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


Buses Body – Coach Builders DUPLE Hornsey London UK

Bus Body – Coach Builder DUPLE Hornsey London UK

00 Bedford Duple

Duple Coachbuilders

01 DupleDominant

Duple Dominant IV

Duple was best known as a British manufacturer of coach and bus bodywork from 1919 until 1989.

Duple Bodies & Motors Ltd was formed in 1919 by Herbert White in HornseyLondon. Before World War I, he had briefly built cars under the Bifort name in Fareham, Hampshire.


Early days

The name ‘Duple’ is intended to convey the principle of a single vehicle being suitable for a dual role, an idea Mr. White developed. The first vehicle of this type was called the Bifort. Subsequently, former military Ford Model Ts were fitted with the newly designed dual-purpose bodywork. The bodies looked like a small touring car, but could be transformed into a van by removing the decking at the rear of the car and fitting a van top. This type of vehicle had enormous appeal to the owners of small businesses, who were able to obtain a working vehicle and private car for little extra, and soon bodywork of this type was being produced in substantial numbers. The ‘convertible’ body as it was known internally was built on Morris Cowley and Oxford chassis as well as the Ford T; as well as the standard van top there was a pick-up and even a version with raising sides and slide-out display shelves for use in markets, production ceasing around the end of the 1920s although Duple continued to repair and service examples for many years afterward.

In 1926 a new factory was opened in Hendon to meet growing demand.

Coachwork had been built on occasions since the inception of the Company, including a six-wheeled LanciaBarton Charabanc. but in 1928 it was decided to make an effort to increase output of this body type substantially. As a result the order book began to grow and within ten years the number of people employed had risen to around 800.

In 1928, Walter Ernest Brown, a former partner in the Strachan & Brown bodybuilding business, joined the firm, and he had a major influence on the Company’s future expansion.

Major clients of this period included Great Western Railway, who ordered a number of bodies for its expanding bus fleet, and Elliott Brothers’ Royal Blue fleet.


By 1930, the total number of coach and bus bodies produced was 250, establishing Duple as an emerging bodybuilder of some stature, whose distinctive design features were able to influence national trends.

The depression of the 1930s coupled with the introduction of the 1930 Road Traffic Act brought about changes in the bodybuilding sector, which led to a stabilising of the transport industry, established operators feeling secure now that the threat of unregulated competition had been removed by the licensing system. Accordingly, there was a trend towards vehicles with higher standards of finish and more comfortable interiors.

In 1930, Duple received the largest single order to date, for 50 bodies to be fitted to the AEC Regal chassis of Green Line Coaches, the newly established express service arm of the London General Omnibus Company.

In August 1931, two Bedford passenger chassis (the 14-seat WHB and 20-seat WLB) were announced. Duple had built early bodies on the WLB chassis for the Vauxhall Motors (the parent company of Bedford), and was listed in publicity material as one of the four bodybuilders recommended for the WLB chassis. As demand for the type rose, Duple’s ability to produce in quantity set them apart from their competitors, and soon Duple-bodied Bedford WLBs were in service around the country. The association with Bedford was to last over 50 years.

In 1932, Duple acquired the business of London Lorries who, despite the name, were heavily involved in the manufacture of coach bodies.

By the middle of the 1930s, Duple was widely regarded as a coachbuilder, although bus bodies were still produced in quite large numbers. An order was received from Vauxhall Motors for special sports tourer bodies on Vauxhall 14 hp light six chassis and a stand was taken at the 1933 London Motor Show to display them. They were advertised by Vauxhall up to 1935 and may have been Duple’s last car bodies made in quantity, although they also bodied Canadian-assembled Buick 8-50 cars for General Motors in the UK. Also built in the 1930s was a special coupé on an Alvis speed 20 model for Mr Lloyd Thompson of the Holdsworth Moquette company, a major supplier to Duple and many other coachbuilders.

Export business had been developed early, based mainly on the travels of the Duple directors, including W. E. Brown, who had already been to the United States and Canada and now embarked on a Mediterranean tour, taking in GreeceSyria and Egypt. Export orders were also received in quantity from East Africa and Argentina, and closer to home in Europe. This in part helped to compensate for the reduced demand for UK bodywork, which tended to be seasonal.

By 1934, the original site had become inadequate and 3½ acres of adjoining land were purchased for expansion. Although car body production was coming to an end, major contracts for the GPO were obtained during the 1930s, for telephone repair vans in the main, on either Morris Minor or larger Morris Commercial Chassis, although two specials were BLB444 of 1934 the blue streamlined van designed to publicise the air mail service, which was modelled as a Dinky Toy. and GPO1 which was a Morris Commeciral Leader tractive unit coupled to a Brockhouse semi-trailer upon which Duple built a travelling post office for use at agricultural shows, race meetings and other major public events.

The late 1930s saw the era of the classic coach design, with operators becoming increasingly conscious of the appearance of their coaches. Many coach bodies were of individual design, but readily identifiable as Duple. The introduction of sloping pillars, curving roof- and waist-lines along with shaped mouldings on the side panels all contributed to a new ‘aerodynamic’ style that was increasing in popularity. Although coachwork continued to be Duple’s main product, single-deck bus bodies formed a good part of the production from the mid-1930s, with one customer, Barton Transport, placing a bulk order for such bodies to be delivered over an extended period.

