By Fabrizio Panico
All text and photographs by, and copyright of, the Author.
Nos. 46 to 48
This time we visit fabulous India with a Tata bus, France again with another Berliet and step behind the Iron Curtain with a postwar Skoda. All of them are from the Italian Hachette partwork ‘Autobus dal mondo’, a collection of sixty 1:43 scale bus models, very similar to the French partwork ‘Autobus et autocars du monde’, produced in Bangladesh by Ixo. At the time of writing Italian Hachette has announced that the partwork will be extended to eighty models (the French one is marching towards 120), but the first two models (nos. 61 and 62) are nothing more than new liveries on old castings: not a good start, let’s hope we see something new.
No. 46 (no. 45 in the French collection) Tata LPO 1512 1990 – The origins of Tata can be traced to a company founded in 1868 by Jamshedji Tata : today Tata Group is an Indian multinational conglomerate holding company, headquartered in Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay), and owned by Tata Sons, a registered charity. One of its members is Tata Motors Limited (formerly TELCO, short for Tata Engineering and Locomotive Company) a multinational automotive manufacturing company producing passenger cars, trucks, vans, coaches, buses, sports cars, construction equipment and military vehicles,. The group includes Jaguar Land Rover, with manufacturing and assembly plants in India, as well as in Argentina, South Africa, Great Britain and Thailand.
Founded in 1945 to produce locomotives, the company manufactured its first commercial vehicle in 1954 in a collaboration with Daimler-Benz AG (which ended in 1969): the chassis was a copy of the Mercedes L 3500, and from it was derived a whole series of bus and truck chassis, like the Tata 1210 and then the 1510, and its more modern variant the 1512. The Tata 1510/1512 was the largest selling bus in India and neighbouring countries, combining good features and low ownership cost. Built on a sturdy frame with parallel side members, suited to the difficult local conditions, and equipped from 1993 with a Cummins straight six diesel engine (previously with a Tata-Mercedes Benz 697 engine), the 1512 was usually bodied by contracted suppliers to customer requirements. Alas in later years its reliability was often hindered by poor maintenance causing frequent accidents, notwithstanding a legal maximum speed of 40 km/h.
The scale model represents a 1990 large capacity long distance bus where, lacking any air conditioning, the side doors (obviously on the left side) have been deleted, at the expense of safety. There is the usual combination of a plastic body and a metal baseplate, which is well detailed. It is painted in a bright livery in white, yellow and light green. On the sides there is the “Stage Carriage” writing, meaning it is a vehicle stopping at designated places, plus others printed in Indian characters, which the Author cannot decipher. The registration plate is one from the Delhi Regional Transport Office, correctly printed in black over yellow, as required for a public use. The prefix DL-1P is specifically allocated to Delhi commercial buses.
The angular shape of the bus is well reproduced, with large windows and many separate plastic parts, like lights, bumpers, mirrors and wipers, plus a chromed side exhaust. Very nice wheels and driver’s ‘cab’ area. The seats are only basic. Note the shadows on the windows representing the safety bars on their lower side. No apparent differences to the French edition. A nice model of an almost unknown bus, at least in Europe.
No. 47 (no. 36 in the French collection) Berliet PLR 10 1955 – We have already seen the Berliet history and its Crusair (see part 8, no. 22), PHL 10 (see part 10, no. 30) and PR100 ranges (Jelcz version, see part 14, no. 40) and how after the Second World War only commercial vehicle production was resumed, but that Chausson, Isobloc and Renault buses were much more innovative. In 1951 Berliet launched the PLR 8, a very powerful bus, but old fashioned even before it was launched: its heavy welded box frame, its dual rear wheels and horizontal engine meant high costs, both to buy, to use and to maintain. The PLR 8, an urban bus, was equipped with a 125 CV five cylinders MDUH diesel engine, while the PLR 10, an intercity bus, had a 150 CV six cylinders MDZH diesel, later used also on the urban version of the PLR 10. In 1958 a new generation of very low consumption engines was developed thanks to the MAN injection system, but this evolution did not save the model from its fate, as it was not the commercial success the new engine deserved.
With the cooperation of Vétra for the electric systems, Berliet produced a trolleybus version of the PLR 10, named ELR, a variant appreciated in Nice and Marseille.
