Charles H. ROE Bus Body/Coach builders Leeds Yorshire England UK

Charles H. Roe

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1978 Roe bodied Atlantean XWG633T
 A November 1978 built Roe body on a Leyland Atlantean AN68A/1R, new to South Yorkshire PTE as their 1633, pictured in Manchester with Citybus

Charles H. Roe Ltd. was a Yorkshire coachbuilding company. It was for most of its life based at Crossgates Carriage Works, in Leeds.

1930 Guy BTX trolleybuses with Roe L27-26R body

1930 Guy BTX trolleybuses with Roe L27-26R body

In 1947 it was taken over by Park Royal Vehicles. Two years later, along with its parent, it became part of Associated Commercial Vehicles (ACV) in 1949, which was merged with Leyland Motors Ltd in 1962. In 1965 30% of Park Royal and Roe’s shares were exchanged by Leyland Motor Corporation for shares in Bristol Commercial Vehicles and Eastern Coach Works held by the Transport Holding Company. Later the THC was succeeded by the National Bus Company and Park Royal, Roe, Bristol, ECW and Leyland National Ltd became subsidiaries of a new company Bus Manufacturuers Holdings 50% owned by British Leyland and 50% by National Bus. Leyland took complete control of BMH in 1982 and closed Charles H. Roe in 1984. In the following year, a group of employees from the former business, supported by Yorkshire Enterprise Ltd, began the Optare coachbuilding business in the former Roe carriage works.

1930 Guy BTX with Roe L29-26R bodies

1930 Guy BTX with Roe L29-26R bodies

History overview

Mr Charles H. Roe was a coachbuilder, draughtsman, engineer and entrepreneur who established a coachworks business bearing his name in Leeds, Yorkshire in 1917. He continued to be its managing director until 1952. Charles H. Roe Ltd produced distinctive and durable coachwork which although associated most strongly with municipal operators, particularly in Yorkshire, sold to a wide range of bus, trolleybus and coach operators, and there were even a few car, railway carriage, tram and commercial vehicle bodies too. Eventually becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of British Leyland in 1982 it was closed in 1984. Former workers and management pooled their redundancy money and in 1985 returned to the Roe factory in Leeds with a new bus-building business under the new name of Optare Ltd.

1930 Leyland Lion LT1 with Roe bodywork

1930 Leyland Lion LT1 with Roe bodywork


Early years

Charles Henry Roe was born in York on 22 May 1887. His father Charles Roe worked for the North Eastern Railway at their carriage works in the town, eventually rising to a foreman’s position. C.H. Roe served his apprenticeship at the drawing office of the carriage works and his first job after gaining his trade in 1912 was as a draughtsman at the Wakefield works of Charles Roberts and Company who built railway rolling stock. A year later he moved to Leeds to work as an assistant to the chief engineer at the Hunslet-based RET Construction Co who was a pioneer builder of trolleybuses. Whilst there he worked on a twin-shaft drive transmission system from the traction motors of the trolleybus chassis to replace a previous chain-drive arrangement and designed a lightweight body featuring steel panels over a suitably reinforced teak body frame. As an engineer and draughtsman he was exempt from World War I Conscription. Customers for the RET vehicle with Roe-designed bodies included the trolleybus systems of Bloemfontein Corporation, The Shanghai Transport Company and Ramsbottom Urban District Council. The Ramsbottom examples were to a steel-frame design but it was wood and metal composite construction particularly using teak that became synonymous with the C.H. Roe name. The RET business had gone through one bankruptcy prior to C.H. Roe joining, originally having been founded as the Railless Electric Traction Company Ltd. in 1908. In 1916 The RET Company was required under war regulations to turn over production to munitions and being unable to supply orders in hand for trolleybuses was closed down in 1917.

1931 Guy BTX with a Roe L29-26R body

1931 Guy BTX with a Roe L29-26R body

Sole trader

By August 1917 C.H. Roe had set up on his own account as an engineer and coachbuilder in a nearby factory unit. Always an innovator with a shrewd grasp of the value of intellectual property Roe applied for his first patent (relating to driving pulleys) on Armistice Day November 11, 1918. During this time Roe continually extended his site, which adjoined that of his former employer which had now been requisitioned by the Royal Flying Corps. As a sole trader, Roe built a wide variety of products from simple flatbed trailers for traction engines to a refrigerated mobile fish shop body and stylish charabanc bodies on the ubiquitous Ford Model T. Another early patent was for a tipping body for lorries (spelt in true Yorkshire style ‘lurries’ in the application) with compartments to allow discrete loads to be kept separate. Railless Ltd had reformed after the war to build trolleybuses and Roe designed and/or built bodies went on examples supplied to the North Ormesby, South Bank, Normanby & Grangetown Railless Traction Company and to York Corporation.

1932 AEC Regal dating from 1932, was fitted with this Roe B32F body in 1938

1932 AEC Regal dating from 1932, was fitted with this Roe B32F body in 1938

The first company

Expansion at the Hunslet site was by the end of 1919 impossible, but C.H. Roe lived with his wife in the Cross Gates area of the city of Leeds and knew that a large shell-filling factory there had been vacated by the government. Thus for the purpose of purchasing this large site with a modern factory building and space for expansion he registered Charles H Roe Ltd on May 26, 1920. The shareholders included his father and a number of family friends. Whilst the formation of the company and negotiations to buy the Cross Gates site commenced, coachbuilding continued at the Hunslet factory, bodies including Charabancs on Karrier and Lancia chassis. After taking possession of the Cross Gates site the first Roe double-deck bodies were built for Birmingham Corporation on Railless Ltd chassis, a second trolleybus maker to patronise Roe was Clough, Smith Ltd whose trolleybuses comprised their Leeds-built electrical equipment on Straker-Squire chassis and were hence known as Straker-Clough; Roe bodies supplied to them were then supplied to the Teesside Railless Traction Board (a municipal joint committee who had taken over the North Ormesby Company) and Rotherham Corporation. Other products of this era included a number of charabancs on chassis including Leyland, Thornycroft and Fiat and a stylish limousine on a Lancia chassis. All types of bodies from other builders were also repaired and painted.

1932 AEC Regent with Roe body

1932 AEC Regent with Roe body

Trading difficulties in the early 1920s recession affected many businesses, the under-capitalised original Roe company being just one, during 1921 two debentures had to be secured to continue trading, the second relating directly to the Birmingham Corporation double deckers. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough and the first company was voluntarily wound-up after a directors’ meeting in November 1922. The receiver of the original company was able to give the bank a small surplus, whilst among the debts received £3,000 had come from various other purchasers plus £900 from Railless Ltd, who had subcontracted the Birmingham bodybuilding contract to Roe. Late payment can kill many a new business and it seems to have been the death of the original Roe company. C.H. Roe in a personal capacity bought the remaining assets from the receiver for £1,140.

1932 AEC Regent with Roe H30-26R body

1932 AEC Regent with Roe H30-26R body

Charles H Roe (1923) Ltd

The early years

One lesson had been learned in the formation of the second company (initially Charles H. Roe (1923) Ltd) in that share capital was one third larger (£8500 rather than £5850). At this time motorbus, rather than trolleybus or charabanc bodies began to assume a greater prominence. Like trolleybuses however a lot of the coachbuilding work on motorbuses was subcontracted either from the chassis manufacturer or from a dealership company. Thus many early Roe bus bodies on Karrier chassis were sold by the Huddersfield company as complete products.

1934 AEC Regent with Roe 56 seat body

1934 AEC Regent with Roe 56 seat body

An even more complicated situation arose with the Leeds based operation Tramway Supplies Ltd. They tendered for complete vehicles and then subcontracted the chassis supply to one manufacturer and the body supply to another. One of the body subcontractors was the Blackburn Aircraft who also had a factory in Leeds. They built their last bus bodies in 1924, just as Government orders for aircraft (particularly flying boats, a Blackburn speciality) began to pick up. Railless Ltd (the third Railless company) were, incidentally, backed by Short Brothers another aeroplane manufacturer with a specialism in flying boats and a sideline in bus bodies.

1934 AEC Regent with Roe H30-26R body

1934 AEC Regent with Roe H30-26R body

An example of how complicated the whole complete vehicle contract thing could get concerns a Tilling-Stevens bi-mode petrol-electric/trolley bus (type PERC1) built-for and patented-by the Teesside Railless Traction Board’s manager. Tilling-Stevens had contracted to supply a complete vehicle; they then subcontracted the body to Tramway Supplies who sub-subcontracted it to Blackburn, who sub-sub-subcontracted it to Roe.

1934 AEC Regent-Roe H30-26R

1934 AEC Regent-Roe H30-26R

Other odd work in the early years of the new company included in 1924 a 36 seat petrol-fuelled rail vehicle for the Derwent Valley Light Railway. It was based on two Ford Model T chassis fitted with flanged steel tyres and coupled back-to-back, this rail minibus or petrol multiple unit seated 18 in each carriage and was driven from one end only, the rearward-facing car running in neutral gear with the engine switched off. When worked coupled fuel consumption was stated to be 14.33 mpg and if one unit was run the even more efficient figure of 17.55 mpg was obtained. It wasn’t enough to save passenger operations on the line from oblivion however and the units were exported in 1926 to the County Donegal Joint Railway Committee (CDR) in the north-west of Ireland who converted them from standard gauge to 3 ft gauge, lowering the bodies in the process. The CDR thus became the first railway in Ireland to use internal combustion engines and by the time of closure ran all passenger services and a number of freights using Gardner-powered diesel units.

1934 Leyland TD3 with a Roe H24-24C body

1934 Leyland TD3 with a Roe H24-24C body

By 1925 Roe were receiving orders directly from customers in the council-owned sector, many of them previous customers for sub-contracted bodies, Mr Roe’s approachability during body construction may have played a part in this, letters from general managers of the time thank C.H. Roe for his enabling inspection of bodies in-build. Among municipals taking Roe bodies by this time were Ramsbottom, Rotherham, Northampton, Doncaster, Leeds, Oldham, Bradford and the Teesside Railless Board, most of whom would continue to be Roe customers for a long time; chassis included Bristol, Guy, Thornycroft and AEC. The first double-deck motorbuses were for Doncaster in 1925 on AEC, a year later Roe were building 30 ft-long six wheeled double-decks for Oldham on Guy chassis. Unlike London at the time all of Roe’s double-deck customers specified closed-tops on the upper deck. In 1926 Straker-Squire finally folded and Roe stored uncompleted vehicles for Clough, Smith prior to a new arrangement which saw their electrical equipment fitted to Karrier chassis. Also at this time Roe started building enclosed, or saloon, coaches which were often fitted to chassis which had previously carried charabanc bodies, Roe having a surplus of second-hand charabanc bodies by 1925. Two further debentures were called for, but this time it wasn’t to keep the business going, but to fund the expansion of the premises.

1935 AEC Regent originally with Roe H30-26R body

1935 AEC Regent originally with Roe H30-26R body

Independent prosperity

One of the more significant patents to emerge from Cross Gates was number 313720 registered in 1928 the name of the Company, Mr C.H Roe and Mr William Bramham, the works manager who was later to be general manager at Eastern Coach Works at Lowestoft, Northern Coachbuilders of Newcastle upon Tyne and Saunders-Roe of Beaumaris. This concerned a continuous machined teak waist rail designed to double-interlock with the vertical teak pillars and the steel reinforcing strips, once assembled also binding those to the outer panels; it could be accurately described as an early example of system-built coachwork. New chassis makes bodied in the late twenties included Albion and Crossley, both of whom chose Roe bodies for demonstrators, in Crossley’s case for its first double-decker. Trolleybuses continued to figure, makes including Karrier-Clough and Guy, the three-axled double deck now being the common form for these, customers including Bloemfontein, South Lancashire Transport and corporation fleets including some detailed above, Doncaster for example taking one of the only two Bristol trolleybuses with a Roe body in 1928.

