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THE SELNEC PRESERVATION SOCIETY

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IVEVO FORD 49.10 MINIBUSES AND THE ACQUISITION OF 1509 (D509 MJA)

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The origins of minibus operation in Greater Manchester can be traced back to the late 1960s, when the constituent operations at Bury and Ramsbottom each operated a small bus on routes where a full size saloon was prohibitively large. Bury had a Bedford J2 (No.81 KEN 381G) with Duple Midland bodywork which was used on the Chesham Road service, whilst Ramsbottom acquired an Albion Nimbus with Weymann bodywork (No.12 RJX 258) from Warrington, although new to Halifax, for its service to Holcombe Village. These buses both passed into the ownership of SELNEC PTE in November 1969 as 6081 and 6082 respectively and operated well into the 1970s, both eventually being withdrawn.

Following SELNEC's metamorphosis into Greater Manchester PTE, no minibuses, other than the Seddon Pennine IV’s were operated (save for a small quantity of Reeve Burgess bodied Transits and Sherpas, purchased for the Sale Dial-A-Ride project). That is until, at the end of 1985, the PTE acknowledged an emergent trend within the National Bus Company (NBC) for high frequency minibus operation following a successful experiment at Devon General in Exeter. An order was subsequently placed for 40 Dodge S56 chassis/cowls which were given bodies by Northern Counties at Wigan.

The batch was to become 1801-40 (C801-840 CBU), with the first examples being delivered in 1986, in the standard PTE livery of brown, orange and white. Bodywork was a combination of fibreglass and aluminium, with bonded glazing and a standard four-piece door. Each bus seated 18 passengers in pairs of single seats trimmed with a new style of orange moquette.

It was to be some months before the first of these vehicles entered service.  In the intervening period, they were inspected at various garages around the PTE. Initial allocations took place when the buses were not fully equipped for service; as they were not delivered with destination gear they saw limited use, principally as staff shuttle buses.

6th October 1986 saw the PTE (under the guise of the forthcoming Greater Manchester Buses) launch its first high frequency minibus service, in Ashton Under Lyne.

15 of the batch (1801-15) were allocated to Tameside depot and dedicated to the A1 "Ashton Mini Lyne", which was simply the old 337 service rebranded accordingly. The route ran from Hazelhurst, through Ashton town centre, to Crowhill.

Following deregulation day on 26th October 1986, other locally-branded networks sprang up within GM Buses. A small network of services branded "Rochdale Weaver" was commenced by the North division, operating services to Norden Way and the estates at Shawfield and Elmsfield in Rochdale. A couple of routes also began in North Manchester under the banner heading of "Chaser". In the South, an Altrincham network began, with services branded as "Hoppa". 

Soon after deregulation, the BET owned United Transport Group announced that it planned to commence a high volume minibus operation, Manchester Minibuses Limited, in South Manchester, from January 1987.  The company traded as The Bee Line Buzz Company from premises in Stockport, with a major marketing campaign backing its yellow and red vehicles.

United Transport Group’s announcement caused concern among senior management at Greater Manchester Buses, and was the catalyst for the company to rethink its minibus strategy.  It was decided to do away with the local identities and collectively rebrand minibus operations across the company.  In-house designer, Ken Mortimer, devised a marketing concept, livery and image which he named “Little GM”, although this was to evolve into “Little Gem” before any markings were applied to vehicles.

An order for further Northern Counties bodied Dodge S56s was placed and a further 180 came into stock, albeit to a slightly modified design.  Management’s deliberations over the new identity were evident in the Dodge delivery pattern; some vehicles arrived in brown, orange and white, and some came in plain white before a multi-coloured scheme of grey, white, red, orange and brown was eventually settled on and began to be applied to new vehicles.

Thus, GM Buses opted to significantly expand its minibus fleet.  Iveco Ford and bodybuilders, Robin Hood of Fareham, got an order for 50 vehicles (1501-50) while 80 Metroriders (1601-80) were ordered from MCW.  Further orders for Dodges with Northern Counties bodies raised the total fleet of this type to 230 out of minibus fleet numbering 361 when deliveries were completed in 1987.  The odd one was an ex-Iveco Ford/Robin Hood demonstrator, D240 JTU, which operated on loan as 1240 and was then taken into stock as 1500.  The first bus from the second batch of Dodges 1841, was exhibited by Northern Counties at the 1986 Motor Show still in standard bus livery.  However, this was soon changed and around a dozen Dodges were delivered in white before the new Little Gem livery was settled upon and applied to all Dodges from 1867 upwards.  The Metroriders and Ivecos carried Little Gem colours from the start.  After 1840, Renault-Dodge supplied a further 190 vehicles, all bodied by Northern Counties but to a revised style of bodywork seating 20, with conventional rubber gasket glazing and a smaller, one-piece door (1841-2000/1771-1800).

1500

C240 JTU

Iveco Ford 49.10

Robin Hood

B21F

1986

1501-1550

D501-550 MJA

Iveco Ford 49.10

Robin Hood

B21F

1987

E181-189

E181-189 CNE

Iveco Ford 49.10

Northern Counties

B22F

1987

E181-189 were operated on loan from Northern Counties from June 1988.  They were painted overall white.

