By Fabrizio Panico
All text and photographs by, and copyright of, the Author unless otherwise stated.
Parts 76 – 78
Here three more buses 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. Two French “police” buses, Interesting to some, but a disappointing choice for Italian collectors, and a bus with a long lifespan from the Netherlands.
No. 76 (no. 99 in the French collection) Lohr L96 Laboratoire IRCGN 1996 – Lohr Industrie is a French group, based in Duppigheim (Strasbourg) specialising in the design, manufacture and marketing of goods transport systems, both on iron and rubber, and in military supplies. In 1993 the acquisition of Colmar’s famous coachbuilder Gangloff gave access to the bus market. In the mid-nineties the French Gendarmerie decided to renew part of its fleet of vehicles : the choice fell on the L96, a model of which Lohr manufactured body and fittings, whilst the German MAN supplied the chassis, the wheels and all the mechanical parts. It had a frame of metal beams with welded elements, and a body made of steel, aluminium and polyester. It was powered by a six cylinder inline diesel engine made by MAN with 220 hp, and was fitted with a Voit automatic gearbox and pneumatic suspension. The vehicle was designed to transport 25 men and their equipment, but its career was rather short. It proved to be unsuited to its intended use as it was too large to move nimbly in urban spaces, so the Gendarmerie preferred to go back to small mobile units, like the Irisbus Daily.
One of the few remaining L96 units was transformed in the “Lab’Unic”, allocated to the IRCGN (Institut de Recherche Criminelle de la Gendarmerie Nationale) : a mobile analysis laboratory, which could be driven directly to the site of an accident or crime. Inside the bus there was a control centre for radio and satellite transmissions, a scientific laboratory with microscopes and spectrometers and a photographic laboratory. The “Lab’Unic” carried enough power sources to power all the equipment on site without the need for a power hook up. It is perhaps interesting to note that the Gendarmerie Nationale is one of two national police forces of France, along with the Police Nationale. While the Gendarmerie is a branch of the French Armed Forces with responsibility in smaller towns, rural and suburban areas, the Police Nationale is a civilian force, in charge of large towns, cities and their suburbs.
The scale model faithfully reproduces this one-off vehicle, very likely based on one preserved by the French Gendarmerie. It has a plastic body and metal baseplate, with only limited details on the baseplate. It also has the usual array of small plastic parts, like rear-mirrors (a nice triple set in this case), lights and so on. It wears a blue livery with white roof, with all the emblems of the Gendarmerie and of the IRCGN. A well modelled driver’s area, but a poor interior with no attempt made to reproduce the scientific apparatus. The long white box on the right side of the vehicle is probably to house an awning to be deployed when needed.
The registration plate is correct and is specific to the French Armed Forces: It starts with a number to identify the army unit (2 for Gendarmerie, 6 for the Army, 7 for the Air Force, 8 for the Navy and 9 for the General Services) this is followed by two digits to identify the year of car registration (97 for 1997) then follows a number to identify the type of vehicle (1 for cars and coaches, 3 for lorries, etc.) and finally four numbers from 0001 to 9999. The registration plates also bear the symbol of the army unit the vehicle belonged to, for instance a black anchor on a French flag for the Navy, or the eight-pointed deer horns, like our model, for the Gendarmerie.
There are no apparent differences to the French edition. More a curiosity, than a bus to remember.
No. 77 (no. 100 in the French collection) Irisbus Agora TPI Police Nationale 2002 – Irisbus was founded in 1999 by the merger of the bus division of Renault with the Iveco bus division (and the later acquisition of Ikarus-bus), it was jointly controlled by Iveco and Renault Véhicules Industriels (RVI) until 2001, when it came under the full control of Iveco (Fiat Group). In 2006, the Ikarus-bus was ceded to the Hungarian Muszertechnika, while Irisbus got the entire property of the French Heuliez and the Czech Karosa. Since 2013, Irisbus was renamed Iveco Bus, a business division of Iveco, owned by CNH Industrial Group. All new buses from then on were sold under the Iveco brand.