1935 Roe H26-22C bodied AEC Regent

1935 Roe H26-22C bodied AEC Regent

Another significant patent was jointly granted in 1930 to the company, Mr Roe and J.C. Whitely the general manager of Grimsby Corporation for a central entrance double decker with a distinctive design of staircase which rose transversely two steps to a wide landing and then branched into forward and rearward ascending longitudinal flights to the upper deck. Roe built bodies to this style until 1950 and licencees included H. V. Burlingham of Blackpool.

1936 Leyland Cub KPZ2 with Roe bodywork

1936 Leyland Cub KPZ2 with Roe bodywork

In 1934 five years after the original company was wound up, the board agreed to remove the (1923) from the current company name. At the same time share capital rose to £12,000 and the current mortgages and debenture were repaid in favour of a new first mortgage.

1936 Leyland KPZ2 Cub with Roe B24F body

1936 Leyland KPZ2 Cub with Roe B24F body

In 1935, encouraged by the chassis builder, a Commercial Motor Show exhibit was built on an AEC Regent chassis for Leeds Corporation, this bus had a rakish streamlined outline and a full-width cab but more importantly had an all-new steel framework patented by the company, Roe and Bramham (who became a director that year) and a ‘Safety Staircase’ patented by the company, Roe, Bramham and William Vane Moreland, the general manager of Leeds City Transport. This staircase on a rear platform bus gave less loss of seating capacity than the straight staircase favoured in London and Birmingham but intruded less onto the boarding platform than the normal semi-spiral arrangement whilst being superior to either layout in having two broad landings allowing boarding and alighting passengers to pass on the staircase. It became a standard feature of all subsequent peacetime Roe double-deck bodies for Leeds Corporation and was widely employed by other fleets, 777 examples being built by Roe prior to expiry of the patent in 1950.

1936 Leyland TS7 with ROE B32 F Body

1936 Leyland TS7 with ROE B32 F Body

During World War II, Roe mainly continued to build passenger bodies, although supplying the war effort more directly with such specialised bodywork as mobile printing presses for field communications use on Foden Lorries and articulated mobile kitchens, canteens and dormitories to assist blitzed factories. These were on semi-trailer chassis coupled to Bedford tractor units. Similar bus-seated vehicles were built mainly for use within Ordnance factories (where they became known as Bevin buses) but two were supplied to Liverpool Corporation and briefly used as service buses (1942-4) before being converted to mobile canteens. More normal passenger vehicle bodies were built during the war to the Government-mandated ‘utility’ outline including 240 single-deck 32 seaters on Bedford OWB chassis and over 400 double-deck bodies on Guy and Daimler motorbuses and Sunbeam trolleybuses, most to the sunken upper deck offside gangway or lowbridge layout.

1936 Leyland TS7c with Roe B34F body

1936 Leyland TS7c with Roe B34F body

In 1945 nominal share capital increased to £108,000 and the valuation of the works increased to £98,000. In 1939 both the English Electric Company and Metro Cammell Weymann had approached Roe about amalgamation or takeover and in 1945 talks were opened with Mumford of Lydney in Gloucestershire. These talks were inconclusive but in 1947 Park Royal Vehiclesbought a controlling shareholding in the company, three Roe board members were replaced by Park Royal directors and C.H Roe joined the board of Park Royal. In 1949 Park Royal were taken over by Associated Commercial Vehicles by then the parent company of AEC, Crossley and Maudslay.

1937 AEC Regent Roe Pullman H31-25R

1937 AEC Regent Roe Pullman H31-25R

The ACV years

Although ACV owned three chassis manufacturers and three coachbuilders (Park Royal, Roe and Crossley) they did not try to tie the hands of customers. Some rationalisation happened early in that any orders for Park Royal composite bodies were transferred to Roe, and steel-framed bodies were either built by Park Royal or by Roe using Park Royal frames. By the mid-1950s all metal-framed bodies by ACV, regardless of coachbuilder, had a Park Royal outline.

1937 Bristol JO5G with Roe B32F body

1937 Bristol JO5G with Roe B32F body

The flagship of the Roe composite body range was however exclusively built on AEC Regent III; this was the Pullman body, the only Roe bus ever to be named. The prototype – a Leeds bus to the specifications of W. Vane Moreland – with its deep windows and four window bays rather than the then standard five had looked ultra-modern when shown on a pre-war Regent at the 1937 Commercial Motor Show in London, it is an acknowledged influence on the London Transport designers whose RT1 appeared two years later with similar construction and outline.

1937 Leyland TD5 with Roe H31-25R body

1937 Leyland TD5 with Roe H31-25R body

Trolleybuses continued to figure, on Sunbeam/Karrier, Crossley or BUT chassis. The most striking of these were the Coronation class vehicles built on Sunbeam MF2B chassis for Kingston upon Hull Corporation Transport. These had a front entrance on the front overhang and a central exit; they were fitted with twin staircases and were intended to be one-man operated so were equipped with trolley-pole retriever equipment at the rear.

1938 Leyland Tiger TS8 with Roe B30F body

1938 Leyland Tiger TS8 with Roe B30F body

After the initial post-war boom Roe also took on a great deal of repair, rebuilding and refurbishment work, adding a workshop for this purpose. Plymouth Corporation had its entire fleet of Guy Arab utility buses thoroughly rebuilt by Roe, some 100 passing through the works. Roe also extended the Brush or Metro-Cammell bodies of Midland Red‘s post-war underfloor engined single deckers from 27 ft 6in to 29 ft 3in, allowing an extra four seats to be fitted. This work covered classes S6, S8, S9, S11 and all but one of S10, a grand total of 455 buses all converted in 1952 or 1953. In 1952 Charles H Roe resigned from the position of managing director, although he remained as chairman.

1938 Leyland TS8-Roe B36R

1938 Leyland TS8-Roe B36R

As pressure of work eased Roe also introduced a coach body for the AEC Reliance. This was known as the Roe Dalesman and ran through four separate marks, from 1953-9. It was mainly stock-built for coach dealers selling to small independents but major operators to use the type included West Riding Automobile Company and Black and White Motorways. Other specialist work undertaken included two single deck trams for Leeds, a mobile chest X-ray unit for tuberculosis control and crew cab lorries on Ford Thames Trader for the Uganda police force. Box vans were supplied on Bedford to the Bradford Dyers Association.

1938 Leyland TTB3 or TTB4 with a Roe H35-29R body

1938 Leyland TTB3 or TTB4 with a Roe H35-29R body

The composite body had been revised post-war, with a new patent waist rail, the teak structural member now covered by rolled steel plate. In 1957 the composite double decker reached its final form with teak framing to the lower deck ceiling or upper deck floor and an aluminium framework above. This was to continue in production, mainly on Daimler half-cab chassis until 1968, the last batch being built for Northampton Corporation on CVG6, replacing earlier Roe-bodied CVG6s which at the time comprised the entire Northampton fleet, all but five having composite bodies.

1938 ROE CM-Roe

1938 ROE CM-Roe

Simultaneously Park Royal bowed to pressure from the British Electric Traction group of major regional bus operators and replaced their rather elegant mid-1950s aluminium-framed body with a steel-framed structure of very angular outline, this first appeared as the production version of the integral AEC Bridgemaster, but soon spread to all other steel-framed Park Royal and Roe double deckers. Crossley had been closed by ACV in 1958, having ceased to make chassis five years previously.

1939 Karrier E6 with Roe H32-28R body

1939 Karrier E6 with Roe H32-28R body

Roe metal-framed bodies to this new outline went on a wide range of double deck chassis. A large batch were built for BET on the new Leyland Atlantean, these were delivered in 1960 to Trent Motor Traction, Devon General and the Northern General Transport group. As well as looking ungainly these buses became notorious for their propensity to corrode. Roe also built both forward and rear entrance bodies using this structure on conventional chassis, Swindon Corporation taking Daimler CVG6 and both Yorkshire Traction and Stratford Blue Motors taking rebodied Leyland Tigers.

1939 Leyland Tiger TS8 with Roe B32F body

1939 Leyland Tiger TS8 with Roe B32F body

Far less conventional was the Guy Wulfrunian which was even more avant-garde than the Atlantean, it was designed to the requirements of the independent West Riding company and featured a front engine on the front entrance platform, instead of a front radiator it had two Cave-Browne-Cave heat exchangers on the upper deck front face to provide passenger heating and ventilation as well as engine cooling. The front wheels had double wishbone independent suspension and like the rear axle had a self-levelling air suspension system, the foundation braking was by disc brakes on all four wheels with a drum brake on the driveshaft providing the parking brake and the fluid flywheel adapted to serve as an integral retarder. At a time when only Jaguar and Ferrari road cars had front discs this was a technological adventure, like the Routemaster and Midland Red’s motorway coach it was shown with its Roe body in a cutaway-centre spread of boy’s comicThe Eagle where it took its place alongside V-Bombers, Nuclear Submarines and Deltic Locomotives. Roe bodied 131 out of the 137 Wulfruninans built from 1959 to 1965.

1940 AEC Regent with Roe bodywork

1940 AEC Regent with Roe bodywork

The Wulfrunian body was lower built as this chassis was designed as a low height bus with stepless entrance and centre gangways on both decks. Roe also softened the outline of the body with a subtly curved rear dome; the use of equal-depth windows on both decks produced a much more balanced look.

1941 Leyland TD7 with a Roe L24-24R body

1941 Leyland TD7 with a Roe L24-24R body

Other oddities at the dawn of the 1960s included single-deck buses on the double-deck AEC Regent V chassis, most of these were built for South Wales Transport for a route with a very low railway bridge in Llanelli under which underfloor engined single decks could not work but there were also one each for the Leeds Council Welfare department (with a rear ramp for wheelchair access) and for the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation.

1942 Guy Arab I with Roe L24-26R

1942 Guy Arab I with Roe L24-26R

1942 Leyland Titan TD7 with Roe H26-32C bodywork

1942 Leyland Titan TD7 with Roe H26-32C bodywork

In 1962 ACV merged with Leyland Motors to form the Leyland Motor Corporation. In 1965 LMC sold a 30% shareholding in Park Royal and Roe to the state-owned Transport Holding Company in return for a 25% stake in Bristol Commercial Vehicles and Eastern Coach Works. Charles H Roe retired as company chairman in 1962 and died in 1965.

