By Fabrizio Panico
All photographs by, and copyright of, the Author.
This months issues brings us one more French bus, an Italian one, and a German one, but “made in Spain” : as usual an interesting mix 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 for Ixo.
No. 22 (no. 15 in the French collection) Berliet Crusair 3 1969 – Like Renault, Berliet is one of the oldest automobile manufacturer : founded in 1899 by Marius Berliet, it was in private ownership until 1967 when it became part of Citroën, then acquired by Renault in 1974 and merged with Saviem into the new Renault Trucks company (RVI) in 1978. Its name was phased out by 1980. Based in Vénissieux, near Lyon, Berliet contributed highly to the motorsport and economic development of France. After a first small vis-à-vis (1895) the first real Berliet was the 22 CV in 1902, and the success was at the door. Already in 1905 Berliet could sell to the American company ALCO (American Locomotive Corporation) the rights for the overseas production of models 22, 40 and 60 CV. That’s the origin of the locomotive in the Berliet logo. At the outbreak of the First World War its production was converted to military purposes. Its trucks were well thought of, and it assembled the famous Renault tanks.
After the war 4 and 6 cylinders models were produced, as wel as trucks and autocars. But the appearance of the Citroën Traction put rivals several years behind in technological terms. As money to innovate was lacking at Berliet an agreement with Peugeot allowed them to use the 402 body, a modern line to conceal their old fashioned technology. It was the last Berliet car, after World War Two only commercial vehicle production was resumed. During the fifties Berliet was highly successful, but in the sixties the competition with Magirus, Mercedes, Scania, Volvo and Fiat was very tough. It was necessary to innovate continuously. Once again resources were lacking and in 1967 it was acquired by Citroen. The Cruisair range, developed from 1966, offered innovative technical solutions and a new aesthetic.
The Cruisair 2 and 3 were 10 and 11 metres long, and were marketed in 1968 equipped with a 2-stroke V-6 GM Detroit Diesel engine, fragile if not correctly used, and, starting from 1970, with the V-8 Berliet, less powerful, but more reliable. Comfortable, reliable and profitable the Crusair was built on a straight frame with two U-rails, braced by central X-riveted cross-rails. Airlam suspensions, consisting of pneumatic cushions and leaf springs associated with double-acting hydraulic shock absorbers, assured comfort and stability. But it was not free of defects, such as corrosion, poor driving position or poor technical solutions for belts and brakes. The Crusair was replaced by the PR14 in 1975, in effect an evolution of a 12 meters long Crusair 4 never produced, equipped with a turbo engine and sold, under the Renault brand, until 1989.
The scale model has a plastic body and a metal chassis with the rear exhaust highlighted by silver paint. The bright livery is yellow with a lower green stripe, a silver stripe below the windows and a black roof. The registration plate is from Toulouse in Haute Garonne, in the South of France. Nice modelling of the engine ventilation grilles and the front itself as well as the driver’s “cab”. The front and rear bumper separate fixings like the wipers. There are no apparent differences to the French edition. This is a nice model of a bus that boldly showed the image of the French coach in the last twenty years of the twentieth century.
No. 23 (no. 67 in the French collection) FIAT 309/1 SDM Menarini 1966 – Fiat is another of the oldest automobile manufacturers. Founded in 1899 its first truck was the 24 HP in 1903. Like many other companies Fiat commercial vehicles had a strong growth during the war years, starting in 1911 with the Libyan war (type 15 and then type 18). In 1925 Fiat bought SPA (Società Piemontese Automobili) and in 1929 created Fiat Veicoli Industriali, a consortium grouping Fiat V.I., SPA and Scat-Ceirano that in 1933 integrated OM (Officine Meccaniche ex Züst). In 1966 Fiat V.I. absorbed its French subsidiary UNIC (bought in 1949 by Fiat-Simca), in 1966 Lancia Industrial Vehicles, and in 1973 part of FNM (Fàbrica Nacional de Motores), the Brazilian subsidiary of Alfa Romeo. From 1975 all the activities were grouped with Magirus in a new company (IVECO), and from now on it started the slow disappearance of the specific products of each brand. In 1915, Gianni Agnelli, founder of Fiat, created the S.I.T.A. (Società Italiana Trasporti Automobilistici) to ensure the transport of people and goods, and clearly to develop its commercial vehicles production (S.I.T.A. was part of Fiat up to 1987).
We have already seen (see 5th part, no. 13) that Menarini was established in Bologna in 1919 building horse drawn carriages, car components and later buses and trucks bodies for Fiat chassis. After the Second World War there was a great growth, but in the 1980s an excess of prudence by the ownership made the company weaker in the face of competition, leading to its acquisition by Breda, later to be integrated in Finmeccanica in 2001, and to be sold in 2015 to the new company IAA (Industria Italiana Autobus), owner of Menarini and Padane brands.
