"If only..."

"If only..."

Like most of us, I've got a long "If only..." list. Among my regrets are that, as far as I know, no pre-war Guy Arabs survive; no double-deck Thornycrofts or Maudslays or Tilling-Stevens; that the low floor Gilford double-decker and the Leyland TB10 trolleybus were scrapped; that I didn't save ex-Leeds PD1 JUG 630 when I worked for Smiths in Reading...I'd better not go on.

A different kind of "If only" questions why makers and legislators didn't at the time make small changes which would have had big impacts.

1) Why didn't Gardner increase the LW-series bore from 4.25" to 4.5"? That would have given an increase in capacity and torque of 12%, bringing the 5LW up to 7.81 litres and the 6LW up to 9.38. I reckon that would have made all the difference to 5LW-powered double-deckers, particularly the heavy Utilities, and for really hilly work---such as Halifax, where Geoffrey Hilditch found even the 6LW not quite up to the job---the extra urge would have allowed all the fine Gardner qualities to shine through.

2) Why were the authorities not more flexible over dimensions during WWII? For a time, admittedly, they allowed the Guy Arab II to breach the 26' limit, but they should have said at the outbreak of war "Right; buses will now play an even more essential role: from now on d-d's can be 27' long." That way, 28 seats downstairs wouldn't have been such a tight squeeze and 34 seats could have gone upstairs. A better-than-10% increase in seats for 3.8% extra length.

3) Why didn't Leyland fit a five-speed gearbox in the PD1 and PS1? Like the Gardner 5LW, the 7.4-litre Leyland engine pulled a single-decker very happily but struggled to carry a laden decker up hills. A 5-speed constant-mesh unit would have taken no more room than the 4-speed synchro box that usually went behind the 9.8 engine, and it would have allowed the driver to take much better advantage of what power there was. In the 4-speed box the big ratio-gap between 3rd and 4th is especially frustrating.

4) Why did Weymann lowbridge bodies set the back seat upstairs so far forward? Once at the top of the stairs, there was quite a way to go before you actually reached a seat. And why did they use a highbridge roof on a lowbridge body? You'd have needed eyes in your knees to see out of the upper-deck windows.

Don't get me wrong: I do recognise that much of the charm in older buses lies in their idiosyncrasies and inconveniences, but a few simple changes would have made life 60-odd years ago far easier for drivers and passengers alike. Not that all buses today are perfect, either...

Ian Thompson

A correction to my January piece, where I bemoaned the "fact" that Leyland never offered a 5th gear for the Titans and Tigers. I've just rediscovered a folder of Leyland brochures, where a "fifth-speed attachment" is offered for the prewar Tiger, Lion, Titan and Titanic. It was "fitted to the back of the main gearbox at extra charge", had a ratio of 0.77:1, giving a step-up of nearly 30%, and was "controlled by the one change-speed lever". The modest ratio compares interestingly with those of the Dennis Lance and Lancet and Bristol K and L (0.69/1.44), the Albion (0.75/1.33) the Guy LUF (0.746/1.34) and the postwar Crossley (0.656/1.524). I've never seen or heard tell of a surviving Leyland example, but I hope someone somewhere has!
A thought: with the overdrive it must have been difficult to keep the floor as low as necessary just behind the front bulkhead on double-deck models. The postwar PD/PS brochure make no mention of this useful accessory.

Ian Thompson

What a fascinating discovery Ian, and the prewar accessory is almost too hard to imagine from the description in the Leyland brochures - "cumbersome and difficult to handle" are the terms which spring to mind, particularly in the case of the Titanic three axle model. If the fifth ratio was to be engaged with the normal gear lever presumably it would have been, as in other makes, by a strange and deft manoeuvre from the normal fourth gear position. I have never heard of a PS or PD vehicle equipped with five gears and I agree that its a fairly safe assumption that no-one ever specified such an adaptation.
Incidentally I've always been somewhat bemused, and amused, by Leyland's choice of model name for the giant six wheeler in view of the famous 1912 shipping disaster !!

Chris Youhill

As far as I know, there was never a five speed PD/PS gearbox. Leyland prefered to develop splitters on Tiger Cubs and Leopards. Having driven DAFs and Scanias with splitters, I think they are a superb invention. Early Leyland examples lacked in reliability.

David Oldfield



Comments regarding the above are more than welcome please get in touch via the 'Contact Page' or by email at

If you have a bus related article that you would like to appear on this site please get in touch via the 'Contact Page' or by email at

Quick links to  -  Articles  -  Comments  -  Contact  -  Home

All rights to the design and layout of this website are reserved     Old Bus Photos does not set or use Cookies but Google Analytics will set four see this

Old Bus Photos from Saturday 25th April 2009 to Wednesday 22nd September 2021