The scale model represents an urban version (the correct name should be PLR 10 U) of the Monegasque CAM (Compagnie des Autobus de Monaco) with only 20 seated places and large central and rear platform for 70 standing places. The model is in a very elegant white livery with the coat of arms of the Principality on the roof. There is the usual plastic body with metal baseplate, and the exhaust is enhanced in silver.
The red circle on the front means that the vehicle runs a regular service, but it is in contrast with the “Special” in the destination board. The registration plate is not correct for the year, it should be white on blue, the blue on white was released only from 1978. Very likely it is a copy of a preserved and re-registered bus.
A nice front grille is provided, suitably pierced, and good wheels. A well reproduced driver’s cockpit is present as well as a basic interior. Usual added parts like lights, bumpers, mirrors and wipers are fitted. No apparent differences to the French edition. A good choice, fifties buses are the most loved.
No. 48 (no. 37 in the French collection) Skoda 706 RO 1947 – In 1859, Count Wallenstein-Vartenberk, owner of an already established foundry and engineering work, set up a branch in Pilsen, then in the Kingdom of Bohemia, part of the Austrian Empire. In 1869, the plant was taken over by Emil Škoda, who soon expanded the firm, and in the 1880s founded what was then a very modern steelwork, which was a leader in arms manufacturing. Exports included heavy castings, such as parts for the Niagara Falls power plant and for the Suez Canal sluices. In 1924, Škoda Works acquired the Laurin-Klement car manufacturer, later known as Škoda Auto.
The companies were separated after 1945, when the whole Czechoslovak economy came under government control : the car works in Mladá Boleslav became AZNP (Automobilové závody národní podnik or National Automobile Manufacturing Industry) today’s Škoda Auto, while the truck plant became part of a conglomerate of nine truck producers headquartered in Liberec as LIAZ (Liberecké automobilové závody), although the trucks and buses were still marketed as Škodas. Later, Škoda became well known in the USSR and other countries as a trolleybus manufacturer, but when in late 1989 the company was privatised very soon mismanagement, and the loss of guaranteed access to the East-European market, led to a collapse. In 1991 the Czech government sought a foreign partner for the passenger car works, choosing Volkswagen with a 30% initial stake, rising to 100% ownership by 1999.
The Škoda 706 RO is an urban bus produced from 1947 on the frame of the 706 R truck, and bodied by Sodomka (from 1948 named Karosa). In 1896 Josef Sodomka founded a manufacturing plant for coaches, and producing automobile bodywork of its own design from 1925, designed to be mounted on automobile chassis produced by Praga. In 1948, the company was nationalised and incorporated into a ‘National Enterprise’, which was then given the name Karosa (acronym for “Factory for carriages, cars, rotors, machine tools, cutting machines and buses”). Karosa become the sole manufacturer of buses in Czechoslovakia, but in 1989, after the fall of the communist regime, Karosa had to reduce its production. Help came from Renault, Karosa later becoming part of Irisbus and then of Iveco Bus. At the time the RO was a modern high capacity bus and was exported to many countries within the communist block, China included. The engine, a Skoda straight six diesel engine with 145 CV, was placed in front next to driver, and the rear axle was propelled by a long driveshaft. The body presented a very long rear overhang. Its heir, the RTO (quite similar, but much more comfortable with a lowered frame), was presented in 1958 and continued serial production until 1972, while it was produced under licence until 1977 by Jelcz (see part 14, no. 40) in Poland.
The scale model represents quite accurately a bus exported to China, with a red and white livery, and a dark grey roof. The Author apologises but he is unable to translate the Chinese characters. At the time China encouraged the workforce to live close to work to limit need for transport to work. Nowadays their cities are blocked by traffic like ours, and worse.
The bus has the usual form of construction with a plastic body and metal baseplate, which is well detailed. A side exhaust is added, as are front and rear tow hooks. Very nice doors and the wheels are fitted. Among the added plastic parts are the usual lights, bumpers, mirrors (five of them) and wipers. On the roof a triangle is fitted, very likely to be used to indicate the presence of a trailer. Another nice reproduction of a bus almost unknown in Western Europe.
We welcome your comments and questions. Please go to our Model Auto Review Facebook page or email the Editors at maronlineeditor at gmail.com.