1601-1650

D601-650 MDB

MCW Metrorider

MCW

B23F

1987

1651-1680

D651-680 NNE

MCW Metrorider

MCW

B23F

1987

1681

D474 PON

MCW Metrorider

MCW

B23F

1987

1682/3

E148/50 KYW

MCW Metrorider

MCW

B25F

1987

1684-6

E638/7/6 KYW

MCW Metrorider

MCW

B25F

1987

1687

E929 KYR

MCW Metrorider

MCW

B25F

1987

1639 was fitted with 19 coach seats in 1990 and renumbered 21 in the coach series.

1681-7 were acquired from London Buses in 1993 where they were MR 14, 48, 50, 62, 61, 60 and 53.

1771-1782

D771-782 RBU

Dodge S56

Northern Counties

B20F

1987

1783-1800

E783-800 SJA

Dodge S56

Northern Counties

B20F

1987

1801-1840

C801-840 CBU

Dodge S56

Northern Counties

B18F

1986

1841-1865

D841-865 LND

Dodge S56

Northern Counties

B20F

1987

1866-1905

D866-905 MDB

Dodge S56

Northern Counties

B20F

1987

1906-1955

D906-955 NDB

Dodge S56

Northern Counties

B20F

1987

1956-1980

D956-980 PJA

Dodge S56

Northern Counties

B20F

1987

1981-1999

E981-999 SJA

Dodge S56

Northern Counties

B20F

1987

2000

E200 SVR

Dodge S56

Northern Counties

B20F

1987

By later 1987 it was clear to United Transport that Manchester Minibuses, and its sister operation in Preston, which traded as Zippy, had not been the success it had hoped for.  The company contracted in size and was eventually sold to Ribble Motor Services, which steered the company towards big bus operation with a shambolic assortment of elderly double deckers in various liveries.

Greater Manchester Buses commenced withdrawals in the late 1980s, it having no real need for such a large fleet of small buses.  The legacy has for many years been visible up and down the country, as operators large and small have continued to run these hardy Dodges, Metroriders and Ivecos.  Their numbers are now dwindling and, with this in mind, there has been a concerted effort of late to secure examples for preservation.

To summarise these efforts, member, Greg Taylor, purchased Dodge 1807 (C807 CBU) in October 2001.  This was followed during 2002 by his purchase of Dodge 1892 (D892 MDB), along with the SELNEC Preservation Society’s acquisition of Dodge 1823 (C823 CBU).  Further acquisitions during 2003 have seen Greg acquire Dodge 1860 (D860 LND), the Museum of Transport acquire Metroriders 1674 and 1676 (D674 NNE and D676 NNE) (the former albeit for spares only) and Mark Prescott, Metrorider 1647 (D647 MDB).

Having noted the entry into preservation of examples of the Metrorider fleet, it seemed only appropriate to complete the collection by saving an Iveco example.  Survivors were researched, these efforts revealing a handful of examples.   The whereabouts of 1509 was ascertained, it had been an operator in Plymouth, Devon, but was located in Shaftesbury, Dorset.

The previous keepers of the vehicle have been:

6th February 1987

New to Greater Manchester Buses Limited.

25th March 1992

Sold to dealer, Wacton Coach Sales

4th May 1992

Robert Griffith Owen

22nd October 1994

Gwyn Harris Williams

29th April 2000

Nefyn Coaches

26th July 2000

James Alwyn Evans

26th June 2001

Rays Coaches, Plymouth

1st February 2002

Greg Taylor

27th February 2002

SELNEC Preservation Society.

Given the distance involved it was clear that repatriation of this vehicle would be no small undertaking.  This was however undertaken by three members, Greg Taylor, Mark Prescott and Paul Nicholson, who travelled down to Dorset on the morning of 3rd February 2003, arriving in Shaftesbury in very good time before setting off back.

The vehicle is in a good condition internally and externally, and attained a creditable speed of some 50 mph for most of the return journey.

As always with the best laid plans, there were a few minor hiccups on the way back.  It had been the party’s intention to overnight in the Birmingham area, but a large event taking place at the NEC put pay to that; all hotels south of Stoke on Trent being full to capacity.  Thus the repatriation of 1509 was to be completed in a single day ….. but only just.  A major fall of snow on the M6 threatened to interfere with the carefully planned operation, but the vehicle was successfully returned, unsalted roads in the centre of Manchester and an armed siege notwithstanding, where it is now parked awaiting restorative attention.

1509

BATCH:

1500 - 1550

gmbuses-1.jpg

(D509 MJA)

BODY:

Robin Hood B21F

 

CHASSIS:

Iveco 49/10

 

FIRST REGISTERED:

6th February 1987

 

PURCHASED:

27th February 2003

 

DETAILS:

An example of the 51 small "Little Gem" minibuses that joined the Dodge 56's and MCW Metrobuses on the streets of Greater Manchester after deregulation.


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