In 1936, Duple introduced the Vista design of bodywork, primarily for the Bedford WTB chassis. It had curved roof- and waist-lines, and featured a sliding roof as standard. In 1937 a revised design of the Vista, the Vista II, was introduced together with a new design – the Hendonian. Both of these remained in production until the end of the decade.

In 1939, Bedford introduced a new range of goods models, which included the ‘O’, with characteristic ‘bullnose’ grille. The passenger version was named the ‘OB’ and Duple modified the Hendonian body to fit the chassis, which at 14 ft 6 in, was longer than the WTB. With the advent of World War II, Bedford production was turned over to the war effort, with only 73 OB chassis produced, and it was not until after cessation of hostilities that the Bedford OB with Duple Vista bodywork was to become a familiar sight on British roads.


During the Second World War as a member of the London Aircraft Production Group, Duple built fuselages for the Halifax bomber, along with a variety of military products. Duple also built double-deck highbridge and lowbridge buses to utility specifications, and the only new single-deck vehicle to be produced from 1942 to 1945, the Bedford OWB.

Postwar expansion

In 1946 the name of the business was changed to Duple Motor Bodies Limited.

The first postwar production model to appear was the Duple Vista body on the Bedford OB chassis. The standard seating capacity soon became 29, although models with different capacities were still available. The Vista coachwork remained Duple’s standard OB body until production of the OB chassis ceased in the early 1950s.

Deliveries of Duple bodywork on full-sized chassis (such as the AEC Regal) began in May 1946, and were known as the A-type, although its curved lines had their origin in the prewar period, so it was not strictly a new design. Before long the order book was filled for several years ahead. Postwar rebodying became common practice as new chassis were initially hard to obtain and Duple built many A-type bodies on different chassis that helped to make it, with its distinctive side ‘flash’, a familiar sight in postwar Britain. Alternative styles were available, all with alphabetic codes, such as the B-type and C-types, which differed in detail only and were regarded as ‘dual-purpose’ bodies, whilst the D-type was Duple’s own design of bus body.

After the war, there was a move towards metal-framed bodies, partly because of their greater durability and partly because of a shortage of timber for traditional bodywork. Duple designed a metal-framed body (the Almet) for export models on the OB chassis, as well as producing a body design for the new SB chassis, then under development. By 1948, Duple had developed a metal-framed double-deck body, examples of which were delivered to the Red & White group and SMT.


In 1950, a range of full-fronted coach bodies named the ‘Ambassador’ was produced, but with the maximum permitted length for coaches increased to 30 ft and the maximum width to 8 ft, a series of new designs was prepared. Many were given names, such as the Roadmaster and Vega, all intended for use on specific chassis. The Roadmaster particularly was unlike anything Duple had previously produced, with its high, straight waistline and small windows. It earned the nickname ‘Iron Duke’ and was intended for underfloor engined chassis, hence the higher waistline. The Vega was intended for the new production model of the Bedford SB, and the bodywork featured a gently curving waistline typical of Duple.

The 1950s brought a difficult time for the bodybuilding industry: the end of the increased postwar demand led to a rapid decline in orders, and competition for the remaining ones became intense. Many of Duple’s former customers were by then in the Tilling Group, which standardised on Bristol chassis and ECW bodywork. Disputes among union labour resulted in a 36-week strike that was catastrophic for Duple. It began to lose significant amounts of business to other companies and a move out of London was considered.

In 1952, Duple acquired Nudd Brothers & Lockyer Limited, based in Kegworth. The newly acquired firm was used to produce metal-framed bodies in the Duple standard range.

Further premises were acquired in Loughborough in 1955, and in 1956 the Kegworth and Loughborough factories were renamed Duple Motor Bodies (Midland) Limited. In 1958, the business of Willowbrook Limited, of Loughborough was acquired, although the business continued to operate under its own name for some time.

Throughout that period, Duple continued to produce new body designs: the Elizabethan, for underfloor-engined chassis, was introduced in 1953; the Britannia, based on the Elizabethan but with vertical pillars, was introduced in 1955, and the Loughborough-built Donington, for dual-purpose use, was added to the list in 1956. The designs for Bedford chassis had continued to be produced, now known as Super Vista (modified C series goods chassis) and Super Vega (SB).

‘Sixties Moves

02 Bedford VAL Duple Viceroy

A 1970 example of the Duple Viceroy body on a Bedford VAL70 chassis

The business of H. V. Burlingham Limited, of Blackpool, best known for the ‘Seagull’ body of the 1950s, was taken over in August 1960, adding a northern arm to Duple’s production. The Burlingham name was retained until 1962, when it was changed to Duple Motor Bodies (Northern) Limited.

