Guy Wulfrunian Demonstrator

Guy Wulfrunian Demonstrator

The origins of the Wulfrunian design appear to date from 1957 and the prototype, OHL 863, took to the road in 1959. It was quickly followed by two demonstrators, 7800 DA in 1959 and 8072 DA in 1960, both of which were painted in a vivid livery of yellow with black trim, the colours of Wolverhampton Wanderers. These demonstrators were tried out by several operators, giving some of them a fright or two in the process, but ultimately they failed to entice significant orders from anyone other than West Riding, who had been the motivating force behind the design from the start. It is said that the registrations of the demonstrators indicated the seating capacities of the Roe bodies, 7800 DA having 78 seats and 8072 DA 72 seats. It has also been suggested that the registration 8072 was intended as a nudge to Wolverhampton Corporation to buy it, the next vacant vehicle number in the Wolverhampton fleet being 72. In the event, if true, that ploy didn't work. Wolverhampton did buy two Wulfrunians with East Lancs bodies, the second being one of the modified variety with centrally mounted engine and forward entrance, but then swiftly turned to purchasing the much more dependable Arab in its Mark V configuration. In this picture 8072 DA is seen in the demonstration park at the 1960 Earls Court Commercial Motor Show. Already, perhaps, the Guy company was becoming rather dispirited by the indifferent reaction of the bus industry to its complex brainchild. The nearside front corner pillar plainly shows some accident damage, presenting a less than confident face to prospective customers. In its last three years of independence, the Guy company had been losing money to the tune of £300,000 a year (about £2.5m today), largely because of a foolhardy decision to replace the commercially independent agencies in South Africa with its directly owned ventures. As early as 1959, two years after the retirement of its founder, Sidney Guy, the company's board was warned that the firm would collapse if the South African fiasco was not terminated urgently. The advice was not heeded, and high warranty claims against production Wulfrunians then compounded the unfolding disaster. Guy fell into the hands of William Lyons in October 1961, and subsequently into the rapacious grasp of Donald Stokes of British Leyland. Despite then being, together with Land Rover, the only constituent of the Leyland group still making profits, the Wolverhampton factory was closed in 1982. To Stokes, Leyland meant Lancashire, and all other parts of the heavy commercial business would be sacrificed to serve the cause of the 'home' company's survival. We all know how successful that policy proved to be. As for 8072 DA, pictures of this bus under evaluation with Southdown and Glasgow may be seen here:-
The last comment on the Newhaven page is of interest, as it gives a driver's opinion of the Wulfrunian that is quite positive, though the cramped cab came in for adverse comment. I personally would have had some qualms about driving the Wulfrunian on the taxing Southdown Eastbourne - Brighton route. The PD3 could be found decidedly wanting in the brakes department, but the Wulfrunian had a propensity for boiling its brake fluid under heavy use, resulting in braking action being lost almost entirely. If Guy had adopted a full air braking system instead of air/hydraulic, this problem would have never arisen. Ultimately, demonstrators 7800 DA and 8072 DA were bought by West Riding, but not for operation. Both were ignominiously broken up for spares.

Roger Cox

05/07/14 - 17:40

Wolverhampton Wanderers colours are gold and black (not yellow and black). Before the 1960s the gold was a dark gold referred to as "Old Gold"

David Rawsthorn

06/07/14 - 17:13

I recall eagerly waiting one Saturday afternoon to see 7800 DA pass nearby my home in Rochdale when it was on hire to none other than Ribble Motor Services. It was on a Preston garage working of the Blackpool-Preston-Blackburn-Rochdale service 158. My school friend said he had seen this 'funny bus on the Ribble service' that morning and I worked out when it would return. It was a six hour round trip but return it did and I managed to see it.

David Slater

08/07/14 - 08:00

I saw this bus working for Ribble out of Skelhorn Street Bus Station in Liverpool on one of the L numbered routes to Crosby. It must have been around the same time. It got around quite a lot on demonstration work at that time. I feel the concept of a front mounted engine combined with a front entrance was really what operators wanted at this time as there was a lot of uncertainty about the rear engine concept of the Atlantean. In that respect Guy got it right but what a pity they over-complicated the job with air suspension and disc brakes etc and didn't get the weight distribution right. The rest as they say is history.

Philip Halstead

08/07/14 - 11:08

As I said in the Southend PD3 link, balancing reliability (for the engineers) with driveability - and possibly innovation for the marketing bods. Well nigh impossible. The sad thing is not that the Wulfrunian failed despite being "what the operators wanted" but that it sullied the name of Guy (in the same way the wet liners did for AEC). Guy Arabs were among the most reliable vehicles ever built and were held in high regard by drivers, engineers and operators - let alone enthusiasts.

David Oldfield

14/07/14 - 07:54

In the Robert Grieves archive there are a couple of black & white photos of 7800 DA, apparently on loan to Glasgow Corporation but in an allover dark livery. Unfortunately the site is subscription only, but you can see thumbnails here:
Does anyone know anything about this livery?