1943 Guy Arab II with a Roe B38C body

1943 Guy Arab II with a Roe B38C body

1943 Guy Arab II with Roe L27-26R body

1943 Guy Arab II with Roe L27-26R body

1943 Guy Arab II with Roe L27-28R body

1943 Guy Arab II with Roe L27-28R body

1943 Sunbeam W with Roe H62R body

1943 Sunbeam W with Roe H62R body

The mixed economy

The original outline of the body for rear-engined double deckers was widely considered unsatisfactory and Sunderland Corporation took a heavily revised version on Daimler Fleetline from 1962-6 featuring a prominent peak at the front dome and a reverse rake to the upper-deck rear in the style of the contemporary Ford Anglia saloon car. Great Yarmouth Corporation instead specified double curvature windscreens of Alexander design on its Atlanteans (including a unique short-wheelbase batch in 1967) and on the last three Daimler Freeline single deckers. This then became a standard option at Roe who also optionally fitted the Alexander style double-curvature upper-deck front window on rear engined chassis, curving the line of the foremost upper deck side windows down to meet this, producing an elegant style which suited the Fleetline and the post 1964 low height Atlantean. Also in 1964 for that year’s Commercial Motor show Roe built its first body to the 36 ft length permissible since 1961, it was an early Leyland Panther for the Kingston upon Hull Corporation Transport fleet. Unlike the Coronation trolleybuses they were to replace, the Hull Panthers were allowed to be one man operated. Roe then built versions of this body for Leeds on the similar AEC Swift from 1967 to 1972 and also built standee single decks on Daimler Roadliner and Fleetline for Darlington and on Seddon Pennine RU for Doncaster.

1944 Daimler CWA6 with a Roe H30-26R body

1944 Daimler CWA6 with a Roe H30-26R body

1944 Guy Arab II with body by Roe

1944 Guy Arab II with body by Roe

1944 Sunbeam W with Roe body

1944 Sunbeam W with Roe body

In 1964 Leeds, the last provincial bastion of the rear-open platform double decker took a batch of Fleetlines to Great Yarmouth outline and the first of these was also shown at the 1964 show, Leeds continually revised this design over the next few years, in 1966 it was extended to 33 ft long rather than the previous 30 ft 10in, both decks had double curvature screens and side glazing became panoramic, with double-width window glasses. In 1968 angled flat glass at the front and a glass-fibre dash was added and a centre exit was fitted whilst the rear dome reverted to a square outline. This made the appearance similar to the Oldham Corporation variant supplied with conventional side glazing on standard wheelbase Atlanteans since 1965. The Leeds design was produced until 1975 with a few going to independent operators in England and Scotland. The Leeds and Oldham designs in turn led to the Park Royal–Roe standard design for Atlantean and Fleetline built from 1969 to 1981, which had a deeper front screen optionally to Alexander layout or flat-glazed and wider pillar spacing than the previous standard but not as long as that fitted to the Leeds style or the Manchester Corporation Mancunian. Roe built one batch of 34 Mancunians on long Fleetlines in 1972. These buses had been due to be bodied by East Lancashire Coachbuilders in 1970, but they suffered a fire destroying their works in Blackburn, so the contract was transferred to Park Royal, who in turn transferred it to Roe (shades of that Teesside Tilling-Stevens).

1945 Sunbeam W with Roe 62 seat coachwork

1945 Sunbeam W with Roe 62 seat coachwork

The standard design was adopted by West Yorkshire PTE (successor to the Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield Halifax and Calderdale fleets) and many municipals and also (from 1972) on the AN68 Atlantean became the National Bus Company’s second-choice double decker, being especially associated with ‘Leyland’ fleets such as Ribble, Northern General and Southdown but it also became the standard double decker with London Country who had over 300.

1946 AEC Regent IIIs with Roe H31-25R bodi

1946 AEC Regent IIIs with Roe H31-25R body

1946 Leyland PD1-Roe H31-25R

1946 Leyland PD1-Roe H31-25R

1946 Roe B35R bodied Guy Arab III

1946 Roe B35R bodied Guy Arab III

Nearing the end

In 1982 Leyland Vehicles, the truck and bus division of the by now state-owned British Leyland bought out the National Bus Company’s 50% shareholding in the joint-venture Bus Manufacturers Holdings Ltd which had not only owned Bristol, ECW, Park Royal and Roe but also the Leyland National factory at Workington.

1947 AEC Regals with Roe B32F body

1947 AEC Regals with Roe B32F body

1947 AEC Regent III with Roe H28-22C body

1947 AEC Regent III with Roe H28-22C body

1947 AEC Regent III with Roe H31-25R body

1947 AEC Regent III with Roe H31-25R body

1947 AEC Regent III-Roe H31-25R

1947 AEC Regent III-Roe H31-25R

1947 Daimler CVD6's coaches rebodied by Roe in the mid-1950s

1947 Daimler CVD6’s coaches rebodied by Roe in the mid-1950s

1947 Leyland Tiger PS1 with Roe B35R bodywork

1947 Leyland Tiger PS1 with Roe B35R bodywork

1947 Leyland Titan PD1-3 with Roe bodywork

1947 Leyland Titan PD1-3 with Roe bodywork

1947 Roe B35R bodywork was fitted to this Leyland PS1

1947 Roe B35R bodywork was fitted to this Leyland PS1

1947 Sunbeam W new in 1947, rebodied by Roe H32-28R in 1960

1947 Sunbeam W new in 1947, rebodied by Roe H32-28R in 1960

1947 vintage Leyland PS1 with a Roe B32F body

1947 vintage Leyland PS1 with a Roe B32F body

In 1981 and 1982 Roe-bodied six 18-metre long articulated buses for British Airways, these employed Leyland National body sections on Leyland-DAB underfloor-engined chassis, Roe modifying the body for the higher frame height. They featured five entry-exit doors, two on the offside, and were used to transport passengers from their aircraft to the terminal at Heathrow airport.


1948 AEC Regent III with Roe H50C body 1948 AEC Regent IIIs with Roe H28-22C body 1948 BUT 9611T with Roe bodywork 1948 Daimler CVD6 with Roe B35F body 1948 K6A-Saunders Roe.1948.E.Kentell2 1948 Leyland PS1 with Roe B32F body 1948 Leyland PS1s with Roe B36R body 1948 Roe B32F bodied Leyland PS1 1948 Roe bodied BUT 9611T


1981 had been a peak production year at Roe, with 182 bodies built, the highest total since 1966 (the year when double-decks were finally allowed to be operated without a conductor, the first bus to do so, on the day of the law change, being a Great Yarmouth Roe-bodied Atlantean). The standard body was phased out in 1981, as the Fleetline had been discontinued and the Atlantean could not be sold in the EEC after 1983 as it fell foul of noise-pollution laws. 1981 was also the year that the Park Royal coachworks were closed. The new body to take its place was for the new Leyland Olympian chassis and Roe produced 299 of these prior to closure, most went to three fleets, West Yorkshire PTE and NBC subsidiaries Bristol Omnibus Company and London Country, with one batch to Strathclyde PTE and a sole vehicle to the Scottish Arts Council which was equipped as a travelling art gallery.


1949 AEC Regal III (ECX741, number 282, which had a Duple B35F body when new in 1949) and was fitted with a Roe FB39F body 1949 AEC Regal III of 1949 (originally with a Duple body). In 1960 is was rebuilt by Hanson and given a new FB39F body by Roe 1949 AEC Regal III with Roe B32F body 1949 AEC Regent III with Roe H31-25R body 1949 Daimler CVD6, with Roe H31-25R body 1949 Guy Arab III-Roe L27-26R 1949 Roe-bodied Crossley 1949 Sunbeam MS2 with Roe H72R body


Production peaked at this point because the Government was phasing out the New Bus Grant which had provided up to 50% of the cost of a bus used on local services provided it met certain rules. In order to compensate for this drop in bus sales Leyland Bus (as it had now become) decided to produce a new flagship product for the booming deregulated coach market following the Transport Act 1980. This was the Royal Tiger underframe and the Roe Doyen body. This was a sophisticated product, as the Tiger coach chassis competed head on with the Volvo B10M the Royal Tiger Doyen was designed to provide a British alternative to the high-end Setra coach from Germany. Production got off to a slow start, not helped by overly centralised control from Leyland and a rigid set of body specifications which did not initially provide all the features more demanding coach customers wanted. In 1983, the year of launch only 10 complete Royal Tiger Doyens entered service, a further 13 underframes being supplied to Van Hool and Plaxton to receive versions of their standard coachwork. In 1983 production of the underframe was moved to Workington and 22 coaches were completed by Roe as well as 86 Olympians. The plant was not at that point viable for British Leyland who had been impoverished by the chronic failure of its Austin mass-production car division. Thus Roe followed Daimler, Guy, AEC, Park Royal and Bristol into oblivion.


1950 AEC Regent III with Roe built H31-25R body 1950 AEC Regent III with Roe H31-25R body 1950 Crossley DD42-5 with a Roe L27-26R body 1950 Daimler CT6 with Roe H40-30R body 1950 Leyland PSU1-13 Royal Tiger with a Roe B44F body 1950 Leyland Titan PD2-3 built in 1950 with Roe H31-28RD bodywork from 1959 1950 Leyland Titan PD2-3 built with Roe bodywork 1950 Roe L27-26RD body after rebodying in 1958 Albion CX39N 1950 Sunbeam F4 trolley rebodied by Roe in 1964 1950 Sunbeam MS2 with Roe H40-30R body


Many Roe bodies survive in preservation and some on special tourist services, the earliest design being a replica of a 1929 body on a Leyland Lion at the Greater Manchester Museum of Transport.


1951 A.E.C. 9821E Regal IV with a Roe B40D body 1951 AEC Regak IV with Roe B41F body 1951 1951 AEC Regent III with Roe H31-25R body 1951 Guy Arab III saloons with attractive Roe centre entrance bodywork 1951 Guy Arab III with Roe C31F bodywork 1951 Guy Arab III with unusual Roe coach body 1951 Leyland Titan PD2-12 with Roe FCH30-20RD bodywork 1951 Roe B40C bodied AEC Regal IV


Three diecast model manufacturers produce 1:76 scale models of Roe vehicles, EFE have a pre-war Leyland Tiger bus, Corgi OOC produce the final style of rear entrance composite body as a half-cab or a trolleybus and Britbus make the NBC version of the standard Atlantean body in single or dual-door format.


