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THE SELNEC PRESERVATION SOCIETY

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THE SEARCH FOR REMAINING FLEETLINES AND THE SECURING OF 4708 (DNF 708C)

It then seemed to us that no original Manchester Fleetline would ever be preserved other than from the Mancunian batches which followed.  It should be noted that one of the original batch of 40, 4628, did have the curved fibreglass fronted design.  This was later replicated in the batches 4655 to 4684 and 4701 to 4760.  However, we discovered that six from the last batch had been exported to the USA, these were 4708, 4716, 4721, 4722 and 4728.  Having operated for Manchester City Transport, SELNEC and GMT, had been withdrawn in 1979 after 14 years service.  They were brought by Hartwood Exports Ltd in Birdwell, Barnsley, and from there were sold to Porters Double Deckers where the conversion to work to open top was undertaken in respect of a contract for City of Palm Springs, with the vehicles then being acquired by Sunline, the operator, prior to the vehicles being placed in service.

These vehicles were converted to open top commencing in July 1980 with two vehicles to be delivered by 1st September 1980, two by 1st November 1980 and two by 15th December 1980.  The first bus was sold for $15,000 and the remaining five at $10,680 and the vehicles converted to the Sunliner open top design, were painted in a very attractive red, orange and yellow livery, using seven different shades in the design.  With spare parts, the total purchase was $130, 800 with the vehicles going into service in 1980.  Also, to operate in America, they had a new entrance/exit cut into the offside, immediately behind the front axle, to allow passengers to enter and exit on American right hand drive streets.

The following are the chassis numbers and the Sunliner fleet numbers:-

GM Fleet No Registration Chassis Number Sunliner fleet No.
4708 DNF 708C 61373 1463
4716 DNF 716C 61381 1464
4719 DNF 719C 61384 1467
4721 DNF 721C 61386 1465
4722 DNF 722C 61387 1466
4728 DNF 728C 61393 1462

One of the first vehicles to succumb to difficulties was 4728 which was taken out of service by late 1985/early 1986 and had its engine removed.  Thereafter, 4722 caught fire and was burned out, leaving just four vehicles remaining.  The vehicles were taken out of service in the late 1980s and stored for a number of years before being sold on 20th August 1993 to a Jim Nikitas of the Chicago Motor Bus Company, an organisation that ran a number of ex-British vehicles.   However, the vehicles were parked and stored in Palm Desert Security Public Storage and were never moved to Chicago.

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Rumours that three ex-Manchester Fleetlines were in America was pursued by The SELNEC Preservation Society in 1993, when we tried to make contact with the organisation we understood had received them, being Sunset Transport, but to no avail. However, further effort was made to follow-up this line of enquiry in 1996, eventually discovering that six vehicles had potentially been sold to a Sunline Transit Agency in Palm Desert.

In order to establish whether these were ex-Manchester Daimler Fleetlines, and if so, what their condition was, a visit was undertaken between Tuesday, 4th and Saturday, 8th June 1996, when it was discovered that Sunline Transit Agency had indeed run six ex-Manchester Fleetlines. These were 4708, 4716, 4719, 4721, 4722 and 4728. 4722 and 4728 no longer existed, one had unfortunately, been destroyed by fire due to an electrical problem, and the other has been cannibalised for spare parts. However, four were still in existence, and had been parked-up for eight years in security premises, after being taken out of service, being 4708, 4716, 4719 and 4721.

Conversion work had taken place, in that they are open-topped and have had a door cut in the offside behind the staircase, to allow passengers to board on the right-hand. Their seating has been changed, alteration made to the electrics, and the cab area. As well as this conversion work, the condition of the vehicles is very poor, having been stored for eight years. 4719 had part of its engine removed, but the other three all had their engines intact. During the visit, the engines of 4708, 4716 and 4721 were started, two of them were driven and tested, being 4708 and 4721. 4716 has some kind of fuel-supply problem which prevented it from moving.

However, the owner of these buses in Chicago had not been easy to deal with, and our inquiries had made him believe that the vehicles were such a rarity that he would expect to receive a large sum to part with one of them. Hence, we were not quite sure how to proceed with matters, but then an unexpected development occurred.