Towards the end of 1961 Bedford introduced the VAS chassis and Duple produced a completely new design – the Bella Vista – for it. That year the maximum permitted length for coaches was increased to 36 ft and the maximum width to 8 ft 2½ ins, and Duple (Northern) designed and produced the Continental, with seats for up to 51 passengers. When Bedford announced the six-wheeled VAL in 1962, Duple introduced the Vega Major. For 1964, Duple introduced the Commander, initially built at Hendon but switched to Blackpool later, and in 1966 the Viceroy range replaced the Bella series on most Bedford or Ford chassis.

From 1968 Duple coach production was concentrated at Blackpool, and the company was renamed Duple Coachbuilders Limited. The Hendon factory finally closed in 1970. The Willowbrook subsidiary continued in business under its own name until it was sold in 1971.

Dominant 1970s

At the 1972 Commercial Motor Show, Duple introduced a new range of bodies called the Dominant, which were similar in appearance to the PlaxtonPanorama Elite, already in production since 1968. The Plaxton Supreme range was introduced in 1974, and in response Duple introduced the Dominant II in 1976 with a restyled front and rear end byMichelotti of Turin. The style was cleaner than earlier models with rectangular headlamps in an integrated grille panel and a much deeper windscreen and driver’s window. The Dominant and Supreme body styles were the ubiquitous British coach of the period, with very little competition other than small numbers from Willowbrook. The thought of importing coach bodies from abroad was only just being considered towards the end of the decade.


03 ACK710Y, a Volvo B10M with Duple Caribbean C39Ft bodywork

ACK710Y, a Volvo B10M with Duple Caribbean C39Ft bodywork

The Transport Act 1980 saw the introduction of deregulation of coach services over 30 miles in length. A growing trend towards heavier-duty chassis that had been found more reliable for the high mileage and fast speeds of the motorway, caused the market for light coach chassis from Bedford and Ford to collapse in 1981. Duple’s output fell from 1000 bodies in 1976, to 800 in 1980 and to just over 500 in 1981, which resulted in a reduction in the workforce.

In 1980, the Dominant range was extended with the Dominant III and IV, with similar front ends to the Dominant II, but with reduced brightwork and bumpers. The Dominant III had high-set forward-angled trapezoid windows with thick pillars. Features of all four versions could be mixed and matched. In 1981, the Goldliner was introduced. This was similar to the Dominant, but with a higher floor to allow increased luggage accommodation and improved passenger sightseeing. The initial Goldliner styling featured a stepped roof behind the entrance door and was available in Goldliner II, III and IV designations, similar to the those of the Dominant. In 1982, the Super Goldliner was introduced for a fleet of twelve rear-engined Dennis Falcon Vcoaches developed in conjunction with Dennis and the National Bus Company for high-speed Rapide service. The project was conceived and developed in a very short time, allowing inadequate development, and the resultant vehicles developed a reputation for poor reliability. The Super Goldliner styling, including a continuous flat roof in place of the stepped roof, was mixed and matched on subsequent Goldliner vehicles.

Imports of foreign makes, such as NeoplanBovaVan Hool and Jonckheere, began to make inroads into the UK market. To compete with them, two new body designs, the Laser and the Caribbean, were introduced in 1982. The Laser was a normal-floor body that resembled the Dominant, but with a rounder front and body-coloured front grille. The Caribbean was a high-floor design with a very square appearance. The Calypso was added in 1983 and was a low-floor version of the Caribbean on a Bova underframe. These new designs did little to halt the slide in production and in 1983, Duple output was just 340 bodies.

04 EZ7136

A Duple Dartline with New World First Bus

05 DennisDartDupleDartlineBusG123RGT

Duple Dartline on Dennis Dart chassis

In June 1983, Duple was sold to the Hestair Group, which had already acquired the long established business of Dennis Brothers of Guildford. Duple was renamed Hestair Duple and the Laser and Caribbean were given a facelift to try to improve their popularity. In 1985, a new coach model, known as the 300-series, was introduced. A bus version of the 300 was introduced in 1987, replacing the successful Dominant bus that had continued in production after the coach version had been replaced. A new integral coach of exciting design, with Dennis running units, was added soon after. Known as the Duple 425 (its coefficient of drag), it was greeted with enthusiasm, but the close tie-in with Dennis as chassis maker made dealers of other chassis manufacturers reluctant to use Duple coachwork. The business continued to struggle, but the deregulation of bus services, in 1986, caused uncertainty amongst bus operators and, as a result, little investment in new vehicles was made. By 1988, Duple’s output was just 250 bodies. However, at the October 1988 Motor Show, Dennis introduced the Dennis Dart, a midibus chassis that would go on to be one of Britain’s most successful buses. Duple displayed a bus body for the chassis that was based on the 300-series, but with a distinctive front design, featuring a stepped windscreen and curved lower panel.

In November 1988, Hestair announced that they were selling the Dennis and Duple businesses to a management buyout team, operating under the name Trinity Holdings. The company was renamed Duple International. With declining coach sales, attempts were made to increase the sale of the bus bodywork, including plans for a design for the Scania N113. However, in July 1989, the decision was made to close down the Duple operation. The jigs for the Duple 300-series and the Duple 425 integral were sold to domestic rival Plaxton. Plaxton also bought Duple Services Ltd., the spares and repair business. The Duple body designs for the Dartline were sold to the Carlyle Group. Thus ended 70 years of Duple Motor Bodies Limited.


