By Fabrizio Panico
All text and photographs by, and copyright of, the Author unless otherwise stated.
Here we are at part 24 of this series covering the releases from ‘Autobus dal mondo’. Something of record to reach two years of issues of models and history. And there are still more to go!
Parts number 70 to 72
At last a Swedish bus and two more French buses: a gas-fed war-time Renault and a Saviem used in Morocco (former French protectorate). They are from the Italian Hachette partwork ‘Autobus dal mondo’”, a collection of eighty 1:43 scale bus models, very similar to the French series ‘Autobus et autocars du monde’”, produced in Bangladesh for Ixo.
No. 70 (no. 93 in the French collection) Renault TN4 F (Gaz de ville) 1940 – This is the fifth Renault in the collection. Aside from those produced after mergers in the French bus and coach industry which combined Latil, Renault and Somua, into Saviem in 1955 . Later Isobloc and Chausson. were also absorbed. After the AGP Saharien (see part seven, no. 19), the TN6-C2 (see part twelve, no. 34), the R4192 (see part nineteen, no. 55 and part twenty one, no. 61) it is now the turn of another TN, a TN4 F modified to run on city gas, due to the scarcity of fuels during the Second World War. The STCRP (Société des Transport en Commun de la Région Parisienne) had already tested the use of a gasifier (tried on over 300 buses) and a mixture of alcohols (with poor results), and in 1940 decided to use uncompressed city gas (a mixture of methane and hydrogen). This choice needed each vehicle to have a very large storage tank (about 17-20 cubic metres) and it gave a very limited range on one fill (about 20 kilometres, just a round trip).
A container in rubberised canvas (from the stocks of balloons manufactured by Goodrich, in the outskirts of Paris) was placed on the roof, protected by a large fairing made of wood fibre panels. Over 500 buses were converted, TN4 F/H and TN6 only, but fuel wasn’t the sole problem; the scarcity of oil, tires and spare parts soon left many buses out of service and in June 1944 only 275 bus were still operative. Besides, the population preferred to move by the underground, the bus fleet being heavily affected by requisitions and evacuations. The result was a reorganisation of the Parisian transport system, with the STCRP and the Compagnie du chemin de fer Métropolitain de Paris (CMP) merging from 1942 to officially become the RATP (Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens) in 1949. It is interesting to note that despite the exceptional height (4.10 metres) and the extreme flammability of the gas there were never any major incidents.
The original bus, the first TN4 (a bus with a length of 9.5 metres, more powerful engine and with a larger capacity of up to 50 passengers) was introduced in 1931 at the request of the STCRP. It was the first Renault bus with the radiator in front of the engine instead of behind as used on previous ones. The first TNs had an open platform and an inline four cylinder engine of 58 CV, while in 1932 the TN6 received an inline six cylinder engine of 68 CV. After the war, all the TNs in service were refurbished, even adopting a more enclosed cabin to protect the driver. They were then slowly phased out, the last in 1971.
The scale model is a faithful reproduction of thevehicle from the large “AMTUIR” collection (Association du Musée des Transports Urbains, Interurbains et Ruraux), its museum is now located in Chelles, Seine-et-Marne, part of the Parisian agglomeration (see www.amtuir.org). But TN4F No. 3158 is a replica. A false raised roof was placed on the vehicle and the vehicle is currently running on petrol (all roof fairings were eliminated during general revisions, completed in 1948).
As usual there is a plastic multi-part body with a metal chassis. Classic green and cream livery is well reproduced, and is lacking any advert. Like the chassis (where a printed name replaces the original one) and the interiors, the central part of the body is common with the previous TN6-C2 (no. 34), whilst the driver’s cab is now an open one. Many separate small items are fitted. Note the blacked-out headlight. It is a shame that there is a shiny metal support inside the rear platform. There are no apparent differences to the French release. A fair witness of past war times.
No. 71 (no. 94 in the French collection) Saviem SC1 1960 – We have already met the Saviem SC10 U (see part thirteen, no. 39), and how at the end of 1955 Renault, faced with strong competition from Berliet, and lacking factory capacity, decided to merge with Somua and Latil creating LRS Saviem, later incorporating Isobloc and Chausson. In 1949 Renault presented the R4000 series, the first “modern” Renault bus (previously they were based on a truck chassis, heavy and uncomfortable) with a unitary structure. The engine was now placed horizontally on the right hand side between the two axles, and the body had a rounded shape with a chromed grille. It was an instant success and was produced in many different versions (the R 4192 was a low roof version with a more powerful diesel engine). Following the mergers in 1955 it gained a Saviem logo, in 1957 it was restyied and renamed the Saviem ZR20. In 1960 a new engine was fitted and the SC1 name used. In 1964 the S45 name was used and it stayed in production up to 1993 with periodic updates.