1952 Guy Arab III with Roe B41C bodywork. 1952 Leyland PD2-12s with Roe coach body 1952 Leyland Royal Tiger with Roe bodywork 1952 Leyland Tiger PS2-12 with Roe C35F



1953 Daimler CVG6 with a Roe H33-25R body

1953 Guy Arab IV with a Roe body 1953 KGG711 was an AEC Regal IV with Roe body 1953 Leeds 601, the Metropolitan-Vickers equipped Roe bodied railcar 1953 Maley & Taunton equipped Roe bodied railcar new in June 1953

Daimler-Guy-AEC-Railcar ROE 2x


1954 1951 Guy Wolf with Metalcraft body and CCC597, a 1954 Guy Otter with Roe B25F body 1954 AEC Regent III-Roe H3-25R 1954 AEC Reliances with Roe B34C+24 body 1954 Guy Otter with a Roe B25F body 1954 Leyland Royal Tiger with Roe bodywork 1954 ROE CMS-Roe

Guy-AECx2-Guy-Leyland-Roe ad


1955 Guy 5LW with Roe centre-entrance standee body 1955 Guy Arab LUFs, fitted with Roe B34C+24 body 1955 Leyland Tiger Cub with a Roe B34+24C standee body 1955 Leyland Titan PD2-11 with a Roe H33-25R body 1955 Sunbeam MF2B-MV with Roe H54D body



1956 AEC Regent V with Roe H33-27R body

1956 AEC Reliance MU3RV with Roe B44F bodywork

1956 AEC Reliance-Roe B44F 1956 Daimler CVG6 with Roe H37-26R body 1956 Daimler CVG6 with Roe H37-28R body 1956 Guy Arab IV Roe L27-26R



1957 AEC Regent V 1949U with Roe H37-28R body 1957 AEC Regent V with Roe H37-28R body 1957 AEC Reliance MU3RV with Roe Dalesman body 1957 AEC Reliance MU3RV with Roe Dalesman C41C bodywork 1957 Guy Arab IV built with Roe H33-28R bodywork 1957 Guy Arab IV with Roe L55R body 1957 Leyland Tiger Cub PSUC1-2 built in with Roe Dalesman C41C bodywork 1957 Leyland Tiger Cub with Roe 39 seat body 1957 Roe B41R bodied Guy Arab LUF 1957 Roe-bodied AEC Regent



1958 AEC 2MU3RV Reliance with a Roe DP41F body 1958 AEC MU3RV Reliance with a Roe Dalesman C37C body 1958 AEC MU3RV Reliance with Windover body. Reliance with Roe DP41F body, 366CPT, new in 1958 1958 Leyland PD2-30 with Roe H37-28R body 1958 Leyland Tiger Cub PSUC1-1 with Roe B41D body 1958 Leyland Titan PD2-30 with Roe bodywork 1958 Leyland Titan PD2-30 with Roe H33-26RD body 1958 Leyland Titan PD3-1 with Roe body 1958 Roe DP41F bodied AEC MU3RV Reliance



1959 AEC Reliance with Roe Dalesman coach body 1959 Daimler CVG6LX-30 with Roe bodywork 1959 Guy Wulfrunian with Roe bodywork 1959 Leyland Titan PD2-27 built in 1959 with Roe H33-28R bodywork 1959 Leyland Titan PD3-1 built with Roe H39-30R body 1959 Leyland Titan PD3-5 with Roe body 1959 Roe B37F bodied AEC Regent Vs



1960 AEC Regent V 2D2RA with a Roe H39-32R body 1960 AEC Reliance 2MU3RV with Roe B45F bodywork 1960 Daimler CVG6 Roe 1960 Leyland Atlantean PDR1-1 with Roe H44-34F bodywork 1960 Leyland PD3-1s with Roe L31-32RD body 1960 Leyland Titan PD2-40 with Roe H37-28R body



1961 AEC Reliance with Roe B41D body 1961 Daimler CVG6-30 with Roe H73F body 1961 Leyland Leopard L1 with Roe B44F bodywork 1961 Roe bodied Leyland Atlantean PDR1-1 1961 Roe H43-32F bodied Guy Wulfrunian



1962 AEC Regent V 2D2RA with Roe H39-31R body 1962 AEC Reliance with Roe 41 seat dual door body 1962 Daimler 572CNW, a CVG6LX with Roe H39-31F body 1962 Daimler CVG6-30 with Roe front entrance bodywork 1962 Leyland Atlantean PDR1-1 with Roe H44-33F bodywork 1962 Leyland PD3-4 with Roe H38-32F bodywork 1962 Leyland PD3A-1 with Roe body 1962 Roe bodied AEC Regent V 1962 Roe H33-26R bodywork was fitted to Pontypridd 87, 872MTG, a Guy Arab IV



1963 AEC Regent V with Roe B37F body 1963 Daimer Fleetline CRG6LX with Roe H43-33F body 1963 Daimler CVG6 with a Roe H37-26R body 1963 Daimler CVG6LX with Roe H39-31R body 1963 Guy Wulfrunian with Roe H41-34F body 1963 Leyland Leopard L2 with Roe B49F body 1963 Roe B44F bodied AEC Reliances 1963 Roe bodied AEC Regent V



1964 AEC Reliance 2MU3RA with Roe B41D bodywork 1964 AEC Renown 3B3RA with Roe H39-31F body 1964 AEC Renown with Roe bodywork 1964 Daimler Fleetline with Roe bodywork 1964 Daimler Fleetline with Roe H70F body 1964 Daimler Freeline  Roe DP43F 1964 Leyland Atlantean PDR1-1 with Roe H43-33F 1964 Leyland PD3-5 built in 1964 with a Roe H41-32F body 1964 Roe bodied Daimler CVG6-30s 1964 Roe H41-32F bodied AEC Regent V



1965 AEC Reliance and had it fitted with a neat Roe coach body 1965 AEC Reliance with a Roe C37F body 1965 Leyland Leopard L2 with Roe B45F bodywork 1965 Leyland Panther with 45 seat Roe bodywork 1965 Roe H43-32F bodied Guy Wulfrunian



1966 AEC Swiftl with dual door Roe bodywork 1966 Daimler Fleetline with Sunderland designed Roe bodywork 1966 Leyalnd Atlantean PDR1-2 with Roe H38-27F body 1966 Leyland Atlantean with Roe body 1966 Leyland Panthers and carries a Roe body 1966 Roe bodied example and one of Leeds last AEC deckers



1967 AEC Swift MP2R with Roe B44F body 1967 Daimler Fleetline with Roe body 1967 Leyland Atlantean PDR1-2 with Roe H43-33F body 1967 Leyland Atlantean Roe 1967 Leyland Panther with Roe bodywork 1967 Leyland Titan PD2A-27 with Roe H33-28R bodywork 1967 was this Daimler Fleetline with 33 foot Roe bodywork with panoramic windows



1968 AEC Swift with Roe 48 seat bodywork 1968 Daimler Fleetline with dual door Roe body 1968 Daimler Fleetline with Roe bodywork 1968 Leyland Atlantean PDR2-1 with a Roe body



1969 Atlanteans-Roe 1969 Leyland Royal Tiger Cub with Roe bodywork

Leyland x 2


1970 Daimler Fleetline CRG6LX with Roe H45-29D bodywork 1970 Leyland Atlantean PDR1A-1 with Roe bodywork

Daimler + Leyland


1971 AEC Swift with Roe B48D body 1971 Leyland Atlantean with dual door Roe bodywork 1971 Leyland Atlantean with Roe dual door body 1971 Leyland Atlantean-Roe

AEC- Leyland x 3


1972 Daimler CRG6LX with Roe H44-33F body 1972 Daimler Fleetline CRG6LX with Roe H44-34F bodywork 1972 Daimler Fleetline SRG6LX with Roe dual door 48 seat bodywork 1972 Leyland Atlantean PDR2-1 with Roe H45-24F bodywork

Daimler x 3 + Leyland


1973 Daimler Fleetline with Roe 74 seat dual door bodywork 1973 Leyland Atlantean AN68-2R with Roe H45-33D body

Daimler and Leyland


1978 Roe bodied Atlantean XWG633T


roe logo kw


OPTARE Buses Leeds England UK start 1985


Optare Group Limited
Type Public (LSE: OPE)
Industry Bus building
Founded 1985
Headquarters Sherburn-in-ElmetEngland
Products Buses
Parent Ashok Leyland
01 Optare_Manufacturing_Plant

Optare’s new state-of-the-art manufacturing plant at Sherburn in Elmet, near Leeds
02 Blazefield_Starship_Versa

An Optare Versa destined for use on Transdev Blazefields’ StarShip service

Optare plc is a bus manufacturer based in Sherburn in ElmetNorth YorkshireUK. Its parent company Ashok Leyland, part of the Hinduja Group, is ranked within the top five global bus manufacturers.

The company operates two main business units, Bus Manufacturing and Product Support and manufactures a full range of bus types from minibuses to full-size single deckers, with a new double-decker currently undergoing preproduction testing. As well as bus manufacturing, the group operates a nationwide and international sales division, together with the Optare Product Support parts and service network.

The Optare name originated in 1985, with a new business formed from the remnants of the Charles H Roe operation which had been closed in 1984 by its owners Leyland Bus. The closure was in anticipation of a steep decline in demand expected to result from the deregulation of bus services. In order to differentiate itself from its competitors, the new company’s philosophy was to offer its customers more choice, hence the name Optare which is Latin for “to choose”.

Deregulation brought about a time of changing and challenging market conditions for UK bus manufacturers, with the breakup of the nationalised manufacturing industry dominated by British Leyland and its subsidiaries, and the breakup of the traditional home markets through the deregulation of bus services and privatisation of the Scottish Bus GroupNational Bus CompanyPTE operations and many municipal companies.

In the consequent upheaval in markets and demand through the 1980s and 1990s, the Optare business underwent several changes in ownership, but on the whole, retained its senior management. During this time Optare benefited from the development of close relationships with particular customers who were not necessarily tied to larger suppliers, through political or corporate ties. Wilts & Dorset and Reading Buses became notable loyal Optare customers, with several high profile new London operators also choosing Optare as a market differentiator, such as Harris Bus‘s use of the Optare Excel. Optare also introduced several technological innovations, with an early electric buses trial, introducing the first UK low-floor double decker, the Optare Spectra, and the ground breaking Optare Solo (“so low”) low floor midibus, both in 1997.

In its early years, Optare developed a number of body on chassis products but now only builds fully integral designs which have the benefit of low weight, high strength and market leading fuel efficiency. The company has also exported a number of models.


Formation of Optare

03 Optare_Olympian

An Optare-bodied Leyland Olympian for Yorkshire Rider

In September 1984, Leyland announced that it was closing the Charles H. Roe vehicle bodywork building business in Leeds. In response, Russell Richardson, a former plant director at Roe, backed by the West Yorkshire Enterprise Board and many redundant former employees, created Optare in February 1985.

The company was created at a very difficult time for the bus and coach industry, with the challenges of privatisation and deregulation meaning very few orders for new vehicles. The first orders came from the still publicly owned West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (WYPTE) and South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE), keen to support the locally based company. The publicly owned but arms-length company Yorkshire Rider, as successor to the WYPTE bus fleet, also took early vehicles.

When the Roe business closed down, WYPTE had an unfulfilled order for five Leyland Olympian coach-seated double-decker buses in place for its Metro coach operation. These five part finished buses went from Roe to Eastern Coach Works as shells for completion, but subsequently ten more were completed as Optare buses but to the Roe design, the first of which was completed in September 1985, the 17th Optare bus body. Five went to WYPTE, and five to its successor Yorkshire Rider, and a further five standard seated Olympians were also delivered to WYPTE, two as convertible open top buses.

The first Optare designed bodies were fourteen Dennis Dominos for SYPTE built starting in February 1986. Optare also bodied fifteen Leyland Cubs for WYPTE. A preserved Cub later visited the Optare plant in 2005.

Starting in August 1986 Optare built fifteen minibuses converted from the Freight Rover Sherpa vans, for WYPTE.

CityPacer and StarRider

04 1986 Optare City Pacer

A 1986 London Buses Optare CityPacer taken in the 80s OV6

Optare products initially continued on from inherited Roe designs but it was clear from the start that if the new business was to survive, it had to make its mark with new and innovative models of its own.

In 1986 Optare introduced its first true product, the CityPacer minibus. This was based on a heavier version of the MAN-VW LT55 van chassis, to which Optare made modifications prior to bodying. The engine was a six-cylinder 2.4-litre and the body seated 25, with space for a further 5 standing passengers, a size that met the minibus vogue of the late 1980s. While its competitors looked like the modified vans they were, the CityPacer had attractive styling notable for its large one-piece raked windscreen. London Transport bought 52, and other major operators bought small batches. More than 290 CityPacer’s were produced in total between 1986 and 1992.

