atkinson’s takeover by Seddon in 1970, Leyland had held 15% of the shares – presumably since the time of Atkinson’s reconstitution in 1933.
02/09/13 – 08:00
Philip, thanks for that idea about the Atkinson pedigree of the Pennine 7. I am sure that you are correct, though the thought had not struck me before. Seddon had never built a traditional heavy duty psv chassis, nor one with a horizontal underfloor engine, yet the Pennine 7 went into service quickly, had no teething troubles of significance, and gave years of reliable service, a situation utterly at variance with the history of unpredictable psvs of genuine Oldham origin. The service record of the Pennine 7 has more in keeping with the Atkinson legacy of rugged dependability than the Seddon saga of underwhelming engineering design. Certainly, the Atkinson board fought strongly against the hostile takeover bid by Seddon in 1970, sadly to no avail. Earlier attempts to take over Atkinson by ERF and Foden were successfully resisted. Some sources quote the Leyland shareholding figure in Atkinson as 20%, and it was Leyland’s acceptance of the Seddon offer that allowed the splendid Preston firm to fall into the dubiously capable clutches of the Oldham upstart. This page makes interesting reading:- web.warwick.ac.uk/services/ The malign influence of the Stokes era at Leyland spread far and wide. Perhaps Leyland detected the underlying weaknesses at Seddon, took the money, and anticipated an early demise of its enlarged, over ambitious, Oldham competitor. As it turned out, the independent Seddon-Atkinson company lasted only a further four years before selling out to International Harvester of the USA in 1974.
02/09/13 – 08:00
Your thoughts regarding Atkinson’s possible input into the Seddon Pennine VII design are fascinating Philip, and maybe the Atkinson Alpha just could have been updated by Seddon-Atkinson, you never know. After all, Leyland Leopard and AEC Reliance chassis evolved steadily throughout their long production lives, with various modifications to engines, brakes, gearboxes, axles etc, as vehicle lengths (and weights) increased over time. Your aside re Leyland’s 15% shareholding in Atkinson reminded me that Gardner had a small shareholding in ERF for many years. Also, following the Foden brothers split in the early ‘thirties, Gardner supported Edwin Richard Foden when he founded ERF in 1933, by supplying engines to him on credit terms. This was not offered to other Gardner customers at the time, but Gardner presumably realised the potential of ERF’s strong commitment to the development of Diesel-engined lorries. The link up was to prove beneficial to both parties for many years.
03/09/13 – 09:00
I believe that the Pennine 7 was purely a Seddon product. I worked there at the later stages of its production and they were all built at Oldham, whereas the Gardner-engined 400-series lorries were always built at Preston (then, at least). I even designed a spring packer for the Pennine 7 to help balance one batch which were proving troublesome – I can’t remember with certainty which but it may have been the Plaxton-bodied version.
Apart from the fact that they were underfloor-engined chassis with a Gardner engine, there was little in common between the Alpha and the Pennine 7. The frame was completely different on the Pennine as it was cranked to accommodate the wide 6HLXB engine. Alphas had either Atkinson’s own gearbox, a weird and wonderful contraption but very compact, or a David Brown box. The Pennine 7 had a ZF box. Late versions of both had semi-automatic boxes which I think were self-changing gears.
I think, but can’t confirm, that the front axle was a Seddon-designed one on the Pennine, with an Eaton rear axle. The Alpha had Kirkstall axles.
03/09/13 – 16:30
David, thanks for that detailed response – my curiosity is satisfied!