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172 - LEYLAND OLYMPIAN (EAST LANCS)

Plymouth City Transport had been a long-standing customer of the Leyland Atlantean since its inception in 1960, taking 253 of them between 1960 and 1981. But as Leyland's rivals Metro-Cammell Weymann had developed the highly successful Metrobus, Leyland needed to up its game, which it did in the form of the B45 project. The B45 project was seen as a replacement for the Bristol VRT (Bristol Commercial Vehicles merged with Leyland in 1965), and the Leyland Atlantean. Following on from the B15 project which led to the inception of the Leyland Titan, the B45 project saw the birth of the Leyland Olympian, based on the Leyland Titan chassis. Many former customers of the Bristol VRT placed orders for new Olympians, and production of the Atlantean eventually stopped in 1986, in favour of the new Olympian.

TTT172X (3)

Operators had a choice of 3 engines when the Olympian was first built - the Leyland TL11 (an 11.1 litre development of the Leyland O.680) or Gardner's 6LXB or 6LXCT. Plymouth City Transport opted for the Gardner 6LXB engine and ordered 3 of the new Olympians (at £32,324 each) with bodywork by East Lancs Coachbuilders who had already bodied 35 Leyland Atlantean's for them in the preceeding years.

 

172, 173 and 174 followed on from the last Atlantean delivered to Plymouth City Transport, number 171. They even had consecutive registration numbers - TTT172-4X - which followed on from 171 (TTT171X), despite arriving at Milehouse 3 months later in March 1982. Their East Lancs bodywork with red and cream livery lined out in black, enabled them to fit in well with the current fleet of East Lancs bodied Atlanteans,  but they also had a few differences which made them stand out.

 

The blacked-out grill on the front was the biggest give-away when the bus approached the bus stop.  The split - level entrance step made it easier for the infirm to board and at the rear, the back-end was completely different to the Atlantean, taking a more box-like design compared to the angled upsweep of the Atlantean. Seating configuration was H43/31F - 43 seats on the upper deck and 31 on the lower deck - the same as the last batch of Atlanteans, however they were trimmed in moquette on the Olympians, instead of the usual red rexine.

TTT172X (13)

In October 1982 the livery on 172, 173 and 174 was modified into the new Citybus livery, with more cream below the lower deck windows and large Citybus fleetnames in red and black. This was in readiness for the new revamped bus services which started that same month.

 

A full repaint of 172 took place later, resulting in the loss of the remaining black lining between the lower and upper decks that still remained from its original red and cream livery.

TTT172X (31) TTT172X (32)

The Torpoint service was registered, but until it started they were allocated to Tavistock services 83 / 84 in direct competition with Western National. These 2 pictures show 172 and 174 together at Bretonside Bus Station on Tavistock services and both are wearing the red black and white livery - 174 carrying advertisments for Victor Barry Tyres. Just before the start of the Torpont services, agreement was reached with Western National and all the competing routes were cancelled, including the Torpoint and Tavistock services.

TTT172X (51) TTT172X (66) TTT172X (71) 2014-07-03 (1)

When Plymouth Citybus and Western National finally decided to end the 'bus war' later in 1988, 172, 173 and 174's days were numbered. The fully automatic gear box, coupled with the Gardner drive train was problematic, resulting in excessive gear changes at certain times, and lack of  gear changes at other times. So to recoup some of the losses of the bus war all three were sold to Stevensons Bus Services, Spath, in September 1988, becoming no's. 93, 94 and 95 in their fleet. 172, now 93, was repainted into a dark blue and white livery advertising Blackshaws car dealers, and lost its Plymouth style 2-line destination blinds at the same time.

 

In December 1990 all three were acquired by Wilts & Dorset Bus Company, Poole becoming numbers 3924, 3925 and 3926 respectively, later renumbered 4924, 4925 and 4926. They were repainted into the fleet livery of red, black and white.

 

Note from the picture how the front destination blind box fitted by Stevensons, is slightly off-centre!

172 was later acquired by Solent Blue Line, becoming number 672 in the fleet and wore this yellow and blue livery.

On 18th January 2002, 172 was acquired by Renown of Bexhill-on-Sea, where it became fleet no. 17. It was repainted into this blue and cream livery by them.

 

It was subsequently purchased by London Bus Exports of Chepstow on 1st June 2005 and was hired out annually to a clothing charity who attended the Glastonbury Music Festival.

All 3 Olympians were withdrawn in 1988, however this was short-lived. In April 1988 they had their suspensions raised and were repainted into the new fleet livery of red, white and black before re-entering servce. By then, a full-scale 'bus war' was taking place between Plymouth Citybus and its rivals Western National and  it was intended to start a competing route across the Torpoint Ferry to Torpoint in direct competition, hence the raised suspensions.

On 3rd July 2014 it became part of the Plymouth City Transport Preservation Group and was returned to its home city on the same day. It is the only survivor of the 3 Olympians and is currently awaits restoration.

 

Some details from 172's history is missing, such as the dates it changed ownership. If you can help with filling in any missing details please email paul.furse@plymouthcitytransport.co.uk.

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