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British coachbuilders are on the offensive

6th August 1983, Page 28
6th August 1983
Page 28
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Page 28, 6th August 1983 — British coachbuilders are on the offensive
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:KAGING is an important asof any product and travel is exception. Accordingly, ly coach operators today are ising the importance of pack-1g and adding eyecatching nements to their coaches. !though over the past five rs British manufacturers Id not by any stretch of the gination have been regarded the leaders in style in the ch industry, they are now rting back with a vengeance. or example, Plaxton's amount coach bodies are ray becoming a common sight 3ritish roads. The Paramount ge which was announced at last NEC Motor Show comes ersions for almost every type coach operation and travel kage.

or the operator that runs ches on South of France ttle runs or on skiing trips to rtria there is the Paramount 0 and for those just running airport courtesy service the mal height Paramount 3200 vailable on lightweight Ford and Bedford chassis. In fact, the Paramount 3500 is available in 12 or 11 metre lengths on a variety of chassis including Leyland Tiger, Volvo BlOM and Daf. Integrally built, 3500s are available based on Scania's K112 underframe.

The normal height 3200 is available in 8, 10, 11 or 12 metre lengths and examples have been built on a variety of chassis including Ford R150, Bedford Y Series, Daf MB and SB, Leyland Tiger, Volvo 1310M, Dennis Dorchester and Ward Dalesman.

Seating capacities from 33 to 57 are available and Plaxton's star rating packages can assist operators in meeting the travel demands of their particular passengers.

Although the Paramount range was completely new it does retain a typically British style in its use of side mouldings and in particular laminates and mouldings in its interior finish.

In the immediate future Plaxtons is expected to introduce the Paramount 4000 double-deck coach. This four-metre-high machine is likely to be integrally built with European running units and will offer an exciting alternative for the operator who likes to provide his passengers with extra facilities but still needs to maximise seating.

Likely changes in coach styles can all be covered within the Paramount theme for it has built integral coaches on Scania and Daf chassis. A integral Plaxton 3500 coach based on Leyland Royal Tiger underframe will soon appear on the roads.

Plaxtons is experienced in meeting specific requirements and can fit a multitude of special features to Plaxton Paramount vehicles including Sutrac full air conditioning.

Plaxtons backs up its product with two fully equipped service division workshops at Ware in Hertfordshire and Scarborough. In addition it is represented by 13 coach dealers up and down the country.

Plaxtons is at present market leader in the luxury coach market in Britain and is doing everything it can think of to make sure that competition from coachbuilders both at home or in mainland Europe does not oust it from this position.

Duple Coachbuilders at Blackpool is the second largest luxury coachbuilders in Britain and like Plaxtons has recently completely updated its model range and production techniques to meet mounting challenges from competitors in Europe.

Rumblings in the industry about a parlous financial state have how largely been quelled by a share takeover which has brought Duple Coach builders together with the other subsidiaries of Duple International under the control of the Hestair organisation.

Duple's new models at the Motor Show seemed aimed towards the top end of the coach market. Both the normal height Laser and high floor Caribbean were originally offered only in 12-metre versions on heavyweight Volvo B1OM and Leyland Tiger versions.

For operators requiring lesser specification coaches Duple retained its Dominant three and four models which remain available on Daf, Bedford and Ford chassis as well as Leyland and Volvo.

The reason for this seeming reluctance to body anything was not bloodymindedness. In fact Duple was involved in a major investment and modernisation programme to obtain higher standards of body construction and finish and these involved the increased use of jigs.

Initially Laser and Caribbean jigs were designed to match bodies to Tiger and B1OM chassis although Laser is now also built to 11-metre lengths on Bedford YNT chassis and both types are soon likely to be available on Daf chassis.

In view of the Duple relationship with Hestair it seems likely that the Dennis Dorchester may soon be available with Duple Laser or Caribbean bodies.

Like Plaxton, Duple is offering a number of option packages to meet the differing interior trim requirements of coach passengers and operations.

Duple is also catering for the likely trend towards integral coaches, It has built a high-floor Caribbean integral coaches based on the West German Neoplan Jetliner underframe and a new model, the Calypso, based on the Bova Europa underframe and specially developed for the Moseley Group at Lought rough.

Despite making almost reco losses for the first part of ti year, Duple hopes that its factc and production modernisati, will help it once again to becoi a Blackpool Tower of strength One of the objectives of Duple's factory modernisati was to reduce the movement raw materials and finished si assemblies. A number of s rage racks have therefore bE installed at various stages on Laser and Caribbean product lines to keep the line supplied

• three or four shifts.

New jigs have been instal for uniform construction of bc sides and floor assemblies both models and automa multi-spindle drilling machii have been introduced.

