Hants & Dorset 1945 Bristol K6A

Hants & Dorset 1945 Bristol K6A

This is a picture of my own Bristol K6A that I owned in the period 1984/5. From looking at the excellent web based H & D fleet list it appears to have started life as a covered top Strachan bodied half-cab machine with the code L27/28R and fleet number TD776, this calculated from the assumption that numbers were issued sequentially with registration numbers, mine being FRU307. However in January 1950 much fleet re-numbering took place with this machine then being issued with the number 1110.

As is often the way in the bus world a major rebuild was undertaken in 1952 by H & D when the open top body that is shown was fitted, the code subsequently being FO31/28R. The web site seems to indicates that this was one of the operators own bodies although it must be said that that while in my ownership it still sported a Strachan name plate prominently displayed above the rear platform parcel area. It remained in service in this guise until being withdrawn in 1969.

An interesting feature was that much of the original half-cab structure had been retained beneath the false tin front, including the radiator surround, bonnet top and near side sliding cab side window. From this it could be construed that H & D merely altered the original body by chopping the top off and enclosing the front end. If any pictures exist of the original body, this could hold the clues to the extent of the H & D rebuild.

The engine fitted while in my ownership was an AEC unit of, if my memory serves me right, a fairly small capacity being about 5.8 litres. So even driving it empty the performance was quite modest with a top speed of 35 MPH. However this must be put into the context of this being used as a sea front sight-seeing conveyance where performance and top speed requirements need not be particularly great.

I purchased this machine from a chap in Kent who had used it as a corporate hospitality vehicle and therefore it had lost two or three rows of seats upstairs to make way for food storage cupboards. Apart from this it seemed to be in good original condition, and, with the need for ongoing reliability, had been kept in good mechanical fettle.

I seem to think that I paid about £300 for it and drove it home.

In the days prior to the M25 being fully operational I chose my route back to my base in Bedfordshire with more than usual care. I did not relish the idea of driving around the North Circular Road to the M1 motorway for obvious reasons. Anyone who has any experience of driving early heavyweights that are sadly bereft of the comforting presence of PAS, synchro-mesh and power assisted brakes, will appreciate my reluctance in wishing to take battle with a myriad speeding sales reps on their home ground.

It must be remembered that trying to pull out onto a roundabout in an early machine needs careful clutch control and iron nerves. Even flooring the throttle and slipping the clutch only initially produces that familiar up and down judder of the cab that precedes any meaningful forward motion. On a quiet country road this would be fine, but with twenty Ford Sierras bearing down upon one, each piloted by an angry sales rep hungry for his next commission cheque, road rage takes on a whole new meaning. In addition, a car driver can snatch the next higher gear whereas old Bristol’s are blessed with a crash gearbox that not only allows enough time to light up a Woodbine between shifts, but can also give ample scope to ‘roll up’ a complete new ‘coffin nail’ while waiting for the revs to drop.

With all of this in mind I felt that my best course of action, after passing through the Dartford tunnel, would be to take the M11 north as far as Cambridge. From there I could pick up the A603 and travel west through several picturesque villages all the way to the AI. I knew from previous experience that bridge heights were OK on all British motorways and more important that no old bridges with weight restrictions existed on the A603. Although it did seem strange that in all the years I had used this back road I had never seen a double deck bus travelling along it.

The trip home was pleasant and uneventful; although it must be said that my neighbours were not overly impressed by an old bus towering over their nice gardens and well trimmed hedges.

Arriving home I inspected my purchase while my youngest son raced up the stairs. His noisy reaction to the top deck had me following in his wake! I saw why no double deckers had used the A603 from Cambridge to Biggleswade. The top deck was garlanded not only with tree branches, which would be expected, but at least eight telephone wires! I wonder if anyone got my number.

If you look carefully at the picture you can just make out my 15 year old son behind the wheel. As I had a large yard at the back of my house he had much fun driving it around. Best to start them young!

I intended to carry out any restoration that needed doing and then use the bus for local rallying but in 1985 I was struck down with life threatening ill health and my future seemed uncertain. I decided then to sell this and various other old machines that I had collected.

