At AROnline, we like the bigger Leylands too. This fact was re-enforced when I took a ‘phone call on a recent day off asking If I could do a local operator and customer of mine a favour.
Many of you will know my working life revolves around public transport as the old daytime job is selling used buses and coaches to customers as near as Surrey to places far away such as Malta. Not only do I buy and sell them but for my sins, I hold a full HGV and PSV licence thus being legally able to drive them both in full public service mode or simply for demonstration purposes. Having done all the newly required CPC training, it has been known for me to keep my hand in.
Well, I was asked to do a nice simple School run (enough to make the hardened of drivers tremble with fear) from a nearby Horsham Comprehensive School to the local district of Southwater – not exactly National Express Rapide diagram in length, but a bit of pin money nonetheless. Enquiring what my steed would be, imagine my pleasure when I was told it would be a Leyland Olympian double deck. The pleasure was doubled when I learned that it was an ex London Buses vehicle too.
Arriving at the yard of Sussex Coaches a little while before book on time camera in hand, owner Sam Ayling gave me a little potted history of D150 FYM. Shes an ex London Transport Olympian with Gardner 6LXB engine pushing 180bhp through a Leyland Hydra-Cyclic automatic 5 speed gearbox that arrived in Sussex via other operators such as Arriva and Ipswich Buses – the latter being once loyal operators of Leyland products.
The Eastern Coachworks (ECW) dual door body has stood up well to almost 30 years of public service – both ECW and Leyland were parts of the same group. On the inside its a treat to London Transport fans, both upstairs and down feature the famous signature pattern of L.T moquette fabric on the seats in pretty good condition too. Even the rear door closing bleeper functions too – a feature that anyone who travels by bus in London will know well.
Out on the road the auto gearbox that also has Leyland’s patented “G62” manual over-ride system works so well you soon forget about doing a manual change – just leave it automatic mode. Between each ratio there is an automated pause and sneezing sound as the air and hydraulics almost seamlessly swap cogs and I find it staggering at just how well this 1986 bus drives and feels. After leaving the school the 10.45 litre Gardner growl is replaced with the yelping and racket of almost 70 children.
But soon the bus is empty as the last lot of tomorrows future dunces and Captains of industry leap off the platform and my journey back to the yard with a Gardner soundtrack commences at an indicated maximum speed of 47mph.
Lovely … just lovely!