Monday 18 May 2015

A Runnning Day Of Uniqueness Part Two

Welcome to Part Two of my report from the Running Day at Sevenoaks, combined with an open day at Go Coach in Otford. If you missed Part One you can see it here. I promised that in this part we would go all Maltese and Chinese and so we shall.

I first saw this remarkable bus at Detling a couple of years ago and today I got up close and personal with it. It is quite simply a mongrel - a Maltese mongrel if you will, which started life in 1943 as a Bedford QL British Army radio truck. Today roughly 3ft of the original chassis survives. The rest has been cobbled together from other bits and pieces. It was converted to a bus in the 1960's and rebodied in 2008 by Zinnu in Malta. It was brought over here in 2009 and has been lovingly looked after ever since. The engine and gearbox come from a Leyland 420 truck, and the steering has also been replaced giving it power steering. But aside from that it is one of those quirky vehicles that you can't help falling for.

The Maltese Mongrel 312 YUK at Otford
The cab area is quite unique. There is no door, which makes for great air conditioning (there is a door that has been made to slot in during the colder months but certainly not original), and it is the only bus I know where you can actually sit in front of the driver. Just one problem with that - if you do sit on the bench seat at the front nearside the driver can't see his nearside wing mirror. Not a problem in Malta it seems but in our ridiculous "can't run over cyclists" culture nearside vision is a bit more important!

The front of the Bedford with nearside bench seat - Driver Matt at the wheel
The drivers area, complete with religious posters, cash tray and other Maltese towels etc.
It isn't the quietest bus on 6 wheels, however there isn't a rattle on it and a ride on it just brings a smile to your face. Matt told me that wherever it goes it is the most popular attraction and I can see why - brings back memories of holidays and completely different to anything normally seen in this country.

The Bedford, well sort of, at "The Pond" in Otford
Now some other bits of it. The rear bumper and probably the front bumper, as well as the front indicators all come from a Mark 1 Transit, and if you glance at the second picture again you will make out the tiniest windscreen wiper in existance - only offside too. You can just make it out in the above pic.

The rear of the Maltese Mngrel, complete with Mark 1 Transit bumper
 They love this little bus at Go Coach, and it is very seldom a driver asks for his picture taken in front of the bus. Matt did just that, and of course I was all too happy to oblige.

Matt posing in front of his pride and joy with a rather splendid London Country RT in the background
To conclude this part another couple of buses which were in attendance. First here is an Optare bodied Volkswagon minibus, which was owned by Roundabout Buses, who operated a number of routes, all minibus plus some little Darts, in Orpington, Bromley and St Mary Cary, prefixed with an R, in the late 80's early 90's. I believe the company was absorbed into Metrobus, though don't quote me on that one. I drove a couple of these VW's for another company and they were toally gutless, with the engine far too small for the job.

Roundabout OV2 Volkswagon Optare C526 DYT
There was also a Borismaster from Arriva in attendance, which spent all day up on ramps in the garage. The light wasn't great in there, so luckily I was still around when it left the garage to go back to Brixton. Not sure when the next time a Borismaster will be seen leaving Go Coach's garage, so this may well prove to be a one off.

LT327 leaves the Go Coach depot
 In Part Three we'll finally have that Chinese, and the Routemaster with a disappointing soundtrack!

As a postscript I heard today of a company that sacked a driver for verbally abusing an enthusiast taking a picture. I won't name the company, but well done. It is good to see the industry starting to recognise the valuable role enthusiasts have to play. Running days like this one attracting thousands, both young and old are the proof of that.

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