It all started off with a phone call with a few days notice – would I be interested in driving a Daimler down to Worthing to take part in a seafront vehicle parade. Now before you get too excited, this Daimler wasn’t a Sovereign, a Double Six or a 4.2 for that matter – in fact the engine was made in Manchester measuring 10.45 litres in size. I am, of course, referring to a Gardner powered Daimler Fleetline bus which was Coventry’s answer to the Leyland Atlantean or the Bristol VRT that rolled off the Radford assembly line way back in 1970.
Every July, a sizeable gathering of vehicles are displayed along Worthing front for public admiration and many of them are also used to give the public free rides around the area on “heritage” routes that originate from the old Southdown days. Many examples from companies who produced PSV chassis under the corporate B.L banner were on public display including the Bristol RE and VRT along with Leyland Leopards, Nationals and Titans.
The vehicle I attended with is owned in preservation by a friend called Nick Pope, which is a Northern Counties Fleetline that was delivered new to Southdown Motor Services in 1970. They were quite a rarity on the South Coast partly due to the bulk of the fleet being of Leyland or Bristol. Owing to Union pressure, they were withdrawn after a short while and re-located up to Merseyside, the ponderous steering making them unpopular with driving crews.
The sun shone, the air was humid and I must have drunk about a gallon of water during the day as I sweated like fury as I wrestled with the non power assisted wandering steering on the route from Worthing Pier to the Sea Lane Café. Even though it is nice to rumble around in a “real bus” – you cannot help but appreciate the hard graft that drivers had to put in all those years ago. The ever smiling and scheming Stan Butler couldn’t be further away from reality – its hard hard graft!
It was a grand day, the trade stalls were buzzing with activity and having participated a couple of time previously, the numbers of people who came down to see and enjoy the sights and sounds of yester-year seemed higher than ever. If old glory on the buses is your thing, then make a note in your diary for the last Sunday in July for the Worthing Seafront bus rally next year. For those who are family orientated, there’s even a travelling fair to keep the kids amused along with arts, crafts and a myriad of food stalls.