AEC Disasters

AEC Disasters

“All one can do now is salute the old firm and what it achieved. .....the men and women who together comprised AEC may not have always got it right but they produced many fine vehicles and many which made big advances in design. They will long be remembered.” Thus Alan Townsin closes his book “The Blue Triangle” and, like him, I am a sometime critical supporter of AEC.

There have been several non too complimentary comments about AEC in these pages over the last few months. Are they justified? For the most part, yes – but they need to be taken in context. A very well respected operator and former Commercial Motor journalist put it succinctly. AEC were the thoroughbreds, Leylands were the reliable plodders.

Where did AEC fall down? More in practice than in theory. Their engines and gearboxes were bomb-proof in the immediate post-war period and gave the Regent III/RT and Regal IV/RF their deserved reputation for being smooth, refined and reliable. Seeking after economy led to the (medium weight) Reliance and Regent V and a change from dry-liner to wet liner engines in the AH410/470 and AV470. Especially in the Reliance, these engines continued and enhanced the reputation – but this was before the motorway age and intensive running. The 590 was introduced in the Regent V and Reliance to replace A208 and A219 in Regent III and Regal IV. Here is where derogatory comments about Regent Vs and Reliances come in – that they were not as strong, as reliable, as long-lived as their predecessors. .....and all this was true, because the wet liner 590 (big brother to the 410/470) was not up to intensive and/or fast running. I saw dramatic evidence with a 1965 Sheffield United Tours Reliance which had to throttle back for miles when it started to overheat. This was common. Wallace Arnold took their similar 1966 Reliances off continental work for similar reasons. After this, AEC lost their reputation at Wallace Arnold and never regained it. AEC replaced wet-liners with dry-liners in the AH691, AH760 (and the vertical versions) and went on to produce one of the best ever coaches in the 6U3ZR Reliance. Unfortunately, many people suffered the wet-liner problems and fell out permanently with AEC.

Leyland, however, had the O.600 which shared many characteristics – including “strength” - with the A204/208/219 series. The O.680 did not change the basic design, as AEC had done, and the engines kept their reputation for quality. [Interestingly enough, Stephen Barber in his Wallace Arnold book says that the O.680 was not perfect and could seize up as well!] The final version of the series, the TL11, was the least reliable of the set – initially suffering from sump problems – whereas one of the best was the TL12 (in reality a turbo-charged 760). DAF and Scania both showed what could be done to the O.680 – their current engines being of world class quality.

As for the AEC cul-de-sacs – Regent IV, Bridgemaster and Renown. They were never bad buses, just bad business decisions. They were designed and built for operators who only decided that they were not what they wanted after they had been built. Even Leyland did the same with the Lowlander – and they didn’t really get it right with the Atlantean until the AN68 – which was actually rather good.

David Oldfield



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