PFE 542V - 1980 Bristol VRT Series 3

Eastern Coach Works H43/31F body

Lincolnshire Road Car No. 1958

PFE542V PFE 542V - Bristol VR
1958 - as acquired, in 'School Bus' livery 1958 during preparation for repaint

A short history by Greg Sherlock

Lincolnshire RoadCar's last operation Bristol VR was taken out of service during June 2001. It was decided that this last link with the original National Bus Company fleet should be donated to the Lincolnshire Vintage Vehicle Society's collection. Although the vehicle is very much complete in all respects, there isn't a great shopping list of things to be carried out on 1958 in order to restore it to original condition. As Steve, the Chairman, has entrusted me much of the restoration work, it seems appropriate that I should also run a running commentary of 1958's work as it is carried out.

I am a big follower of the Bristol VRs, and I am particularly fond of the Series 3s. I grew up with them in Merseyside, where they operated for Crosville, but it wasn't until I moved to Lincoln that I actually had a ride on one. One's first impression of a Bristol VR is of a sleek workhorse with a desire to 'go'. The characteristic transmission whine that can be heard in the upper gears adds to the effect.

There were 70 Bristol VRs delivered new to Lincolnshire RoadCar during the NBC years. 1958 (PFE542V) was one of the last to be delivered before production was stopped. Over the years the earlier, less reliable Series 1 and 2 vehicles were removed from the fleet and replaced with more Series 3s transferred from Yorkshire Traction, RoadCar's parent company. A change of policy during the 1990s led to a dramatic downturn in VR numbers as they were replaced with other vehicles, such as Leyland Olympians and Atlanteans. By the turn of the century, only five VRs survived - three were used as service buses at Grantham, and the other two (including 1958) were for schools only duties at Lincoln. By the end of the year 2000, only 1958 was left, and over 30 years of Bristol / Eastern Coach Works tradition ended the year after. This latter fact was recognised by Road Car, who kindly donated the vehicle to the Society.

Works update by Greg Sherlock

Summer 2001 - There are two locations where 1958 has been parked since acquisition by the LVVS - the main museum site in North Hykeham, and at a private location near Wragby. The vehicle was given a light spruce over at the Whisby Road during the summer, including a repaint of the wheel hubs and some replacement tyres, before entering service at the Society's November open day. A week later, 1958 was moved to the private location where undercover accommodation could be guaranteed. A small, general shopping list of 'urgent' restoration points was made for the interim period:

1. A repaint from RoadCar's School Bus Yellow into National Bus Company green

2. Reinstatement of the destination blind and numbers

3. Correct dark brown seats - when the vehicle was acquired we had dark brown, light brown and moquette!

Summer 2002 - After a year's rest, work recommenced on 1958. It was decided that, following a successful grant application from Lincolnshire County Council, the money should be spent on a repaint. The lower body panels were rubbed down and prepared for painting. At the same time, some more dark brown seats were sourced in order that a correct match can be made. Some more detailed work was begun during this period. Some beading strips from the lower deck ceiling were replaced as the originals had been removed for some reason. One of the batteries was also found to be faulty, and was replaced. A destination blind was sourced and fitted - it carries Skegness, Louth and Boston area destinations, which is appropriate as 1958 was based at Louth for a time when it was new.

Autumn 2002 - 1958 was taken away for painting and returned a fortnight later a transformed vehicle. It was hard to believe it was the same bus! We thought the hard work was over - but actually the hard work is just beginning, as we look deeper into the little projects we need to restore 1958 into summer 1980 as-delivered condition. A number of obvious nuances were pointed out:

1. The front upper deck windows need replacing - one is plain glass and the other is a permanently sealed hopper. Both should be opening hoppers.

2. Pre-1980 short hopper side windows have replaced two of the long post-1980 hopper windows - one upper deck and one lower deck.

3. The cab heater breather grill behind the driver's cab window has been plated over.

4. Another heater grill, below the rearmost lower deck side window on the nearside, has been removed following repanelling.

5. An additional 'Pay As You Enter' illuminated sign behind the nearside indicator, below the first lower deck window, has also been removed during repanelling.

6. The doorway handrails have been repainted yellow and the step nosing treads have been replaced with yellow plastic.

7. The cab and dashboard area, along with the rear wheel boxes, have been painted grey.

8. The rear brake/indicator/reversing/tail light clusters are the wrong type.

Only a few items there!

In its repainted condition, 1958 was exhibited on static display during the November 2002 Open Day. Since then, the fleet number plates have been correctly repainted and reinstated, and a 'Bristol VR' badge has been sourced, repainted and fitted. To take it into Winter, the next works to be carried out will mostly be painting jobs - the cab and dashboard area to black, the engine stop button on the rear panel to red, and the exposed chassis below the front panel to silver. We hope to have as many painted details as possible completed before the April 2003 Open Day which, of course, is the anniversary year of Lincolnshire Road Car.

January 2003 - The cab interior and dashboard have been painted matt black, plus interior of rear wheel arches in progress. One or two upstairs seats replaced by brown ones (in progress). Passed its MOT. Repainted in green, using some of the money from Lincolnshire County Council's Heritage Grant.

April 2003 - This is currently in the Museum (having swapped places with Lincoln 89). The interior wheel arches have been painted, the battery boxes have been cleaned and painted, and the batteries have been recharged and tested. More time has been spent on changing the seat cushions as the correct type have become available.

July 2003 - New fleetnames, NBC logos and legal lettering have been supplied and fitted by Allen Signs. A new cab window has replaced the original, which went pop overnight several months ago, and the staircase handrails and floor treads have been painted. A new front upper deck opening window has been donated so we can restore its original specification too.

January 2004 - Road Car No 1958 passed its MOT test ready for use on the Open Day. Repairs to its near side windscreen wiper and screen washers were undertaken.

April 2004 - The accelerator valve situated at the front of the bus has been removed and thoroughly overhauled after it was found to be sticking quite badly.

1980 Bristol VRT 1958 restored to NBC green, 'in service' at LVVS Open Day.