THE SELNEC PRESERVATION SOCIETY
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7960 (BNC 960T)
We had already acquired a vehicle with a Mark 1A Northern Counties body, with the preservation of Fleetline 8001, and the purchase of 7960 allowed us to obtain a vehicle with a Mark 1A Park Royal body, which is on an Atlantean chassis as there were no Fleetlines so bodied.
In looking at the batch 7801-7960, it was felt appropriate to choose either the first of this batch, which by 1996 had been sold to Western Scottish, and was running in service as D808, or to obtain the last of the batch, 7960. It was decided to choose the last of the batch which was withdrawn from service in the summer of 1995, as this represented a 'book-end' with 7001, being the last Park Royal bodied Standard compared with the first, (7001) as well as the last of the batch of 160 of the second delivery. It is also the last vehicle in the 7000 fleet number series, as after 7960, the next vehicle was 8001, since there was no batch 7961-8000.
Furthermore, it is understood to be one of the last, if not the actual last, free standing chassis bodied by Park Royal before concentrating exclusively on integral Titan development. Hence, 7960 has some historical significance outside the realms of SELNEC and GMT.
A large batch of Park Royal bodied Atlanteans was taken out of service by GM Buses South Ltd during 1995 and as 7960 was owned by them, negotiations commenced in September 1995. 7960 was originally on a list of these vehicles to go for scrap, and during the period when negotiations were taking place, most of them were stripped and sent for scrap. However, 7960 was eventually separated from the rest of the vehicles although it had lost several of its parts. It was subsequently collected from Bennett Street by the SELNEC Preservation Society on 10th February 1996, and the purchase of the vehicle was finalised on 5th April 1996. Most of the missing parts on 7960 were replaced from parts taken from similar vehicles marked to go for scrap at the same time.
|7801 - 7960 (Type i(R))|
|Park Royal H43/32F - Mark 1A|
|Leyland Atlantean AN68A/1R|
|11th July, 1979|
|5th April, 1996|
|The last Park Royal bodied Standard which also features the Mark 1A body design. Possibly also the last free-standing chassis bodied by Park Royal.|
It has been stored by us in various locations over the years; Leigh, Wigan, Hyde and ended up in East Manchester, which was not ideal for its condition as this is external storage. However, on 24th October 2004 it was to be taken to our storage premises in Leigh for initial analysis to be undertaken and rectification to commence. Unfortunately, however, it took several hours to get the vehicle mobile, in that whilst starting quite easily the automatic gearbox failed to activate. Eventually exchanging the cab control unit caused the gears to activate and the bus was driven without any further incident to Leigh.
It became the focus of major attention on our first working day of the New Year of 2005 on 9th January 2005. A replacement bonnet from Delaine and two rear corner pods, one from Delaine and one from stock, were fitted to the vehicle as was the appropriate nearside windscreen with the right heater elements. By the end of the working day all the upper deck seat backs and seat cushions had been removed and all the upper deck seat frames were unbolted and removed from the bus and some sanding and red oxiding of them had commenced. The wheels were also sanded down and red oxided and cleaning commenced on the upper deck aluminium window surrounds whilst the aluminium surfaces were wire brushed and painted and seat plates wire brushed and red oxided.
On the next working day, 30th January 2005, work continued on the upper deck of the vehicle; the problem with the automatic gears again failing to engage was investigated with the gearbox probe being removed and sent away for repair. All the lower deck seat cushions and backs were removed, the seat frames unbolted and removed and they too joined the upper deck seat frames for sanding and red oxiding.
As the working days continued on Sunday 20th February 2005, 13th March 2005 and 3rd April 2005, work progressed with this vehicle, however, having put back the repaired probe in the gearbox this has not solved the problem so we were still having difficulty in getting the vehicle to engage gear. All the windows had been cleaned on the bus inside and out and it had fitted to it a full set of Northenden destination and via blinds and new white number blinds front, side and rear. All the seat frames that had been removed, except the nine that were in poor condition, had all been sanded down, red-oxided and painted in grey and were ready for refitting.