Plaxton continued the 425 for a while, as seen by this Plaxton 425

Company names in different times

  • Duple Bodies & Motors Ltd 1919-1946
  • Duple Motor Bodies Limited 1946-1968
    • Duple Motor Bodies (Midland) Limited
    • Duple Motor Bodies (Northern) Limited
  • Duple Coachbuilders Limited 1968-1983
  • Hestair Duple 1983-1989
  • Trinity Holdings 1989


07 Duple425Coach

A Duple 425, dating from 1988

(All were coach bodies unless specified)

  • Vista, Vista II, Vista III, Super Vista
  • Hendonian
  • A-type
  • B-type (dual-purpose)
  • C-type (dual-purpose)
  • D-Type (bus)
  • Ambassador
  • Roadmaster
  • Vega, Super Vega
  • Elizabethan
  • Britannia
  • Donington (dual-purpose)
  • Trooper
  • Vega
  • Bella Vista
  • Bella Vega
  • Vega Major
  • Commander I, II, III & IV
  • Viscount 36
  • Viceroy 36
  • Viceroy 37
  • Dominant, Dominant II, Dominant III, Dominant IV (the first 2 were also built as bus bodies)
  • Dominant Bus (bus, although some had coach seating)
  • Goldliner, Super Goldliner
  • Caribbean
  • Laser
  • Calypso
  • 320
  • 340
  • 425 – with running units from Dennis
  • 300 (bus)
  • Dartline (bus) – for Dennis Dart

The 300, 320 and 340 were named after their heights in centimetres, whereas the 425 was named after its drag coefficient, emphasising its aerodynamic design.


1930 Duple T UK


1933 Leyland Cub ABH358 with a Duple body




1936 Duple FV 5737 a 1936 ex Ribble Motor Services Leyland TS7 rebodied by Duple in 1950


1944 Duple DD UK


1947 AEC Regal III 0962094 new in December 1947 with Duple C35F body


1947 Duple Coachworks advert


1948 AEC Regal with Duple body


1948 Duple KHA 301 BMMO C1 with Duple C30C coachwork


1948 Duple UK


1948 Midland Red Duple bodied B.M.M.O. C1 coach. Fleet No. 3301, KHA 301


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 Bedford Duple Bella Vista 6cyl 3500cc


