Southern Vectis 573 returns to service

One of the stalwarts of Crosville’s heritage fleet returned recently from an external refurbishment and its appearance is now more authentic than it’s been for many years.

The 1962 Bristol FS6G (YDL318) was driven back from Yorkshire by my friend Paul Carpenter just in time to go on display at the Crosville Bus & Steam Rally in September. It took pride of place alongside last year’s new restoration, Bristol K6A HLJ44. During the event I used it to take a group of rally visitors on a guided tour of the Crosville depot.

For many years purists have complained that 573’s appearance was spoiled by having black window rubbers (illustrated here in an earlier photo). Nothing unusual in that for a Lodekka, I hear you say. But FS types from 1962 had cream rubber when new so I’m particularly pleased that the owner has gone to the trouble of reglazing the bus using cream rubber.

The other nagging issue was the front numberplate, which has been in the square format more usually seen on the earlier LD Lodekkas. Now the front cowl has been remodelled to match its original appearance, including the fitting of a specially cast fleet number. The Gardner 6LW engine has also been completely rebuilt to as-new condition.

The finishing touch has been the application of period advertising on both sides and at the rear. I’m sure you’ll agree that this bus has been transformed by the makeover and I take my hat off to the owner, who has spent thousands of pounds on the refurbishment. Following its debut appearance at the Crosville rally, 573 made the marathon journey – at 30mph! – back to the Isle of Wight to take part in the Isle of Wight Bus Museum’s ‘Beer, Buses & Walks’ event. Quite rightly, the bus drew many admirers and compliments were plentiful.

There are a few more buses in the restoration pipeline; a Bristol LL6B, a Bristol KSW6B and a Routemaster. Exciting times ahead!

2 comments on “Southern Vectis 573 returns to service

  1. Sam says:

    Hello John,
    I was hoping to ask your advice,
    We are family of 6 and are planning a trip around Europe in a converted bus.
    I have been looking at different options of vehicles but have come across a Bristol Lodekka already stripped out for Sale (4m means it can be driven in Europe) and would like to ask your opinion on the practicalities of driviing a 1969 bus around Europe.
    We are in no rush so would be taking our time as appreciate that we wouldn’t be getting anywhere quickly!
    But my main questions were:

    Every vehicle is different but would a Lodekka be able to cope with a journey like this.

    What sort of mpg do you get from a Lodekka

    But Any thoughts would be welcome, including your mad don’t do it !


    • busmanjohn says:

      Hello Sam, thanks for your comment. A Lodekka would have no problem crossing Europe. Search online for ‘Top Deck Travel’ and you’ll see that Lodekkas regularly made trips like this in the ’80s. These buses are simple, rugged and reliable but you will need to make sure it is in tip top condition mechanically first. You will also need to take a competent and resourceful mechanic with you, along with lots of spare parts.

      Before you buy, make sure the bus has a Gardner engine. Bristol’s own BWV engine occasionally turns up in Lodekkas but is far less reliable and parts are as rare as hen’s teeth. It will more than likely have a 4-speed crash gearbox and a standard rear axle, giving a top speed of about 30mph. If you’re lucky enough to find that it has an overdrive gearbox (5 gears) you’ll probably manage about 40mph and if it has a higher ratio diff from a coach it will probably do 50mph. With an overdrive gearbox fitted you can expect about 15mpg, less with a standard 4-speed ‘box.

      If you want to speak to some people who have done one of these long trips, get in touch with the Isle of Wight Bus Museum. Their ‘Tadpoles’ Lodekka was one of the original Top Deck tour buses and it made a commemorative return journey to Kathmandu a few years ago. Here’s a summary of its adventures.

      Let us know how you get on!

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