1987 saw the introduction of the StarRider which was based on the Mercedes-Benz 811D chassis. This was a heavier chassis with a proven reliability record and had seating for 33 passengers. London Transport took 123 StarRiders and a total of just under 320 were built between 1987 and 1994.


05 Midland_Classic_W675_DDN

An Optare MetroRider at Cobham bus rally at Wisley Airfield

In 1988 the first full size Optare product appeared, the Delta. This was a single-deck bus based on the DAF SB220 chassis. The Delta bodywork featured contemporary styling and was aluminium with a bolted frame licensed from Alusuisse. The Delta successfully found a niche in the full-size single deck bus market, which was very limited at that time. Approaching 370 Delta’s were built before production ended in 1998.

Dennis had effectively created a new market segment, known as a midibus, with the introduction of the Dennis Dart. Optare soon introduced a competitor, the Vecta, albeit slightly bigger and wider than the Dart at that time, seating 40 in a full width 2.5m body. The chassis was the MAN 11.190 and featured a ZF gearbox and full air suspension. The bodywork was a scaled down version of the Delta.

The CityPacer and StarRider were phased out in the years after Optare purchased the design for the MCW Metrorider in 1989, rebranding it as the Optare MetroRider. This was a larger design than the CityPacer, and more robust when compared to the StarRider. It was Optare’s first venture into fully integral vehicle manufacturing, and became the mainstay of the Optare midi/minbus offering until the low floor Solo was introduced in 1997.

The Spectra double-decker set new standards in design, forcing a rethink of how a double-decker should be styled.

DAF/United Bus

06 Wilts_&_Dorset_3185

Front view of a Spectra of  Wilts & Dorset
07 Compass_Bus_R84_EDW

Autobus Classique bodied Mercedes-Benz Vario in Horsham in April 2009

In 1990, Optare joined a group called the United Bus, which included DAF Bus.

Having already used a DAF SB220 chassis on the Delta, now as part of United Bus, Optare collaborated with DAF to design the Optare Spectra. It was based on the modified design of the MCW Metrobus purchased by Optare, and combined parts from it and the SB220 to form a new double deck chassis, designated DB250, with Optare bodywork called Spectra. Due to the United bus relationship and joint design, the Spectra was built exclusively on DB250 chassis. As well as having a striking front end, the Spectra was also recognisable for having no rear window. Introduced in 1990 it was described as a “partly low-floor double-decker”. Despite the association with DAF, in 1991 Optare also launched a conventional height midibus in on the MAN 11-190 chassis, the Vecta.

After the collapse of United Bus in 1993, Optare was again returned to independent status with another management buyout. The reaction to the collapse of United Bus was the release in the next two years of two Delta derived single deck buses on different non-DAF chassis, the Sigma and Prisma. The Prisma was noticeable in having a generic Mercedes-Benz style front end rather than the recognisable Optare family face.

Optare acquired Autobus Classique in 1996, shortly after the launch of their Nouvelle luxury minicoach. Optare significantly redesigned and rebadged it in 1997 as the Nouvelle 2, and it served similar markets to the StarRider/MetroRider coach versions. Also in 1997 a relationship with a Spanish mini and midi coach manufacturer named Ferqui SL began, with the importation of the Solera luxury midicoach into the UK.

While part of United Bus, Optare also for a time became the exclusive UK dealer for the distinctive full size Bova Futura coach.

Low floor era

Optare began introduction of low-floor buses in the UK in 1995 with the launch of the Optare Excel full size single decker. Although low floor single decker buses had begun to appear as early as 1993. Initially, the Excel used Cummins engines and Allison transmissions with later examples (Excel 2) having Mercedes-Benz engines available as an option. The introduction of the Excel marked the start of sustained period of selling integral bus products rather than body on chassis combinations, which continued until the Darwen merger briefly brought East Lancs models to the range.

With modifications of the DB250 chassis to become the DB250LF, in 1997, the Spectra became the first fully low-floor double decker bus on offer in the UK.

Also in 1997 the Solo was launched and became a success for Optare. With a unique design of a front axle forward of the door, it allowed a low-floorlayout in a very short bus, and also came equipped with kneeling suspension for even greater access. Its styling and innovation led to a Millennium Products award and the Queen’s Award for Innovation.

North American Bus Industries

In 2000, Optare was bought by Hungarian owned North American Bus Industries. This gave Optare products exposure in the North American market. With an export version of the Solo finding success at several US airports and with Miami Dade Transit in Florida.

The NABI era saw the introduction of the Alero low-floor minicoach in 2001, filling a gap in the market for a low floor vehicle for use on low intensity services such as demand responsive transport, already covered at the higher capacity by the Solo. In 2004 the new derivatives of Solo were introduced offering a longer variant and also a narrower ‘SlimLine’ model to further capture the market. Also introduced in 2004 was the first new bus model since the Solo, the Tempo, a full size single decker with another striking design, even when considered in the environment of increasingly stylish competitor products.

On 1 August 2005, North American Bus Industries found themselves in financial difficulties, and speculation about the future of Optare was ended with the announcement that Optare had, once again, been acquired by its management. This change did not affect the further roll out of the new range, leading to the Versa and a radically restyled Solo (the Solo SR), both with a distinctive raised part of the roofline towards the front of the bus.

Darwen takeover

The Optare logo used before the Darwen reverse takeover.

On 12 March 2008 the Optare senior directors accepted a complete buyout offer made by Jamesstan Investments, an investment company controlled by the Darwen Group‘s parent company chairman Ron Stanley. Optare initially remained an independent company but by 17 July 2008, a reverse takeover by Darwen Group had been completed. Darwen was the much smaller company, but its AIM listing saw the enlarged Optare gain a stock exchange listing itself as Optare plc. The combined business employs 830 people with a £90 million turnover.

With the respective histories of the two entities, Optare plc can be considered the successor company to the historical British bus manufacturers Charles H. Roe (through Optare), founded in Leeds in 1923, and East Lancashire Coachbuilders, (through Darwen), founded in 1934 in Blackburn.

Optare plc

09 Optare_works,_Leeds

The former plant in Cross Gates,Leeds seen in April 2009.

The Optare website was relaunched with a new logo, and with the ex-East Lancs Olympus and Esteem models listed as Optare products. At the time of merger, Optare manufactured buses from three sites, the primary sites being in Leeds (the former Leyland Bus site) and Blackburn (the former East Lancs site), with a further facility in Rotherham.

The merger brought together the single deck and midibus portfolio of Optare, with the primarily double deck order book of Darwen.

After the merger, Optare began rationalisation of its bus manufacturing business. In 2009 the production of Esteem single-deck bodywork was ceased, and the manufacturing site at Rotherham was closed.

Ashok Leyland

In summer 2010, Ashok Leyland (former Indian subsidiary of British Leyland) bought a 26% stake in Optare.

Subsequently, in December 2011, Ashok Leyland increased its stake to 75.1%

2011 saw the inevitable closure of the Leeds factory, and the core business relocated to a new fully enclosed 13,000m2 building in nearby Sherburn-in-Elmet. Then in 2012 restructuring was complete when the former East Lancs site was also closed putting all manufacturing process under one roof at Sherburn.

Optare Product Support (formerly Unitec)

The Optare parts and service division Unitec has locations at the former Rotherham factory, as well as in ThurrockEssex.

In 2009 Unitec was renamed to Optare Product Support.

Coach imports

As of 2008, the minicoach models Toro, Solera and Soroco were imported by Optare from the Spanish manufacturer Ferqui, and marketed as Optare products. They were luxury minicoach bodies built on Mercedes-Benz chassis, however, due to significantly reduced demand for mini and midi coaches, as part of its restructuring process, Optare took the decision to concentrate on its bus manufacturing activities and the relationship with Ferqui was formally ended in 2012.



10 2013 Optare Solo SR HybridFirst Manchester Solo SR with Hybrid Drive
12 Optare Solo SR EVFull electric drive Optare Solo SR in service with Dorset County Council
2012 Optare Bonito
Optare Bonito Bonito small and accessible bus (2012 -)
2013 Optare Solo SR for route 470
2013 Optare Solo SR for route 470 Solo SR (2007 – )
2014 Optare Solo SR EV
2014 Optare Solo SR EV (Solo SR EV 2012-)
Optare Tempo SR Tempo single decker (2004 -) (restyled Tempo SR 2011 – )
2006 Optare Versa NEC 7 November 2006
Optare Versa NEC 7 November Versa, midibus between Solo and Tempo (2006 -)
2012 Optare Metrocity
2012 Optare Metrocity MetroCity, two door midibus for London (2012 -)
2014 Optare-Metrodecker-front-three-quarter-press-shot
Optare Metrodecker front three quarter press shot MetroDecker, Integral double decker (2014 -)


1985 Optare City Pacer Minibus1985 Optare City Pacer Minibus CityPacer minibus (1985–1992, replaced by the MetroRider)

Optare StarRider HarrowBuses G82KUBOptare StarRider HarrowBuses G82KUB StarRider minibus (1987–1994, replaced by the MetroRider

Optare ColumboRider in Agyaat The Unknown, 2009

Optare ColumboRider in Agyaat The Unknown, 2009 Optare ColumboRider (1987 – ?)

1989 Optare Delta UK 1990 Optare Delta 1992 Optare Delta DAF UK

3x Optare Delta  Delta single decker (1988–1999)

1992 Optare MetroRider UK


1992 Optare MetroRider UK MetroRider minibus (1989–2000, replaced by Solo)

1992 Optare Spectra 1994 Optare Spectra with H46-28F body Optare 'Spectra' double decker Optare Spectra W164RFX 3164 was a Millennium edition to the Spectra fleet Wilts&Dorset 3185

6x Optare Spectra 1992 Optare MetroRider UK (1991–1997, low floor 1997–2005)

1994 Optare vecta 1995 Optare Vectra  UK Optare Vecta 13x Optare Vecta midibus (1991–1997)

Optare Sigma. Optare-Sigma

2 x Optare Sigma (1994–1996, single-deck version of the Spectra)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Optare Prisma 1 Optare Prisma bodied Mercedes-Benz 04053x Optare Prisma (1995–1998) single decker, Mercedes front

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 2000 Optare Excel 2002 Optare Excel UK Optare Excel registered P508 NWU. Wilts & Dorset Optare Excel 36095x Optare Excel (1995–1999) (Excel 2 1999 – 2004, replaced by Tempo)

1998 Optare Solo UK OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 2011 Optare Solo Optare Padbus 412 Optare Solo Classic Optare Solo M1020 Optare Solo midi bus YJ59GFV Stagecoach Optare Solo Exeter

8x Optare Solo Solo low floor midibus (1997-2012, replaced by restyled SR model(Solo+ 2008)(Solo EV 2009- 2012 Replaced by restyled SR EV model)

2003 Optare Alero, was a 7.2 metre, 16 seat low-floor minibus 2008 Optare Alero low-floor-mini-buses-alero-plus-al01-46438 Optare Alero 1 Optare Alero, launched in 2000 was a 7.2 metre, 16 seat low-floor minibus5 x Optare Alero low floor minibus, (Alero 2001 – 2006, Alero Plus 2006 – 2008) 16pl

2009 Optare Esteem UK Preston Bus 209 PN57NFC Scania / East Lancs Esteem in Preston Bus Station OptareEsteem

Optare Esteem Demonstrator Esteem single decker (formerly East Lancs Esteem) (2008–2009)