The Fiat 309 was a bus produced by Fiat V.I. from 1958 to replace the 642RN, which had been derived from a truck. This vehicle was designed from the beginning as a bus. Its production ceased in 1970, when replaced by the 308. It was available in the 9-metre version, with line and Gran Turismo versions, designed by Cansa of Cameri but it was also available as a chassis destined for external body builders, especially Carrozzeria Orlandi, Dalla Via, Portese, Bianchi and above all Menarini. The first 309’s mechanics, placed in the middle of the chassis, derived from the truck 642, but in 1963 they derived from the 643 and the denomination became 309/1 (a flat 6 in line, delivering 153 hp with a 5-speed gearbox). The 309 saw widespread operation in Italy but also sold well in export markets, both in the long-distance version and in the Gran Turismo version. The SDM in the name is typical of Menarini products, it stands for “Sintesi Del Meglio” (Summary of the Best), the name given to their new projects, aiming at optimising construction techniques.
The scale model is a faithful reproduction of a restored vehicle, part of the “Il Capolinea” fleet (The Terminal), a private Italian association (see www.associazioneilcapolinea.it). The registration plate, from Benevento, is the original one when it was part of the Autolinee Lisella. As usual there is a plastic body and a metal chassis, the rear exhaust highlighted by silver paint. Many items are small separate parts like the front and rear lights, wipers and the rear compartment doors. A nice front grille is provided complete with the Menarini and Fiat logos. There are no apparent differences to the French edition.
No. 24 (no. 31 in the French collection) Setra-Seida S14 1966 – The Setra brand was born in 1951, but its origins are from the Wagenfabrik Kässbohrer, founded in 1893 in Ulm, and whose products were buses, coaches, vehicle transporters, trailers and special vehicles like snow groomers. After the destruction of World War Two they had to start from scratch and it was decided to create a new company dedicated only to buses. It was named Setra, short for “selbsttragend” (self supporting), referring to the integral nature of the construction, when competitor vehicles still featured a separate chassis and body. Until 1995 the firm operated under the name Kässbohrer-Setra, but in that year economic difficulties forced its sale to Daimler Benz, and to operate as a division of EvoBus GmbH, one of its subsidiaries. The first Setra buses were named according to the number of the rows of seats, like S8, S10, S14. To locate the engine behind the rear axle was another innovation, which subsequently became mainstream. The modular system (same structure’s elements and same cockpit) allowed to change only the wheelbase, the engine power and the interior fittings. Usually the engine was a diesel six by Henschel, delivering 170 CV.
The model is a bus born of an agreement between Setra and Seida (Sociedad Española de Importación y Distribución de Automóviles) a Spanish car and truck dealer and coachbuilder that later evolved into makers of integral chassisless motorcoaches, and in 1998 merged into EvoBus. Seida was incorporated in 1925, and began as the dealer for Spain of all the brands of Chrysler Corporation, starting to assemble Dodge trucks in 1935. In the 1940s, after the Spanish Civil War, Seida switched to coachbuilding, soon leading the Spanish market of coach bodies, having patented, as Metalbloc, an all-metal body structure. By then Seida became the preferred bodybuilder for Pegaso buses and trucks, Hispano-Suiza trolleybuses, double-deck Guy and Dodge coaches. In 1963 an agreement with Kässbohrer allowed to license-build Setra chassisless coaches. These were equipped with Pegaso engines and were marketed with simultaneous double badge as Setra Seida and Pegaso. The S14, a full-length 12-meter 55 seat vehicle, was the most in demand. Despite being rather expensive, these coaches were very successful in the Spanish market. In the 1970s MAN, Mercedes-Benz or Cummins engines were offered as alternative power units to the Pegaso ones, and the Setra Seida and Pegaso badging was replaced by just Setra.
The scale model is again a faithful reproduction of a restored vehicle, owned by the “La Pamplonesa”, a Spanish family business dedicated to renting coaches and minibuses in Pamplona (Navarra) (see www.lapamplonesa.com). As usual there is a plastic body and a metal chassis, the body is quite bright, helped by the blue and light blue livery and plenty of windows. The windows on the roof would have meant that during summer it would be very hot inside. Perhaps because of its length the model seems to be a bit flimsy, too flexible. The registration plate is from Donostia-San Sebastián, a coastal city located in the Basque Autonomous Community.
The small “SP” plate doesn’t mean “Spain” but “Servicio Públicos”. it is a compulsory plate to indicates that the vehicle is dedicated to providing public services: taxis, buses, etc. There are two plates one at the front and the other in the rear of the vehicle, this last one should incorporate a light that complies with the same conditions as for the rear registration plate. The interior is quite basic and is in a strange purple-pink colour. There are many small added items such as front and rear bumpers, wipers and rear view mirrors. The Pegaso logo is modelled correctly on the front grille and on the hubcaps. There is no apparent differences to the French edition.
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