The Leyland Story Part Two: 1946 – 1991

Manufacture of buses after the Second World War did not recommence until late in 1945 and it was some six months later before full production was resumed, priority being given to double-deck chassis due to the pressing demand from operators for maximum capacity vehicles.

Two completely new designs were introduced, the Titan PD1 and the Tiger PS1, which shared the same major components.

The first completed PD1 entering service with Bury Corporation in March 1946 and the first PS1 entering service with near neighbour Ramsbottom UDC around the same time.

The shortage of buses in the immediate postwar period meant that many older vehicles were refurbished, in most cases prewar petrol engines were replaced with the Leyland 7.4-litre oil engine, which was offered as a conversion unit for prewar chassis.

When re-bodied they were hardly distinguishable from new vehicles.

In 1947 the Titan was offered with the 0.600 engine, which had been used in goods chassis since 1946. It had the advantage of a livelier performance and, because the engine was under-stressed, greater intervals between overhauls.

The first model to feature the engine was the PD2/1, with vacuum brakes, 16ft 3in wheelbase and width of 7ft 6in. Birmingham was the largest customer with 200 ordered between 1948 and 1949. Later in 1947 the PD2/3 was offered as the 8ft wide version of the PD2/1.

In 1948 London Transport, aware that AEC alone would not be able to cope with the postwar demand for buses from the capital, placed an order for 2,135 Titans, of which 500 would be the 8ft wide version. The 7ft 6in versions were prefixed by the letters RTL, whilst the 8ft version became the RTW.

The 0.600 engine was also used on the postwar Tiger, the designation being PS2, for vehicles so fitted.

The vast majority of Tigers, however, were built with the narrower 7ft 6in bodywork, not unsurprising when it is realised that route approval from the Traffic Commissioners was required for 8ft wide models.

This put a great restraint on the flexibility of 8ft wide vehicles; especially coaches and thus many operators preferred the narrower version.

The Leyland Comet became available early in 1948 and provided a medium weight alternative to the heavier Tigers.

It had a gross weight of 8.75 tons, a 17ft 6in wheelbase and was of a semi-forward control design. Most of the Comets for the domestic market were purchased by independent operators.

Changes to the British Construction and Use of Vehicles Regulations in 1950 permitted all Public Service Vehicles to be 8ft wide, irrespective of the route and at the same time the maximum length of double-deck vehicles was increased to 27ft.

As a result Leyland made slight modifications to the Titan, including an increase in the wheelbase to 16ft 5in. At the same time the standard Leyland bodywork was improved with the introduction of the ‘Farington’ style.

Shortly afterwards the Construction and Use Regulations were amended to allow 30ft single-deck vehicles on two-axle construction.

In 1949 Leyland turned their attentions back to the development of the underfloor engine, which had been interrupted by the War.

The advantages of the underfloor engine were increased seating capacity in a given chassis length, much improved entry and exit, better weight distribution and easier accessibility to mechanical parts, with the consequent saving in maintenance costs.

Surprisingly Leyland chose to combine with Metro-Cammell-Weymann to construct the new vehicle, which they named the ‘Olympic’, even though they were more than capable of constructing the bodywork themselves.

The principle of integral (or chassisless) construction, which substitutes the traditional chassis and bodywork with a strengthened body incorporating the running units in their appropriate places, was not popular among British operators.

Nevertheless, the HR40 Olympic (which was the 27ft 6in version, replaced by the HR44 at 30ft in 1950) with 15ft 7in wheelbase and width of 7ft 6in was offered to the home market, although the 8ft wide option and wheelbase of up to 20ft 4in was offered on export models.

Red & White of Chepstow took delivery of the first domestic Olympics in 1950. In addition to the Olympic, Leyland introduced a separate underfloor-engined chassis, suitable for the range of bodywork preferred by many of their customers.

It was named the ‘Royal Tiger’ and designated PSU1, with the ‘U’ signifying underfloor engine.

There were eight models offered for the domestic market, designated PSU1/9 to PSU1/16, all with 15ft 7in wheelbase and either 7ft 6in (PSU1/9-12) or 8ft (PSU1/13-16) overall width.

The designations PSU1/1 to PSU1/8 were never built, since they were intended to be 27ft 6in long, but the amendments to the Construction and Use Regulations made them obsolete before they could be built.

The first production Royal Tiger buses were three for Ramsbottom UDC in 1950, who had also taken delivery of the first PS1 Tigers after the War and had also been one of the first to receive the Titan PD2/1 in 1948.

The Royal Tiger became an instant success, especially abroad, were they were ordered in great numbers.

In 1951 Leyland Motors acquired the Glasgow-based bus manufacturer Albion Motors Ltd. There followed some heavy pruning of the Albion bus range after the purchase and by 1953 only the Albion Victor was still being sold.

Gradually, however, as the design teams of the two companies’ co-operated, components from each company began to appear in the vehicles of the other.

A new chassis, the Tiger Cub, designated ‘PSUC’ – the ‘C’ standing for ‘Cub’, was exhibited at the 1952 Commercial Motor Show.