NEC Optare Rapta - new design nsf 061108 MCOptare Rapta double decker (2009)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 2010 Optare OlympusOptare Olympus double decker (formerly East Lancs Olympus) (2008 -2011)


2011 Optare Visionaire UK Visionaire open-top double decker (formerly East Lancs Visionaire) (2008 -2011)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOptare OmniDekka double decker (formerly East Lancs Omnidekka) (2008-2011, only adopted by Nottingham City Transport)



Ford Transit Optare Bonito A085

Ford Transit Optare Bonito A085 Bonito

Optare Toro Mercedes Benz u62

Optare Toro Mercedes Benz u62 Toro

Optare Solera Ferqui fy02lcl

Optare Solera Ferqui fy02lcl Solera

Optare Soroco Mercedes Benz 2006

optare-soroco-mercedes-benz-2006 Soroco

NO PICTURE Optare Rapido

NO PICTURE Optare Viedo

1985 Optare City Pacer Minibus 1986 Optare City Pacer 1988 OPTARE Delta 1989 Optare Delta UK 1990 Optare Delta 1992 Optare Delta DAF UK 1992 Optare MetroRider UK 1992 Optare Spectra 1994 Optare Spectra with H46-28F body 1994 Optare vecta 1995 Optare Vectra  UK 1996 Optare Sigma  UK 1996 Optare Sigma OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 1998 Optare City Pacer 570 sits OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 1998 Optare Solo UK 2000 Optare Excel 2000 Optare MetroRider UK 2002 Optare Excel UK 2003 Optare Alero, was a 7.2 metre, 16 seat low-floor minibus 2006 Optare Versa NEC 7 November 2006 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 2008 Optare Alero OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 2008 Optare Soroco 2009 Optare Esteem UK OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 2010 Optare Olympus OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 2010 Optare Versa (2) OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 2010 Optare Versa OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 2011 Optare Solo OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 2011 Optare Tempo OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 2011 Optare Visionaire 2012 Optare Bonito 2012 Optare Metrocity 2013 Optare Solo SR for route 470 2013 Optare Solo SR Hybrid 2014 Optare Bonito 081112 1 2014 Optare Solo SR EV 2014 Optare-Metrodecker-front-three-quarter-press-shot Alero, was a 7.2 metre, 16 seat low-floor minibus Blazefield_Starship Optare Versa Compass Bus R84 EDW Ford Transit Optare Bonito A085 low-floor-mini-buses-alero-plus-al01-46438 Midland Classic W675 DDN NEC Optare Rapta - new design nsf 061108 MC Optare Alero 1 Optare Alero, launched in 2000 was a 7.2 metre, 16 seat low-floor minibus Optare City Pacer Optare ColumboRider in Agyaat The Unknown, 2009 Optare Delta  Southern Transit J205 VHN Preston Bus 209 PN57NFC Scania / East Lancs Esteem in Preston Bus Station Optare Excel A Stansted Transit R817WJA Optare Excel registered P508 NWU. Optare Harris Optare Lodge's low floor bus Optare MetroRider Optare Mini Bus First London Optare old logo Optare Olympian Optare Optima Opus Optare Padbus 412 Optare Solo Classic Optare Prisma 1 Optare Prisma 1a Optare Prisma bodied Mercedes-Benz 0405 Optare Sigma. Optare Solera Ferqui fy02lcl Optare Solo M1020 Optare Solo midi bus YJ59GFV Optare Solo SR left hand drive hybrid Optare Soroco Mercedes Benz 2006 Optare 'Spectra' double decker Optare Spectra W164RFX 3164 was a Millennium edition to the Spectra fleet Optare Stagecoach to Newport Optare StarRider HarrowBuses G82KUB Optare StarRider Optare Tempo SR bus Optare Toro Mercedes Benz u62 Optare Vecta 1 Optare works, Leeds Optare_Manufacturing_Plant OptareEsteem Optare-Sigma Optare-Tempo-SR-picture-2 Stagecoach Optare Solo Exeter Wilts & Dorset Optare Excel 3609 Wilts&Dorset 3185

NABI North American Bus Industries USA

NoAm - Logo

North American Bus Industries

NABI logo

“NABI” redirects here. For other uses, see Nabi (disambiguation).
Type Subsidiary
Industry Bus manufacturing
Founded 1992
Headquarters AnnistonAlabama
Products Buses
Owner(s) New Flyer Industries



NABI Bus, LLC (NABI) was a designer and producer of heavy-duty transit buses from 31-feet to 60-feet in length. These were sold to operators throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. NABI’s headquarters, including its bus manufacturing and assembly operations, are located at in AnnistonAlabama. In the future, NABI will produce the product lines of its parent, New Flyer Industries at the Anniston plant, and production of its own product lines will end. Its U.S. operations also include an aftermarket parts division in DelawareOH (at the former Flxible factory), and an after-sales service center at Mira LomaCA.




The company that is now NABI was incorporated in the USA, in the state of Alabama, in November 1992, under the name American Ikarus, Inc. (American Ikarus). It was incorporated by the First Hungary Fund Limited, (FHF) a Jersey equity investment fund. Its incorporation was accompanied by FHF’s concurrent formation of a Hungarian holding company, North American Bus Industries, Kft. (NABI Hungary) owning the shares of American Ikarus. This arrangement—with American Ikarus as a subsidiary of NABI Hungary–(collectively The Group) resulted in FHF’s investment being Hungarian-based—in alignment with FHF’s objective of investing in business opportunities resulting from the political and economic changes then taking place in Hungary. American Ikarus simultaneously acquired the assets of Ikarus USA, Inc. (Ikarus USA) a bus manufacturing subsidiary of the Union City Body Company, Inc. (UCBC) of Union City, Indiana.Such assets included facilities in Alabama, miscellaneous equipment and inventory.


UCBC and Ikarus USA had been parties to a strategic alliance with Ikarus Body and Coach Building Works of Budapest, Hungary. (Ikarus Hungary) At the time, Ikarus Hungary was a very large bus manufacturer having multiple plants in Hungary, with a production output during the 1980s of over 13,000 buses per year. Simultaneously with the formation of American Ikarus, the previously established strategic alliance between Ikarus USA and Ikarus Hungary was assigned to the newly incorporated American Ikarus.

2008 CAT NABI Hybrid

At the time of incorporation, it was planned that American Ikarus would purchase unfinished buses from Ikarus Hungary under its strategic alliance, ship them to the U.S. and perform final assembly at its Alabama plant. This arrangement provided certain engineering and manufacturing benefits and allowed compliance with “Buy America” requirements of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 which established American content requirements for federally assisted rolling stock procurements, including transit buses. Such vehicles had already been designed by Ikarus Hungary specifically for the U.S. market, with unfinished buses having been produced previously by Ikarus Hungary under the same strategic alliance with Ikarus USA. These vehicles were the Model 416 forty-foot standard-floor transit bus and its larger sibling, the Model 436 sixty-foot articulated transit bus.


The plant in Anniston, AL was opened in 1993 under this business arrangement, performing final assembly operations, delivery and after-sales service using unfinished buses produced in Hungary. Delivery of unfinished buses was accomplished by rail shipment from Budapest to Bremerhaven, then shipment by roll-on/roll-off ocean vessels to Charleston, SC, and then by delivery on flatbed trailers to Anniston, AL.

Blue Bird Ultra LF Milton Transit Bus 0804 NABI

At the time of incorporation, Ikarus’ business was in decline due to unusual political and economic changes following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Such decline continued after The Group’s formation, resulting in the shutdown of one of Ikarus’ plants in Budapest. This plant was purchased from Ikarus Hungary by NABI, Kft. which simultaneously entered a license agreement with Ikarus Hungary allowing NABI, Kft. to produce its own unfinished buses in Budapest and deliver them to its subsidiary in Alabama for final assembly and delivery to U.S. customers. In 1994 The Group began use of this manufacturing arrangement with no further involvement of Ikarus Hungary other than its role as licensor of the Model 416 and Model 436 standard-floor transit bus designs.

CAT NABI 436 530-564

In 1996, the company began aggressive expansion of its aftermarket parts department which had previously supplied service parts only for its own products. This expansion was accomplished by hiring individuals previously employed within the aftermarket parts organization of the Flexible Corporation, which had recently discontinued transit bus manufacturing and aftermarket parts operations in Ohio. Once hired, this group leased facilities in Ohio, and began to expand the sale of aftermarket parts to operators of competing makes of buses.


Also in 1996, American Ikarus, Inc. was renamed “North American Bus Industries, Inc.” due to the dissolution of its affiliation with Ikarus Hungary some years earlier, and because the company was easily and incorrectly confused with the no longer related Ikarus Hungary, which had fallen into further distress due to continued decline of its European markets.


In 1997, NABI Kft. was re-registered in Hungary from a limited liability company to NABI, Rt., a joint stock company, allowing it to raise capital via public offering. Thereafter, in August of that year, the company raised $US 27.1 million in a public offering, with its shares listed on the Budapest Stock Exchange. FHF retained approximately 56% of NABI, Rt. shares, with the remainder of the shares publically traded.

LA NABI 62ft

Also in 1997, NABI Hungary was certified as conforming to the ISO 9001 quality and organizational standard, with NABI, Inc. becoming ISO 9001 certified the following year. In 1998, The Group also implemented the use of BaaN, an integrated enterprise resource planning system. Additionally, 1998 marked the introduction of NABI’s new, 40-foot low-floor Model 40-LFW transit bus. (35-foot and 31-foot variants of this product were later derived).



In 2000, The Group announced its move into the European bus market with NABI, Inc.’s debt-financed acquisition of all of the shares of the Optare Group, (Optare) of Leeds, U.K. for $US 28.5 million, making Optare a NABI, Inc. subsidiary. Anticipated benefits included immediate participation in the European market as well as eventual European market participation with a new, composite-structured bus then under development. Plans also included the derivation of certain left-hand-drive Optare products for U.S. and Hungarian markets.

LACMTA NABI (Ikarus) 60-foot Articulated Bus

Although there had been previous moderate expansion of NABI’s Anniston, AL facility, 2001 marked additional and substantial factory expansion, taking the Anniston, AL plant to over 250,000 square feet (under roof). 2001 also marked derivation of the 30-foot NABI Model 30-LFN which was a left-hand-drive derivative of the recently developed Optare “Solo” being sold in the UK. Sale of these small low-floor buses commenced to private and public operators within the U.S. An additional outgrowth of the Optare acquisition was the sale of a small number of full-size (11 meter) NABI Model 700SE’s the following year in Hungary. These were derived from the Optare Excel, and were produced on Scania chassis.


In 2002, NABI Hungary completed construction of a new plant in Kaposvar, Hungary. This new plant was purpose-built for the manufacture of the CompoBus, a new, composite-structured low-floor bus. Production of CompoBuses began in earnest in 2003, with a significantly greater portion of this particular NABI product produced in Hungary than with other NABI products.

NABI 60ft BRT - CNG Powered

This new CompoBus manufacturing arrangement—unique for NABI—resulted in these buses being short of the FTA’s normal Buy America requirements. However, NABI had sought Buy America waivers associated with the development of this new bus model, and had been granted two such waivers by the FTA. The first waiver allowed NABI to assemble its CompoBus outside the United States, and the second allowed it to count the composite chassis/frame as domestic for purposes of calculating the domestic component content of the vehicle. Both waivers applied to FTA funded procurements for which solicitations were issued within two years of the date of the waiver letter. That same year NABI introduced the 60-LFW, a new 60-foot low-floor articulated derivative of its 40-LFW model developed some years earlier.

