All aboard!

Daimler Fleetline ex-Swindon

A bus that I have driven. Not the first.

I’d hate for you to think that this Blog is dedicated to classic cars. My love of older vehicles runs far deeper than that.

For instance, I have driven the¬†ex-Swindon Leyland Fleetline (following Daimler’s absorption into British Leyland) owned by renowned classic car writer Nick Larkin and pictured above..

I grew up in Birmingham, where Daimler Fleetlines and the later Leyland Atlanteans were an everyday part of my childhood. Their thundering Gardner 6LXB engines, the wonderful epicyclic gearchange and the crash of panels and cash machine every time they went over a bump were all experiences to savour. When these buses began to be replaced by MCW Metrobuses, the young Ian became frustrated – the driver no longer had to change gear!

Thankfully, Nick’s Fleetline retains its semi-automatic transmission, and I was very grateful to get an opportunity to pilot a Fleetline, albeit only around a field. The cabin is rather sparse, but the key instruments fall nicely to hand. A huge throttle pedal controls the rear-mounted engine and once moving, it’s easy to flick the lever into second – easing off the throttle for a smooth change. Power assisted steering makes light work of the bulk, and the turning circle is impressive given the length.

Air brakes need a delicate shove to bring things to a halt, but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Given that the bus is over 30 years old, and therefore can be driven on a car licence, I could have carried out a full road test – but I’m not sure Nick would have appreciated that…

Being a classic car writer

A lot of people ask me how to become a writer – after all, it looks like a pretty idyllic existence.
Firstly, that certainly is not always the case! Yes, driving wonderful cars and then writing about it is a nice way to spend your time, but you have to learn to deal with terrifying deadlines and you have to deliver – you can’t push back a print slot.
The most important aspect is to have a love of the written word. If you don’t like reading, you probably won’t enjoy writing – and it’s no fun doing something you don’t enjoy.
Practice also helps. You can’t just decide you want to be a writer, drop an email to an editor and be published. The best thing you can do is write for car clubs. I wrote regularly in 2CVGB News before deciding I fancied this as a career. It’s great practice as it gets you used to working to deadlines, and you start to think about how the reader will interpret what you are writing.
Next, I’m afraid you’ll have to start buying magazines. Immerse yourself in their language and style. Look at what they publish – it’s no good sending a detailed history of the Subaru Vivio to a prestige classic car magazine – they simply won’t be interested.
You’ll also have to learn to deal with rejection. If you’re lucky, you’ll receive a “thanks but no thanks” though it’s also possible you’ll get no answer at all – editors are very busy people.
Another option is to look out for staff jobs. The pay will be rubbish but suddenly, all that writing you’ve done for club magazine will turn into a portfolio to show off your skills…
Good luck!