Sunday, 26 February 2017

HFJ144 - February 2017

Although not part of the Southcoast Motor Services fleet, a recent departure from our depot has been HFJ144, a Leyland PD2/1 with Leyland body, built in 1948 as part of a batch of seventeen vehicles for Exeter Corporation. Coincidentally bearing the fleet number 17, this vehicle was delivered new to Exeter in February of that year, at a purchase price of £3,243.00 (£106,300.00 in today’s money).

It entered service straight away and remained so employed until March 1970 when Exeter Corporation Transport was bought out by the newly-formed National Bus Company: its vehicles were absorbed into the Devon General fleet, a company which had also recently been acquired by NBC. Along with three sister vehicles No. 17 was put up for sale and was acquired by a small consortium of enthusiasts led by Philip Platt, the well known Devon General enthusiast, who sadly passed away earlier in 2017.

No. 17 was taken to the West of England Transport collection at Winkleigh Airfield and kept under cover there until 1993, when it was acquired by a Surrey-based enthusiast. It arrived (somewhat ignominiously, behind a tow truck) at our depot on the 12th March 1994 and underwent a five year comprehensive mechanical and exterior body restoration. Exeter Corporation had somewhat belatedly realised the economic necessity of allowing advertising material to be displayed on their vehicles, but when they did, they did it in style: all adverts being meticulously painted by expert signwriters, a feature which was perpetuated in the restoration. A thorough restoration of the interior then took place, with the finished vehicle being back on the road in 2010.

Appreciated though it has been in Sussex, No 17 was a long way from its natural home, so a decision was finally taken to return it to its old haunts and it is now in the care of Dan Shears at the superbly upgraded Winkleigh facility. It is hoped that No. 17 (along with a later Exeter PD2, No. 60) will make an appearance at a Rally to be held on March 19th 2017 to mark the impending closure of Exeter Bus Station.

The Southdown connection

Looking at the intricate mahogany interior mouldings, which are a feature of the Leyland design, it would be easy to imagine that these vehicles were almost hand built by craftsmen, but the truth was very different. In1948, Leyland built no less than 976 PD2 chassis and put their own bodies on 749 of them, giving a weekly output of 18 chassis and 14 bodies – a remarkable achievement at any time, but particularly so in view of the post-war shortage of materials and labour. As a result of this productivity, barely a week elapsed after the last Exeter PD2 had rolled off the production line before work commenced on the first of a batch of near-identical vehicles destined for Southdown. Car 316 was the first of eighty such vehicles, often referred to by enthusiasts as “the JCD’s” – a reference to their registration letters.

Prior to the advent of the PD3 'Queen Marys' in the late 1950s and 60’s, these vehicles formed the largest single delivery to Southdown in the post-war period. This version of the Leyland body design was extremely robust and widely regarded as a classic of its time, with most of the Southdown fleet serving the company well for almost twenty years. One of them also survived into preservation: car 381 (JCD81) was withdrawn in April 1967 and sold to a dealer in Greater Manchester. It was purchased for preservation in December 1968 and spent several years in the North of England, (mainly in Sheffield), before returning to the Brighton area in December 1974. Sadly it was heavily vandalised about eighteen months later, and was scrapped at Ashington in November 1976.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Social Media Update

We have a new Facebook page:

Restoration articles will still appear on this Blog as usual. Thank you for your continued support.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

HCD350E - February 2017

From last month's post: the new engine, with gearbox attached, being installed! Now just the ancillary fittings to be fitted and the engine eventually tested.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

HCD350E - January 2017

Besides the continuing restoration work to our DP Leopard PUF161H, this winter has seen our attention turn to resolving several issues with the 1967 'Panoramic' PD3 HCD350E. The November blog described work to change the king pins and this month we've turned our attention to exchanging the engine with one already rebuilt, (see September 2016 and other previous blogs). At the other end of the bus, work is taking place to replace life-expired panels and fixings.

Seen here, the engine is stripped down in-situ and then removed complete with gearbox.

The gearbox, clutch and various other small parts will be removed and fitted to the waiting new engine. Meanwhile, these are some views of the stripped down rear end. New panels are now being made, as are replacement timber and fabricated steel sections.

Friday, 30 December 2016

PUF161H - December 2016

The ongoing floor renewal reported last month continues and has now reached the rear axle. Recently, a further steel cross-member, located above the fuel tank, was found to be cracked and a replacement has been made and fitted in similar fashion to the first. This photograph, taken from above the rear axle looking forward, shows this new (grey) cross-member in position and the plywood floor in the process of being fitted on top.

As you may have now gathered, extensive work has been undertaken around the rear axle. The old floor was lifted and disposed of, the wheel arches removed and the associated steel sub-frame assembly cut out. Not only does the sub-frame support the floor between the wheel arches, it provides anchor points for the seat frames and adds strength to the fibreglass wheel arches themselves. The first photograph, below, shows the exposed chassis and rear axle (wheels removed). The second shows the steel sub-frame assembly leaning against the outside of the bus after removal. A completely new frame had to be made from scratch and the third picture shows the measuring process being undertaken with a piece of the replacement steel.

