27 February 2012
Roger Bailey takes a trip down memory lane to find out more about the rear-engined single-decker Bristol RE. ...
The Bristol RE was one of a number of rear-engined single-deck bus chassis built in the 1960s, in this case by Bristol Commercial Vehicles from 1963 until 1982. The first prototype appeared in 1962 after it was first announced in July of that year.
It is widely considered to be the most successful of the first generation of rear-engined single-deckers, and it went on to become a popular choice for many companies.
There were a variety of options available:
• RELL – Rear engine long (36’), low floor (bus)
• RELH – Rear engine long (36’), high floor (coach/dual-purpose)
• RESL – Rear engine short, low floor (bus)
• RESH – Rear engine short, high floor (coach)
• REMH – Rear engine motorway, high floor (12m, motorway coach)
These designations were suffixed by a code indicating the type of engine fitted: 6G – 6-cylinder Gardner diesel (6HLX), and 6L – 6-cylinder Leyland diesel (O.680/O.600).
Production commenced in the summer of 1963, initially based on the RELH, with the RELL variant following in 1964. It’s interesting to note that at the same time both Bristol and ECW were transferred from the British Transport Commission to the Transport Holding Company with the nationalised bus companies, who initially were the only companies who could buy such a vehicle.
By 1965, the Leyland Motor Corporation had acquired a 25% stake in the business, thus allowing the products to be sold on the open market. By 1966, vehicles were being supplied to the Scottish Bus Group followed by a chassis being displayed at the Commercial Motor Show.
In early 1967, the first vehicles supplied to an operator outside the nationalised groups entered service with Coventry Transport after a demonstration by HWU 641C. They were six RESLs with ECW bodies in total.
They were followed by examples for other municipals, which included Hartlepool, Leicester, Luton, Newport plus Reading, with bodies by Strachan, South Shields and SHMD with bodies by Northern Counties.
BET companies followed including East Midlands, Ribble North Western and Southdown. At the 1968 Commercial Motor Show the REMH with Alexander M type body was on display, built for use on overnight motorway work from Scotland to London. It would have not looked out of place on the American highways in service with Greyhound or Continental Trailways, and it certainly caught everyone’s attention.
From 1972, sales to the National Bus Company, a combination of both the THC and BET, began to dry up, due to the introduction of the Leyland National which nationalised operators were forced to purchase, unless they wanted coach variants...
PICTURED ABOVE Three of EFE’s Bristol RELL models in the colours of Cumberland Motor Services, 291 ARM391J (25107); Eastern National with High Flat Screen, SD1510 FVX 612H (25004); and Hants and Dorset, 1651 XLJ726K (25211).
PICTURED TOP RIGHT EFE’s RELH coach in the livery of United Counties, 252 ABD 252B (32207) and another example but with a dual purpose bus body based on vehicles originally built for Eastern Counties, but seen here in Cambus livery, 153 GCL 344N (29409).
This is an extract from the article 'Celebrating 50 years of the Bristol RE' first published in Diecast Collector's April 2012 issue.