23 March 2022
Corgi (commissioned by Omnidekka Models) Optare Solo - Epsom Coaches - Route K5 to Morden
REF NO: CP44101B
When Leyland closed its Charles H Roe vehicle bodywork building business in Leeds during 1984, former plant director Russell Richardson and many redundant employees formed Optare in February 1985 backed by the West Yorkshire Enterprise Board, carrying on the work that Roe had previously undertaken.
Optare began its introduction of low-floor buses in the UK in 1995 with the launch of the Optare Excel full-sized single decker. Then in 1997 the minibus/midibus Solo was launched with its unique design of a front axle forward of the door, allowing a low-floor layout in a very short bus – it also came equipped with kneeling suspension for even greater access. Its styling and innovation led to a Millennium Products award and the Queen's Award for Innovation. The Solo name is a play on its low-floor status, the manufacturer marketing its vehicle as having an entrance that is "so low" to the floor, at just 200mm.
The Solo came in four lengths, ranging from 7.8m (designated M780) to 9.9m (M990) and two widths – 2.336m (available on the M780, M850 and M920) and 2.466m (M850, M920 and M990). When a restyled “SR” version was launched in 2007, this was originally planned as a supplement to the original model and production continued together until early 2012. At the beginning of 2008, to mark the 10th anniversary of the Solo, a revamped futuristic front end was offered and was to be named the Solo+, but poor market responses led to this proposal never making it past the prototype stage.
The magnificently different-looking Optare Solo took the market by storm when it was launched in 1997 and proved instantly popular with both operators and passengers alike. When, after over 14 years of production and nearly 4,000 examples sold, the original Solo was retired in favour of its premium evolution version, the replacement Solo SR was unmodelled until a few years ago, when Jotus released a trio of exquisite resincast bus models in the eye-catching livery of Arriva’s Sherwood Shuttle.
In terms of diecast models, only one manufacturer has produced models of the original Solo. Corgi released its first casting from its new Optare Solo tooling in early 1999. Appropriately the first livery it chose to model, Wilts & Dorset, was also the first customer to take delivery of the real bus. Corgi chose to model the M850 length variant and no doubt this was a good decision as the M850 was very widely used, affording Corgi an excellent choice of liveries for its future releases.
Independent bus model specialist, Omnidekka Models, regularly commissions established bus model manufacturers to make exclusive models. On this occasion, the company chose Corgi for obvious reasons - it already had existing tooling. Designed and manufactured in collaboration with Corgi Premiums, the specialist arm that produces commissions, this is a truly delightful model, carrying on the fabulous line of releases by its parent company.
The model is sumptuously finished in the always evocative LT red, even though the bus is operated by Epsom Coaches. The route between Morden and Ham skirts the outer edges of London boroughs, being very much at the top end of Surrey.
And on the subject of the other end of the route, there is a second model, No CP44101A, carrying the same route number, but with Ham as its destination. Both models are equally as wonderful, of course, and represent stunning value at just £25.00 each. But, if you buy both, it's only £48.00 in total.
How does that expression go about two buses coming along at once?