By Fabrizio Panico
All photographs taken by, and copyright of, the Author.
This time we have one more British bus, a French one and an Italian one, all from the Italian Hachette partwork “Autobus dal mondo”, a collection of sixty 1:43 scale bus models, very similar to the French collection “Autobus et autocars du monde”, produced in Bangladesh for Ixo.
No. 16 (no. 16 also in the French collection) AEC Regal III by Harrington 1950 – The Associated Equipment Company, or AEC, built buses and lorries from 1912 until 1979, when it was taken over by Leyland and its name disappeared. Indeed its origins are connected to the LGOC (London General Omnibus Company) which started producing its own motor omnibuses in 1909, the X-type and then the famous B-type : in 1912 LGOC was taken over by the Underground Group of companies, and as part of the reorganisation a separate concern was set up for the bus manufacturing, named Associated Equipment Company. During the First World War its assembly lines methods helped in producing large numbers of lorries. Easily associated with London’s Routemaster, AEC gained a high reputation for quality and reliability, supplying commercial vehicles around the world. From 1929, all the names of lorries began with “M” (Majestic, Mammoth, and so on), and all those of buses began with “R” (Regent, Regal, and so on). The AEC Regent III was a double-decker bus chassis manufactured by AEC, usually fitted with AEC’s 9.6-litre diesel engine at the front, ‘Wilson‘ preselective gearbox and air-pressure operated brakes, and available with bodies from Park Royal, Metro Cammell Weymann and so on. From the Regent, indeed only a development of a 30s chassis, AEC developed a single-decker one, named Regal, for use in the suburbs and in the country. Thomas Harrington & Sons Ltd was a coachbuilder from 1897 until 1966, beginning with the construction of horse-drawn carriages, then specialising in commercial vehicles, buses and coaches, and after the First World War concentrating on luxury coaches plus some single-decker bus bodies and other general coachbuilding activity.
After the Second World War demand for new buses and coaches was somewhat pent-up and Harrington was able to build a satisfactory export trade, particularly to South America and British colonies. Production ceased in 1966 and spares, stock and goodwill were purchased by Plaxton. Following its introduction in 1935, the ‘dorsal fin’ (no aerodynamic function, in reality it housed the air ventilation system) was available on many different coaches and became a real trademark of Harrington.
The scale model, metal diecast body and plastic chassis, is the faithful reproduction of one of only two known survivors : run by the Bevan Brothers of Soudley Valley (Gloucestershire), it sports an elegant red and bordeaux livery. Registered KDD38, it is a Regal III type 9621A and it has a Harrington FC33F body, complete with the famous dorsal fin.
Very nice wheels with the AEC logo, and neat shades over the side windows too. The driver’s area is separated from the passenger seats, all being well reproduced.
Nice front grille with the AEC logo. There are no apparent differences to the French edition.
No. 17 (no. 2 in the French collection) Isobloc 648 DP 1955 – Joseph Besset, a coachbuilder in Annonay (Ardèche), was one of the many specialised in buses and coaches, but was unsatisfied by the truck chassis then available : he acquired in 1937 a license from the American Gar Wood based on the principle of a welded tubes structure, which was rigid enough to avoid the use of a separate chassis, and founded Isobloc in Lyon to become a full manufacturer . To avoid the conflict of interest which would arise if his coaches competed with coaches from chassis makers using his bodybuilding facilities bodywork was no longer built for others.
The prototype was a success and in the post-war period it was so popular it reached almost 20% of the registrations in its class. The rear overhung engine, a petrol from Ford, was thirsty, and it was quickly replaced by a Panhard diesel. But Besset no longer had the means to develop his business and Isobloc was taken over by Saca and then by Saviem.
From 1959 there were no more Isobloc buses. The 648 DP was the final evolution of the Isobloc coach, powered by a Panhard 6.8-litre diesel engine, and fitted with a five speed gearbox, and air brakes. It was liked by the drivers as it was a real Gran Turismo coach, with plexiglass roof windows and lots of chrome.
The scale model has a metal body and a plastic chassis with basic details. It is finished in a cream and brown livery. It has no destination plate, but the registration is from the La Manche (English Channel) department. The seats and the driver area are well modelled. At the rear the luggage ladder is modelled, as is the luggage area on the roof, where trunks and suitcases have been included. Lights and bumpers are separate items as is the exhaust system. The large area of windows have been well modelled capturing the Isobloc look well. There are no apparent differences to the French edition.
No. 18 (no. 62 in the French collection) Fiat 626 RNL 1948 – The Fiat 626 was a medium truck built to the specifications of the Italian army and air force for military operations prior to the Second World War. It was the first Fiat truck with the advanced cabin and it replaced the models 621 and 633. The 626 N (N for nafta, Italian for diesel fuel) was the initial civilian version, followed by the NL (Nafta Lungo, or diesel long) with a longer wheelbase and the NLM (Nafta Lungo Militare) for the army. Production finished in 1948, after 10,000 Fiat 626 had been built.
In addition to the standard ones, Fiat put into production one more chassis, the 626 RNL (Ribassato Nafta Lungo, lowered long diesel) for the bus version, which was very common even in the postwar period. The engine was a 5.7-litre diesel six, a bit under-powered with only 70 hp, but it had the advantage of being easy to maintain. The bus version was adopted by the Italian air force, and often it is called “Aeronautica Italiana” type. The structure is typically pre-war, with a wooden roof covered by a waterproof canvas. It was homologated for 27 seats, plus 32 if drawing a special trailer.
The scale model is the faithful reproduction of a restored vehicle, part of the Politi collection, very likely one of the largest in Italy (see www.collezionepoliti.it), more than 600 buses, lorries and cars, many of which may be hired. The registration plate, from Udine, is the original one, but the 626 was first painted in the classic medium blue-dark blue livery, but is now painted red and dark red.
As usual the model has a plastic body and metal chassis. The chassis is good and is fitted with nicely rendered classic “Trilex” wheels. Correctly a different type on front and rear. The interior is rather basic but that reflects the fact that the original vehicle was very basic. Many separate items are fitted like the front and rear lights, both bumpers and the rear spare wheel door. A ladder is provided to the rear to reach the luggage area on the roof, but no baggage is fitted.
A neat front grille complete with the period Fiat logo finishes the model well. Again there are no apparent differences to the French edition.
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