THE SELNEC PRESERVATION SOCIETY
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THE EXPERIMENTAL DENNIS FALCON V 1471-1473 AND PRESERVATION OF DENNIS FALCON 1472 (A472 HNC)
With the eventual demise of the Fleetline and Atlantean chassis due Greater Manchester Transport were conscious that they would need to look at developing their Standard body to fit newly developed rear engined or mid engined chassis and embarked upon a fleet number series in which to put these which very much mirrored the original EX experimental series used by their predecessors SELNEC.
The fleet number series chosen was the 14xx series. This series started off when the Bristol VRT's ordered by North Western delivered to SELNEC Cheshire had been renumbered, They were delivered as 400 to 424 but were renumbered shortly after to 1400 to 1424.
|1400-1424||Chassis Bristol VRT/SL2/6LX||Built 1973|
|Bodywork Eastern Coachworks H43/32F||Number in Stock 25|
|1400||AJA 400L||1405||AJA 405L||1410||AJA 410L||1415||AJA 415L||1420||AJA 420L|
|1401||AJA 401L||1406||AJA 406L||1411||AJA 411L||1416||AJA 416L||1421||AJA 421L|
|1402||AJA 402L||1407||AJA 407L||1412||AJA 412L||1417||AJA 417L||1422||AJA 422L|
|1403||AJA 403L||1408||AJA 408L||1413||AJA 413L||1418||AJA 418L||1423||AJA 423L|
|1404||AJA 404L||1409||AJA 409L||1414||AJA 414L||1419||AJA 419L||1424||AJA 424L|
Therefore, in 1974, Greater Manchester Transport took a proving quantity of ten of the new experimental Metropolitain Double Deckers and numbered these in the series 1425 to 1434.
|1425-1434||Chassis Metropolitan BR111DH||Built 1974|
|Bodywork Metro-Cammell Weymann H44/29F||Number in Stock 10|
|1425||GNC 277N||1427||GNC 279N||1429||GNC 281N||1431||GNC 283N||1433||GNC 285N|
|1426||GNC 278N||1428||GNC 280N||1430||GNC 282N||1432||GNC 284N||1434||GNC 286N|
They were followed over the years by the following purchases:-
|1435-1436||Chassis Foden NC||Built 1976|
|Bodywork Northern Counties H43/32F||Number in Stock 2|
|1437-1440||Chassis Dennis Dominator DD110(1439/40:DDA136)||Built 1980/1|
|Bodywork Northern Counties H43/32F||Number in Stock 4|
|1437||HDB 438V||1438||HDB 438V||1439||TND 439X||1440||TND 440X|
|1446-1448||Chassis Volvo Ailsa B55-10||Built 1980/2|
|Bodywork Northern Counties H44/35F||Number in Stock 3|
|1446||NNA 134W||1447||WRJ 447X||1448||WRJ 448X|
|1451||Chassis Leyland (Bristol) Olympian B45 TL11/1R||Built 1980|
|Bodywork Northern Counties H43/30F||Number in Stock 1|
|1461-1462||Chassis Scania BR112DH||Built On order for 1983|
|Bodywork Northern Counties H43/32F||Number in Stock 2|
|1461||FWH 471Y||1462||FWH 462Y|
In 1984 Greater Manchester Transport took delivery of three of the experimental Dennis Falcon Vs, 1471 to 1473. In fact in total only six Dennis Falcons double deck vehicles were ever built.
|No||Registration||Body||Acquired by||Current Status|
|1||XPD 659Y||East Lancs||Demonstrator||Scrapped|
|2||XRA 397Y||East Lancs||Nottingham City Transport - 397||Scrapped|
|3||WRR 396Y||East Lancs||Nottingham City Transport - 396||Scrapped|
|4||A473 HNC||Northern Counties||GMT - 1473||Scrapped|
|5||A471 HNC||Northern Counties||GMT - 1471||Scrapped|
|6||A472 HNC||Northern Counties||GMT - 1472||Preserved by SELNEC Preservation Society|
|1471-1473||Chassis Dennis Falcon V DD405||Built 1984|
|Bodywork Northern Counties H47/37F||Number in Stock 3|
|1471||A471 HNC||1472||A472 HNC||1473||A473 HNC|
These GMT vehicles proved to be particularly unreliable and more out of service than in service for most of their operating lives.