1950 AEC Regal III built in 1950 with full fronted Duple coachwork


1950 Duple Vista Cambridgeshire UK


1951 Duple UK


1954 AEC Reliance new in December with Duple Elizabethan C41F body


1955 AEC MU3RV Duple C41F


1955 Leyland ECPO2-1R Comet with Duple C36F body


1957 AEC MU3RV Reliance with Duple Elizabethan C41C body


1958 Duple Britannia UK


1959 AEC Reliance 2MU3RV with Duple Britannia C41F coachwork


1960 AEC Reliance 2MU3RA with Duple Britannia C40F bodywork.


1960 AEC Reliance AEC Reliance fitted with a Duple Britannia body


1960 AEC Reliance with a Duple Britannia C41F body, new to Global, London


1961 AEC Reliance 2MU3RA with Duple Donnington bodywork


1963 Leyland Leopard PSU3 Duple Alpine Continental C49F seats Jun 1963 – 1974


1965 Ford R226, with Duple C52F body


1965 Ford Thames 570E with Duple Northern bodywork


1966 Duple Bella Venture UK

37a Bedford Duple Val Vega

 Bedford Duple Val Vega


1967 Duple Dominant II Leyland Turbo Malta


1967 Ford R192 with Duple Empress C45F bodywork


1972 DAF Duple Dominant Valletta Malta

40a Bedford VAL  Duple Vega Major 90 DBD C1984

1963 Bedford VAL  Duple Vega Major 90 DBD C foto 1984 © A.G.Mackintosh


1973 Duple Dominant Leyland Malta


1974 Duple Dominant UK


1974 Duple Dominant Valletta Malta


1975 Duple Dominant DAF 620  Malta


1976 Duple Dominant Leyland Daf 620 Malta

45a Bedford Duple Vega Camper

1966 Bedford Duple Vega Camper


1976 Duple Dominant Malta


1976 Ford Cummins 211 Turbo Duple Dominant UK


1977 Duple Dominant II Bedford UK


1977 Duple Dominant II UK


1977 DAF Duple Dominant Malta

50a 1965 Bedford Duple Val Vega

1965 Bedford Duple Val Vega


1978 Duple Dominant DAF 620 Leyland Malta


1978 Duple Dominant II Bedford Malta


1978 Duple Dominant II UK


1979 Duple Dominant II UK


1980 Duple Dominant II UK

55a 1966 Duple Val Vega

1966 Duple Val Vega


1981 Duple Dominant UK


1983 Duple Dominant II UK


1983 Ford Cummins 211 Turbo Duple Dominant Ford Malta


1984 Duple Caribbean Leyland UK


1984 Leyland Duple Laser UK


1988 Duple 340SL UK


1990 Duple Dartline  Schotland


1997 Duple Metsec Scania Estland


2000 Duple Metsec Hong kong


Duple 550


Duple AVT


DUPLE BMMO 10 ‘Midland’ tek


Duple Britannia C41F UK © Dave Fawcett


Duple Coachworks advert – 1947


DUPLE Commotion


DUPLE Commotion-2


Duple Coronation Ambassador-Lancet UF


Duple Creamline SH 800


Duple Dominant Leyland Leopard


DUPLE Firefly


Duple Ford PJC


DUPLE GF-7524 lr


Duple Metsec (l) +Dennis Condor


Duple Metsec Scania


Duple Metsec Vega Major


Duple Metsec Volvo Singapore


Duple Myall’s


Duple Primrose


DUPLE tekening


Duple the Bog


DUPLE Vega Major tek




Ford Thames with Duple Marauder C52F bodywork.


Leyland Duple Wilkinson


Leyland Leopard La Grand Duple Dominant


Leyland Leopard Duple Links en Duple Leyland Safequard R


Leyland Tiger Duple Dominant


Volvo JBK11X Coliseum Volvo B10M with Duple C57F body

94 1963 Ascot 1963 Duple Vega Major Bedford VAL14

1963 Ascot 1963 Duple Vega Major Bedford VAL14

95 1964 bedford val14 duple vega major 1

1964 bedford val14 duple vega major 1

96 1952 bussenbedfordduplevegaad1952

 1952 bussenbedfordduplevegaad

97 Coliseum, Southampton 521GOU 1963 Bedford VAL14 Duple Vega Major C49F on Hampton Court Green

Coliseum, Southampton 521GOU 1963 Bedford VAL14 Duple Vega Major C49F on Hampton Court Green

99 1965 Bedford VAL14 with Duple Vega Major C52F body

1965 Bedford VAL14 with Duple Vega Major C52F body

The End

Filed Under: AECALVISBEDFORDBMMOBodybuilderBOVABristolBrownBuick,BUSESCharabancCumminsDAFDENNISDUPLEECWFordJonckheereLancia-BartonLeylandMorrisNEOPLANOLD BUSESPlaxtonRibbleROESCANIAStrachan,UKVan HoolVAUXHALLWillowbrook

Buses EAST LANCS Lancashire Coachbuilders England

EAST LANCS Lancashire Coachbuilders England





Bus building




BlackburnLancashire, England


Bus bodies


Metroline SEL762 LK07BCZ

East Lancs Olympus Metroline SEL762 LK07 BCZ

An East Lancs Olympus, one of the last East Lancs badged products, this one run by Metroline.

002 1987 high capacity East Lancs body on Scania K92 chassis

A 1987 high capacity East Lancs body on Scania K92 chassis: one of the last built to this flat-fronted style.

003 Lolyne run by Transdev Yellow Buses.

Lolyne run by Transdev Yellow Buses.

East Lancashire Coachbuilders Limited was a manufacturer of bus bodies and carriages founded in 1934 in BlackburnLancashireEngland.

In 1994 the company expanded in to new premises and commenced a programme of development that resulted in a range of single and double deck buses which was the primary source of income for the company.

On August 17, 2007 the company went into administration, but was saved and bought out by the Darwen Group the next day. It is thought that the problem was a direct consequence of changing to the Euro 4 chassis, with a shortage of Scania chassis being a factor.[1] After the purchase, the Darwen Group rebranded the company as Darwen East Lancs.

In 2008 Jamesstan Investments, an investment company controlled by the Darwen Group purchased another bus manufacturer Optare. Later, in June 2008, a reverse takeover was performed, with the Darwen name disappearing in favour of Optare’s. This brings East Lancs name into the Optare Group, now providing an expanded range of vehicles.

East Lancs has had many different styles of bodywork. They had a tradition of using misspelt product names which continues until the Esteem and Olympus series.Past

Older past bodies

037 Leyland East Lancs Greenway

Leyland East Lancs  Greenway

042a East Lancs EL2000 body on Dennis Dart.

East Lancs EL2000 body on Dennis Dart.

042 East Lancs Flyte body on Scania K112 chassis

East Lancs Flyte body on Scania K112 chassis

EL2000 predecessor to the Flyte

052  Scania N113  East Lancs Cityzen

 Cytizen ^ predecessor to

064 Scania OmniDekka

the OmniDekka ^

053 Volvo Olympian  East Lancs Pyoneer

Pyoneer ^ predecessor

054 East Lancs Lolyne

to the Lolyne ^

000 a 42 seat East Lancs Spryte body on its Dennis Dart

a 42 seat East Lancs Spryte body on its Dennis Dart chassis

Lolyne and Spryte series

In the early 1990s, East Lancs created a new style of bus body. Like most East Lancs buses, this body style didn’t have a definite name and was named by its chassis as follows:


Lolyne for Dennis Trident

Vyking for Volvo B7TL

Lowlander for DAF/VDL DB250

Nordic for 3-axle Volvo B7L/B9TL


Spryte for Dennis Dart and Volvo B6BLE chassis

Flyte for longer step-entrance and high-floor buses.

