By Fabrizio Panico
All photographs by, and copyright of, the Author.
Parts 31 to 33
At last another British bus, but produced and bodied in Pakistan, and one each from France and Germany, the last two from manufacturers already previously seen in this listing, all of them from the Italian Hachette partwork “Autobus dal mondo”, a collection of sixty 1:43 scale bus models, very similar to the French “Autobus et autocars du monde”, produced in Bangladesh for Ixo. We should be arrived to the second part of the collection, but the French one is still going on: originally planned for 60 models, this collection was initially extended to 80 and then to 100 models!
No. 31 (no. 25 in the French collection) Mercedes-Benz O 302 1972 – We have already met Mercedes Benz (see fourth part, no. 11), after the O 10000 (1938) and the Lo 3100 (1936) this time we see the O 302, manufactured by Mercedes-Benz between 1965 and 1974 at the Mannheim plant.Launched as a replacement for the O 321, it was sold as both a chassis and as an integral bus with Mercedes-Benz supplying the body, designed to an austere Bauhaus style, mostly as a coach. Over 32,000 were built over an eleven-year period (the O 321 reached 20,000 units in 13 years), it was later superseded by the O 303 which reached an even higher production volume, but over a longer period. “One for all” or “Jack of all trades” could well describe the O 302 : urban or country bus, touring coach, the “universal” bus everyone was waiting for. But it was the last of its kind. From the last half of the 1970s buses became specialised. The O 321 was a design of the 1950s (rounded contours and small windows), while the O 302 styling features were typical of the 1960s : basic squared shape with steeply angled front, generous side windows with slim pillars, and large rear screen.
While the regular service versions had plain side windows, the touring coaches featured curved windows extending into the roof, a truly “panoramic” bus. Available with four wheelbase lengths between 9.6 and 11.9 meters (from R10 to R13, according to the number of rows of seats), doors, equipment and seating varied greatly, ranging from practical urban buses to luxury touring coaches. Over the chassis was mounted a body of semi-integral construction, while the six in-line direct injection diesel engine was installed transversely at the rear. Different engine displacement and power levels were available, according to the vehicle dimensions and use. Air suspensions were standard on the urban buses and on the larger touring coaches.
This was the first touring coach from Mercedes-Benz to feature individual nozzle ventilation for every passenger seat, and the first to have an option of air conditioning. For the first time the driver had a genuine instrument panel in front of him. A worldwide success, the O 302 was exported everywhere , even in the States featuring typical stainless-steel side panelling. It was also produced in countries like Turkey or Korea. A last technical achievement: in 1969 the OE 302 was presented at the Frankfurt International Motor Show as the world’s first hybrid bus. Power was more than sufficient for an urban bus, but the range was limited to 55 kilometers.
The scale model has the usual plastic body and metal chassis with a few details and the exhaust system enhanced in silver. The inscriptions on the chassis define it as a type 10R, but there are only nine seat rows. The livery is white with a red roof and a low side stripe, also in red. On the side the lettering “Rundfahrten Pulay” refers to “Pulay Reisen” a family travel company from Leobersdorf, lower Austria. But the registration plate is from Esslingen, a district in the centre of Baden-Württemberg, Germany, and according to the “H” it is a registration for “historic” vehicles. Very likely the scale model is a faithful reproduction of a restored vehicle.
Very nice detailing of the front grille with the Mercedes-Benz emblem, good too are the front lights, rear mirrors and wipers. The side windows are nicely replicated as are the rear engine cooling grilles. Nice wheels with the typical chromed hubcaps are also in evidence.
No. 32 (no. 24 in the French collection) Isobloc 656 DH Panoramique 1956 – We have already illustrated the short history of Isobloc (see sixth part, no. 17), this time we’ll met the last coach produced, when Isobloc had already declared bankruptcy and had been absorbed by the SACA (Société d’automobiles et carrosseries d’Annonay) of Sylvain Floirat. At the request of the new owner a new autobus was developed, the 655 DHU, and a new panoramic coach, the 656 DH. The 656 DH Panoramique was a groundbreaking vehicle, very comfortable and adaptable to different uses. Seating could range from 30 to 42, or to 52 when the toilet and the wardrobe were not installed.