Finally, in terms of experimental vehicles in the 1400 series Greater Manchester Transport turned it's attention to the Volvo Citybus, having a proving quantity of three of these delivered in 1986, 1481 to 1483. These after evaluation did lead to an order for production vehicles but only of the B10 type, 7001 to 7010, being delivered in 1990, the same year that 1463 to 1467 were delivered and, for that matter, 2031 to 2040, these being the 25 last standards.
|1463-1467||Chassis Scania N113 DRB||Built 1991|
|Bodywork Northern Counties H47/28F||Number in Stock 5|
|1463||H463 GVM||1464||H464 GVM||1465||H465 GVM||1466||H466 GVM||1467||H467 GVM|
|1481-1483||Chassis Volvo Citybus B10M-50||Built 1986|
|Bodywork Northern Counties H46/33F||Number in Stock 3|
|1481||C481 CBU||1482||C483 CBU||1483||C483 CBU|
Whereas the Dennis Falcon has lent itself to a number of single deckers, only six double deckers were ever built; a demonstrator (XPD 659Y), bobied by East Lancs, which we originally thought had been scrapped; Nottingham City Transport took two double decked Dennis Falcon V's, bodies as with the demonstrator by East Lancs, 396 (WRR 396Y) and 397 (XRA 397Y), both now scrapped. Only a further three double deck Dennis Falcon V's were built, this time bodied by Northern Counties for Greater Manchester, with an adaptation on this second generation vehicle chassis of their Standard bodywork 1471 to 1473. Curiously out of a batch of three, two have been destroyed by fire; one by arson and one by an electrical fault. 1471 and 1473 respectively. Also it is understood at lease one of the Nottingham City Transport vehicles was also destroyed by fire!
An article appeared in Bus and Coach Preservation at the beginning of 2002, showing 1473 in use as a dining bus, which got some members talking. It transpired after leaving Rennie, Dunfermline (who brought the buses from GM Buses South for five figures apiece!) all three went south. 1471 went first to a driving school called Driving Ambition in West London. before passing to a film and TV location company, JG Transport Services, who are based in Uxbridge. A similar company, Willie's Wheels, had brought 1472 and 1473.
1473 received some press attention after catching fire whilst at work for Willie's Wheels in Bournemouth, the result being that the vehicle was completely destroyed and member, Greg Taylor was aghast to discover, on the telephone, that 1471 had also been burnt out, but as a subject to an arson attack whilst parked at JG Transport Services yard, in Uxbridge.
We traced Willie's wheels through Companies House and their website, and after many telephone calls Greg Taylor made arrangements to go and look at the bus in March 2002. Willie Fonfe, who runs the business, picked him up from the station and drove him out to the yard where it was kept. The bus was clearly in very good condition, having been lightly used in Manchester (where they were often out of use through defect) and not again since it left Rennie, in whose livery it remains.
The bus had no double unit seats in it, although luckily, the unique rear seats on both decks were still present. The seating capacity is an amazing 84, the highest capacity variants of the standard body delivered to GMT. Alas, 1472 was regarded by Rennie as the runt of the batch, which is unfortunate since it is the last one!
Discussions with Willie's Wheels continued throughout the year. A key point was that the bus had recently received a reconditioned Mercedes engine at a four figure cost, but eventually agreement was reaches whereby the bus would be donated to the SELNEC Educational Trust in return for certain services, related to the Willie's Wheels website, which Greg Taylor agreed to provide.
The history of the vehicle is as follows:-
|10th April 1984||Greater Manchester PTE|
|26th October 1986||Transferred to GM Buses Limited|
|1st April 1994||Transferred to GM Buses (South) Limited|
|31st December 1996||Sold to dealer, PVS (Barnsley) Limited|
|10th April 1997||Rennies of Dumfermline|
|10th June 1999||Willies Wheels Limited|
|13th October 2002||SELNEC Preservation Society, Manchester|
November 2002 a working party from the society went to Berkhampsted to inspect
the bus again. After a little effort (batteries changed, then jumped, etc) the
bus was successfully started and the rather throaty, indeed scary, Falcon road
was heard once again. The rectification necessary was as follows:
- Front offside windscreen wiper missing.
- Windscreen wiper motor missing.
- Offside rear light cluster had earth fault.
- Front nearside indicator flasher lens cover missing.
- Suspension did not rise at rear - probable airbag valve issue.
Because of the work that needed to be carried out on 1472 a small engineering firm, Jones of Stoke, was appointed and they made two trips to see the bus, The first one was on Wednesday 4th June 2003 when they rectified the rear air leak and all the front and rear leveling valves on the air suspension system and re-routed the fuel popes in the engine in many cases replacing them with flexible rather than metal pipes. Also the problems with the rear lights shorting out was resolved.