Anti-corrosion treatmen. now carried out in two large n spray booths added to the p duction

Among Duple's ni machinery is a decoili hine introduced to handle ched steel side panels, for le, like Plaxtons and most of European coachbuilders, fits stretched side panels to aw models.

:w equipment also includes umerically controlled roof k bending machine and ial "marry-up" jigs to bring :wo sides together with the and floor assemblies. This cular jig is designed to give f shells complete dimensioiccuracy. Once the structure .eached this stage, the chas; brought to the production and it receives its body :ture.

:ple has also added an imsive new paint plant in reyears and has pioneered use of two-pack acrylic Is. It is also now able to offer nge of metallic paint le of the most impressive ess stories since the 1980 sport Act has been that of ;elare Sales. In just three s it has made Jonckheere of the market leaders in imad coach bodies.

,eselare Sales was set up as dealer and importer of :kheere bodies, which are uced in Roeselare, Belgium. active marketing, managdirector, Alan Wilson, was to have the competitively :d and well-finished Bera body in service with many h operators specialising in tie runs to the South of ice and Spain. As the iber of shuttle runs insed, so did the number of

Initially Bermudas were offered on Volvo and Daf chassis and Roeselare Sales was able to offer the established European back-up of these chassis manufacturers as sales benefits.

Roeselare Sales started operation just four months before the 1980 Transport Act heralded growth in some areas of coaching, and its progress to date seems to have mirrored that growth. This year the Northampton based dealer has moved into impressive new premises which include 3,000sqft of offices and over 10,500sqft of workshop, coach parking and stores. At the Motor Show Jonckheere launched its high-floor Jubilee range for the British market.

In addition to normal singledeck high-floor P50 models which have been built on Volvo BlOM, Leyland Tiger, Daf MB and SB, Scania K1I2 and Mercedes-Benz 0303 chassis, Roeselare introduced a low driving position high-floor version designated P599.

Although only 3,500mm high, the driving position on this model is set below the passenger deck to allow passengers an uninterrupted view forward and to accommodate video equipment without compromising headroom.

The P599 was initially offered on Daf 2300513 chassis and is now also available on a loweredfront version of the Volvo BlOM.

Another innovation at the last Motor Show was the British launch of the ultra-high-deck semi double-deck Jubilee P90 based on Volvo 1310M chassis. With increased seating capacity, standard chassis specification and enormous luggage capacity coupled with the novelty of a downstairs lounge area, the P90 has been much more widely accepted than I expected.

The company has received orders for over 50 examples with a variety of interior layouts and is soon expected to supply an example to National Travel.

Star of the Jonckheere stand at the Motor Show was the three-axle Daf-powered Jubilee P99 double-deck coach built for Derek Randall of London.

The original prototype vehicle has now been fully homologated by Daf and is regularly operating on shuttle runs to Spain. Roeselare Sales has already received orders for production versions of this model.

With its success has come the requirement for back-up service. Roeselare Sales has met this requirement with a comprehensively equipped stores at Northampton, a mobile workshop based on a Volkswagen LT van and five service support points at Jonckheete operators up and down the country. Additionally the company has service support points in Europe to ensure that windscreen and window replacement is easy to arrange.

In future the Jonckeere/Roeselare policy will be to continue to build vehicles fully supported by established chassis and underframe manufacturers. It is soon expected to announce a rear-engined 33-seat luxury midi coach version of the Jubilee to complete its comprehensive line-up of Bermuda and Jubilee models.

Jonckheere's main Belgium ri val Van Hool is also finding increasing success in Britain with its Alithe family of coach bodies. Van Hool also builds a range of integral coaches using the same body style and construction methods.

Like Jonckheere and other European builders Van Hool bodies feature tasteful levels of soft interior trim.

The current body style is familier and was first seen in Britain at the 1978 Motor Show on the relatively ill-fated Spanish-built Aragon models.

Since then production for Britain has returned to Belgium and Van Hool has regained its reputation for high quality. The body style has remained fashionable and looks as fresh today as it did on its introduction.

This year Van Hool Alizee coaches have been supplec Van Hool integral vehicles Man running units and on Vi B10M, Leyland Tiger, Daf and Ward Dalesman chassis.

Its highfloor Acron and s( deck Astron integrals have been supplied to an increal number of British operators.

The Van Hool integral ranc completed with the threeAstromega double-deck cc which has been supplied in k manual and automatic form number of operators inclut Southend Borough Transpol semi double-deck coach t suitable for mounting on VI B1OM chassis — the Astral also been announced.

Van Hool is also to boc Quest 80 coach chassis in near future. Unlike Jonckhe Van Hool operates through ti tional multi-franchise co dealers includers including Moseley Group at Lougl rough, Cotters in Glasgow Don Everall at Wolverhamp A Van Hool Alizee-bodied Sc K112 is also now avail through Kirkby, Kingsforth.

