THE SELNEC PRESERVATION SOCIETY
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ACQUISITION OF MERCEDES BENZ 811D - GM BUSES SOUTH 401 (N401 WVR)
This is a vehicle that was of particular interest to one of our members Greg Taylor to the extent whereby he tracked it down, purchased it thereby donating it to the SELNEC Educational Trust.
The vehicle which was delivered as GM Buses South Ltd 401 (N401 WVR) was a batch of 30 vehicles in Mercedes Benz 811D chassis with a 3972cc engine and Alexander Sprint B31F body. It came in the batch 401 to 430 later renumbered into Stagecoach as 41401-41430. It was delivered new on 1st November 1995 and Greg Taylor reports on the details of its acquisition below:
The vehicle in question is a Mercedes Benz 811D long wheelbase minibus, with Alexander B31F body. It was one of a batch of 30 delivered to the then recently established employee-owned company, split from the original Greater Manchester Buses Limited.
401 has chassis number 670303-2N-027969 and body no. 9510/1. It dates from 1st November 1995.
These minibuses were the only new buses purchased by GMS. They arrived in the GMS livery of orange, light grey and whortleberry, and operated principally from Princess Road and Stockport depots. Some carried branding for route number 11, which ran from Piccadilly to Southern Cemetery.
The batch remained in Manchester as GMS passed into Stagecoach ownership, with most receiving the famous stripes. They spent the majority of their working lives, however, in South Wales - for they were eventually transferred to Stagecoach Red & White.
Member Greg Taylor, who has a particular interest in Manchester minibuses, had been keeping an eye on the whereabouts of these vehicles for some time. An initial enquiry to Stagecoach two years ago went unanswered but he was spurred into action again when two of the batch appeared on the popular auction site Ebay, having been disposed of by Stagecoach to a dealer in Kent.
Contact was made with Les Warnerford at Stagecoach Head Office in Perth, and in turn with David Howe, Stagecoach Red and White's Engineering Director, who confirmed that the buses were indeed coming out of service. He explained that whilst 401 was part of a batch under offer, if wished to bid for the bus we would be able to do so.
Negotiations took place over several weeks. Les Warnerford kindly offered the vehicle to us at a significantly discounted price, in recognition of our preservation efforts. Once a quotation had been received from Michelin for the purchase of the tyres - which were leased to Stagecoach by Michelin under a maintenance contract the vehicle was purchased, and donated to the SELNEC Educational Trust on 18th December 2009.
Greg Taylor drove by car from Andover to Merthyr Tydfil on Sunday 7th March 2010, meeting fellow member Scott Pendleton, who travelled by train from Manchester to Cardiff. After an overnight stay in Merthyr, they drove to Stagecoach's depot on the morning of Monday 8th March 2010 to collect the bus. They arrived earlier than expected which gave them the opportunity to explore sister vehicles from the batch which were dispersed about the yard awaiting disposal. They noted, however, one had been freshly repainted and was still in service.
401 had not been used in service for some months but a Stagecoach fitter set to work checking everything over. They even managed to persuade him to swap a Mercedes badge from a sister vehicle (401's being absent). A cleaner kindly swept the vehicle out, as the saloon was full of broken glass because a window had been broken by vandals at some point while the vehicle lay dormant (The replacement window is plain glass and should be a hopper, and this will need to be replaced during any future restoration.)
After a final check of oil, water and tyre pressures they signed collection paperwork and were ready to depart. The day was glorious, with not a cloud to be seen as Greg and Scott set off for Manchester in the hope of an uneventful journey. 401 was a little sluggish to begin with, but soon picked up in performance and they were back in Manchester in the late afternoon without incident, proceeding to our new internal storage facility in Stockport where the vehicle was parked up after being photographed.
401 was the only vehicle of the batch seen to have been remoquetted throughout in the current "beach ball" pattern used by Stagecoach. Other vehicles in the yard had an assortment of moquettes, but the prevalence of the traditional Greater Manchester "salt and pepper" pattern is perhaps indicative that the batch was delivered with this moquette. If any members can clarify this, we would be grateful.
Many thanks to Les Warnerford and David Howe of Stagecoach for their assistance in securing this vehicle.