Does it still exist? Do any pictures exist of this bus prior to 1952? Was it fitted with an AEC engine when new?

John Barringer


FRU 307 would certainly have had an AEC engine from new, and the capacity would have been 7.58 litres. This was always known as the "7.7", but I don't know why, as 7.6 would have been more logical. Perhaps someone knows the answer? In theory there should have been a clutch-stop device on a K6A enabling upward gearchanges at lightning speed, but for this not only did you need the technique and the nerve, but it had to be properly adjusted as well.

Peter Williamson

05/09/11 - 17:12

The original AEC 7.7 engine was an indirect injection Ricardo head unit with a bore of 106 mm and a stroke of 146 mm, giving a capacity of 7.731 litres. Later, in 1935, AEC reduced the bore size to 105mm, giving a volume of 7.58 litres, but the "7.7" name was retained for publicity purposes as it fitted conveniently into the engine size sequence with the other AEC powerplants. Thus engine sizes were publicised as "6.6", "7.7" and "8.8".

Roger Cox

05/09/11 - 17:13

The original Strachans bodies on these vehicles were five-bay whereas the open-top rebodies were six-bay, so they couldn't have used much of the originals. The PSV Circle Hants & Dorset Fleet History says that only the lower saloon floors and seats came from the original bodies, but that the superstructure may have come from 1938 Brush bodies.

Michael Wadman

05/09/11 - 17:14

Thank you Peter Williamson for your comment. I must have got confused with the .58 bit of the engine size! I was unaware that Bristol's had a clutch stop to assist in upward shifts. If it was fitted to mine it could have been out of adjustment or the brake facing worn. If you look at my Youtube channel under the name "Kafcan" you will see my son demonstrating a Vauxhall 23/60 with one of these fitted and achieving rapid up shifts without tears or crashing of gears.

John Barringer

14/10/11 - 05:35

John I am delighted to see that one of the wonderful open top H&D K6A's survives. Like many of a certain age brought up in the south, I have happy memories of riding on these buses - in my case from B'mouth to Sandbanks in the latter half of the 1950s. Is it on the road these days? Perhaps I will come across it at a future bus rally.

Geoff Norris

PS I am joint owner of Silver Star Tiger Cub MMR 552

14/10/11 - 15:43

I have just enjoyed reading about FRU 307. The highlight of my holidays, as a child, in Bournemouth was to travel as far as I could on an open top bus. On one occasion, my father and I went to Lymington and having arrived, stayed on the bus for the return trip. However, it was driven into the garage. It appears that a lightening strike had been called and we were lucky enough to squeeze on to a Lodekka for the return trip to Bournemouth! In 1973 I gained my PSV licence and was delighted to drive FRU 306 to Newport, Mon, from a scrapyard in Bolton (previously owned by R. I. Davies - Tredegar). It was to be preserved by Alan Smith of Newport, however, after some time it passed to the Bristol Omnibus Preservation Society and now all that remains is the front number plate. A sad end to such a handsome bus.

Brian Law

27/01/12 - 09:12

I’ve found a picture of FRU 306 in its original condition in “Trams and Buses of Poole” by C G Roberts and B L Jackson (Oakwood Press, 2001, ISBN 0 85361 572 1), page 154. That bus, had a Strachan L27/28R, and was fleet number TD775, later 1109 in the Hants & Dorset fleet. The caption includes “In June 1952 the chassis formed the basis for an open-top rebuild using salvaged parts from both the original body and old Brush bodies”. The photo is credited to A B Cross. I almost certainly rode on one or more of these vehicles, in closed and open-top form, in my younger days when we lived about three-minutes’ walk from Parkstone Depot.

Bill Nichols

17/04/16 - 12:11

I was one of the coachbuilders who made the bodies for these buses. I remember that we built 2 batches of 6. These were built using the original floors but the rest of the body was new, in teak & aluminium. I did most of the shaped panel work as an aprentice to Len Leeson who died in 1955. I am now 80 and my memory is not at its best but I hope that this is of interest to someone

Ted Taylor



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