By Fabrizio Panico
All photographs by, and copyright of, the Author.
Two more French buses and an interesting one from Hungary, all from the Italian Hachette partwork “Autobus dal mondo”, a collection of sixty 1:43 scale bus models, very similar to the French one “Autobus et autocars du monde”, produced in Bangladesh by Ixo.
No. 19 (no. 32 in the French collection) Renault AGP Saharien 1937 – Renault is one of the oldest automobile manufacturer : established in 1899, already in 1903 began to manufacture its own engines and introduced in 1906 its first commercial truck. During the Great War they produced munitions, military aircraft engines and the revolutionary FT tank. A range of light/medium/heavy trucks named AGx was produced between 1937 and 1941, it included both conventional (AGC, AGT) and forward control (AGK, AGP, AGR) trucks. The AGP was a front engined, rear-wheel drive truck, with a 4-speed manual gearbox, assembled in Boulogne-Billancourt. The engine could be a 4-litre inline-four petrol unit or a 4.7-litre inline-four diesel (AGPD in this case), both with a 65 hp power output. In 1937, the Société Algérienne des Transports Tropicaux (SATT) commissioned a local coachbuilder to build a new AGP-based coach for its trans-Sahara passenger service to replace the heavier Renaults it was using before.
The van-like streamlined steel bodywork was insulated inside with cork, with a total length a little more of 7 metres. Usually it included seven seats for passengers in the front compartment, plus four more in the central one. At the rear there was space for goods and mail bags. More baggage could be stored in a compartment on the roof, covered by a simple tarpaulin, in this case they worked as a further insulator from the Sahara sun. Its could carry 400 litres of fuel, but on the desert trails it could need around 40 litres every 100 km. Each coach received its own number and name.
The scale model reproduces the SATT “Ligne du Hoggar” coach no. 64 “Guêpe” (Wasp) in its silver livery. The body is plastic, and the chassis is of diecast metal. Underneath, engine, rear axle and springs are all modelled in a basic manner, whilst the exhaust is an extra component like the front grille.
The two ladders needed to reach the luggage area on the roof are nicely modelled, as is the brown tarpaulin to cover the luggage area. There are no wipers, it never rains in the Sahara. On the sides of the vehicle the names of the main stops and the “Pullman” logo are printed. A correct registration plate is printed with the two letters code “AL” as Algeria was part of France until 1952.
There are no apparent differences to the French edition. This is quite a small vehicle, but is an interesting addition to the collection.
No. 20 (no. 12 in the French collection) SOMUA OP5-3 RATP 1955 – The origins of the French manufacturer Somua (Société d’Outillage Mécanique et d’Usinage d’Artillerie) date back to 1861, when Ethienne Bouhey started producing machine tools, very well regarded in France and abroad. Based in Saint-Ouen, a suburb of Paris, the company later was renamed Somua and during the Great War it became a subsidiary of Schneider-Creusot, already one of the companies providing buses to the Parisian STCRP. But between The Great War and the Second World War Renault became the exclusive supplier of Parisian buses, and Somua went back to producing trucks and military vehicles, like the S35 and S40 tanks. In 1946 the company presented the JL12, a truck equipped with a flex-fuel four cylinder engine under license from the Swedish Hesselman company. But the “Commission des plans de modernisation de l’automobile” (the famous “Plan Pons”) decided to merge Somua with Willème and Panhard to form a new company, the Union Française de l’Automobile (UFA).
Panhard directed UFA and only its engines could be used in trucks or buses, like the OP5. In the 50s, after leaving UFA, Somua suffered from a reduction in military orders and was forced to join Latil and the trucks division of Renault to counter Berliet : in 1955 LRS Saviem was born : Latil-Renault-Somua Société Anonyme de Véhicules Industriels et d’Equipments Mécaniques. Somua went on supplying the OP5 to the RATP for some more years, while Saviem was the brand for the new models.
The OP5 was the result of the project for a new generation of post-war Parisian buses, as requested by the CMP (Compagnie du Métropolitain, the future RATP): specifications required a closed body bus, with more comfort and a fixed place for the conductor. Somua produced the chassis and the engine/transmission unit, the bodies were assembled as a wooden frame covered with panels in Duralinox directly by the RATP for the first 100 “1950 Paris type” buses, while the 200 more “Banlieue type” buses were build as entirely metal structure in welded tubes by MGT (Million Guiet Tubauto). The diesel engine was in front of the chassis, with the batteries and fuel tank in the middle. But the presence of only two doors was an obstacle to the passengers movement and in 1955 the RATP ordered the new OP5-3, slightly longer than the OP5 to allow a third central door and with an all metal body by MGT. A very reliable bus, the OP5 modernised the Parisian fleet, slowly replacing the old open platform buses, and becoming a real Paris trademark.
The scale model of the OP5-3 is quite large, with a plastic body, a metal chassis and the classic green and cream livery. Underside details are sufficient, the exhaust is silver painted and there is a rear tow hitch. The destination plate reads “#56 – Pte de Clignancourt” and on both sides there are “Larousse” ads, while in the rear there is a “Chantelle” one, all very agreeable. Inside the seats are quite basic and there is the conductor’s place. The four-leaf doors are modelled well. Indeed it is a beautiful model. There are no apparent differences to the French edition.
No. 21 (no. 17 in the French collection) Ikarus type 66 1955 – In 1895, when Budapest was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Imre Uhri established a company focused on horse carriages. Later on it started producing bodies for buses, but the 1929 crisis forced its closure. In 1935 the company resumed production, building bodies for the MAVAG vehicles. After the Second World War it was nationalised and joined to Ikarus, an aircraft maker, and charged to build coaches and buses. These were widely used throughout the Comecon bloc, even in the Soviet Union. They were also exported to countries in Asia and Africa aligned with the Soviet Union.
Sales increased year-by-year and in 1971 over 100,000 buses were manufactured, and Ikarus was the largest bus builder in the Eastern Bloc. The dissolution of the Soviet Union and the loss of Comecon caused a collapse of orders. The company was privatised, and then sold to Irisbus which ceased vehicle production in 2003. An Hungarian entrepreneur re-started bus and trolleybus production in 2006, planning a second bus factory in the USA, while a third one is planned in Turkey.
The Ikarus 66 (and the 55, its Gran Turismo version) was a successful monocoque bus with a rear engine. This reduced noise levels, meant that no long drive shaft was needed, and maximized the interior space. The straight six diesel engine was a 145 HP Hungarian Csepel, at the start with a pneumatic clutch, but later on with a dry monodisc one. The presence of power steering was a plus and being a robust and powerful bus it was used in many countries. Over 16,700 Ikarus 55/66 were assembled, with over 8,500 going to the DDR (German Democratic Republic), one of the most important trading partners for Ikarus.
The scale model has a plastic body and metal chassis, with a good level of detail. Many parts are added, like three rear view mirrors, the wipers, front and rear lights, front bumper, luggage rack and exhaust system. A correct registration plate for Dresden, the first letter “R” indicating the Dresden district, whilst on the sides there is the City’s Coat of Arms. Well reproduced interior features a well modelled drivers area complete with a nice dashboard. The cream livery is a bit dull but authentic. There are no apparent differences to the French edition. A nice big model, very well executed.
The Fiat 418 AC/M Menarini 1975 (Trieste) which featured in Part 5 of the Italian series has now been seen in the French collection as no. 68.
We welcome your comments and questions. Please go to our Model Auto Review Facebook page.