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.

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Fishing lakes and leafy lanes

The day following my trip to Wiltshire I was out again, this time nearer to the Crosville base. Once again it was a busy day for private hire jobs – four green Bristol Lodekkas left the depot on wedding duties almost at the same time!

A driver colleague usually helps me to top up the coolant on the Hants & Dorset Bristol FLF when I take it out but today he was preparing a Bristol FS of his own so it fell to me to find a way to do it single handed. As you may have read in a previous post, the method of topping up the coolant on a Cave-Brown-Cave cooling system at this garage is usually a 2-man job. One sits in the cab and runs the engine at about half revs while the other slowly fills the header tank until no more will go in. I used a bit of ingenuity (or possibly ‘engine-uity’) and found an empty bottle of a suitable size in the garage and jammed it between the handbrake lever and the accelerator pedal. This kept the engine revs up while I went round the front with a can of water.

I followed a Southern Vectis FS6G and a Bath Services LD6G out of the depot and through the outskirts of Weston-super-Mare. We parted company at a roundabout when they headed towards Wells and I took the A370 to Bristol. As I went up through the gears I listened to the satisfying clatter of the Gardner 6LW diesel engine beside me. It would be working extremely hard later but for now I just enjoyed the familiar 6-cylinder rhythm which assaulted my left ear. It may be a form of conditioning that began in my boyhood but I much prefer the sound of a 6LW to that of a 5LW. When I drove a 1950 Bristol L5G a few weeks ago, although a privilege to be entrusted with such a venerable vehicle, its strangely ‘lumpy’ 5-cylinder rhythm was not as satisfying to listen to as the more even beat of the 6LW. Does that sound daft?

Entering Bristol near the Cumberland Basin I cut across towards Temple Meads station and turned south again towards Brislington. Was I being drawn as if by some ghostly force to the birthplace of the chassis beneath me? I don’t think so. It just happened to be the designated pickup point for the wedding party I was due to collect!

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