In 1987 RVI presented the R312, the successor to the robust but dated SC10 (see part thirteen, no. 39). The squared shape offered a superior level of comfort and brightness, even though it still lacked a low floor. The R312 announced the arrival in 1996 of the Agora, the first French bus with a lowered floor. Starting from 2002 the production of the Agora range was entrusted to Irisbus : the lozenge, the Renault trademark sign, was replaced by the dolphin, logo of Irisbus, and the Renault engine by an Iveco Cursor 8. The Agora was a very reliable model, and a technical and commercial success : over 11,000 units made up to 2005, when it was replaced by the Citelis.
The scale model reproduces a special version of the Agora S, a TPI (Transport de Personnes Interpellées), a vehicle used by police forces for the transportation of “prisoners” who were carried inside a specially adapted set of cells inside the vehicle itself (a sort of “Black Maria”). The conversion of the vehicle was performed by Vehixel Carrossier Constructeur, a French manufacturer of buses, armoured vans and military vehicles. In the French collection the model is classed as a 1987 bus, but the presence of the Irisbus logo seems to disprove it. It has a plastic body and metal baseplate as usual, and the white livery sports the red and blue side bands which are characteristic of the Police Nationale. Near the front doors the DOSTL logo is featured (Direction Opérationnelle des Services Techniques et Logistiques), a branch of the Paris Police Prefecture.
This is probably based on a preserved vehicle. It has nice wheels and windows, but again a poor interior. The many printed emblems like Vehixel, Agora and the Irisbus “dolphin” have been very well reproduced. There is a correct registration plate. Here it shows the département code (75 for Paris), a letter to indicate in which area the vehicle was authorised to operate (D for the départment, R for the region, N for the national territory, E for the European Union), a dash, then four numbers from 1001 to 9999, and a final letter.
There are again no apparent differences to the French edition. Another curiosity.
No. 78 (no. 101 in the French collection) Bova Futura FHD 1987 – The Bova company can trace its origins to a timber business founded in 1878 by Jacob Bots in Valkenswaard, near Eindhoven, in the Netherlands. In 1910, when the first car bodies were made, its name was changed to Bova, from BOts and VAlkenswaard. In 1931 the company began building bus bodywork on a variety of chassis and in 1954 started making whole coaches, with engines by Mercedes-Benz, Scania or DAF.
Its first self-supporting integral coach, the Benelux, was introduced in 1969, to be replaced by the Europa and then by the Futura in 1982. The Futura featured a very distinctive convex aerodynamic front which inspired the model’s name, in contrast to the angular lines of the Europa, the prominent “bulge” below the windscreen remaining a distinctive feature through successive facelifts until the introduction of the Futura 2 model in 2010. The streamlined Futura was an almost unexpected success, and the use of DAF engines promoted in 1989 a joint venture between Bova and DAF (United Bus), which was unfortunately short-lived. The strong competition in the market pushed Bova in 2003 to merge into the VDL Groep, an international industrial and manufacturing company established in 1953 by Pieter van der Leegte, hence the name VDL, a group which already owned the coachbuilder Jonckheere and the DAF Bus International operations. The vehicles were branded VDL Bova until 2010, then simply VDL. Like many other manufacturers Bova used a type code naming, eg FHD means a Futura bus (F), with high floor (H, while L was for the low one) and DAF engine (D, while M was for Mercedes-Benz), usually followed by some numbers indicating the bus length and the engine power. Total Futura production was more than 11,000 units and over the years it was subject to several facelifts, with the style of headlights providing the most immediately recognisable visual difference.
A plastic body and metal baseplate form the basis of this model sporting the white and blue livery of the Bakker Travel B.V., a North Holland company providing passenger transport for more than 35 years. With a fleet of about 40 buses and coaches it is headquartered in Wormerveer, a town part of the Zaanstad municipality, about 13 km northwest of Amsterdam. A well detailed baseplate is fitted, and it has the usual small added parts. Yet again the interior is poor with seats lacking any space for the passengers legs. Although the rear-mirror supports, the wipers and the lights are all good the rear indicators seem a bit fragile.
Yet again no apparent differences to the French edition. Another wise choice by Hachette.