Myllennium series


An Myllennium Vyking owned by Wilts & Dorset.

In 2001, a new body was launched. Again, the product didn’t have a definite name, it varied according to the chassis.


058 East Lancs Myllennium Lolyne

Myllennium Lolyne for Dennis Trident

000e Millenium Vyking Transdev Yellow Buses

Myllennium Vyking Transdev Yellow Buses

060 East Lancs Myllennium Lowlander DAF

Myllennium Lowlander for DAF/VDL DB250LF

061 East Lancs Nordic-bodied Volvo B7L

Nordic for 3-axle Volvo B7L/Volvo B9TL


Myllennium for DAF SB220MAN 14.220Scania N94UB and Alexander Dennis Dart

Hyline, a high-floor variant of the standard Myllennium single-decker body but used to re-body older chassis

Until bought by Darwen

The generation until East Lancs went into administration continues the tradition of misspelt names but each has a different name and does not vary on the chassis.

Scania series


Scania OmniDekka in London, run by Transdev London.

000a A Reading Transport Olympus, an example bodied by Darwen Group

Reading Transport Olympus, an example bodied by Darwen Group

000b The first Olympus Delaine_Buses_141_AD56_DBL

The first Olympus built, run by Delaine Buses.

This series are the last surviving variants of the myllennium series. They are now part of their own series. These have the standard body but with Scania own front styling.


OmniTown for Scania N94UB chassis


OmniDekka for Scania N94UD/N230UD/N270UD chassis

Esteem and Olympus series

The Esteem was launched early in 2006. The Olympus was launched at the Euro Bus Expo 2006 and its lower dash is the same as the Esteem. The Visionaire launched in summer 2007 with Arriva’s Original London Sightseeing Tour.


Esteem for Alexander Dennis Enviro200 DartMAN 12.240Scania N94UB and Alexander Dennis Enviro300 chassis


Olympus for Alexander Dennis Enviro400VDL DB250Volvo B9TL and Scania N230UD chassis

Visionaire open-top body for Volvo B9TL chassis

Production of these buses continued under Darwen ownership.

Kinetec series

006 The only Kinetec+ built, run by Reading Buses.

The only Kinetec+ built, run by Reading Buses.

The Kinetec series was launched at the Euro Bus Expo 2006. They are designed as low-floor bodies for MAN chassis. They have the Esteem/Olympus body but with MAN’s own Lion’s City design front and rear.

EAST LANCS subsidiaries




East Lancs also ran sub-divisions of the company, in addition to the production of buses:

British City Bus

East Lancs Overseas – The export of East Lancs buses

NW Bus & Coach Repairs – A bus and coach repairs business in the North West of England


1939 Bristol L5G rebodied 1952 East Lancs B35R


1946 Karrier W with modern East Lancs body


1946 Karrier W with modern East Lancs body dating from 1957


1946 Karrier W with modern East Lancs body


1948 BUT 9641T East Lancs H67R at Victoria Park


1948 BUT 9641T East Lancs H67R in Mill Lane


1948 Sunbeam F4 with modern East Lancs Body


1948 Sunbeam F4 with modern East Lancs Body


1949 BUT 9641T East Lancs Bruce H67R Llandaff Fields terminus


1949 BUT 9641T East Lancs H67R at Roath Park


1949 BUT 9641T East Lancs H67R in St Mary Street


1949 Crossley DD42-7 Scottish Commercial L53R + 316 MUH316 1956 Guy Arab IV East Lancs H63R leaving Central Bus Station


1950 AEC Regal III East Lancs Edward J Busst


1950 Dennis Lance III East Lancs L51R and 345 SOU453 1958 Dennis Loline I East Lancs H68RD at Alton Station


1951 Leyland PD2-1 East Lancs FL53RD originally Ribble 1247 in Drummer Street


1953 East Lancs  UK


1953 Guy Arab LUF East Lancs B41R Hindhead Garage


1953 Leyland Royal Tiger PSU1-13 East Lancs B41F


1954 Daimler CVD6 East Lancs H56R in Stalybridge


1955 BUT 9641T East Lancs H70R in Havelock Street


1956 AEC 2D3RA East Lancs H63R Cardiff Central Bus Station


1957 Bradford 792 was an ex Darlington Karrier W of 1944 rebodied for Bradford by East Lancs in 1957


1958 Guy Arab IV East Lancs H63R


1959 ex-Darlington Karrier W(1945) carrying a new Double Deck East Lancs body dating from 1959


1959 Leyland Tiger Cub East Lancs Edward J Busst


1959 Leyland Tiger Cub PSUC1  1 East Lancs BxxF AndrewHA’s foto


1960 Dennis Loline II East Lancs H63F in Henley


1960 Guy Wulfrunian East Lancs H72F


1961 Dennis Loline II East Lancs H63F


1963 East Lancs  UK


1963 ex-Mexborough & Swinton Sunbeam F4 dating from 1951 and carrying a modern East Lancs Body dating from 1963