Lighter by some two tons than the Royal Tiger, the Cub had a full 30ft long chassis with 16ft 2in wheelbase and was initially only offered with 8ft overall width. It proved to be highly popular among coach operators.

By the end of 1954, the Royal Tiger had been developed into a new range, primarily for export, called the Royal Tiger Worldmaster, although some models went to the home market.

Halifax and Glasgow were the only domestic customers for the RT3/1, whilst the RT3/2 sold in very small numbers to a few of the leading independents. Production of the Royal Tiger ceased in 1955.

Another concept pioneered by Leyland in the 1950’s was the rear-engined double-decker. With bus operators’ facing a downturn in the numbers of passengers carried, ways of economising were sought.

Although the first experimental rear-engined bus was of conventional rear entrance design, later developments made it possible to move the entrance to the front of the vehicle, initially so that the driver could supervise loading whilst the conductor collected the fares, but later it was to prove conducive to one-man-operation.

The first prototype was No. 530001 and made its appearance in 1952, with a second (No. 542209) in 1954. Designated PDR1 (‘R’ for rear-engined), it was named the Lowloader.

In 1954 Leyland Motors ceased production of its own passenger vehicle bodywork, although it still continued to build commercial vehicle bodywork.

The last Leyland coach body being built for Wilkinsons of Sedgefield, whilst Trent Motor Services took delivery of the last bus body on a PD2/12 Titan chassis.

An amendment to the Construction and Use Regulations on 1st July 1956 saw the maximum length for double-deckers increased to 30ft and accordingly Leyland introduced a range of Titans to the new length.

The six models were designated PD3/1-6 and were all 8ft wide with wheelbase of 18ft 6ins. At the same time the maximum unladen weight was increased by 2 tons to 14 tons.

This gave bodybuilders the scope to increase the seating capacity of double-deckers up to 75-seats depending on the layout chosen. The new permitted dimensions also enabled Leyland Motors to review the design of the rear-engined double-decker.

The first prototype ‘Atlantean’ was exhibited at the 1956 Commercial Motor Show, although several drawbacks prevented the bus being placed on the market.

Among the chief problems was the amount of noise in the lower saloon, largely accounted for by the fact that the engine was inside the body, with the compartment being used for bench seating for up to 5 passengers.

By 1958, Leyland had overcome the initial difficulties and announced the first production ‘Atlantean’ the PDR1/1 with 16ft 3in wheelbase, with Glasgow Corporation taking the honour of putting the first Atlantean into service.

Another new model was introduced at the 1959 Scottish Show. Designated the ‘Leopard’, it was a medium-weight chassis and was intended to fill the gap left by the Royal Tiger, although it was basically a Tiger Cub chassis with a larger engine.

Two models were offered, the L1, which was the bus version and the L2, which was the coach version. Both were 8ft wide and 30ft long with a wheelbase of 16ft 2in.

By 1961 another amendment to the Construction and Use Regulations now permitted the maximum length of single- and double-deck buses and coaches to be 36ft and the maximum width to be 8ft 2½ ins.

In the summer of 1961 Leyland Motors announced a new range of Leopard models with 36ft long chassis for the home market, which they designated PSU3/1R to PSU3/4R. All four models had a wheelbase of 18ft 6in with overall width of 8ft.

During the 1960’s there were some significant changes in the British market, especially that for double-deckers. At the start of the decade the majority of operators preferred the traditional front-engined double-decker operated by a two-man crew.

With the advent of 36ft long vehicles, several moved towards high-capacity single-deckers which could be operated by one person, although the public did not favour the standee type vehicles, but preferred instead to go upstairs for a seat.

When one-man operation of double-deck vehicles was allowed many of the major operators moved over to the front-entrance rear-engined vehicle, effectively sounding the death knell for the traditional bus.

Another nail in the coffin of the front-engined vehicle was the 1967 Ministry of Transport plan to give operators financial grants towards the cost of new stage vehicles, provided they conformed with certain requirements, one of which was that they must have an extreme front entrance under the supervision of the driver.

The very last Titan chassis of all, No. 902844 left the Leyland works in 1969 with much ceremony. Registered TTD386H it was delivered to SELNEC PTE in November 1969.

Ordered by Ramsbottom UDC before the take over, it was delivered and subsequently operated in full Ramsbottom UDC livery with fleet number 11 until its first repaint.

A new rear-engined single-deck chassis was introduced in 1964. Called the ‘Panther’, there were two models available, the PSUR1.1 bus and the PSUR1.2 coach, both with 18ft 6in wheelbase for 36ft long bodywork.

Although the bus variant sold reasonably well with sales of 623 on the home market before production ceased in 1972, the coach variant did less well, many operators preferring the ‘Leopard’.

An unexpected amendment to the Construction and Use Regulations in 1967, permitted single-deck buses up to a maximum length of 39ft 4in (12 metres), although this was primarily of benefit only to coach operators, since this proved a little too long for stage carriage services.

The following year Leyland Motor Corporation and British Motor Holdings merged to form the British Leyland Motor Corporation and in July 1969 announced a joint venture with the newly formed National Bus Company.