Compared to the R4192 (see part nineteen, no. 55 and part twenty one, no. 61) the SC1 presented the same new front and rear “panoramic” screens already seen on the ZR20, a simplified front grille and improved wipers. But much more important were the new engine, the Fulgur diesel six with 150 CV (30 CV more than the previous one, which was aptly named “fainéant” or loafer), and the Grégoire suspension, the “aérostable”, a variable flexibility system, which gave a very comfortable ride.
The scale model is a faithful reproduction of an interesting vehicle, a bus exported to Morocco, which was up to 1955 a French protectorate. As usual there is a plastic body and a metal chassis, very likely partly recycled from the previous R4192. The name on the baseplate is now printed, but the front and rear of the body are entirely new. The white and blue livery shows the logo of CTM, the Compagnie de Transport au Maroc, the line Casablanca-Marrakech, is still active today. Since its creation in 1919, the history of CTM accompanied that of modern Morocco, contributing to its development. In 1969 CTM merged with Lignes Nationales and extended its services to the whole Morocco.
It was the first Moroccan company privatised in 1993, at the same time as it was introduced on the stock exchange of Casablanca. Very nice white-wall tires and driver’s cab feature. The usual luggage rack is fitted to the roof and a large ladder provided for access. Many separate parts are used and the headlights pods are particularly notable. The characteristic long bars are fitted along the roof which are used to fix the canvas to protect the baggage. No apparent differences to the French series. Nice to have something from another continent.
No. 72 (no. 95 in the French collection) Volvo B375 1957 – Nice to see a Swedish bus at last. Today the Volvo Group (Aktiebolaget Volvo, shortened to AB Volvo) is a Swedish multinational manufacturing company headquartered in Gothenburg, and its main activity is the production, distribution and sale of trucks, buses and construction equipment. Automobile manufacturer Volvo Cars was part of AB Volvo until 1999, when it was sold to the Ford Motor Company, and then re-sold in 2010 to the Chinese Geely Holding Group. The brand name Volvo means “I roll” in Latin, conjugated from “volvere”. Volvo was established in 1915 as a subsidiary of SKF, a ball bearing manufacturer however both Volvo Group and Volvo Cars regard their founding to be in 1927, when the first Volvo car left the assembly line. The first truck debuted in 1928, an immediate success soon exported in Europe, while the first bus, named B1, was launched in 1934. After a very complicated (and too tedious to report here) sequence of partnerships, purchases and sales, the Volvo Group is focused on heavy vehicles and its operations include among other things Volvo Trucks, Volvo Buses, Mack Trucks, and Renault Trucks.
The Volvo Brage/Starke/Raske was a series of medium size trucks produced between 1954 and 1972 : the L370 Brage was named after the Norse god Bragi and sported an overhead valve petrol engine, in parallel with the Brage Volvo offered a diesel version called L375 Starke (Strong), likewise with a payload of 4.5 tonnes, to be replaced in 1961 by the sturdier L475 Raske (Swift) with a payload of 5 tonnes. From the L375 (L as in Lastbil, Swedish for truck) Volvo derived the B375 (B as in Buss, for bus), with the same chassis and mechanics of the truck. The engine was a diesel six in-line, with 95 CV. Early trucks had a non-synchronised four-speed gearbox, soon replaced by a synchronised five-speed transmission by ZF. The body was usually built by local coachbuilders, in this case a Danish one, V. Frandsen Karosserifabrikk. This long distance bus had a very long body, far outweighing the rear overhang and could carry 31 passengers. The spare wheel was hung at the rear externally, freeing more space for luggage compartments. A bus not avant-garde, not specially original, and lacking modernity, but very suitable for difficult Scandinavian roads.
The scale model has the usual plastic body and metal chassis, with an added exhaust, in front of a rear wheel, it is not very well connected either. The red and white livery is well applied, but there is no indication of the transport company. The destination board reads “Ystad (Rønne)”. Ystad is a town in Skåne County, in the south of Sweden, dating back to the 11th century, nowadays more famous for being the primary set for the detective series “Wallander”. Rønne is the largest town on the Danish island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea, just in front of Ystad and connected to it by ferry.
The registration plate seems to be Danish, the yellow one for buses and trucks. A very nice radiator grille is fitted with the Volvo logo on show. The headlights and indicators are well modelled too. There is a well reproduced interior though the steering wheel seems to be a bit oversize. There is no apparent difference to the French edition. A similar bus, with a different livery, was produced in 1:72 scale by Editions Atlas. This is a nice reproduction of a classic bus, worthy of the long wait.
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