Fodens Alpine Fact Finding Tour 1951

Fodens Alpine Fact Finding Tour 1951

A note near the bottom of the Foden Works Foden PVRF6 OLG 855 posting about Foden coach OLG 968 inspired me to dig out a pack of photos which used to be my grandfather's, and then my father's, and which are now in my keeping.
They feature the Foden Alpine Tour of 1951, taken to assess the suitability of the coach for continental (and very mountainous) touring. Present were representatives of Fodens, Metalcraft (Staffs) Ltd, Global Tours Ltd and Maskell's (Brixton) Ltd.
I understand from my mother, whose memory is a bit sketchy these days, that my Grandfather was a member of the tour and after reading Neville Mercers The Metalcraft Story 1946-1954 article on this site it would appear that that Granddad might have been one of the founders of Metalcraft. He was certainly there, that's for sure, as he is on a few of the pictures.
I'm told that he took took some or most of the photos as he was a keen photographer, although that may be a bit of romanticism on the family's part (and knowing my granddad, that's how he could have blagged his way on to the trip).
The photos are numbered on the back which I initially took to think that was the order in which they were taken although I soon realised that assumption was incorrect, I've stuck to the same numerical order anyway, so apologise if they jump around a little. Some of the pictures have notes made on them, and some I have been able to identify from photos on the internet. If anyone can add to the captions please feel free.

I hope some of the pictures are of interest.

Robert Hewitt

Banca della Svizzera Italiana in Lugano Switzerland

Pontoon on Lake Maggiore

Outside the Hotel du Parc not sure which town

Swiss Italian Simplon Pass Border

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II -
I Milanesi - Milan - The oldest shopping centre in Italy

Amiens or Troyes? (pencilled on to photo)



Coach outside Milan Cathedral

Group Shot in Geneva
My grandfather (Harry Hewitt) (my link with these photos) is the chap holding the camera, eighth from the left (excluding the man on the coach).


Hochtor, Austria

No Markings, but sign says Fuscher Lacke which is near Saltzburg

St Gottard Pass Switzerland


03/05/13 - 14:51

An evocative set of photos. Very interesting just how modern the coach looks from the front and how odd the narrow side windows are in contrast. Foden made a number of attempts at the PSV market and I've never really got to the bottom of why they didn't make a bigger impact given their undoubted expertise at assembling parts from well respected suppliers and their penetration of the truck market.
Was it they just weren't really all that interested - which would make this trip more of a jolly - or was there an entrenched mind set across the UK industry against the smaller players?

Phil Blinkhorn

04/05/13 - 08:07

Wonderful stuff!
The photo showing the Foden parked up with the two VW's and the Volvo (?) is taken from the High Alpine Road (Alt 2400mtr), looking across the Pasterze Glacier to the Grossglockner, Austria's highest mountain.

Berisford Jones

04/05/13 - 12:12

This shows confidence in the product, especially that view of the St Gothard- the spirit of the 1951 Festival of Britain! This I think was the air cooled two stroke Foden engine- would it be better in the mountains without water? David Oldfield & I have already exchanged thoughts here on Foden developing into a Setra and this would have been the beginning- but twas not to be. An interesting pic is the one in Milan- are all those people locals crowding round for a view of the engine?


05/05/13 - 06:23

Joe, surely the Foden FD6 was a water cooled, wet liner engine. I don't think that Foden made an air cooled variant, but I am always open to correction on this forum.

Roger Cox

05/05/13 - 11:27

What a truly magnificent set of photographs.
British coach designs of the period generally followed the heavily curvaceous style - sometimes bordering on the overblown, even grotesque. Some manufacturers hedged their bets and offered a straight waisted alternative, usually with higher waistrail and smaller windows, but there were fewer takers for these. With this design Metalcraft appear to have disregarded what the traditional British coachbuilders were doing taken their styling cues purely from the Continental builders, who ploughed their own furrow at the time. Were it not for the Foden badge this could so easily have been assumed to be say a Magirus Deutz or a Lancia.
The windows may have been very small and numerous (though this would presumably allow for a rigid structure) but there are plenty of them - continuing right around the body and up into the roofline. It looks very foreign, but well done Metalcraft for daring to be different.

John Stringer

06/05/13 - 08:26

I defer to your knowledge, Roger: I had lodged in my mind the notion that this two stroke went with air cooled. Perhaps it was my distant memories of the racket!


07/05/13 - 07:35

Joe. Sorry I wasn't there to back you up. Just returned from a weekend away in Sheffield. Reading the book about Foden's, I think they were serious about buses but there had to be a bottom line. Trucks were straight-forward and easy to assemble compared with, especially, the rear engined coach. The returns were neither enough to fund economic production levels nor to fund R & D to keep the designs up to date. Foden's decided to stick to truck production. As I've said before, my father claimed the Fodens to be the very pinnacle of truck and bus production in the quality stakes.

David Oldfield

09/05/13 - 07:50

What a superb set of photographs - thanks for sharing them with a wider audience.

Bob Gell

11/05/13 - 11:50

Robert, that is a very impressive set of photographs that you have there, some of which I have seen before, but by no means all. There have been quite a few articles written about that Alpine Tour, not surprisingly one in Fodens' own newsletter (Foden News), but others appeared in Bus & Coach, Coaching Journal & Bus Review, Commercial Motor, Modern Transport and Passenger Transport. All of them seemed to praise the Company's initiative in organising such a tour. One, in Coaching Journal & Bus Review, mentions that "Messrs H Hewitt and T E Kent, directors of Metalcraft, were also on board for the full trip". So there you have the confirmation that your grandfather was indeed on board the coach. In another - that in Passenger Transport - there is mention of further details related to the design of the bodywork. It starts "Designed in the light of Mr H Hewitt's (Managing Director) earlier visit to the Continent, the Global Tours 39 (!) seater vehicle presents a most pleasing appearance inwardly and outwardly. Accompanying illustrations show that provision has been made for each seat to occupy a full window space" This would confirm that your grandfather was indeed heavily involved in the project and also addresses a point that John Stringer raises regarding the number of windows on each side.

Peter Tulloch

11/05/13 - 12:11

I have to say that the bodywork is very reminiscent of designs at the time by Setra, Steyer and other contemporary continental builders. Obviously deliberate, and a very good attempt, at that.

David Oldfield

12/05/13 - 07:06

An interesting detail on the coach reflecting Foden's continental aspirations is that the coach has a continental entrance door in a symetrical position to the uk entrance, it then appears to have a conventional emergency exit in the bay in front of the o/s/r wheel. The continental door must have been an early example of this feature on a uk coach, it is certainly an unusual feature in this era.

Andrew Charles



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