Former Champ Regains 'National'
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BLIZZARD-BLOCKED roads leading to the Lancashire venue for the two-day , National Coach Rally last weekend brought a last-minute cut in competitors, but the snow disappeared and the sun shone for the £14,000 VIP's dream owned by Whyte's (Edgware) Ltd. to make its first public appearance (see pages 32-33) and carry off the Coach of the Year award.
Of the 47 entries, including six mini coaches, four failed to appear at all and only 26 reached Wigan by 9 a.m. on Saturday in time to start on the 88-mile road section. More turned up in time for the Saturday afternoon driving tests at Blackpool, after the start of this section had been delayed while Blackpool cleansing department cleared a 3-in, layer of snow off the Middle Walk, overlooking the sands. Some 43 competitors were 'present and sparklingly correct when the Concours d'Elegance and finals of the driving section were held on Sunday.
Despite the vagaries of the weather, there was an increase to 12 this year in the number of contestants from the south, with an AEC Duple from Greenslades' Tours Ltd., of Exeter, achieving the distinction of travelling the farthest to be present during the six-year history of the event.
Of the 43 competitors in the Concours d'Elegance, 20 were Duple-bodied, 14 Plaxton, three Harrington and six Deansgate mini-coaches. Latest off the shop floor was the Duple (Northern) bodied, AEC 36seater of Whyte's (Edgware) which had only 238 miles on the clock—and not a single fare-paying tourist yet carried. It was all "mod cons—including a shorthand-typist hostess, dictating machine, two-way radio, record player, toilet and washroom, shaver points, refrigerator, cocktail cabinet and bar, wardrobe, kitchen-corner (with a 4-gal. hot-water boiler) and a host of other amenities designed to satisfy the most demanding of its 36 passengers—and full marks for its interior standard in the Concours calegance.
Noel Tatlock, proprietor of J. B. Tatlock and Son, of Whitefield, driving a 30 ft., Plaxton-bodied Bedford with 154,000 miles behind it since 1961, provided a fitting contrast in vehicle ages when he came from behind in the handling test to win the Coach Driver of the Year title. At the end of the first day's driving test and the 88-mile road section, which called for 40 m.p.h. reliability on the M6 stretches and 24 m.p.h. on the rest of the route, he was down in fourth place.
First and second after Saturday's drive
were mini-coaches, and as they are excluded from the final Coach Driver of the Year test at Blackpool, Graham Harris in a new, 45-seater Bedford-Plaxton led the big vehicles. But his high position was based on a near-faultless road section, where he incurred only two penalty points. The best six from Saturday's two sections started from scratch again for Sunday's final, which was decided on three handling tests.
Noel Tatlock, as he did in 1963 and 1964, proved outstanding with fine control of his vehicle at speed and so regained the national title he last held in 1963. A change in design of the tests would seem called for in time for April land 2, 1967.
The six finalists in the Coach Driver of the Year contest were P. Bostock (E. J. Bostock and Sons, Bedford-Harrington); C. Mawson (J. B. Davies, Bedford-Plaxton); W. Grundy (Yellow Motor Services, AECHarrington); Tatlock; Harris; and P. Bold (Edward Bold, Bedford-Duple).
The only lady competitor, Mrs. Joan Dunford, from the family concern of Alver Coaches, Wakefield, driving a six-year-old Bedford-Plaxton, drove off suitably rewarded for her first rally by finishing runner-up in the driving section for the 26 ft. to 30 ft. vehicles with vertical engines.