The passenger platform was raised in the rear, to allow high visibility to all the seats, below it were huge luggage compartments. In the rear most had a toilet, a wardrobe, and a space for the hostess complete with refrigerator and cooker. The whole vehicle was air conditioned, thanks to forced air circulating on dry ice, whilst the seats were adjustable and had a radio integrated in the headrest. It was 11.9 metres long and the rear housed a 7 litre supercharged diesel engine by Hispano Suiza in a longitudinal position with a Wilson pre-selection gearbox with five speeds, fitted just in front of the rear axle. It was indeed a flagship coach. But its life was very short, at the end of 1957 SACA was bought by Saviem (Société Anonyme de Véhicules Industriels et d’Equipements Mécaniques) and its production was stopped after only a few units. They could still be seen full of tourists in the streets of Paris until 1968.
This model has a plastic body (a bit flimsy) and a metal chassis with a few details and the exhaust system painted in silver. The livery in blue and grey is typical of Transcar, a branch of the SGTD (Société Générale des Transports Départementaux), specifically dedicated to the organisation of excursions and leisure trips. They were created in 1955 and still in business under the TRANSDEV banner.
The destination plate reads “Normandie – Cote d’Azur”, while the registration plate is from Paris. There is a very nice front grille with the Isobloc emblem, as well as plastic rear mirrors, front and fog lights which are separately fitted parts.
The airy glasshouse and the wheels, with chromed hubcaps and whitewall tyres, are nicely reproduced. A beautiful model, to be shown alongside the Greyhound Scenicruiser, the Pegaso Z-403 and the Citroen Cityrama, to be fully appreciated.
No. 33 (no. 26 in the French collection) Bedford TJ Rocket 1980 – Bedford was established as a subsidiary of Vauxhall in 1930 to manufacture commercial vehicles Bedford’s were based initially on Chevrolet mechanical parts as Vauxhall was bought by General Motors in 1925. It was a leading international brand, with substantial export sales of light, medium, and heavy trucks throughout the world. Its heavy trucks business was divested by GM as AWD Ltd in 1987, whilst the Bedford brand continued to be used until 1991 on light commercial vehicles and car-derived vans based on Vauxhall/Opel, Isuzu and Suzuki designs; subsequent GM Europe light commercial vehicles were branded as either Vauxhall or Opel, according to the market. Before 1925 General Motors assembled trucks in Britain from parts manufactured at their Canadian works, and marketed as “British Chevrolet“. In 1925 production was transferred from Hendon to Luton, Vauxhall’s headquarters, in Bedfordshire, from here the “Chevrolet Bedford” name, and from 1931 “Bedford” was used alone. Its success was due in large part to the smooth running in-line six cylinder engine with overhead-valves, of Chevrolet origin (the famous stove-bolt six).
The TJ was introduced in 1958 and was an updated version of the TD range. It was available in UK until 1975, after which it was manufactured only for export until 1986, and after that it was manufactured by AWD into the early 1990s. Petrol and diesel engines were available. It was never a big seller in the home market but a big export earner in developing countries, due to its basic layout and specification. Many assembly plants were established overseas in places like Pakistan and India.
In Pakistan the TJ is very popular. It has a cult status among drivers and is known for its power, reliability and durability. Many trucks and buses are highly customised and decorated by their owners. External decoration may include structural changes, paintings, calligraphy, and ornamental decor like wooden carvings and chains and pendants dangling off the front bumper. Usually the body is rebuilt in mogano wood, capable of absorbing vibrations and not splitting like the welded steel. Also the chassis is heavily modified: the height from the ground is increased and the suspension is strengthened. The luggage area on the roof is often used to transport more passengers, while the access to the interior is from the left side, like in the UK.
The scale model has the usual plastic body and metal baseplate, with basic details of the chassis. Quite an overdecorated livery for this Pakistani bus, sporting a Peshawar registration plate. It is quite difficult to see the interior, the windows being completely covered by the decorations. The exterior ladders are nice, and there are some nice added parts like the mirrors, lights and the front bar.
Only one wiper is fitted (very likely rain is optional in Pakistan). A well reproduced scale model, but not to everyone’s taste. No apparent differences to the French edition.
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