It was to be called the Leyland National Company and was to build a new single-deck bus at Workington in Cumbria. The new bus was unveiled at the 1970 Commercial Motor Show, appropriately named the ‘Leyland National’.

An extensive proving programme was undertaken before the first production vehicles were made available, the first regular production National going to SELNEC PTE in 1972, although Cumberland Motor Services had placed a pre-production model in service earlier in the year.

The phase II model, incorporating a number of developments was announced in April 1976, by which time some 3500 Nationals had been sold, and in 1978 Leyland introduced the B-series, aimed at the lighter end of the market.

Meanwhile, in 1972, Leyland had announced the Atlantean AN68 series. It was available in two models, the AN68.1R, with 16ft 3in wheelbase, suitable for bodywork up to 30ft 10in long, and the AN68.2R, with 18ft 6in wheelbase, suitable for 33ft 3in long bodywork. Wigan Corporation No.1 (NEK1K) was the first AN68 Atlantean delivered.

The British Leyland Motor Corporation however was not only manufacturing buses and coaches. The production of motor cars formed an important part of the business although there was insufficient profit from this side of the business to support investment in new models and the bus and truck side was called upon to maximise profits to support the car factories.

This resulted in a lack of investment in new buses for a period of nearly ten years after the formation of British Leyland. Finally, a team headed by Lord Ryder recommended that the bus and truck division should receive a greater degree of autonomy and in addition a greater share of the new investment programme.

Consequently detailed studies were made of likely future vehicle requirements both at home and overseas and it soon became apparent that the previous proliferation of models and types would have to be rationalised.

At this point in time a new project was already under way, codenamed ‘B15’ it was revealed to the technical press in November 1975. As a consequence of the rationalisation policy, Leyland decided to offer the B15 in just a single version.

The overall length was 31ft 4⅝ ins. with a width of 8ft 2½ ins. The wheelbase was 16ft 6ins and the overall height was 14ft 5ins. The famous old name of ‘Titan’ was eventually given to the B15 and it was finally launched in 1977.

Leyland had recognised that, for a variety of reasons, the fully integral Titan would not suit every one of their customers, so a new double-deck chassis was developed. Codenamed the B45 it was unveiled at the 1980 Commercial Motor Show as the ‘Olympian’.

This was offered in two versions with wheelbases of 16ft 3ins and 18ft 6ins for bodywork up to 31ft 4½ ins and 33ft 7½ ins respectively. Intended to take over from the Fleetline and Bristol VRT initial orders were encouraging, although the Atlantean continued to be available in the AN68B series.

In March 1981 the Passenger Vehicle Division was re-named ‘Leyland Bus’ and was given a greater degree of autonomy, although still under the auspices of Leyland Vehicles Ltd. At the same time it launched the ‘B43’ and re-used another famous old name ‘Tiger’.

By the end of 1981 over 100 Tigers were in service, with more on order for 1982 as traditional ‘Leopard’ users switched over.

During 1984 the Olympian continued to strengthen its grip on the dwindling British double-deck bus market and by the end of the year was Leyland’s only double-deck chassis.

The Conservative Government was re-elected in 1983 and part of their manifesto was committed to selling off nationalised companies in the belief that they would fare better in the privatised sector.

The Transport Act of 1985 deregulated all the bus services outside London and caused widespread alarm in the bus industry.

The bill also proposed that the National Bus Company would be ‘privatised’, however, preference would be given to management teams who wanted to buy out their company.

Management were quick to realise that large quantities of new buses would add value to their company and decrease the chances of being able to raise the capital needed for a buy-out.

Thus orders for new buses were delayed until the opportunity to ‘buy-out’ the company became available. As a result the registrations of new Leyland Nationals in 1984 was just 44, with 57 in 1985.

With the depression of the home market Leyland’s losses were around £80 million in the three years between 1982 and 1984. By the end of 1985 jobs were being shed in an effort to reduce the losses.

The Olympian was largely responsible for keeping Leyland going with over 500 units produced in each of 1984 and 1985. The collapse of the domestic bus market after the 1985 Transport Act had forced Leyland Bus to diversify.

Two large orders from British Rail for ‘Sprinter’ units kept the Workington factory in full employment until 1988. Registrations of double-deck buses in Britain fell to only 177 in 1987.

On the 13th January 1987, Leyland Bus was sold to a consortium of management and banks. Some customers almost immediately supported the arrangement, with Ulsterbus placing an order for 195 Tigers just one month later.

Other customers, notably ex-NBC Badgerline ordered 36 buses from rivals Volvo. By the end of 1987, however, the directors were having doubts about the future of Leyland Bus and it came as no surprise when it was announced, in March 1988, that it had been sold to Volvo of Sweden.

Although, initially, Leyland Bus was operated as a separate division of Volvo Bus, in September 1988 the company was re-named VL Bus and Coach (UK) Ltd., effectively ending over 80 years of the Leyland name.

In 1991 the factory at Leyland ceased production of chassis and the ‘Leyland’ bus passed into history.