Blog : The school bus home – an Olympian task…

Mike Humble


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!



Mike Humble


  1. And compared to todays modern buses, you can get out of them having driven for 4 to 5 hours a quick stretch and your fine again. Modern buses though quoted as being ergodynamically designed seem to be far more uncomfortable.

  2. I hope you have every intention of declaring that ‘pin’ money Mr Mike, I. Have put out a form in the post

  3. Looks pretty original downstairs, whereas upstairs the sliding windows have been replaced by hoppers!
    It’s funny how split entrances and exits were the state of the art London spec when the Ls were delivered, I’m not fat, but found the pole in the middle quite obstructive!

  4. The former London Transport L150 delivered as part of the last batch of vehicles ordered before London Transport as it had long been, started to be broken up.

    The Olympian was born out of the commercial failure of the Leyland Titan, and replaced both the Titan and the Bristol VRT. The Titan was not able to be bodied by other manufacturers and hence proved unpopular with most operators outside of London. The Olympian was an attempt to produce a more generic design that could accept bodies from various body manufacturers and sold well, even after the Leyland name had been replaced by Volvo after the buyout of Leyland Bus.

    Toward the end of the Metrobus and Titan deliveries, LT started to look to future vehicle orders. Metro Cammell no longer wished to continue only offering the Metobus mark 1 to LT and the Titan production was to end. A programme known as the AVE trials commenced to test the suitability of vehicles for the mid 1980s and beyond.

    Twelve buses were ordered from four different manufacturers for delivery in 1983 to 84.

    1. Three Metrobus Mark 2 (of which only two were eventually delivered, numbered M1441-3 in the existing fleet series);
    2. three Dennis Dominators (numbered H1-3, H standing for Hestair, the then Dennis parent with drivelines very similar to the Metrobus – Gardner 6 LXB + Voith gears);
    3. Three front engined Volvo Ailsa (numbered V1-3, V3 being unusual in having an additional rear stair and rear exit;
    4. Finally, three Leyland Olympians with Eastern Coach Works bodies and the LT favoured Gardner 6LXB and Leyland gears (fleet numbers L1-3 on ‘A’ prefix plates).

    These proved to be the favoured vehicles and a volume order was placed with the vehicles delivered on ‘C’ and ‘D’ prefix plates. These were the last buses built at the Lowestoft factory of Eastern Coach Works before its closure.

  5. I used to be a bus driver around Chester, I did 12 hour shifts on new Scania’s at the time (2005) and they were pretty comfortable, but the most comfortable one’s for me were the Optare buses, no aches and pains whatsoever from driving them all day.

    As far as quality is concerned, the ‘new’ Scania’s I drove where obviously rattle free, but the older one’s used to crash and bang all over the place, pretty similar to a lovely Icarus bus we had there at the time…. The oldest and best bus I thought, that didn’t rattle your fillings loose were the good old Dennis Dart’s, fantastic little buses. There were a couple of ‘B’ reg Leylands too, one was fitted with a Cummins engine I believe, nice powerful bus, but they smoked like hell first thing in the morning, the neighbours must have loved us at 4.30 in the morning, lol!

  6. How well I recall the tortured scream of Leyland double deckers being thrashed within an inch of their lives up the A580 out of Liverpool. 47mph with 180bhp. Magic. One good reason for sitting up front was the noise of the engine. One bad reason in winter was the almost complete lack of heating for passengers up at the front.

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