1964 AEC Renown 3B3RA with East Lancs H72F body new in 1964


1964 Dennis Loline III East Lancs H68F


1966 East Lancs Leyland Malta


1966 East Lancs UK


1967 Daimler Roadliner SRC6 East Lancs B45D Royal Parade


1967 Leyland PD2A-30 East Lancs H60R in Terminus Road


1968 Leyland Panther Cub East Lancs Edward J Busst


1969 East Lancs-bodied Leyland Titan


1969 Leyland Leopard East Lancs Edward J Busst


1970 Leyland Leopard East Lancs Edward J Busst


1972 East Lancs bodied Leyland Leopard, number 68 in the Rossendale Fleet


1972 Seddon Pennine RU East Lancs Edward J Busst


1973 Leyland Leopard East Lancs Edward J Busst


1975 East Lancs-bodied Bristol RESL


1976 Bristol RESL East Lancs Edward J Busst


1976 Bristol RESL East Lancs Edward J Busst


1979 Leyland Leopard East Lancs Edward J Busst


1981 East Lancs bodied Dennis Falcon HC’s Bryan A Smith


1982 East Lancs UK


1983 Dennis Falcon HC East Lancs Edwar J Busst


1984 East Lancs 1984-style double-deck body


1985 Leyland Olympian East Lancs Edward J Busst


1985 Volvo Citybus East Lancs Edward J Busst


1986 Leyland Olympian East Lancs Edward J Busst


1987 high capacity East Lancs body on Scania K92 chassis


1987 Leyland Olympian East Lancs Edward J Busst


1989 Leyland Tiger East Lancs 2000 Edward J Busst


1989 Scania N112DR East Lancs Edward J Busst


1991 East Lancs bodied Dennis Lances L706 HFU Bryan A Smith


1991 Leyland National East Lancs Greenway Edward J Busst


1991 Volvo B10M-55 East Lancs 2000 Edward J Busst


1992 Volvo B10M-50 East Lancs 2000 Edward J Busst


1994 Dennis Dart East Lancs 2000 Edward J Busst


1994 East Lancs EL2000 UK


1996 East Lancs Cityzen Kings Ferry Volvo B10


1996 East Lancs Spryte UK


1996 Scania N113 East Lancs Cityzen Edward J Busst


1996 Scania N113DRB East Lancs Edward J Busst


1996 Scania N113DRB East Lancs Cityzen Edward J Busst


1997 Dennis Dart SLF East Lancs Spryte Edward J Busst


1997 East Lancs Lolyne UK


1998 East Lancs Cityzen UK


2001  Dennis Trident East Lancs Thomas de Laine


2001 Dennis Falcon HC SDA442 . – East Lancs EL2000 B48F


2002 East Lancs Myllennium Spryte bodied Transbus Dart SLF 49


2002 Volvo B7TL East Lancs Myllennium Vyking Edward J Busst


2002 Volvo B7TL East Lancs Myllennium Vyking Edward J Busst


2003 Dennis Trident East Lancs Lolyne Edward J Busst


2003 East Lancs Vyking


2004 East Lancs OmniTown UK


2005 East Lancs Greenway Leyland National Greenway nearside


2006 East Lancs Nordic Weavaway Travel


2007 East Lancs Esteem UK


2007 EAST LANCS KINETIC MAN Reading Transport 501


2007 East Lancs Myllennium UK


2007 Scania East Lancs Edward J Busst


2008 East Lancs Olympus UK


2008 East Lancs Visionaire UK


2008 Volvo B7RLE Optare Esteem (East Lancs) Edward J Busst


2008 Volvo B9TL Optare Olympus (East lancs) Edward J Busst


AEC Regent III  East Lancs


Blue Bus East Lancs EL2000 bodied Leyland Leopard SCH 150 X


Bristol RESL6L  East Lancs


Dennis Dart East Lancs EL2000 N465TPR Yellow Buses on Route 18




East Lancs bodied Bristol RESL6L Bryan A Smith


East Lancs bodied Leyland Leopard with OK Travel Bryan A Smith.


East Lancs bodied Leyland Leopard Bryan A Smith


East Lancs bodied Leyland Tiger Cub Bryan A Smith


EAST LANCS Bus Drawing


Ex NCT 555 Leyland Atlantean East Lancs Sprint


First Leicester Dennis Falcon East Lancs


Leicester AEC Renown FJF 40D, East Lancs body


Leyland Leopard PSU3C  2R – East Lancs . B51F


Leyland Titan PD2  East Lancs POU 494


Leyland Titan PD2A-24  East Lancs


Wilson’s East Lancs bodied Bristol RESL OCW 454 P. Ian R Simpson.


For more OPTARE’s under the O


Buses ECW Eastern Coach Works Lowestoft England UK

ECW Eastern Coach Works Lowestoft England

Eastern Coach Works


A preserved Bristol RE with ECW bodywork.


Leyland Atlantean AN68/1R with ECW bodywork, built in 1978 (YNO 77S) for Colchester Borough Transport, later converted to an open top bus for City Sightseeing operation in Colchester.


