Until 1953 the Bristol double decker output was mainly based on KSW chassis and it was in this year that the first LD Lodekka appeared. Six pre production buses had previously been produced with bodies more curvatous than they had previously built.
Although the Lodekka was designed for the Gardner 6LW engine it had options of LD6G or LD5G or LD6B engines.
Seating capacity was generally 58 but in the coach version it was as low as 50. Platform doors were an option.
All Tilling Group operators had Lodekka buses except for Brighton and Hove. All Scottish bus companies took them except Highland Omnibus.
From July 1956 there was a change in permitted length of double deckers from 27 foot to 30 foot. Dennis was asked to build a 30-ft chassis for a pre production lengthened model. In 1957 the first pre-production 30 foot Lodekkas with Bristol chassis and Gardner 6LW engines were produced and delivered late that year. Seating capacity was increased to 70.
In 1958 a vehicle with a flat lower floor, air suspension and air pressure brakes was produced. The chassis was redesigned and there was an absence of the radiator grill, but overheating occurred and the grill was re introduced. With this vehicle came the introduction of the front-end entrance. These were truly flat-floored buses. By the mid- 1960s Lodekka production trailed off as newer designs came off the drawing boards.
The K and L
The Bristol K double-decker first appeared at the 1937 Commercial Motor Show along with the single decker Bristol L. They replaced the G and J range and were fitted initially with the Gardner engine. The most obvious design difference between the Bristol K and L and their predecessors was the unitary construction of engine and gearbox. The Bristol K 5 G wheelbase was 16 feet 3 inches and the L 5 G 17 feet 6 inches.
In 1937, 10 vehicles were supplied to Western National and Southern National, all these K 5 chassis had bodywork by Beadle. E C W produced later bodies on the K 5 G chassis.
A greater emphasis was placed on producing the K type, the L chassis being produced in smaller numbers. Early L 5 G production comprised a batch of 10 vehicles with Beadle bus bodywork, later batches had E C W bodies. The L 6 G variations were coaches made for Black and White and West Yorkshire.
Production continued through to the 1950s with many differing types being produced. The increase in the permitted length of double deckers in 1950 from 26ft to 27ft allowed for an increased capacity to 60 seats. These buses were termed K S, or K S W (for the wider version). Production of the LS and the K S ceased in 1957.
With the RE the engine was moved to the back, behind the rear axle but still under the floor, the rest of the chassis was sloped down to a low front doorway. This was the layout Bristol chose for the Rear Engined chassis, or RE. The weight of the engine at the back was offset by putting the gearbox ahead of the axle and, to get the transmission shafts over the axle, a Lodekka dropped-centre axle was there for the using! The RE was first built in two forms, the RELL (Long, Low) as a bus, and the RELH (Long, High), for coach work, where the low entrance was not as important as large luggage lockers along the sides. The RE range was extended to include the Shorter RESL and RESH in 1987, following the ending of the production of the MW, then to the 12-metre REMH in 1988; this model earned a high respect after glamorous REMH6G coaches were introduced by Eastern Scottish and Western SMT on the fast Edinburgh or Glasgow to London Motorway services.
A major event of 1965 was that Bristol was released from its restriction of sales to the State-owned operators. The RE attracted a great deal of custom, some companies choosing bodywork other than by Eastern Coach Works. By the early 1970s, there was a major swing in favour of large capacity single deckers and the RE became a best-seller. Indeed, of all the British rear-engined single deck chassis, the RE was the only true success! One area where the RE sold particularly well was with Lancashire municipal operators - right on Leyland's doorstep! Most of these had bodies built by East Lancashire Coach Builders. Early REs had only used Gardner 6HLW or 6HLX engines, but from 1987 Leyland engines were also offered.
For the 1966 bus, Bristol designed a chassis also with a Vertical Rear engine, as the prototype VR. Bristol, however, placed this engine in line with the chassis, in the offside rear corner, driving straight to a Lodekka rear axle. The chassis frame was developed from the FLF to make a low height bus. Bristol could also see the VR receiving longer bodies, with a second staircase over the engine, and single-deck bodies with continental-style multiple doorways, all with low, easy, access. In the event, to comply with Government Grants towards the cost of new buses, the VR was redesigned with the engine turned across the back of the chassis in a Transverse position - VRT -although the Longitudinal position was still available to special order. The latter was immediately chosen by Ribblel Standerwick for trend-setting Lancashire to London Motorway service using double-deck coaches, with Long and High frames and Leyland engines (VRULH6Ls), while similar chassis renewed Bristol's connections with South Africa, where they were bodied as city buses. Otherwise, the VRT became the standard format, being introduced while the last Lodekkas were entering service, in 1968 - thirty years ago this year. The usual VRT was a 70 to 77-seater, with a Short, Low frame (VRT/SL), but a few customers chose Long VRT/LLs seating up to 86 (though fewer if central exit doors were featured), while Liverpool uniquely specified the Long, High-framed VRT/LH for their busiest cross-city services. All VRTs to begin with were powered by Gardner 6LX engines, or the new, even more powerful 6LXB, and all had semi- or fully automatic transmission, a system that had been offered first in REs and later modeI FLFs.
Royal Blue 1953
This batch of coaches was known as Camel Backs because of the roof luggage racks, accessed by a flush ladder on the rear of the coach. This vehicle was retired from service in1969, but remained in private hire service in the South of England until 1998. It had recently undergone an extensive engine and transmission rebuild.
The Bristol M W bus was a direct replacement for the L S. It was built on a conventional chassis frame with a Gardner engine. The first production chassis were built in 1957 and Eastern Coach Works built the bodies for them, initially1 bus body, 1 Express and two coaches. The M W can be easily distinguished from the LS by its front radiator grill. In all 1014 buses were produced, 206 expresses and 505 coaches. Production ceased in the 1960s. The bus in the picture is an MW5G built in 1961 and worked mainly from Gloucester garage until 1977 when it was sold to Sykes of Barnsley and then to Brown's of Smallfield in Surrey where it was used on school work. It was restored in Sheffield bus Museum.
SU and SUL
The Small Under floor, a light bus with mid under floor engine appeared in January 1960. It was designed mainly for rural services. It used the Albion EN250 engine and was produced in two lengths, 24' 4", 30 seat for the SUS (short) and 28', 36 seat for the SUL(long).
Some 133 were built, 28 of these as coaches. Production finished in 1966.
The first LS chassis was delivered in 1951, and fully bodied and outshopped in spring 1952. This was the first major switch for Bristol from front vertical engines to horizontal underfloor engines. While the bus version was quite boxy, the coach version was more curvatous. Main deliveries started in June 1952 the first batch going to Southern Vectis. Design changed little except for some front end restructuring, especially round the front windscreen. Production rose to over 250 per year, trailing off in 1957, with 1400 in total being built.
The summer of 1950 saw the introduction of a new curved waist, full front coach, bodied by ECW. The construction of much of the body structure reverted to wood, Burma teak (yang). The coaches were originally 27' 6" long by 7' 6" wide on a Bristol L6B chassis with exposed radiator. It was a 31 seater with front entrance and had an attractive aluminium trim.
The next batch was lengthened to 30' long and 8' width. They had a concealed radiator making the front very bulbous in appearance. A front bumper was added. Most were of 35-seat capacity although a few were 37 seat. They were built on a Bristol LWL6B chassis. By the end of 1953 some 163 were in service. In line with everything big of this era they were nicknamed Queen Mary after the liner
A brief description of main bus types
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