By Fabrizio Panico
All photographs by, and copyright of, the Author.
Parts 25 to 27
One more French bus, a British one (but bodied in Malta), and a German one : a lovely triplet from the Italian Hachette partwork “Autobus dal mondo”, a collection of sixty 1/43 bus models, very similar to the French one “Autobus et autocars du monde”, produced in Bangladesh for Ixo.
No. 25 (no. 18 in the French collection) Citroën type 46 DP UAD 1955 – André Citroën was a graduate of the École Polytechnique in Paris in 1900. In that year he visited Poland where he bought the patent to a set of gears with a fish-bone structure, less noisy and more efficient, leading to the invention that is credited to him: double helical gears, the inspiration of the double chevron logo of the Citroën brand itself. After being a successful director of the Mors automobile company and establishing its own mechanical company, during the Great War he was responsible for mass production of armaments. Realising that the end of the war would leave him with a modern factory without a product, he decided to switch to automobile manufacturing. He intended to make a light car of good quality, but made in sufficient quantities to be low priced. André founded the Citroën automobile company in 1919, leading it to become the fourth-largest automobile manufacturer in the world by the early 1930s. A pioneer not only in the automotive field, but also in advertising, sales and even toys, obviously he couldn’t ignore commercial vehicles. By 1931 he had also decided to create a bus company to offer ease of transport to a greater number of people : Transports Citroën was established as an interurban bus and coach operator. Until then the motor coach in France catered for the holiday maker rather than being employed in regular routes. He also launched a taxicab company in Paris, but that did not last long. We have already seen the type 45 (part two, no. 6), based on a truck type chassis, produced from 1934 to 1953 and replaced by the type 55 (part three, no. 9). In 1953 the type 55 and its little brother, the light truck type 23 (see part five, no. 15), sported a new front end of a more modern type created by the Citroën Levallois body plant, while chassis and mechanical components were as before.
In 1955 the new type 46 was sold alongside the type 55, very similar externally to the 55, but now with a new petrol engine : a six in line of 5.2 litres and 90 CV. But their main defect was that the long bonnet and the conventional cab compromised the seating area. Many bus and coach bodies were built by Amiot, Currus, Faurax & Chaussende (Lyon), this scale model particular body is by Carde of Bordeaux.
The types 55, 46 and 23 were replaced in 1965 by the types 350 – 850, designed by Flaminio Bertoni, and nicknamed “Belphégor”, because the strange shape of their front bodywork resembled the “phantom” of the soap opera played by Juliette Greco.
The scale model is the faithful reproduction of a vehicle from a picture that can be find on a web site dedicated to the history of “Transports Citroën”, which is really interesting. It is a type 46 running on route no. 53, from Paris to Sens, via Fontainbleau, the first route from Paris (established in 1932), with a registration plate from Paris. The livery is the classic postwar one : light brown (almost cream) over dark brown with a red band. The model body is metal (but the front bonnet is plastic), while the chassis is plastic, with an added exhaust.
The rear overhang is really imposing, to wonder how many times it scratched the road. On the roof there is a nice luggage area with a very contorted ladder. Front grille and wheels, double at the rear, are well reproduced, while the wipers are only engraved. On both sides, and at the rear, there is the logo of Transports Citroën, alas not very visible (red on dark brown !). Interior is basic, but realistic. There are no apparent differences to the French edition. A nice model, we wonder if the real one is still alive?
No. 26 (no. 19 in the French collection) Fordson Thames ET7 1952 – Fordson name is perhaps more known as a successful tractors manufacturer, but trucks were sided to the tractors from 1933.
There is no need to trace here the history of US Ford, suffice to say that Ford Motor Company (England) Limited was established in 1909, and soon started assembling the model T from imported chassis and mechanical parts with bodies sourced locally, then in 1914 Britain’s first moving assembly line for car production started at Trafford Park, Manchester. In 1917 a plant opened in Cork, Ireland, to manufacture tractors and some years later also cars : Henry Ford and Son Limited company (Fordson) was officially incorporated. The Model T started the commercial vehicles production, from 1933 to 1939 badged Fordson, changing to Fordson Thames until 1957 after which they became plain Thames until 1965, when they reverted to Ford. The truck operation was sold to the Iveco group in 1986. The petrol-engined Fordson Thames ET6 (side valve Ford V8 or 4-cylinder “Cost Cutter” engine from 1953) and Perkins diesel-engined ET7 (4.7 litre six-cylinder) were first introduced in 1947, ‘ET’ standing for English Truck, to replace the Fordson 7V. The conventional cab with long bonnet and split windshield was built by the body builder Briggs Motor Bodies. The chassis now had half-elliptical leaf springs and hydraulic brakes, a significant improvement to the predecessor. They were to be renamed in 1957 as Ford Thames 500E and 520E, soon to be replaced by the forward control Thames Trader FC. Spanish Ebro built the Fordson Thames in license from 1956 to 1963 as Ebro B-series.