NABI 60-LFW 2008 CTA-articulated-bus

In late 2004, NABI unveiled a new 60-foot low-floor articulated bus with rail-like styling, which had been in development since early 2003. This new product was designated the Model 60-BRT. Delivery of production versions began the following year, and a shorter, 42-foot derivative was eventually produced.

NABI 416 transit New Yersey

After continuing disappointing financial results through 2004, NABI, Inc. sold its Optare subsidiary in 2005, and it also idled its composite bus production facility in Kaposvar, laying off 23% of its workforce in Hungary. The shutdown was due to uncertain future demand for the CompoBus and the weakened U.S. dollar. Also, in December 2005, the FTA refused to extend the previously granted waivers exempting the CompoBus from Buy America requirements.

NABI articulated natural gas-powered bus on LA Metro's Line 4 on Santa Monica Blvd. in Beverly Hills

In early 2006, NABI entered a preliminary agreement with affiliates of Cerberus Capital Management, L.P. (Cerberus) for the acquisition of all of the shares of NABI, Inc. and the business assets of NABI Rt. This transaction was completed in February 2006.[11] (Concurrently, the Hungarian company that was not being acquired changed its name to ExBus, relegating itself to asset management unrelated to NABI.)

NABI BRT Metroliner

In August 2006, NABI announced its acquisition of Optima Bus Corporation in Wichita, KS (Optima) for an undisclosed amount. A short time later, it was announced that Cerberus had also acquired Blue Bird Corporation of Ft. Valley, GA (Blue Bird) thus rendering it a “sister” to NABI, Inc.

NABI bus of the LA County MTA (Metro) used for Rapid bus service

In June 2007, Optima’s operations in Wichita, KS were shut-down, and work-in-process, inventory and tooling for Optima’s products were moved to NABI’s Anniston, AL plant. At generally the same time, the work-in-process, tooling and inventory for Blue Bird’s commercial buses were acquired by NABI and was also transferred to NABI, Inc.’s plant. NABI, Inc. elected to retain the names these products, and began producing these smaller buses at its Anniston, AL plant, thus adding Optima and Blue Bird brands to its product portfolio.

NABI Metro 45C LACMTA 8063

Generally at this same time, NABI also shifted the manufacture of its standard-floor model 416 unfinished buses from Hungary to newly leased facilities adjoining its existing Anniston, AL plant. Under this arrangement, standard-floor body structures and other vehicle elements are fabricated at the adjoining facility and are then towed a short distance into NABI’s final assembly operation.

NABI North American Bus Industie Bus RApid Transit

In late 2007, NABI began re-commissioning its CompoBus production plant in Kaposvar, simultaneously shifting certain assembly operations to Anniston and thus rendering the CompoBus compliant with Buy America requirements. CompoBus deliveries resumed in 2008 without the need for further waivers from the FTA.

NABI RRTA Optima 127 Optima Opus

2008 also saw additional expansion at NABI’s Anniston, AL plant with the installation of a new, robotic paint system. This expansion took the Anniston plant to approximately 1/3 million square feet under roof, not including adjacent leased facilities used for manufacture of standard-floor unfinished buses.



Attempts to integrate the production of the smaller Optima and Blue Bird buses into NABI’s operations eventually proved disruptive, and in 2010, NABI discontinued the production of its Optima and Blue Bird brand commercial bus products.


The following year, NABI commissioned a new fabrication shop at its plant, equipped with robotic laser cutting equipment as well as tube bending and other new fabrication equipment. At approximately the same time, new body assembly tooling for low-floor buses was installed at its adjoining body fabrication facility. With these changes in place, NABI shifted the manufacturing of its metal-structured low-floor unfinished buses from Hungary to the same facility that had already begun manufacturing NABI’s standard-floor products in Alabama a few years earlier.


Also in 2010, NABI unveiled its new 12-meter Sirius bus at its plant in Kaposvar, Hungary. This new product, produced on an MAN chassis, was developed for Hungarian public transportation operators.


In 2011, NABI unveiled new styling for its metal-structured low-floor product and its CompoBus. Restyling of both products was accomplished primarily by using a redesigned front mask, leaving the body structure unchanged from earlier versions of the same models. Also, a 40-foot CompoBus prototype incorporating the new styling was also produced.


In April 30, 2013, after completing a large order of CompoBuses for the Los Angeles MTA, NABI produced its final CompoBus in Hungary. At the same time, NABI elected to discontinue promotion of its Hungarian Sirius bus, thus ending all production in Hungary and relegating all manufacturing and final assembly activities to its facilities in the USA.


On June 21, 2013, New Flyer Industries announced the acquisition of North American Bus Industries, Inc from Cerberus Capital Management, L.P. (Cerberus) for $79 million. The deal was completed later that day. However, New Flyer continued NABI name for its existing bus lines, which continued in production for the time being. This made NABI a subsidiary of New Flyer, using the legal name of NABI Bus, LLC. The Blue Bird school bus production assets were not included in the sale to New Flyer; they remain owned by Cerberus. As of late 2013, all of New Flyer’s metal-structured bus production (with the exception of the MiDi, a product of the New Flyer–Alexander Dennis joint venture) is now under the NABI brand.

Press Conf NABI artic Left Front

In June 2014, New Flyer announced that the NABI product line will be discontinued after existing orders are filled, and NABI will begin to exclusively produce New Flyer’s “Xcelsior” product line at its Anniston plant in 2015.



Santa Monica rapid blue NABI BRT 5310

Although NABI has utilized various manufacturing arrangements throughout its history, it currently produces its metal-structured products entirely in Anniston, AL. These metal-structured buses consist of the standard-floor model 416 (40-foot length), the low-floor Model LFW (produced in 31-foot, 35-foot and 40-foot lengths) and the low-floor BRT (produced in 42-foot and 60-foot lengths).Sirius-web

All NABI products comply with current U.S. DOT Buy America requirements for Federally funded transit bus procurements—including domestic component value requirements as well as final assembly requirements.


01 NABI-60-BRT-Allison-HybridNABI BRT CNGDieselDiesel-Electric Hybrid

NABI LACMTA 7992 40c-LFW Compobus

Compobus 2013 CNGDieselDiesel-Electric Hybrid Operators include Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) andValley Metro.

02 40-LFW Gen3

NABI LFW CNGDieselDiesel-Electric Hybrid

03 Miami 30LFN Curb Front

2005 30 FLN Diesel A badge engineered Optare Solo—Discontinued after NABI sold Optare

04 CAT_NABI_436_530-564

436(60SFW) 2008 The last set of buses were built in 2002 for SamTrans

05 CTA-articulated-bus

60LFW diesel 2008 One order produced for the Chicago Transit Authority. All were scrapped after structural defects were found in 2009.

07 NABI_Sirius_Suburban_s

Sirius 2013 Vehicle designed for the European market.

08 NABI-416

416 2014 CNGDieselDiesel-Electric Hybrid

MCW (Metro Cammell Weymann) Buses + Metrobus

Metro Cammell Weymann03Travel West Midlands MkII Metrobuses seen in Dudley.

002 S3M-B1

3-axle Metro Cammell WeymannSuper Metrobus (11 m) owned byKowloon Motor Bus in Hong Kong.
003 Yorkshire_Traction_MCW_Metroliner

A double deck Metroliner 400GT with Yorkshire Traction, with a Megabusvehicle behind it

Metro Cammell Weymann (MCW) was once a major player in transportation manufacturing in the UK and Europe. It was formed in 1932 by Weymann Motor Bodies Ltd and Metro Cammell‘s bus bodybuilding division to produce bus bodies.

MCW bus bodies were built in Metro-Cammell’s and Weymann’s factories until 1966 when Weymann’s factory in Addlestone was closed (the Metro-Cammell and Weymann brand names were dropped in the same year). From 1977 MCW also built bus chassis.

In 1989 the Laird group decided to sell its bus and rail divisions. No buyer for the complete group could be found so each product was sold separately. The Metrorider was bought by Optare who relaunched it as the MetroRider; the Metrobus design was bought by DAF(chassis) and Optare (body), who jointly reworked it into the Optare Spectra. The Metroliner design was acquired by Optare though not pursued. The Metrocab was bought by Reliant. Metro-Cammell’s rail division and the Washwood Heath factory went to GEC Alsthom (now Alstom)


  • London Transport RLH
  • Orion series
  • London Transport’s DMS body built in partnership with Park Royal throughout the 1970s.
  • West Midland PTE’s standard bus body in the 1970s on both the Daimler/Leyland Fleetline (again built in partnership with Park Royal) and theBristol VR.
  • A generic double deck body range built in the 1970s on Leyland Atlantean and Daimler Fleetline chassis with notable customers being Liverpool Corporation and Tyne & Wear PTE.

Chassis/Complete buses

  • Metroliner – single and double deck coach
    • Metroliner – Semi-integral 4.23 m high double deck coach
    • Metroliner 400GT – integral 4 m high double deck coach
    • Metroliner – Semi-integral 3.2 m high single deck coach
    • Metro Hiliner – Integral 3.4 m high single deck coach


MCW Metrobus

MCW Metrobus

Preserved West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive MCW Metrobus Mk1 in May 2013

Arriva Buses Wales Metrobus Lower Saloon Interior
Manufacturer Metro Cammell Weymann
Body and chassis
Doors 1 to 3
Floor type Step entrance
Engine Gardner 6LXB Gardner 6LXCT Gardner 6LXDT Rolls-Royce Eagle 220 Mk III Cummins LT10 Cummins LTA10-B282
Transmission Voith DIWA851 Voith DIWA851.2 Voith DIWA854 Voith DIWA864G Maxwell
Length 9.7m, 11.0m, 11.3m or 12.0m
Width 2.5m

The MCW Metrobus is a double decker bus model manufactured by Metro Cammell Weymann (MCW) between 1977 and 1989, with over 4,000 examples built. The original MkI model was superseded by the MkII model (which had a symmetrical windscreen) in 1981, although production of the original MkI continued for London Transport until 1985. The Metrobus was conceived as an integral product manufactured completely by MCW, but Alexander and Northern Counties also bodied some examples.

MCW planned to produce a single deck version but this was not to come into production.

United Kingdom


Travel West Midlands Metrobuses Mk11s in Dudley in April 2006

Preserved Northern General Transport Company Metrobus MkII in May 2009

In the United Kingdom, the Metrobus was mainly used in the metropolitan areas, especially London and the West Midlands.


London Transport purchased 1,440 MkI examples between 1978 and 1985, numbering them M1 to M1440. Two MkII prototypes were delivered to London Transport as M1441 and M1442 in 1984, but there were no further orders. In 1987 and 1988, 14 secondhand Metrobuses were purchased from Greater Manchester PTEWest Yorkshire PTE and Busways. London Transport’s low-cost subsidiary Harrow Buses leased 29 new MkII Metrobuses in 1987, but had to return them to their lessor three years later. London Transport’s Metrobuses were the mainstay of the double decker fleet between 1987 and privatisation in 1994, when most of them passed to seven of the new operators.