Ensign Bus of Purfleet, E is the UK dealer for the s Dutch coachbuilder Berkhof Berkhof, too, is having creasing success in Britain its high-floor bodies, now. I keted as Ensign Everest anc prite are gaining a reputatio strength and quality.

The bodies share the s style of soft trim familiar on Van Hool and Jonckhe machines and are availabli Daf, Volvo, Leyland and De Dorchester chassis.

Ensign bodies come wi' number of features normal') tional extras including a type entrance door and elE cally adjustable side mirrors

The Ensign range of Ber coach bodies is expected ti

pleted by a semi-double high-floor model soon to nnounced.

le of the most surprising innovative Ensign products le Enterprise. First seen at Brighton Coach Rally, Enter3 is a totally rebuilt ex-LonTransport Daimler Fleetline adapted as a full-luxury -t-range double-deck coach. le Moseley Group at Lough)ugh has long been asso3c1 with Continental coachJars and in addition to

lying Van Hool, Plaxton and le is the British supplier of uguese Caetano coach boand the Dutch Bova integral le.

le current Caetono Alpha lel is marketed as the MoseContinental Alpha and is labia on Volvo and Daf chasThe Alpha range features a e traditionally British style of nor trim than many of its )pean rivals.

though the Alpha is estabK1 and popular, it is Bova

normally comes to mind ,n Moseley is mentioned.

Daf-powered Bova Europa gral is both competitively ed and well equipped and had and continues to have a or impact on the British mar 1th its clean lines and simple modern interior specifica, this model has introduced concept of integral coaches large number of operators. rear-engined Bova Europa ;oon to be joined by the er-engined unusually styled a Future and the Duple-boCalypso.

Bates of Loughborough is of Britain's largest coach tlers and in addition to ring the products of Duple Plaxtons it imports LAG chwork from Belgium. Marketed as Galaxy LAG, 12rnetre high-floor bodies are offered on Volvo, Daf and Leyland Tiger chassis. The bodies have a high standard of equipment and feature typically European soft interior trim.

Also with a typically European clean look and soft trimmed interior, are Dutch-built Smit Euroliner coach bodies supplied by Erringtons of Evington on rear or mid-engined Daf chassis.

One of the most unusual and strikingly different Dutch coach body designs currently is the Van Rooijen Odyssee body available on Volvo B1OM chassis from HKS Coachworks in County Durham. The Odyssee has a distinctive appearance and offers the same standards of restful interior trim as its rivals, coupled with possibily the best driver and passenger visibility from any single deck 12-metre coach.

Not all the new contenders for the 12-metre coach market in Britain are Continental, From Great Britain Robert Wright and Sons of Ballymena offers the Contour body. The futuristic aluminum Contour has particularly clean and original lines and was designed in conjuction with Bedford. The Contour is one of the few British coach bodies that features full soft interior trim. The first Contour coaches are on Bedford chassis although a high-floor model is soon to be available on an alternative chassis. The first production Contour is now in service with Go Whittle of Shropshire.

Metro-Cammell-Weymann has announced that it will be actively competing for independent coach business next year with its Metroliner range of normal height single-deck, highfloor integral and double-deck coaches, MCW has appointed Stuart Johnson of Sheffield as its sole distributor and judging from the last Motor Show could soon become a major force in British coaching. The high-floor Metroliner is expected to be revealed at Coachfair in September. For operators requiring a long life, durable dual-purpose coach, Walter Alexander of Sel kirk offers its new alloy-framed PE body range. This can be built on any chassis.

Integral coaches now account for about six per cent of the total bus and coach market with Bova and Van Hool integrals competing with Kassbohrer Setra and Neoplan.

Next season though, the importers will face competition from Leyland's Royal Tiger Doyen which is being built at the Charles Roe plant in Leeds as well as the new highfloor Metroliner.

The British manufacturers will have a major task, though, to win back business from the importers which all offer thoroughly proven and established models.

The Setra range includes 10 and 12-metre low and high floor coaches as well as the impressive new Imperial three-axle double-decker.

Kassbohrer Setra coaches are available from Kassbohrer (UK) of Bordon, Hampshire and dealers Stanley Hughes and West Durham Coach Sales.

The full range of Neoplan includes 9 to 12-metre integral coaches as well as the Skyliner and Clubliner double-deckers. Neoplans are available from Carlton PSV Sales of Worksop, Nottinghamshire.

In conclusion, since the 1980 Transport Act opened the opportunities for coach operators, coach buying habits have changed. The increase in Continental holiday operations has bought an increase in passenger expectations and now an increasing minority of new British coaches are equipped with refreshment and toilet facilities.

The changing requirements have allowed importers to become established in Britain but British manufacturers are now reacting with products that could well be mounting a counter challenge before long.

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