Turning to the chassis itself. Having been exposed to many years of water, salt and grit, the area around the rear axle needed a lot of attention, as might be expected. The two parallel chassis members, which run the length of the vehicle, are held apart with rigid steel sections and the rearmost (pictured below) was suffering from a build-up of scale and rust. It needed to be removed, inspected and the chassis descaled and painted.

Restoration is rarely ever easy: in this case, the rigid steel section is fixed to the chassis using the same bolts as the rearmost spring hangers and so the bus needed to be lifted and supported whilst the rear spring shackles were disconnected. Then the spring hangers themselves were unbolted, leaving the rigid steel section free to be slid out from between the chassis members. These pictures show the spring hangers shortly after being unbolted and the area on the chassis where they previously sat. The back of the near-side rear spring can just be seen in the bottom of the second photograph.

You may have noticed that the inside of the luggage area or 'boot' can be seen behind the steelwork. This has been exposed due to the removal of the 'back wall' of the boot to facilitate removal of the rigid steel section (by now seen here sitting on top of the chassis after removal). The final extraction of the steel section was no five minute job: the chassis had to be prised apart using hydraulic rams. Further, because the chassis was sitting on blocks of timber to facilitate the removal of the spring hangers (described earlier), jacks had to be inserted incorporating greased sliding plates to allow the chassis sections to move apart. These photographs show this arrangement still in place very shortly after the steel section had been removed.

The final floor supporting cross-member was also exposed at this point. Unlike two of previous ones which had cracked, this one was actually sound, despite the rusty nature of the surface. However, we decided to remove it to facilitate changing of associated brackets and fixings. The descaling process is also much easier on the bench. These views are of this section before removal.

Once all the various components described were repaired, painted and ready to be fitted, reassembly started - a much less messy process than removal. These views show the spring hangers and rigid steel section bolted back in position, the rear cross-member fitted and the new sub-frame assembly in place. Once the new plywood floor has been fitted to this area, our attention will turn to the boot and associated stress panels

Friday, 18 November 2016

PUF161H - November 2016

The removal of the existing floor continues. However, as with just about any job tackled when restoring an old bus, nothing is simple. It soon became apparent, that the steel sections fitted down the middle aisle to which each seat leg is attached were in poor condition. A decision was taken quickly to replace these critical fittings, So, off to our local steel fabrication people and 24 hours later we had the new parts.

The floor is spilt up into bay sections. Here are pictures of the first bay around the front wheel arches. The near-side (left hand) arch has been fitted, whilst the off side is still waiting to go in. In the middle of the first picture, the yellow piece of steel is one of the newly fabricated seat rails referred to above.

Once the other wheel arch and new ply floor was fitted to this area, bay two was started and the news got worse. Besides the expected seat rail issue, it was discovered that one of the 8 foot wide steel cross-members which support the body had a nasty crack; the tell-tale was that a previous owner (probably Southdown) had professionally welded in a repair patch. It's always wise to look closer if someone else has been there first! The opportunity to replace the support only presents itself when the floor is missing and so once more a phone call produced a replacement steel part. Here, (picture taken standing on the new bay 1 floor), the old section is still in place (left to right in the middle) before removal.

A close up of the patch covering the crack.

Two close-up views of the crack.

The replacement cross-member next to the old one.

Throughout 2016, one of our gang has been busy dismantling and inspecting each of the vehicle's seat frames, a seemingly never ending but vital task. To complicate matters, the seats are fitted with foot rests and these have been dealt with separately. They are seen here covered with a white(!) rubber grip, which fortunately is removable without damage and will be cleaned for later reuse.

The seat legs are an unusual curved shape. Each has been checked and where damage discovered will be repaired. The remaining have been meticulously rubbed down and primed. Another batch waits treatment here.

A similar process has taken place with the seat frames themselves, with the added complication that the curvature of each frame requires checking as some are distorted. About 30% require welding repairs and this job will be done over the coming weeks.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

HCD350E - November 2016

Each bus has a pair of king pins fitted to the front axle and are the 'swivel' which allows the front wheels to change direction. It is fairly rare to need to change the pins: adjustment can be made to remove excessive pin lift by arranging different shims. A certain amount of sideways play is allowed, but can only be completely eliminated by changing the pin and its bronze bushes.

Following the dismantling of the front axle from scrapped vehicle 974CUF, we were able to establish the exact dimensions and type of pin fitted to these vehicles. A recent trawl of the internet revealed four sets of pins for sale and these have been purchased for future use, except that we decided to immediately renew the pins on our 1967 Leyland PD3 HCD350E.

The first job was to remove the hub and brake chambers before the pin could be extracted. The pins usually don't just pop out, (as they did when we changed them on Leyland PSU3 PUF161H), but fight all the way. In this case, we constructed a frame in which sat a 10 tonne jack. The process looks rather 'Heath Robinson', but in actual fact was perfectly safe and very successful!

Once the old pin was out, the end of the axle could be cleaned and checked, as could be the stub axle assembly.

Finally, the bronze bushes were changed and the new pin fitted. The stub axle is seen here reassembled with its new pin. The other side will be changed next.