Thursday, 6 June 2013

Leyland National 1972 - 1985

Yes, I now this isn't actually a car, but bear with me on this one.  The Leyland National was a landmark on British roads for many years.  Not just because of its long production life, but also because they hung around  for a lot longer than perhaps they should.  Possibly because of bus privatisation, or maybe despite it, who knows?  A large part of their durability has to be down to the design, which was intended to be modular with easy replacement and/or substitution of components as required.  An attitude which today's throw away culture could learn a lot from, says I on my soapbox.

This particular bus had a special place in my own affections because it was the most common type of bus I travelled on during the early 1990s.  Yes, that's some 20 years after they first appeared.  It wasn't quite like any other bus either.  I always found them appealing to look at, and still do.  The sound of them was awesome too.  The big straight six diesel engine roared from the back of the bus, spewing out toxic black smoke like some kind of tamed dragon.  Inside, I could always be sure of having a smoke on the raised rear section, that's if I could bear the incredible noise and vibration that accompanied that fire breathing engine.  Quite why someone thought it okay to allow smoking on that section and not on the front bit, given the difference of just a few inches, I didn't know, but I never complained.  I've long since given up the ciggies, but have happy memories of those times.  I suspect my fellow passengers were largely grateful for the complete ban on smoking in buses around that time and remember it rather differently!

It's been a while since I've seen one on the roads, but they still make me grin when I see one, and more importantly, hear them whining noisily along in all their 70s glory.

I'm no fan of buses, and I really don't care for them, but these Leylands I make an exception for.  Apparently some were still in commercial use until 2007, or possibly longer.  Not quite London Routemaster standards of longevity, but impressive nonetheless.  I would guess that the majority of the Nationals did at least 1,000,000 miles in service, some maybe 2 or 3 times that.

Of around 6,500 made for the UK market, around 4,000 still survived in late 1994 (not bad for a bus that hadn't been made in nearly 10 years) and yet now there are just 135 actively used on the roads and a further 165 on SORN.  If you have a spacious field or barn, maybe you could find a spot for one?  Try not to breathe the exhaust fumes if you can help it though.

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