MTL bought the London Northern company, with a host of Metrobuses. It acquired more when it took over London Suburban Buses, and including some ex-London examples from its Merseyside operation. Garages were at North Acton, Holloway and Potters Bar. Metroline Northern perations in London dwindled during 2002, with Ms replaced by low-floor buses on most routes. Some clung through 2003 on as deputising on the AEC Routemaster routes, but operation on TfL services ceased in March 2004. Potters Bar was the last outpost, where a handful remained on other services until May 2005; where the Volvo Olympians took over.

London General reached the end with Metrobuses in normal service in February 2003, when Stockwell’s last were withdrawn. This still left a couple for special purposes (M1440 at Sutton and the “spotted cow” liveried M1435). There was still a crowd of white-blouse and grey-skirt training buses too, which were mainly moved out from their comfy homes to the Plough Lane open-air space, to make room for the new larger fleet of low-floor WVLs. There is an open-top MCW Metrobus for use by hire in London General; it was also replaced by the withdrawn NVs that left route 74 with a lurch.

First CentrewestFirst Capital and London United also reached the end with Metrobuses in normal service in 2003.

Arriva London also continued using Metrobuses until these were finally displaced in 2002/03.

Some of the MCW Metrobuses were converted to open-top for use by The Original Tour, which is classed as MB class. These were withdrawn by December 2007, replaced by modernised buses. London Pride Sightseeing also has MCW Metrobuses, but these were sold to Ensignbus.

By 2014, there were no MCW Metrobuses licensed for use in London.

West Midlands

Main article: West Midlands Metrobus

The West Midlands PTE and its successor, West Midlands Travel, also purchased significant numbers of Metrobuses (over 1,100), both MkI and MkII examples. These included five prototype vehicles (allocated to Washwood Heath depot near the MCW factory so they could see the vehicles performance in service) and 50 dual-purpose Metrobuses with high-back seats, purchased in 1986. Many of these buses were converted to normal seated buses and continued in service until November 2008. They were mainly used on limited-stop services. Fourteen guided buses were delivered for route 65 (branded Tracline 65), which was the first guided bus system in UK, although the experiment only lasted a couple of years. All of the 14 guided buses were converted for conventional use.

In early 1995 Marshall Bus of Cambridge were contracted to overhaul all of West Midland Travel’s Metrobus fleet. This was the largest used bus overhaul programme in Europe at the time and Marshalls set up a dedicated business division and staff to handle it. Many unavailable parts had to be sourced and made to original patterns by the Marshall procurement team. A production line was established in one of Marshall’s aircraft hangars and anything up to 30 Metrobuses could be found in work at some stage along the line. Duration of refurbishment of each bus was usually 2-3 per week. No powerline items were included with the result that original engines were simply put back in the overhauled buses as they were. This had the effect that as the vehicles were driven from the West Midlands to Marshalls at Cambridge and driven back once completed, they frequently broke down. Over 600 mainly MkII metrobuses were overhauled and the contract ended abruptly in 1999 due to lack of confidence in Marshall Bus over delays with WMT orders for their new single deck buses. As a result of the unique experience gained by Marshall Bus on the Metrobus programme, they won a similar contract to overhaul Transport for London AEC Routemasters starting in 1999.

The last public service ran the 1 service from Birmingham Town Hall to Acocks Green Village, arriving back at Acocks Green Garage at 15:25 on 24 July 2010 and was bus 2903 C903FON. A Metrobus Farewell event was held at Acocks Green on that day and all three of the last Metrobuses were operated, these were 2832, 2903 & 2988 (B832AOP, C903FON & E988VUK). All cash fares taken on the day were donated to Cancer Research UK.

The Green Bus still operate various former Harrow Buses MkII and former National Express West Midlands Mk-IIA Metrobuses on both school services and commercial services.

South Yorkshire

South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) purchased over 100 examples between 1981 and 1985. The SYPTE standard fully sprung seats were fitted along with 20 MkIIs having coach seats for express work. The vehicles were noted for quick acceleration although had distinctive engine noise and were rust prone around the engine bay.

The Metrobus also found sales to National Bus Company companies prior to privatisation, Maidstone & District Motor Services and Northern General Transport Company purchased significant numbers.

Hong Kong

Early introductions

In Hong Kong, the China Motor Bus (CMB) introduced 12 Metrobuses (MC1-MC12) in 1978 for its luxury coach services (which covered the routes between Repulse BayStanley and theCentral District). Within a year, MCW produced an 11-metre 2-axle version of Metrobus. Only 40 were produced all for CMB as MB1-MB40 in 1978/79. The MB class were allocated mostly on express and cross-harbour services. Both batches of CMB Metrobuses had MkI bodies.



Preserved China Motor BusMetrobus MkII ML1 in George Street, Sydney in January 2007

Kowloon Motor Bus 3-axle MCW Metrobus MkII (11m)

In 1981, MCW produced prototypes of 3-axle, 12-metre long “Super-Metrobuses”. Two were purchased by CMB as ML1-ML2 and three by Kowloon Motor Bus as M1-M3, later renumbered 3M1-3M3. All were bodied with MCW MkII bodies. CMB purchased a further 82 (ML3-84) between 1983 and 1988, while KMB purchased 80 2-axle Metrobuses (M1-M80, with MkII bodies) between 1983 and 1985.

While KMB was not interested in the 12-metre version Super-Metrobuses, they did express their interest in an 11-metre 3-axle version (the CMB 11-metre version Metrobuses were 2-axle) with 254 11-metre 3-axle Metrobuses (S3M1-254) purchased between 1986 and 1989. Fifty of these buses were fitted with Cummins engines, and another one (later numbered S3M145) was originally fitted with a prototype air-conditioner, but this proved unreliable and was subsequently removed.

Between 1987 and 1989, Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC) also purchased 59 2-axle Metrobuses for their feeder bus services. 39 of them (101-139) were brand new with MkII bodies, while another 20 (140-159) were second-hand buses purchased from South Yorkshire PTE) with MkI bodies.

Argos Bus purchased 6 Metrobuses for their non-franchised routes and private hire services between 1988 and 1989. They were from the same batch as those bought second-hand by KCRC.

KMB purchased eight further 2-axle Metrobuses (M81-M88) in 1989. These buses were fitted with Cummins LTA10-B282 (282 hp) engines and Voith D864G 4-speed gearbox, and were used on the hilly KMB Route 51 (between Tsuen Wan and Kam Tin, climbing Tai Mo Shan along its way). Later KMB fitted some of its older Metrobuses with Cummins engines, in order to avoid excess damage to buses running the hilly route.



The Original Tour MCW Super Metrobus 12m MkII in London in June 2011

The MkI second-hand Metrobuses were the first to be withdrawn, and all of them have now been scrapped. Many of the KCRC ones were loaned to Citybus for few years before final withdrawal.

CMB removed its MC-class Metrobuses from the luxury routes after introducing Dennis Darts for the service in 1991, preserving the seating layout. These Metrobuses were allocated to non-luxury routes in the Southern District, Hong Kong, as well as route 13 serving the “Mid-levels“. Although CMB was the first to introduce Metrobuses, it withdrew only 3 of them (all were accident victims) before the end of its franchise in August 1998. Its earliest Metrobuses were 20 years old at that time. New World First Bus purchased all the remaining CMB Metrobuses and Super-Metrobuses when it took over most of the CMB routes, and converted 3 MC-class Metrobuses to training buses. In 2000, the last of the MCW Metrobuses were de-registered, briefly exported to The Original TourBig Bus Company or Australia. Some of the MCW Metrobuses were brought back to The Original Tour in the year 2006. As of 2013, the last of the examples from United Kingdom were withdrawn. For Australia, there is a bunch of space for preserved buses from Hong Kong.

KMB allocated its 3 Super-Metrobuses to the New Territories for many years. For example, they were serving on route 61A (which connected Tuen Mun and Yuen Long new towns) right before the KCR Light Rail took over the services. After that, they were seen on route 36A (which connected a public housing estate in Kwai Chung to a ferry pier) until the route’s decline in the mid-1990s. They spent a few further years as spare buses before being withdrawn from passenger service in 1996 and converted to training buses. They were finally sold and scrapped in 2001.

KMB started to withdraw its 2-axle Metrobuses in 1997. Some of them had their chassis damaged due to the fatigue caused during their service on the Tai Mo Shan KMB Route 51, which climbed to the highest altitude achievable by buses in Hong Kong. These were withdrawn by 2003. The 11-metre 3-axle Metrobuses in KMB were not withdrawn until summer 2002.

KCRC also started to withdraw their Mark II Metrobuses in the early 2000s. The last 2-axle Metrobus in Hong Kong (KCRC 134) was withdrawn in October 2005.

The last Metrobus in Hong Kong (KMB fleet number S3M233, license no. EH8559) ceased operation on 8 May 2007. As of mid-2011, no more Metrobuses were licensed and in use in Hong Kong.

End of production

Production of the Metrobus ceased in 1989 with the financial collapse of MCW. The last Metrobus built was West Midlands Travel 3121, it had a message from the builders stating that it was the last one built by MCW and signed by the staff on the inside of the roof.

The Metrobus design was purchased by Optare in 1990, which had recently joined the United Bus group with DAF Bus. Despite owning design and production rights, the two companies heavily reworked the design to produce a new vehicle, the DAF DB250 based Optare Spectra, which was launched in 1991 and ceased production in late 2005.

1935 AEC Regent new to Leeds as number 161 with an MCCW H30-26R body 1936 AEC 664T with Metro-Cammell H40-30R body 1936 Midland Red FEDD 1742, BHA303 with an MCCW H30-26F body 1936 Trent FEDD carries an MCCW body 1936 Trolley met MCW body lt260a 1936 Trolleybus met MCW body 1936. A BMMO FEDD with MCCW body 1937 Daimler COG5 with Metro-Cammell H30-24R 1938 London H1 class Trolleybus 796, ELB796, one of 160 in the class MCCW 1938 London Transport 898, ELB898, an H1 MCCW 1939 Birmingham City Transport M.C.C.W. bodied Daimler COG5 1939 Leyland TD6c with an M.C.C.W. H28-24R body 1940 AEC Renown with MCCW H32-32R body 1940 Daimler COG5 - Metro Cammell H28-26R 1940 Daimler COG5 4266, GNC61, with Metro Cammell H28-26R 1944 Metro Cammell-Crossley H28 26R body 1946 Birch Bros K183, HLY483 was a Leyland PD1 with a Birch L28-25F body. It was rebodied in 1956 with an MCCW H30-26R body 1946 Leyland PD1 with an M.C.C.W. H30-26R body 1946-7 of ten Leyland PD1s with Birch L28-25F bodies. Seven of them received new MCCW H30-26R bodies in 1956-7 1947 Leyland PD1-3 with a Metro Cammell H32-26R body 1948 BUT 9641T with Metro-Cammell body H40-30R body 1948 Guy Arab III with an MCW 35 seat body 1948 Guy Arab III with MCW 35 seat rear entrance body 1948 Leyland PD1 with MCCW H28-26R body 1948 London Transport 1768, HYM768, a 1948 BUT 964T161 with MCW bodywork 1949 Daimler CVG6, one of eighty-seven with Metro-Cammell H30-24R body 1949 Leyland Comet Truck Tiger MCW Olympic Bus Brochure wq669-O1XU5S 1949 Leyland PD1-3 with Metro-Cammell H33-26R body 1950 B.M.M.O. S12 with a Metro-Cammell B44F body 1950 BMMO S6 Midland Red MCW Bus Photo wk2595-HPYEB3a 1950 BMMO-MCW S10