Nearly two years after the trip to Palm Desert, we received a letter from the Security Storage Premises in Palm Desert, indicating that they were to sell the six buses in a Lien Sale on 20th May 1998, to recover outstanding rent not paid on the buses for a number of months by the Chicago owner. After a series of frantic telephone calls to and from America, it was agreed that we could take part in the Auction by telephone and Radio Link-up from Manchester in England to Palm Desert in America. This took place at 9.00am on 20th May 1998 American time, being 5.00pm in the afternoon here in England.

Fortunately, there was very little interest in the vehicles at that time, and we managed to secure 61373, i.e. 4708 for $250, but the others were not sold. Although we are the owners of this vehicle, we had to take on board the responsibility of paying rental, whilst it remained in Palm Desert at Security Public Storage, at $42 per month. Bearing in mind we have to transport the vehicle over 5,000 miles, quotations have proved very expensive and we have been seeking ways to lessen the cost on the basis of securing a place in a ship otherwise not occupied, in other words, taking-up unallocated space on the basis that was not urgent.

However, unfortunately, Security Public Storage in Palm Desert, where the vehicle is kept, are undertaking to have the external area where 4708 is parked, completely renovated to an internal storage situation, involving a certain amount of building work and consequently, it was necessary for 4708 to be removed from the site by 20th March 2000.

Frantic telephone calls to and from America enabled us to have the vehicle moved on Friday, 13th March 2000, from Security Public Storage to Plaza Shell for a temporary period of a few weeks, whilst we put into effect arrangements to have the bus shipped back to England.

We have also been advised that 4716 and 4721 have been sold to be converted to Motor Homes in the USA and that 4719 has been scrapped, although we understand that the majority of the parts went towards the rectification of 4716 and 4721 into their Motor Home status.

Since that time we have been struggling with the enormous costs of returning a double decker vehicle from the sands of Palm Desert across America to a West Coast port and thus onto a ship to the United Kingdom.  We have received a tremendous amount of support and help from Peter Watts, who is an English preservationist now living in France and Dan McCarthy of First Class Freight Logistics (FCFL), without whom this exercise would not have been possible,

FCFL was formed in 2001 by Dan McCarthy and staff, responding primarily to the needs of manufacturers who continue to be involved in worldwide project and capital equipment movements.

With almost 30 years of experience in international logistics, Dan McCarthy and his staff have been involved in the incident free movement, via both air and ocean charter and part charter shipment to every corner of the globe, including full factory paper mill start ups in Indonesia and the former Soviet Union and large capital equipment movements of computer technology, glass factories and telecommunication stations throughout China, Asia and the European continent.

FCFL’s knowledge of the industry, interaction with port personnel throughout the USA and overseas, and a determined attention to detail, including personal attendance at all stages of the transfer of cargo, has led to a loyal following of customers throughout the world.

Arrangements were eventually put in place for the vehicle to be taken from Palm Desert to the Port of Los Angeles, where the vehicle was tarpaulined up, put into a container and set sail on 1st April 2002 on the Star Grip ship, voyage BC206, which made its way halfway across the world and had docked at Tilbury by Monday 25th April 2002.  Upon 4708’s arrival at Tilbury by 29th April 2002 we made arrangements with Lantern Group to contact Thunderbird Freight at Tilbury Freeport to collect the vehicle once it was unloaded and low load it back from Tilbury to their premises in Potters Bar from where it was then towed to the SELNEC Preservation Society’s premises in Wigan on Saturday 4th May 2002. 

Clearly the vehicle did not suffer much from rust or body deterioration as the weather in Palm Desert is hot and dry and consequently very little damp or moisture exists.  The main problems appear to be the effects of sand on the vehicle and the incredible heat has done some damage to the rubber and some of the upper deck exposed surfaces.

We are not certain whether we shall keep the vehicle in an open top format or whether we can find a Metro Cammell roof for it, unless there are other preservationists who can assist us in this area.  However, an ex-Manchester City Transport Fleetline does now exist in preservation, and its safe in the hands of the SELNEC Preservation Society, for a decision to be taken on what is done to it in the future.

32

4708

BATCH:

4701 - 4760

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(DNF 708C)

BODY:

Metro Cammell H43/32F

 

CHASSIS:

Daimler Fleetline CRG6LX

 

FIRST REGISTERED:

1st December 1965

 

PURCHASED:

20th May 1998

 

DETAILS:

Only three rear engined (non-Mancunian) Fleetlines exist - two in America as mobile homes and 4708 returned from America as an open top conversion.


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