Peter Williamson

14/07/14 - 09:56

David, you are quite right in your phrase "Nigh on impossible." I suppose loosely riding on the failure of the "Wulfy" that the Ailsa Volvo got it right. Having extensively driven them - well the famous Tyne and wear trio GCN 1/2/3 anyway - I found that as an enthusiast and a driver they were splendid vehicles. As well as being incredibly sprightly, other than pulling away on hills when heavily laden, their roadholding was superb, passenger flow for 79 plus standing commendable, and somewhat noisy but civilised sound effects wonderful. Just putting on my armour now against the expected volley from the Capital when I say that for some reason the Ailsa transmission gave a pretty good impression of the glorious old RTs too.
I still, personally, feel that the limited sales of the Ailsa might well have been down to Engineers' views being blighted by the somwhat similar layout to that of the Wulfrunian. Cardiff, however, "bit the bullet" and seemed to do well on it for a quarter of a century.

Chris Youhill

15/07/14 - 06:41

The Ailsa's resemblance to the Wulfrunian may have put some operators off it, but I think the main problem was the engine. The British bus operating industry at that time did not trust turbochargers. Adding a turbocharger to an engine which was already considered fairly adequate in naturally aspirated form - as Manchester did with half its Panther Cubs - was a reasonable thing to try, because if it caused problems you could always disconnect it. (It did, and they did.) But powering a double decker with a 6.7 litre engine which was totally dependent on turbocharging went against everything that most British engineers believed in. Of course such things are standard practice now, thanks to European emission regulations, which just shows how far ahead of its time the Ailsa was.

Peter Williamson

17/07/14 - 04:57

Most interesting information Peter W. As I'm not too technically minded I wasn't aware of the "turbo trouble" aspect. However the small engine in the double decker seemed to survive quite well as far as I've heard, although I believe there were originally prophesies of such units "blowing themselves apart" through being thrashed with the heavy work. My lasting over all impression of the three I drove quite a lot, and of travelling in many more (Black Prince in particular), was of a gutsy, smooth, well behaved vehicle with a very likable "personality" especially to an enthusiast. I believe also that the perimeter chassis frame was very strong and durable. So, whatever the pros and cons, another well considered brave attempt has passed into nostalgia eh ??

17/07/14 - 04:59

The Ailsa was one of my favourite buses Chris Youhill likens their sound effcts to the RT but to me the whine they made in Leeds city centre when running for Black Prince and Taylrs always sounded like a London tube train Whatever you think of the sound it was unique The best looking ones were the dual entrance examples with Van Holl -McArdle bodies run by South Yorks PTE

Chris Hough

19/07/14 - 07:55

Re Wulfrunian Demonstrator with Glasgow Corporation Transport, I have seen other views of 7800 DA in service, and as far as I am aware, it was in a yellow livery, used mainly on the then service 4 (Balornock-Drumoyne). The photographer I am referring to, said it was difficult to snap as it was winter and dark days made good bus photography frustrating!!
Thanks for an interesting subject

Stuart Little

14/02/15 - 09:28

I think that the reason that the pictures from the Robert Grieves collection of 7800 DA appear to show it in a dark livery is that the original film was of a type insensitive to yellow. This was uncommon on roll film by the early 1960s but was still common on plate cameras.

Stephen Allcroft

15/02/15 - 05:26

I can perhaps add a bit of personal experience concerning the Ailsa double decker. I was responsible for the pre production prototype purchased by West Yorkshire PTE in 1975. We ran it almost exclusively on the service from Halifax to Huddersfield which involved a substantial climb from Elland up to Ainley Top and a similar descent on the return journey. It acquitted itself well, the crews liked it and it turned in a reasonable fuel consumption. At the same time Huddersfield Depot had the pre production (there wasn't any production) Foden NC double decker which they ran on the same service. It was hopelessly unreliable, gearbox and rear axle problems in the main as I remember. With the Ailsa being a one off, it was sold on to Derby Corporation about 1980. It was a much better vehicle than the contemporary Metropolitan double deckers in Bradford. (Sorry, this is all post 1970 but shows that a front engined/front entrance double decker was satisfactory without all the complications of the Wulfrunian)

Ian Wild

14/10/15 - 16:33

I found this photo of 7800 DA taken at Crosby in approx November 1961 among my slides.

Geoff Pullin

15/10/15 - 07:17

Until I saw Geoff's photo of 7800 DA with Ribble I never realised that the comparatively small number of Wulfrunians had such a variety of ventilator styles. Some were vertical, some were horizontal, some had vertical slats, some had horizontal slats, and Lancashire United even had one with what seemed like mesh.
8072 DA seems to have sported both vertical and horizontal versions in its short time.
This Ribble photo shows the strange and ugly open vent system which, thank goodness, never made it to the production run.

Paul Haywood



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