Northern Counties Motor and Engineering Company

00a 1972 GreaterManchester7214A 1972 example of the SELNEC standard body shown in later GMT livery

Northern Counties Motor and Engineering Company was a manufacturer of bus bodywork located in Wigan Lane, Wigan, in North West England.


Traditionally buses in Britain have consisted of a chassis upon which a separate body was constructed, typically by a different manufacturer. This allowed operators to specify a vehicle that suited their particular requirements. Chassis manufacturers in Britain included LeylandDaimlerAEC, and Guy (all now defunct). Having selected a chassis, an operator would also specify a particular engine and this assemblage would be transported to a bodybuilder to manufacture the bodywork. Northern Counties was a mid-size bodybuilder with a strong reputation and loyal client base. It was bought out and subsequently closed in 2005 by Alexander Dennis.


00b Cardiff_Bus_Volvo_Alisa_B55_408_NDW_408XVolvo Ailsa formerly of Cardiff Busbodied by Northern Counties

Northern Counties Motor and Engineering Company Limited was founded in Wigan in 1919 by Henry Lewis. The Lewis family remained owners of the company until it was bought out over seventy years later. As was common at the time, early products were bodywork for private automobiles. By the early 1920s the private automobile work had ceased and the manufacture of bodywork for service buses commenced. Bodywork was for both single-deck and double-deck vehicles. Very few coaches were produced.

During the Second World War, Northern Counties was authorized by the government to produce bus bodies to a utility specification, mainly using steel-framed construction.

Northern Counties established a loyal client base and reputation for quality construction in the post-war years. Notable clients included local operators SHMD Board, Manchester Corporation, and Lancashire United. Further afield, Barton Transport and Southdown Motor Services were among a number of regular customers.

In 1967 another bus body builder, Massey Brothers Ltd, located in nearby Pemberton, was acquired and became a part of the Northern Counties operations. The Massey factory was retained and used as a paint-shop and for final completion of bodywork assembled at Wigan Lane.

The Transport Act of 1968 merged the municipal corporations of ManchesterSalfordBoltonOldhamStockportRochdaleBury and Stalybridge, Hyde, Mossley and Dukinfield Joint Board (SHMD Board). The resulting conglomerate was known as the Southeast Lancashire Northeast Cheshire Passenger Transport Authority, commonly known as SELNEC. SELNEC was faced with a fleet of 2500 vehicles consisting of a wide variety of types and manufacturers, reflecting the preferences of their former municipal owners. Northern Counties worked closely with SELNEC to develop a standard bus for fleet replacement.

The Local Government Act 1972 came into effect on 1 April 1974. This reorganization added Wigan Corporation Transport to SELNEC to create the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive. Greater Manchester PTE was the largest bus operator outside of London until privatization in the late 1980s. A large proportion of Northern Counties production after this time was for the Greater Manchester fleet.

00c Foden-NC

The Foden-NC delivered to Potteries Motor Traction in 1978

In 1975 the company collaborated with Foden Ltd, a well-known manufacturer of commercial vehicles, to produce a semi-integral double-deck vehicle intended to compete with chassis manufacturer Leyland. Leyland had merged with traditional rival Daimler and was experiencing production and quality problems. In the event, only seven Foden-NCs were produced, going to Greater Manchester PTEWest Midlands PTE,West Yorkshire PTEDerby City Transport and Potteries Motor Traction.

The 1980s and 1990s were challenging years for the British bus industry, with the privatization of publicly owned operators, deregulation of routes and the reduction and subsequent elimination of the Bus Grant, a Government grant that paid for a large proportion of the cost of new vehicles. As a result, the purchase of new bus vehicles fell sharply as operators contended with the brave new world of competition, and mini-buses became the vogue. This fall in orders was combined with increased competition from overseas manufacturers.

00d GNE_Palatine_II_bus

A 1998 Palatine II bodied Volvo Olympian of Go North East

Northern Counties reputation and engineering skills saw it survive these difficult times and become a major supplier once again as demand picked up in the mid-1990s. In May 1995, it was purchased for £10 million by the Henlys group, owner of Plaxton. The Northern Counties name was dropped in 1999 and vehicles were badged as Plaxton.

In 2001 Henlys became part of a joint venture with the Mayflower group, owner of bodybuilder Alexander and chassis manufacturer Dennis. The joint venture was known as TransBus, and vehicles were badged using the TransBus name.

After the failure of the Mayflower Group in 2004, TransBus was sold to a private group of investors and became Alexander Dennis. The former Northern Counties facility was closed by Alexander Dennis in January 2005.


Plaxton (Northern County) Prestige

Plaxton Prestige
Northern Counties Prestige

Plaxton Prestige-bodied DAF SB220
00f PP_INT

An Arriva North West Plaxton Prestige interior
Manufacturer Northern Counties
Body and chassis
Doors 1 or 2 doors
Floor type Low floor
Chassis DAF SB220
Volvo B10BLE
Engine DAF LT1160
Transmission ZF
Length Option
Width Option

The Plaxton Prestige is a low-floor single-deck bus body built by Plaxton at the Wigan factory of its Northern Counties subsidiary, and at its main Scarborough factory, during the latter half of the 1990s.

The Prestige was mostly built on DAF SB220 chassis, although small numbers were built on Volvo B10BLE chassis. Several of the DAF vehicles were LPG-powered; gas tanks were located on the roof. Arriva was a major purchaser of the Prestige, with a number for London and for provincial areas, all on DAF chassis. It was only a short term affair, however, being in favour of its sister, the Pointer.

In Plaxton’s body numbering system, the letter H identified the Prestige, although not all Prestiges received a Plaxton body number (early examples being numbered in the Northern Counties series).

At one stage, the Prestige was provisionally given the name Paladin LF. Northern Counties’ contemporary step-entrance single-deck body was the Paladin, and LF would have stood for low floor. However, the name Prestige (which had earlier been briefly used for an export variant of the Plaxton Excalibur) was given to the model instead.


Northern Counties Palatine

Northern Counties Palatine
01 Warrington Olympian NCME 1

Warrington Borough Transport bus with Northern Counties Palatine bodywork.

Lower Saloon of a Northern Counties Palatine Leyland Olympian
Manufacturer Northern Counties
Body and chassis
Doors 1 or 2 door
Floor type Step entrance
Engine Cummins & Gardner
Transmission Voith & ZF

The Northern Counties Palatine is a step-entrance double-decker bus body built by Northern Counties of Wigan, UK. It was built mainly onLeyland Olympian and Volvo Olympian chassis, although some were also built on DAFVolvo B10M Citybus and Scania chassis. Two variants existed, the Palatine I (known as “Palatine” before 1992) which had a flatter windscreen, and the Palatine II (launched in 1993) which had a curved windscreen resembling that of the single-decker Northern Counties Paladin.

MTL were a notable buyer, a batch of high-specification Palatine IIs entered service in 1996 on the ‘Cross River’ services through the Mersey Tunnels. Another batch of 22, branded as ‘The Millennium Fleet’ began operating on Merseyside in 1998.

It was superseded by the Plaxton President body.