During the late Spring of 2005 the work on the entire interior structure of the bus, both the upper and lower deck, has been concluded with all the melamine and windows cleaned and the aluminium has been cleaned and painted. All painted surfaces in white and black had been re-painted as had the cab area. The floors had been painted in a special Neogene fawn hard wearing non-slip surface. The nine seat frames with damage to the welds were replaced from spares from stock and these were red-oxided, sanded and painted grey and re-fitted. Due the poor condition of the seat backs and seat cushions it was necessary for them to be re-covered, the upper deck in orange vinyl and the lower deck in orange moquette with orange vinyl trim. The first stage of this was embarked upon when all the upper deck seat cushions and a stock of vinyl were taken to Wigan GLG Coachtrimmers on Sunday 5th June 2005 on board EX1 which was en-route on its trip to Penwortham for some work to be undertaken on it at Whittakers Coach Travel.
Problems however ensued in getting the automatic gears to work on 7960. Wiring has been checked and replaced and in the end the whole of the EP unit, i.e. the forward gear and the reverse gear sections, was removed and sent away to Walter DeCosta of Electrobus trading as Computek Services Limited, who are experts in automatic gear transmissions in order for the whole unit to be completely serviced, repaired and returned.
Walter De Costa of Electrobus had returned to us a completely fully serviced five speed EP unit for the forward gears and separate small EP unit for the reverse gears on 7960 along with some replacement wiring for the gear changing electrical system. These were fitted on 11th October 2005 to the vehicle in the hope that it would finally solve the problem of the vehicle not being able to gain gears. Unfortunately, when tested the vehicle would still not engage in any of the gears and consequently, further investigations need to be undertaken.
On Sunday 30th October 2005 further progress was undertaken with the rectification and during the activities all the upper deck seat backs were collected from GLG Wigan Coachtrimmers having been re-covered in the ribbed pattern orange vinyl. These were subsequently fitted to the upper deck of the bus along with the re-covered cushions returned somewhat earlier, concluding the work on the upper deck seats other than the five piece back seat which has yet to be re-covered. On this day we also took the lower deck seat backs and a roll of the appropriate orange moquette to Gordon Morris at GLG Wigan Coachtrimmers so that work can commence on re-moquetting the lower deck seating units.
On working day, Sunday 20th November 2005, we finally resolved the difficulty with 7960 not obtaining its gears in that via a diagnostic exercise assisted over the telephone by Walter De Costa of Electrobus it was identified that the air pressure safety valve had failed thereby preventing the gearbox operating. This unit is a safety device designed to prevent the gearbox being damaged should there be insufficient air pressure to operate it properly and the unit was therefore removed and sent away to Walter De Costa for servicing and repair so that at the point of return it can be fitted. The vehicle however was made mobile by the use of a bypass circuit in order that it could be road tested which it was around the Leigh area just simply identifying that some final work needed to be undertaken in that fourth and fifth gear had been crossed over when the vehicle was having its EP unit refitted.
On the final working day of 2005, Sunday 11th December 2005, we finally made 7960 mobile in that the air pressure safety valve was refitted after service and repair by Walter De Costa.
Although our major project for restoration during 2005 was 7960, which by the end of the year was nearing completion in terms of the internal rectification we decided to divert resources onto the subsequent project 6990 in order to hopefully have it ready for the event of 100 Years of Lancashire United Transport to be organised and run by the Museum of Transport on Saturday and Sunday 20th and 21st May 2006. We also interrupted any further major work on 7960 so we could also rectify 1700 (YDB 453L) to be launched at the Heaton Park Rally in September 2006 in SELNEC Southern livery.
7960 still had problems with its automatic gear change function, in that upon a road test which took place on the working day on 8th January 2006, the gears still did not operate in sequence in that it was necessary to over-rev second gear to obtain third and then the vehicle would change direct to fifth gear. This has caused us to have a look again at the piping of the air supply to the EP unit with a view to having this issue rectified once and for all.
Very little activity was embarked upon between January and May 2006, except that following its re-piping of the EP valve the vehicle, upon test, now changed correctly through all its gears and the throttle dip was also fully functional.
