SCT'61 Grand Days Out by Coach - Part 2, 1960 to 1975
Welcome to part two of our look at some of the vehicles and much missed and respected companies that have graced our roads with some very fine coaches.
Starting with a 1960 coach, we see this Eastern National Commer Avenger with a Yeates body, The extra height needed to accommodate the TS3 engine is very apparent here & the usually very good looking, if a little exuberant Yeates body does suffer as a result.
Seen here at Victoria, having completed its long journey from the North East is this lovely United Automobile Services Bristol MW. Coaches such as this were a common sight & these particular coaches in the wonderful orange green livery of United were some of the finest. The MW coach was such a good looking vehicle.
When 36ft coaches became legal, many body builders stretched their existing designs. Weymann gave us the Catillian, only twenty were built, all going to Southdown. The first 5 were basically 36ft Fanfares with a rather untidy multi window body, the next 15 had larger windows & were a quite beautiful looking coach. Considering there were only twenty of them, they seemed to be everywhere & they were a delight to travel on.
Ford became more common as a choice for PSV chassis in the 60s. This Thames Trader has a Duple Yeoman body & looks magnificent. Once again, reminding us all of the pride that operators took in their vehicles and, being truthful, many smaller independents achieved a level of presentation that some could only dream of.
The Bedford SB was in direct completion with the Ford and here we see the same body style mounted on the Bedford chassis. The body was known as the Super Vega when mounted on a Bedford chassis and speaking from experience, have to say that the Bedford was the better product.
When Harrington gave us the Cavalier in 1960 they gave us a total classic. This was probably the most up to date looking coach of the time & it seemed everybody wanted them. It was a lovely looking coach & despite this Hebble example looking a bit travel stained, it is clear that it is a very classy coach.
Another early 36ft chassis was the Bedford VAL with its Chinese Six steering layout. It was a good coach once you got the hang of the gearbox & it looked even longer than it was due to its smaller wheels. The VAL was immortalised in the film The Italian Job. Altogether now, we are the self preservation society.
One famous name that failed to survive past the early 60s was Burlingham. After giving us the beautiful Seagull, they seemed to lose thett way a bit & came up with all manner of things with the Seagull name. One exception was the Gannet, which was hardly a thing of beauty. I'm sure if they had survived it wouldn't have taken long before a model called the Dodo was introduced. A sad finale to a great name.
One coach range that got better as the 60s went on was Plaxton. This Embassy body is typical of a Plaxton product of the time. For an in depth look at Plaxton body work, John K has a set of superb galleries detailing all the models & variations on SCT61. This coach is, again, an early 36 footer.
By the middle of the decade, Plaxton had perfected the Panorama. It remains one of Britain's best loved coach bodies. This superb example seen at Brighton had the misfortune to be mounted on the Daimler Roadliner chassis. I remember seeing this coach at this event & thinking how wonderful it looked. Little did we know, then, the problems that would befall the vehicle & its sisters.
Another classic of its time was the Duple Bella Vega, seen here on a Bedford SB chassis. This is another coach that seemed to be everywhere & then suddenly vanished. This example, again, illustrates how well kept coaches of the time were. Survivors are a rare thing today.
Very few of the lower volume body builders survived much past the mid 60s. This Bedford VAS carries a Thurgood body & is in fact the last Thurgood body to be built. Its a good looking little coach & the grille has more than a passing resemblance to earlier Duple designs. Its a pity that some of these smaller body builders failed to survive, but not really that surprising.
My love of the Harrington Grenadier is well known, in my eyes the most beautiful post war coach. There quite simply isn't a line out of place & they were really well built. Harrington chose to cease their coach building activities in 1966.
The Duple Commander was another classic coach body. Its very much a product of its time & looked sleek even when standing still. This superb OKMS example shoes off its lines perfectly & it is truly a lovely looking coach.
A brave attempt by Park Royal was the Royalist. This striking coach was built on the Albion Viking chassis & only six such bodies were built. Maybe, if it had been built on another chassis, it would have had more chance. It certainly wasn't a bad looking coach & again a design very much of its time.
Just about the finest coach produced in Britain was the ECW bodied Bristol RELH. I can't think of anything bad to say about these wonderful coaches & this example in the Crosville coach livery looks the part as well. If you have never driven one of these you've not lived.
At the end of the 60s the first trickle of foreign built bodies began to come ashore, in a few short years the floodgates would open & things would never be the same again. This example, on a Bedford VAL chassis is by Caetano from Portugal & was one of the first to take to the road.
The Plaxton Panorama, developed into the Panorama Elite & was a very good looking coach. This East Kent example is seen in Pevensey, from the castle. For those interested I used to live in one of the houses along the street behind the coach.
Another brave attempt ay producing an alternative coach body was the Topaz by MCW. It was not a bad looking coach, but found very few buyers. East Yorkshire took a number mounted on the Leyland Panther chassis, not the first chassis to spring to mind for a coach.
A real what might have been was the Harrington Legionaire, which was a very crisp and modern looking coach. It was developed for front engine chassis such as this Ford Thames. If Harrington had continued production & developed this for underfloor engine chassis, who knows what might have been.
The Bedford SB soldiered on attracting enough buyers to make production worthwhile. This Plaxton Panorama bodied example looks superb, & shows that operators still took great pride in the presentation of their coaches. Oh how things would change as time moved on.
Willowbrook introduced the Expressway in the early 70s & it was an up to date looking body, but it was not a great success. I have driven a vehicle with this body & found the build quality a bit suspect.
Another foreign body builder than helped start the overseas invasion was Van Hool. This very good looking coach is mounted on a Seddon Pennine V chassis & was a unique vehicle. It was also a fantastic coach & had it gone into series production would have been a choice vehicle for many operators.
Some great names pressed on into the 70s. One was Yelloways of Rochdale, whose wonderful livery stood out among the increasing blandness & all covering National White. Thank fully companies such as Yelloways served to remind us of a much better time & producing well presented vehicles.
The Alexander M type was a striking coach that bore more than a passing resemblance to some of the continental coaches that were appearing in ever increasing numbers. The National white livery was a retrograde step, imagine this beauty in some of the great liveries of a few years earlier.
If any coach demonstrates how standards fell it is this one. From a magnificent Black & White vehicle in that wonderful livery, to this drab & shabby looking machine in a few short years. I think our trip down memory Lane should end here, with memories of superb, well kept coaches in great liveries, rather than things like this poor coach.
Hope you enjoyed the trip, right, let's go down the pub for a swift one.