Appreciated for their simplicity and sturdiness many ET6/7 were exported, mainly in the Commonwealth, as “cowl and chassis” only, to be equipped with a local bodywork, like our scale model, very likely with a body built by Micallef in Malta. These Maltese old buses, full of character and loved by every tourist, were taken off the road in 2011 when Arriva started operating the public transport service and replaced them with new vehicles to reduce harmful emissions . Many of them have been saved by Heritage Malta, now seeking a site to house the new Transport Museum.
The scale model is the faithful reproduction of a vehicle still alive in Malta, route no. 80, registered EBY537. The Perkins logo on the rear panel claims to have a diesel engine. Quite an heavy model, metal body (but front bonnet and wings are plastic) and plastic chassis well detailed, but the rear exhaust is only highlighted by silver paint. The body has no door on the left side (because of the Maltese climate ?), and the interior, though quite basic, can be fully appreciated. The yellow-red-white livery is typical of Maltese buses. Chromed front and rear bumpers are added. Nice detailing of the front grille and lights, and the double rear wheels. No apparent difference to the French edition. An invitation to go and try the real one.
No. 27 (no. 21 in the French collection) Neoplan NH 22 Skyliner 1983 – Gottlob Auwärter GmbH & Co KG was founded by Gottlob Auwärter in Stuttgart in 1935, to manufacture trailers for trucks and bodywork for bus and truck chassis. At the end of the Second World War German industries were banned from producing vehicles greater than 3 ton load capacity. It was therefore necessary to re-use what had been spared by the war: a rich market for Neoplan, at least until the new generation vehicles, like Isobloc or Setra, brought forward the integral structure solution. By 1953, the company moved to a partial monocoque design with a steel tube skeleton and welded side panels. The engine was moved to the rear, and in 1957, air suspensions improved the comfort for passengers. For their dissertation at Hamburg University the founder’s eldest son, Albrecht Auwärter, and the Swiss Bob Lee, developed a new coach, with clear-cut lines with straight edges and large windows : the “Hamburg” bus was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in 1961. Albrecht’s second son, Konrad, also developed a new kind of bus for his dissertation : a double-decker bus (hence its name, Do-Bus), with a low-frame front axle, low weight and able to carry up to 100 passengers. It was the origin of the NH 22 Skyliner. In 2001 Neoplan was acquired by MAN AG to form Neoman Bus GmbH, which was fully integrated into the bus division of the larger MAN Nutzfahrzeuge Group in 2008, and ceasing to exist in its own right.
The Skyliner is a double-decker multi-axle luxury touring coach, it was introduced in 1967 and undergone a continuous process of evolution up to today. The lower floor allows the installation of toilets, kitchens or sleeping cabins in the back, below the main passenger compartment, while the engine and the baggage compartment are isolated in the rear of the bus. The large front overhang forces the driver to anticipate the steering, but the handling is still very good. Current Skyliners are available in two lengths : the short C version (12.44 metres) and the long L version (13.79 metres) with a correspondingly longer wheelbase. The original Henschel engine has been replaced by a 12.5 litre MAN straight-six common rail turbodiesel with intercooler, and an output of 353 kilowatts, mounted upright in a longitudinal orientation at the rear of the coach, connected to a twelve-speed ZF automated manual transmission.
The quite large, but light, scale model has metal body and plastic chassis and here we find some problems. The engine is at the rear, but the exhaust is reproduced going from the front to the rear of the vehicle, as is the transmission. Someone took a wrong turn! Alas that isn’t the only problem : the underside of the upper floor has not been represented, and that gives a poor impression. Again, there are three central supports to the roof in the upper floor, clearly needed for structural sturdiness, but very unrealistic. A better engineering solution could be found for a 1:43 model. The white-blue-silver livery is well represented, with the logo well printed over corrugated metal sheets. Front bumper with grille and lights are separate added items, like the rear one. There are separately added wipers for both floors, and rear view mirrors.
The interior is nice, quite a luxury version, with small compartments with table and opposing seats. The driver’s cab area is well represented, like the simulated engine ventilation grilles.
Registration plate is from Bochum, in North Rhine-Westfalia. The year indicated for the bus (1983) is perhaps doubtful, the shape of the model seems closer to the original version when launched. There are no apparent differences to the French edition.
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