Having completed the full restoration of 6990 (DWH 706W) in the orange and white livery used on 6931-6960 in time for the 100 Years of LUT Event on 20th and 21st May 2006 and having made significant progress with 1700 (YDB 453L) which was well on track for launch fully restored in SELNEC sunglow orange and mancunian white livery with green Southern flash at Heaton Park on 3rd September 2006, our major emphasis shifted back to 7960.
On the working day 4th June 2006 a replacement valance was fitted and all remaining window retainer clips were removed. The next major task that we commenced with on the vehicle on working day 23rdJuly 2006 was to address the electrical problems we have experienced with the rear lights having fitted new pods, in that indicators, tail lights, brake lights or reversing lights were inoperable on both the nearside and the offside of the vehicle. The lights were stripped down and the wiring traced back without much success. Consequently, we obtained a wiring diagram of the AN68 Atlantean in order to establish where the problem lay.
In respect of our working day at Leigh on Sunday 15th October 2006, further work was carried on this vehicle on this day with 7960 parked in the street so that it could be examined in the daylight and the final activity of the re-covering of the seats was concluded in that the upper deck rear small seat cushions were fitted to the vehicle. These had taken some time to finish because, dependant on whether it is the upper deck or lower deck Park Royal or Northern Counties bodywork, these small cushions that go on the extreme offside and nearside of the rear seats come in four different sizes and we were keen to make sure that the two that were re-covered and refitted to the upper deck of 7960 were the correct size.
Finally, the re-covered driver’s seat back was fitted to the bus to join the cushion which had been fitted earlier. Whilst in the street final snagging was identified that had to take place on the body and two members looked at tidying up the rear end in terms of the pods, bonnet and valance. In order to get a proper fit a second replacement offside pod was fitted discarding the Delaine one that we had fitted some time earlier as one or two defects in it had been identified. Also whilst in the street allowing access all round the vehicle Auto Windscreens undertook further replacement work in respect of the etched windows that came to light upon some more detailed examination that had been undertaken on the bus following the earlier replacement by ourselves of more heavily etched windows some months earlier. Three hopper windows were replaced on the upper deck nearside and offside from spares we held in stock and Auto Windscreens cut the unique shaped Park Royal bodied flat glass windows that were needed, being the two front upper deck windows, the plain glass front upper deck nearside window and the two small upper deck windows at the rear of the nearside and the offside. We also invited ATS who fitted two brand new 11R22 tyres to the two front hubs of 7960. The two front tyres that were removed were used to replace two worn rear nearside tyres. Two brand new 11R22 tyres were fitted to the front hubs of 8141 and the two front tyres that came off that vehicle were fitted to the rear offside of 7960. As a consequence of the work undertaken on the vehicle in terms of the replacement tyres several of the hubs we had previously sanded down and red-oxided had been moved and therefore further activity took place on the new exposed hub surfaces that had not been treated previously in terms of sanding and red-oxiding.
Over the next three working days, Sunday 26th November 2006, Sunday 17th December 2006 and Sunday 7th January 2007, all the final work was undertaken on 7960, principally ensuring that all the holes that had been created by removing the window retaining clips were filled and sanded down and all fiberglass surfaces on the bonnet, pods, roof domes, windscreen surround, etc., were all filled in and sanded. The sun visor obtained from 7070 was cleaned up, painted and fitted to replace the one missing from 7960 and all the inside of the bus was snagged, cleaned and painted and it was moved to Whittakers Coach Travel on 7th January 2007 for servicing, mechanical and electrical work to be commenced.
The vehicle had always displayed a disturbing oil leak and it was determined that this was coming from the differential and, consequently, a reconditioned differential was obtained from Wigleys in Carlton and fitted by Whittakers of Penwortham. It was also necessary for them to fit a new set of rear brake shoes and a new front king pin. Listed below is the full list of activities carried whilst on their premises.