Bristol Lodekka with ECW bodywork

Eastern Coach Works Ltd was a bus and railbus body building company based in Lowestoft, England.

The company can trace its roots back to 1912, when United Automobile Services was founded in the town to run bus services. United began a coach building business at the Lowestoft site in 1920. In 1931, the East Anglian operations of United were hived off into a new company, Eastern Counties Omnibus Company, and Eastern Counties inherited the coach works – now concentrating on building bus bodies, with a workforce of over 600 people. In July 1936, the coach works were separated into a new company, Eastern Coach Works, which developed into the largest full-time employer in Lowestoft.


In May 1940, the factory received orders from the military authorities to cease production. It was thought that, following the outbreak of World War II, the East Coast would be the first target for an invading German army, so all wheeled vehicles were moved away from the site so that they did not fall into enemy hands. As a result of this, 950 staff were laid off. By 1947, though, production was back to pre-war levels.

ECW was nationalised in 1947. For the next 18 years, its business consisted mainly of building bus bodies, which were mounted on Bristol chassis, for state-owned bus operators. In 1965, the state-owned Transport Holding Company sold a 25% share in ECW to Leyland Motors, which enabled ECW to sell to the private sector. During the 1960s, it was common to see a bare bus chassis being driven through town by a goggle-wearing driver, delivering the chassis for a body. In 1969, ECW became part of a 50/50 joint venture between the National Bus Company (successor to the Transport Holding Company) and British Leyland (successor to Leyland Motors).

The materials to build the buses came into the Coachworks via Essex Road at the back of the factory, but the newly built buses were driven out of the big doors at the front. They drove down the short, narrow lane, with no pavements called Eastern Way, on their way to their new depot. Eastern Way used to be called Laundry Lane, but the name was changed to Eastern Way following the opening of Eastern Coachworks.

The joint venture came to an end in 1982, when British Leyland took complete control, and ECW closed in 1987. The site was subsequently demolished to make way for the North Quay Retail Park, which opened in 1990. ECW was one of Lowestoft’s largest employers, with around 1200 staff at its peak.


ECW was probably best known for its close association with Bristol Commercial Vehicles. Amongst the Bristol buses most frequently bodied at Lowestoft were the:

Bristol LH – a small, single deck bus (1970s)

Bristol Lodekka – a front-engined double deck bus (1950s and 1960s)

Bristol RE – a single deck bus (1960s and 1970s)

Bristol VRT – a rear-engined double deck bus (1970s), successor to the Lodekka


1921 ECW 123 United Lowestoft


1927 Dodson ECW


1937 Bristol GO5G ECW H54R W-WY-GO5G


1937 Bristol JO5G ECW B32F BWT-765


1938 Bristol L5G ECW B32F CWT-859


1938 Bristol L5G ECW B32F


1939 1955 Bristol K59 ECW H30 Rebodied in 1955 OWT-201


1939 ECW UK


1941 Bristol ECW UK


1945 Bristol K6A ECW 27-36R GHN840


1945 Bristol ECW UK


1947 Leyland PD1a ECW H30-26R LAE-13


1948 Albion CX19 Venturer + Eastern Coachworks L27-28R body


1948 Albion CX19 Venturer with E.C.W. L27-28R body


1949 Albion 70, right and E.C.W. bodied Bristol NHY939 on the left. The Albion was a CX19 Venturer


1949 Bristol ECW UK


1950 Albion Valiant CX39N Roe South Yorkshire Motors 81 ECW


1950 Bristol ECW UK

1950 Bristol K Lowbridge ECW

1950 Bristol K Lowbridge ECW


1950 Bristol KS5G ECW L27-28R LTA-813


1950 Bristol 2467 ECW UK


1950 Bristol 309 ECW UK


1951 A Royal Blue, Bristol L6G ECW, coach


1951 Bristol LL5G ECW 39seat body


1951 Bristol LL5G V108831 ©


1951 ECW Bristol LHT 911


1951 Bristol ECW UK


1952 AEC Matador ECW body V108839 ©


1952 Bristol KSW6B ECW H32-28R PHN-809


1952 Bristol LL6B ECW B39RD NFM-46


1952 Bristol ECW UK


1952 Bristol ECW UK MXX 317




1953 GUY GS ECW B26F MXX-343


1953 GUY GS ECW B26F MXX-560


1953, ECW 1299 (OTT 98) Bristol LS6G ©Richard Field


1954 Bristol Lodekka LD6G ECW LD57R KDL-414


1954 Bristol LS68 ECW 39F PNN774


1954 Bristol LWL59 ECW FB39F LAM-107




1954 Red & White ECW, Bristol MW6G DS 758 (SWO 986). ©Richard Field


1955 Bristol ECW UK


1956 ECW Bristol 201 United Countries


1957 Bristol SC4LK ECW B35F 612-JPU


1957 Leyland PD 2-20 ECW H31-28R YWB-294


1958 Bristol SC4LK ECW DP 33F 803-FFM


1959 Bristol ECW UK


1960 Bristol Lodekka FLF6G ECW bodywork