The engineer returned on Friday 1st August 2003 to undertake some repair work on the exhaust system and to fit a new offside windscreen wiper spindle arm and blade, thereby finalizing the list of outstanding work and establishing the vehicle was now ready to return to Manchester.
A group of members met at our premises at Leigh and travelled down to the Berkhampsted area, staying in a small bed and breakfast on the Tring Road on Saturday afternoon, 2nd August 2003. In fact accommodation had been particularly hard to find on that evening as apparently it clashed with a two day Robbie Williams' concert, and most hotel rooms and guest houses were booked up as far south as Heathrow and as far north as Coventry. Luckily however persistence prevailed and a small guest house was identified on the Tring Road that was available for the four members who travelled down that evening. The car was loaded up with spare fuel that we had been advised we would need to put in the bus to move it from Berkhampsted to a service station, spare oil and water, trade plates, new batteries and two very substantial fully charged fire extinguishers. Having travelled to the Berkhampsted area and parked up at the guest house the members went for a evening meal in a rather hospitable pub, The Plough, before retiring ready for what was to become a long day ahead.
Early the next morning, Sunday 3rd August 2003, the group set off for the site in the Berkampsted area owned by Willies Wheels, where the bus was stored. The weather could not have been any better, being a glorious sunny day with blue skies. Upon arriving at the site the batteries were put on the bus, it's oil and water were checked, fuel was put in the vehicle, the fire extinguishers loaded aboard, the engine bled and without too much difficulty it started with the roar of the powerful Mercedes engine being heard once again. There were slight problems with the brake lights but these were soon resolved and the sticking bonnet catch was freed off and after a few photographs were taken the members set off on their way, calling at a service station to collect more fuel for the long trip back, heading off down the M25, then M1 and onto the M6.
The members stopped on the M6 at Toddington Services for a break and for members to obtain a delayed breakfast which had not been possible earlier in the day and found when parking up the bus that water (which had possibly been overfilled) cascading out of the overfill pipe.
However, upon returning to the bus we discovered that the front nearside wheel had locked itself solid and despite attempts to shake it free by driving the bus forwards and backwards it remained in that condition. Consequently, we contacted the RAC for a breakdown unit who sent a local firm to attend within 50 minutes and the engineer identified the problem, a lack of grease on the braking system, freed the brakes off, gave one of our members a tip as to what to do in the future should they stick again and told us to take it easy on the way back, keeping to the motorway and using the brakes as infrequently as possible. the instructions were carried out, thereafter heading off to Manchester again on the M6, picking up one of our members who had come down to ride back on the bus at Hilton Park Services on the M6 where the vehicle had it's fuel topped up again.
Thereafter on the Thelwall Viaduct an exhaust problem occurred making the bus sound louder than usual as it continued on its way before eventually being parked at Macclesfield.
1472 is in very good condition body wise and apparently so mechanically, it has just had a number of it's seat frames removed. Hence, our acquisition of 1472 not only represents what we believed to have been the only remaining double deck Dennis Falcon V in existence, but the acquisition of the second of the 14xx series experimental prototype vehicles, along with 1451, the one and only prototype Standard Leyland Olympian and, technically, our third 1400 vehicle if you include in the equation 408, our recently restored Bristol VR (AJA 408L) which was renumbered in the 1400 series as 1408 before the 14xx series was used for experimental and prototype vehicles occasioned by the delivery of the ten Metro Scanias from 1425 onwards.
Although there have been a number of single deck Dennis Falcon V's built, there have only ever been six double deck examples. We had thought originally that 1472 was the only remaining double deck Dennis Falcon V in existence of the six. We were then contacted by John Cronshaw who has advised that the prototype still remains. Having been built by East Lancs in 1982 it was used for a brief time as a demonstrator, XPD 659Y, but achieved some notoriety when passed from Dennis to Stevenage Borough Council in the spring of 1984 for use as a playbus when still under two years old and it retained it's two tone green demonstrator colours throughout it's time at Stevenage. In approximately 2000, it moved to Banbury and is now at Banbury & District Community Playbus Projects and is painted in a green, red and white colour scheme.
1471 - 1473
Northern Counties H47/37F
Dennis Falcon V DD405
10th April 1984
13th October 2002
One of three prototype Standard bodies applied to the Dennis Falcon V chassis and one of the two only remaining examples of double deck Dennis Falcons out of the six built.