Gardner 6LW engine transplant

While preparing Crosville’s ex-Hants & Dorset Bristol FLF for a wedding job last Saturday I took the picture below. Parked just beyond my bus was another Bristol FLF and, behind that, an ex-Bath Services Bristol KSW.

It reminded me that the ex-Bristol Omnibus FLF (the one wearing the rather faded NBC Leaf Green livery) has survived into preservation complete with its original Bristol BVW engine. The KSW also retains it’s Bristol engine, in this case an AVW.

The H&D FLF was itself delivered with a Bristol engine but lost it in the 1970s when numerous strikes caused the supply of spare parts to dry up. Desperate to keep it’s fleet of Lodekkas going, Hants & Dorset (in common with many other operators faced with the same problem) cannibalised older Bristol Ks and transplanted their sturdy Gardner 6LW engines into the newer buses.

One of my blog readers helpfully commented about this some time ago:

“Spares for the Bristol BVW engine became hard to obtain during the industrial squabbles of the mid seventies. So it became policy with certain former Tilling group companies to replace the engines of FLF6B’s with second hand Gardner 6LW’s often from withdrawn older stock, KSW6G’s often became the “fall guys”.
The 6LW was a better engine than the BVW anyway especially with CBC fitted FLF’s as the cooler running Gardner engine was less subject to overheating, frequently associated with the BVW when cooled by the often marginal CBC radiators.”

Oddly enough I took a photograph in the 1970s of a Hants & Dorset Bristol KSW at the back of a garage, having lost it’s Gardner engine.

Wouldn’t it be funny if it turned out that the engine taken from H&D’s fleet no. 1368 was put into their FLF fleet no. 1220? If so (and I admit that the possibility is remote) then here is evidence that it’s still going strong today!

Although having said that, I thought it was ailing last Saturday. After leaving St. Anne’s Church Oldland, Bristol with a full load, we headed through Keynsham and up the hill towards the junction with the A39. We made alarmingly slow progress up the hill. I began to worry that the normally ultra-reliable Gardner 6LW was about to expire on me. Although the engine was responding to the throttle it just wasn’t delivering the usual number of horses. As we sat at the traffic lights at the A39 junction I racked my brain, wondering what, if anything, I could do to improve matters. I did wonder about pulling over and lifting the bonnet but I knew that would unsettle the passengers so I elected to carry on to Cameley Lodge.

Then I had a bright idea. What if the engine was suffering from fuel starvation? The engine stop mechanism would be the first thing to check. The cable in this case ends with a vertical plunger which you have to pull upwards to stop the engine. This cuts the fuel flow to the injectors. So I pressed down on the plunger firmly, just in case I hadn’t returned it fully when I last stopped the engine. It moved about a quarter of an inch. As we pulled away from the lights the bus felt instantly more healthy and it fairly leapt up the next hill. Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. We staggered up in 4th gear instead of having to change down to 2nd, which is what happened earlier on a much gentler gradient. Sorted!

5 comments on “Gardner 6LW engine transplant

  1. Mike Dan says:

    Your experience now as a driver is bearing fruit!

  2. Peter Elliott says:

    The KSW shown No 1368 (pre 1971 number 1305 ) always carried a Bristol AVW engine. Sorry to spoil the story!

  3. Nick Wood says:

    Hi there. 

    Wonder if you can help? We are looking to source a 30 thou oversized piston for DFE 963D – a 1955 BRISTOL LODEKKA BUS. It’s the later one with offset swirl pots in the crown. Is it something you could get hold of or can you recommend anyone else who might be able to lay their hands on one please?We’re repairing the engine.

    Apparently it seems that no. 6 Pistons are prone for failing (as this one has) as they run the hottest as they are the furthest away from the front. 

    Yours Hopefully 

    Nick Wood on behalf of the Lincolnshire Co-operative Transport Dept 

    • busmanjohn says:

      Hi Nick, I can’t help with spares but you could contact David Hoare at Chepstow Classic Buses as he seems to have a good stock of spares. There is also an engineering firm that specialises in Gardner rebuilds, mostly for the marine sector, but I can’t remember the name at the moment.

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