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…