SELNEC and New Half Cab Bus Production

SELNEC and New Half Cab Bus Production

Whilst not wishing to break the date limits of this site, I've recently come across something intriguing that I'd all but forgotten relating to a design that definitely falls within the site's scope and has brought up memories of something I tried to sort out in the 1980s and to which I never found a sensible answer.

Whilst SELNEC pressed ahead with its Standard design based on the AN68 Atlantean and Fleetline it had inherited a large number of front engined, half cab vehicles from its constituent municipalities which, whilst unsuitable for OMO, gave less trouble than the inherited rear engined vehicles.

The Traffic Department was tasked to have an all OMO fleet as soon as possible - an aspiration which was doomed to failure due to slow deliveries from British Leyland and not achieved until after the formation of GMT.

At the same time the Engineering Department was equally tasked to reduce the costs, down time and other troubles inherent in rear engined vehicles and looked around for an alternative to the AN68 and Fleetline.

I've just re-read Stewart Brown's Greater Manchester Buses. On Page 30 he states, quite correctly, that in 1970 SELNEC tried to persuade BL to re-open production of a front engined type. This seems an odd goal given the Bus Grant requirements and the drive towards OMO. More odd still was the type of chassis.

On the first day of operation SELNEC had 88 AEC, 1 Atkinson, 460 Daimler, 6 Dennis, 4 Guy and 970 Leyland traditional half cab vehicles. The type SELNEC tried to have put back into production didn't feature in the above inventory, though an earlier version was one of the minority types in stock.

What SELNEC proposed was that BL reopen the Guy Arab V production line. With just 4 Arab IVs (ex Ashton) being the only Guys in stock and with reasonable numbers of the somewhat similar Daimler CVG in the inventory, the question is why ask for the Arab line to be reopened and not the CVG line?

I've tried to think this through and looked up a number of references. Whilst LUT had large numbers of Arabs, including some very late ones, and SELNEC eventually built an agreement to take over LUT, which was finalised in GMT days, there was no movement towards this until 1972, so commonality with LUT can be discounted.

Production of the Arab ceased in 1969 with a delivery to Chester, Daimler had ceased CVG production some months earlier in 1968.

Perhaps SELNEC thought there was little chance of reviving the Daimler line given the pressure on Fleetline production so went for the nearest equivalent, particularly as Wolverhampton had excess capacity. In any case BL's answer was, according to Brown, that the Arab jigs "had been scrapped".

Be that as it may I just wonder if SELNEC had something different in mind, perhaps something more of a simplified Wulfrunian layout without all the attendant complications, based on the original Guy Victory J which would have satisfied the OMO needs, the drive for reliability and possibly the Bus Grant requirements.

Whatever the thinking there was obviously an effort made to find an answer to the operation's perceived problems by means of a traditional layout.

There was another reported effort to use the traditional chassis for OMO, this time using existing stock, but here I'm totally depending on memory.

Sometime in the 1970s, and I can't remember the year, the Manchester Evening News reported that either SELNEC or GMT, (and given the numbers in service in any given year I'd assume the former) was working on a plan to convert its traditional Leyland buses to OMO by turning the engine through 90 degrees so it lay flat under what would be a two step platform, the front wheels having been moved back to under the first bay, thus allowing OMO operation. No sketch accompanied the article and the article hasn't yet appeared in the Evening News archive on the internet.

When I had access to the SELNEC/GMT archive in the early 1980s I had a date for the Evening News article so should have been able to find a reference but could find no document or sketch produced by the Engineering Department relating to this in any way."

Did the Evening News get hold of just a basic idea which never progressed beyond an initial thought or sketches or did the Engineering Dept abandon the work and remove the evidence, having had a good look at the Volvo Ailsa?

Had either scheme borne fruit, perhaps those of us for whom the "Golden Age" ended in 1969 might have had a less jaundiced view of the goings on in the 1970s and even into the 1980s!

Phil Blinkhorn

02/02/13 - 07:27

I am intrigued by the idea set forth towards the end of Phil's article. It sounds to me more like a bright idea from someone with little engineering background, rather than a serious project. There are two major stumbling blocks which to me - a non-engineer - seem inevitably to make the suggestion a non-starter.
The first is that the chassis members on (I would suspect) all the types mentioned are upswept over the front axle. This means that you cannot simply move the axle backwards. The complete chassis member would have to be reconstructed. The second is that you cannot simply turn a vertical engine on its side as the sump will no longer be in the appropriate orientation for oil to collect and be recirculated. Put together, the amount of downtime for the reconstruction of chassis, rebuild of engine, and rebuild of body would probably be greater than that attributable to the inherently less reliable rear-engined vehicles.

Alan Murray-Rust

02/02/13 - 11:50

This loops back to the Accrington Wulfrunian: what were/are the alternatives which we missed to a giant Hillman Imp, but more tail heavy & snow-averse? Ailsa, Arabian (as Selnec) or an AEC Q revived at its proper time? I had such thoughts travelling on a Wright Volvo(?) recently. Terrible noise, stop/start driving that would have had the downstairs ladies yelling at the conductor (silly ****!) in days of yore and made you long for a seat belt: only the front half of the downstairs is on the level, and most of that is wheelchair/luggage. The understairs area is concealed by a huge hatch and because the stairs go backwards (like they used to), now more lost space in the narrow passage to the doors. Can I tag on to these grumps a retweet of a previous question? Someone did reply to my query about the logistics of bus purchase but really referred to coaches. If I was a small independent double deck operator wanting two buses, what would influence me to buy new? Were Leyland dearer but simple and lasted? Were Guy cheaper? Could a Gardner engined Crossley all-in package have been all things to all people? Was Roe's add one on system good for economies of scale? Are there any small scale service bus buyers here who can enlighten me?


02/02/13 - 16:55

Alan's point about the sump had occurred to me but if the idea had been a serious proposal then there would no doubt have been a proposed solution to circulate the oil, that's why I wanted to see either drawings or a written outline of the idea. Again how to deal with the chassis begs an intriguing.
I remember at the time I read the article my first thought was the Tynesider/Wearsider type of conversion but the mention of turning the engine wouldn't fit that idea. If Peter Williamson has any knowledge I'd be delighted to read his comments.

Phil Blinkhorn

03/02/13 - 07:06

Sorry Phil - I left Manchester in 1968!

Peter Williamson

15/10/13 - 08:35

I have just re-read this article and would like to make a couple of points on the question "why ask for the Arab line to be reopened and not the CVG line?". (This presupposes of course that there are answers to the more intractable questions about bus grant and OMO.)
Firstly, in its final form the Guy was more advanced than the Daimler. This is something that has not been widely appreciated among British enthusiasts (and, dare I say, possibly among British managers), because the vast majority of British Arab Vs had such an archaic form of transmission. However, in semi-automatic form the Arab V was equivalent to the CVG6LX-30, but with a lower chassis frame and superior suspension, giving a passenger experience which was considered comparable to that of the Routemaster.
Secondly, where would the inspiration for such an idea come from? Certainly not within the SELNEC operating area, and probably not within the UK. No, my theory is that someone may have visited Hong Kong, where the Guy Arab was successfully doing the same job that the Routemaster was doing in London. It has been suggested that if something will work in Hong Kong, it will work anywhere.

Peter Williamson



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