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THE SELNEC PRESERVATION SOCIETY

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DODGE MINIBUSES AND THE ACQUISITION OF 1823 (C823 CBU)

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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of SELNEC PTE in November 1969 as 6081 and 6082 respectively and operated well into the 1970s, both eventually being withdrawn.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 IVís 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.

Consequently, although these minibuses looked unusual on their Dodge chassis, they did have many familiar features with full size air doors and internal fixtures and fittings reminiscent of Standard double decker vehicles.  They had a new orange moquette which was later to be used on the last 28 Olympians, 3278-3305, and individual seats, cushions and backs.

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.

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

These local names were to be short lived when, towards the end of 1986, GM Buses collectively rebranded all minibus services as "Little Gem". The company was faced with intense competition from Manchester Minibuses Limited (The Bee Line Buzz Company), which planned to operate high frequency services in Stockport and South Manchester.

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 wer compelted 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

The threat from Bee Line eventually died away when the company faltered and was subsequently sold to Ribble Motor Services. Bee Line then began to operate a motley collection of elderly double deckers from a variety of sources, leaving GM Buses with a huge fleet of small vehicles which, once its services were deregistered or reverted to full-size vehicle operation, were surplus to requirements. Withdrawals commenced in the early 1990s with the first 40 Dodge S56s being among the first to go.

Many critics argue that these vehicles are not true "buses" but notwithstanding, I have always maintained an interest in them as they were delivered to the PTE and ran initially in orange.

Member, Greg Taylor, researched surviving examples of these early vehicles in 1998 and concluded that around a dozen survived. He viewed 1804 operating for Copelands Coaches in Stoke On Trent with a view to purchase for restoration but shortly afterwards moved to London for a year, effectively scuppering any possible plans.  Having returned to the north, he again looked into surviving vehicles from the batch in October 2001 and realised that only a handful was apparent. Two examples survived in service with operators in Spalding and Birmingham respectively, but the lowest numbered survivor (1807) was in County Durham with an operator called Greencroft Coaches.

Arrangements were made to view 1807 at Greencroft's premises on 13th October 2001.  Having been stood outside for some eighteen months it looked slightly worse for wear but he agreed to purchase the bus and the operator commenced rectification works as part of the deal we reached. The bus was cleaned, rectified, given a class V MOT and retaxed. It was collected on 10th November 2001 whereupon it was driven by Merseyside Bus Club member Phil Halewood to a covered storage facility in Leeds.

Greencroft Coaches had acquired the vehicle direct from GM Buses in 1991 along with two others and thus it was largely complete. It had been upseated from 18 to 22 seats, at the expense of a luggage pen and offside partition, both of which had been removed and were no longer available. The gearbox had been replaced, the original automatic box having been replaced with a five-speed manual example.

On a trip to the breakers yards at Carlton, Barnsley in late October 2001 Greg Taylor found three Greater Manchester Dodge minibuses tucked away at the rear of Goodwin's yard. 1946/7 from the later batches, and also 1818, a sister bus to 1807. This vehicle, most recently operated by Pennine Blue, was to yield the missing internal features and a number of other useful spares which were removed with the help of Gary Goodwin and fellow Society member Tim Moss.  1807 was taken on Saturday 12th January 2002 to Preston Bus (joining 408) who replaced some of the frontal bodywork with examples from their own remaining Dodge minibuses.  Preston also be repanelled the bus.

These first 40 were delivered in white, orange and brown, the standard GMT livery at the time, but it was not until after deregulation that numbers and types of these vehicles exploded with 50 Ivecos (9501 to 8550), 80 MCW Metroriders (1601 to 1680) and a further 190 Dodges delivered new to GM Buses, taking the total Dodges to 230, with fleet numbers 1771 to 2000, the majority of these vehicles appearing in the later Little Gem livery.  An Iveco demonstrator was also acquired and some further Metroriders were acquired secondhand in the 1990s by GM Buses (North), by which time disposal of the indigenous minibuses was well underway.

Because private preservationist and member of the SELNEC Preservation Society, Greg Taylor, had recently tracked down one of these original 40 Northern Counties bodied Dodge Minibuses, 1807 (C807 CBU), for preservation to have this vehicle restored in the Ashton Mini Line livery, certain members of the SELNEC Preservation Society really did think that the society itself should have one of these vehicles, this was particularly the case to be one of the original batch of 40 (1801 to 1840) representing the Northern Counties bespoke bodied vehicles delivered to Greater Manchester Transport with the full size air doors and individual seats and the standard white, orange and brown GMT livery and so we secured 1823 (C823 CBU).  It had been delivered to GMT on 4th July 1986, three months prior to deregulation, and then passed into the hands of GM Buses Limited, but then moved on, and before the split to GM Buses North and South, to BU-Val.  It eventually ended up with Sleaford Coaches in a pleasant blue colour, from where it was secured by the SELNEC Preservation Society on 9th February 2002.

1823

BATCH:

1801 - 1840

gmt.gif (2279 bytes)

(C823 CBU)

BODY:

Northern Counties B18F

 

CHASSIS:

Dodge/Renault S56

 

FIRST REGISTERED:

4th July 1986

 

PURCHASED:

9th February 2002

 

DETAILS:

One of the few remaining vehicles from the original batch of 40, white/orange /brown GMT bespoke design minibus with full size air-doors and individual seat frames.


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