News : A DVD project of National pride – can you help?

This year, 2022 of course, marks the 50th anniversary of the Leyland National. Those of us of a certain vintage will be gazing at the screen in disbelief wondering where just the hell all the time has gone. Yes, that’s right, 50 years have flown by since the most influential vehicle in the public transport sector first went on sale. If you look at all the current features of a typical modern single-decker bus namely low floors, air suspension, rear underfloor turbocharged engines, automatic gearboxes, fully ergonomically laid-out controls for the driver and low profile tyres, all of them were pioneered with the introduction of the Leyland National.

Following on from the successful Rover 75 DVD, which was launched a little while ago, I have been talking to various dodgy contacts of mine in the industry, some of whom are now long retired, and some very influential within the transport industry. One such character, who also happened to buy the Rover DVD, contacted me some months ago and suggested that making a documentary film celebrating the half century of the Leyland National could be a good idea.

Well, after a bit of contemplation and thought, as well as asking a few bodies if they could or would contribute to such a thing, I have put the idea to John Clancy and we have decided to go ahead with the production of a DVD documentary about the Leyland National. Even at this very early stage, we have managed to get the support, help and contributions from former Depot Managers, Chief Engineers, Drivers, former Leyland Bus Plant Managers and those helpful chaps at the Leyland Society to name but a few. It’s all very early, but it’s looking promising so far.

If you or anyone you know has direct and tangible experience of the Leyland National that you think could help this special project, we have created a special email address for you to get in touch with John and myself – projectfpb7@yahoo.com. Comments below are always welcome of course but, if you have more constructive help for us, then please keep it strictly via the email address so that either John or I can contact you directly.

This year sees a few cracking events to mark the birthday including a day dedicated to the vehicle at Gaydon in the summer – more about that will come soon. Meanwhile, we really hope you can help or contribute and we look forward to hearing from you!

8 Comments

  1. I’ve posted it on 2 Facebook groups. Old West Cumbria and also Askam and Ireleth in Old Pictures. The former as the were built in Lillyhall at Workington (AO being the local registration) and the latter as I think the photo was taken at Lots Road End at Askam In Furness as it ventures out onto the A595 not far from the Brickworks on the old road before a major upgrade in the 90’s.

  2. @ Graham, AO was the local registration number until the changes in 2001. I worked at the bus factory in the late nineties when it had been acquired by the Historical Collections Group, who ran the Past Times group of shops, and used as their main warehouse. It was enormous inside, so big we only used half the factory, and I think this was the main assembly plant. Another part of the site nearer the entrance was used by Eddie Stobart as a freight depot.
    I did work with someone in the warehouse who worked on the assembly line for the National and the later Volvo buses. He said the pay was OK, if not the same as for workers in the car factories, but people in the area were glad of the work as the traditional industries were dying out and Leyland were a decent employer. Also the factory had few disputes and was one of the most productive in the company. What probably killed the Llllyhall factory was its remote location and the recession in the early nineties.

  3. Mention of ” low floors, air suspension, rear underfloor turbocharged engines, automatic gearboxes” reminds me of the very similar single deckers that ran in Hampshire in the early 1960s. I was at Longmoor Camp at the time, I would catch one to or from Liphook or Liss. I know they had front-entry doors; I do not recall other doors towards the rear. One thing that has stuck in my mind is the gear selector lever – short, maybe just two or three inches long with a round knob – on the left side of the steering column. There was a typical H-gate for the gears; pre-select rather than automatic, I think. And they were one-man operated; no conductor. I do not know now if they were part of the Aldershot & District Traction Company’s fleet; I think not.

  4. First time I saw a Leyland National I was struck how different it looked compared to other single deck buses,with it’s low floorentrance, wider gangways and smoother transmission. Living in North East Hampshire the local bus company Alder Valley had a history of largely using Dennis buses but the introduction of the National really did make a difference in passenger comfort a great step forward

  5. The National was one of my regular rides as a kid, along with Daimler Fleetline, Bristol VRT and the good old Routemaster. My father in law worked for Southend Transport, while my mum’s cousin for Eastern National and both drove them, though I know they were not their favourites.

  6. I wonder when the last one left service? I used to get one home from school most days from 1983-1987.

    • The last company to operate a fleet of the was Chase Coaches of Staffs managed by the brilliant and legendary Eddie Faulkner. They mainly ran Centro services around the Midlands.

      The fitters were a talented and resourceful bunch that created many strange and wonderful engineering solutions to keep them reliable and in trim.

      Arriva bought the company in 2007 keeping the Nationals in regular service until May 2007

  7. I was working as a fitter at the Red and White bus company at Chepstow in 1974, when we had the first Leyland Nationals that came to the company.
    I well remember when I had the first one over the pit, took one look at all the “Huck Bolts” holding it together and predicted “it will fall to pieces in six months”.
    How wrong I was, the body turned out to be very well made.
    Shame about the poor engines, rear brakes that wore out very quickly compared to the Bristol RE’s, and the complex electrical system. Those microswitches on the engine rear & side panels only stayed on for a few weeks before they were taken off!
    They were very much a driver’s bus though, comfortable & warm (until the heater electrics went wrong, which overheated the bus interior).

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