Safety inspection for MOT;
Remove differential; clean out axle area;
Silicon joint faces - no gaskets availiable;
Overhaul rear Brake shoes;
Rear shoes anchor pins seized;
Free off and remove shoes; sent for overhaul – all;
Overhaul hub seals, wash off bearings;
Wash and repack hubs with grease;
Standard number plate;
Complete work on rear hubs;
Top up diff, replace prop shaft and shock absorbers NSR;
Secure exhaust guard;
Order tail pipe;
Clean and prepare axle and parts;
Replace hub seal. Free off NS king pin and oil joints;
Exhaust tail pipe, TT Motor Factors;
Bodywork near rear axle corroded; repaired;
Service engine and adjust belts;
Belts on back order;
Sundries; oil – Super 2000 engine oil;
Repair screen washers, secure wiper arm, strip down air system for doors, pressure anchor pin regulator fault, temp repair (working) unable to obtain pressure valve;
Carrier US. Repair anchor joint and weld carrier on LH door to air pack (entrance);
Take for test – fail, service brake low;
Brakes require running in;
Extended road test – bedding in brakes, adjust brakes;
Take for test at Preston Bus (brake test for MOT) fee;
Take to Blackburn for MOT retest, fee;
Test again, pass;
Top up fuel;
Return to depot;
Took vehicle to Ribbesdale Autos: speedo and water warning light; and when work completed took to S & T Blackburn.
As can be seen from the above the vehicle passed its MOT on the second attempt on 17th January 2007 and thereafter, on Friday 19th January 2007, it was delivered to North West Bus & Coach Repairers in Blackburn.
Whilst at these premises the vehicle had a significant number of its aluminium panels replaced with a few with slights dents filled and sanded down. The back end needed particular attention where it had been bumped in the past. Also when putting back the polished metal trim North West Bus & Coach Repairers very kindly inserted the brand new grey filler strip in the centre covering the rivet heads that we had secured and provided to them. It was then moved to Lancashire United t/a Blackburn Transport who steam cleaned and then spray painted the chassis, engine, under the wheel arches, etc., in protective anti-corrosive spray paint
The vehicle was collected on Friday 11th May 2007 and taken to Whittakers of Penwortham so that the new fan belts and alternator belts secured for it could be fitted. It also had some final work undertaken on the sills, bonnet, pods and exhaust before its full repaint commenced, us having provided a new supply of orange and white undercoat and Metropolitan Orange and White coach paint was secured for it along with a brown coach paint for the wheels.
Two members of the SELNEC Preservation Society visited when most the top coat gloss had been applied on Wednesday evening 6th June 2007 to put all new exterior vinyls on the vehicle from the large “M” – Greater Manchester Transport fleet names, legal lettering, fleet numbers to the smaller functional vinyls, such as windscreen washers, water, fuel, oil, emergency exit, etc.
Although many original internal transfers had survived, all that were missing were replaced with identical new replacement vinyls.
Part way through the restoration it was noticed that the offside heater vent was in the wrong position, and two mid deck vents had been missed off during the repanelling so it returned to North West Bus and Coach Repairs for a few days before being returned to Penwortham to the Redline site, where our painter continued to work on it. It was collected and returned to Leigh on Wednesday 27th June 2007 and all final work was carried out on working days Sunday 1st July 2007 and Sunday 22nd July 2007. This involved snagging all the exterior paintwork and giving the inside and outside a thorough clean, tyre wall black tyres, fitting the correct design front licence plate, fitting Leyland and Atlantean badges to the rear, new wheel hubs, silver clips to the front panel and a new step light was fitted.
7960 therefore is a book-end to 7001 being both the last and first of the Park Royal bodied Standards, both which happen to be Atlanteans. It is also understood that the chassis of 7960 was the last free-standing chassis to be bodied by Park Royal prior to it concentrating on production of integral Leyland Titans. Also it is the last vehicle in the 7000 fleet numbers series as there were no 7961 to 8000, the next bus numerically was 8001, a Leyland Fleetline registered XBU 1S.
7960 launched at the Trans Lancs Historic Vehicle Rally from the Museum of Transport to Heaton Park on Sunday 2nd September 2007.