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The Leyland National

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The Leyland National

Postby system improver » Mon Dec 14, 2009 6:51 pm

Four years in development, the Leyland National made its debut at the Earls Court (London) Motor Show of 1970. It was hailed as the most significant breakthrough in bus design since the development of the pneumatic tyre. As is the case with overblown hyperbole, the reality did not quite live up to the hype, but it was a breakthrough for British bus design and set standards that would be followed by other manufacturers. In some ways, it proved to be a high water mark for British bus design, but the world of bus design was changing, moving thirty four kilometres to the east of Britain, to continental Europe, especially to Germany and Sweden. This move was to be felt most strongly in Australia, some 17,000km away from Britain which had for so long dominated the Australian bus market.

The Leyland National was originally built in two lengths, 10.3m and 11.3m. The first intention was for it to be built in whole metre lengths, but changes to European regulations during the development period meant a slight lengthening, although this was to have a much more significant impact on design for Australia. My recollection is that in 1970, the only state where 11+ metre buses could operate, at least on metro services, was South Australia (corrections or additional info welcomed). Elsewhere, 36 feet or, about 11 metres, was the limit. So the 11.3 m version was not possible in most states, which meant the 10.3 m version was the only possible variant. But this was now at the lower level of bus length in Australia. Canberra ordered 70 Nationals but wanted a 10.9m version. This was also made available to Brisbane. The Nationals revolutionary modular design made this a reasonable proposition.

After extensive touring of a fully imported demo (the only 11.3m version to operate in Australia), orders began to be made. The demo was sold to Bowman's in Adelaide just before the STA takeover:

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While some buses were imported complete (minus seating) most came in CKD (completely knocked down) versions. This meant that the whole bus was imported in bits and made up in Australia at Pressed Metal (Sydney), a Leyland subsidiary.

The first major customer in Australia was the ACT government bus operator, later known as ACTION. They took, what turned out to be the biggest order, 70 buses, with the first delivered in late 1974.

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The MMTB in Victoria placed an order for 30 after speculation that 100 buses were to be ordered. They opted for the 10.3m version (33.784 feet), not least of all because of the long running dispute (twenty years) regarding one man operation of government buses. The first arrived in January 1975:

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The MTT Hobart also ordered 63 of the 10.3m version, although one was rejected and later replaced with a 10.9m bus:

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The 10.9m version found favour in Brisbane where the 7 buses had a distinctly Brisbane window style:

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Another MTT, this time in Perth, opted to trial a National. Originally it worked in normal service and had the usual National windows but by the time it was snapped here, it was on special Clipper duties and had the Brisbane style windows fitted:

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So, Canberra received 70, Hobart 63, Melbourne 30 and Brisbane 7. Perth received one and the STA Adelaide (via Bowman’s) also one. The only other government/ municipal operator to receive a new National was the Rockhampton City Council (their number 19). In addition, they received a number of second hand Nationals from Britain in the 1980s.

The private bus industry also received many Nationals – 58 in fact. Notable purchasers were Surfside with 14, Deane and Rowe with 8 each, Forest with 6 and Bender’s with 5:

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The National remains a unique part of Australian bus history. The 510 motor proved to be underpowered for Australian conditions, although Leyland technicians might disagree. It would be interesting to know what might have happened if the TL11 engine had been available and fitted to these buses when new.

I welcome additions to this post to illustrate the complete history of the National in Australia.

The photographs come from the Graeme Turnbull Collection, with the exception of the Canberra bus picture which comes from the ACTbus/Leon Batman Collection and the Melbourne photos which come from the Official MMTB Collection.
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Re: The Leyland National

Postby Herbert » Mon Dec 14, 2009 8:57 pm

What a magnificent post, thank you system improver.
You probably couldn't have guessed how significant was your choice of the photo of Perth's No 11: also in view is the bus that replaced it in the red City Clipper fleet when the National was prematurely withdrawn.
Get the gen, see the shots: www.perthbus.info
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Re: The Leyland National

Postby dude » Tue Dec 15, 2009 4:58 pm

What a great post. I appreciate how you've shown photo's of them in their original liveries, with top quality shots to boot. Sadly the BCC only ordered 7 and lasted only 10 years in service. After their 1981 refit to CityXpress configuration they had plenty of life left in them and should have stayed around to serve Expo '88 at least.

Well done.
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Re: The Leyland National

Postby panther998 » Tue Dec 15, 2009 6:53 pm

A truly marvellous post about a (to me) truly exceptional make and model of bus, close to (yet not quite) my all-time favourite - thank you muchly for posting it, system improver !!!

Hopefully, someone reading this thread can help with my query in another thread -
http://www.busaustralia.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=43&t=47406

A handful of my many Leyland National photos can be viewed, on Flickr, at -
http://www.flickr.com/photos/41378227@N04/4116036801/in/set-72157622735372439/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/41378227@N04/4116807624/in/set-72157622735372439/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/41378227@N04/4116808532/in/set-72157622735372439/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/41378227@N04/4116039027/in/set-72157622735372439/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/41378227@N04/4116810724/in/set-72157622735372439/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/41378227@N04/4116811726/in/set-72157622735372439/
- click on the 'All sizes' button above each image to see larger size versions.
Intrigued by how some enthusiasts are selective in remembering, or forgetting - maybe blinding them to reality http://www.busaustralia.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=46&t=42961
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Re: The Leyland National

Postby Swift » Wed Dec 30, 2009 10:21 am

These pictures really highlight how advanced these buses looked when new.
Italian sportscar designer Giovanni Michelotti gave us the Leyland National's styling.Other well known vehicles he was responsible for was the Triumph Stag and the Leyland P76.Check out his story here.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giovanni_Michelotti

Here is a Flikr site with more excellent pics including Deanes ,Metro-West and Forest.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/25653307@N03/2689178764
Last edited by Swift on Wed Dec 30, 2009 11:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Leyland National

Postby panther998 » Wed Dec 30, 2009 5:59 pm

Deanes 5013 wrote:Italian sportscar designer Giovanni Michelotti gave us the Leyland National's styling.

Really ??!!?? How astonishing !!!

Being a long-standing Leyland National 'afficianado', I do hope you will enlarge on the basis for this, to me highly dubious, assertion. Dubious, given that NEITHER of the Wikipedia links you supplied definitively and/or specifically mentions Giovanni Michelotti's involvement in the design of the Leyland National.

Furthermore, his name is conspicuously absent from 2 quite significant and well-regarded books that give details of the development / evolution of the Leyland National, namely -
Bus Monographs 2: Leyland National, by Stephen Morris, Ian Allan Ltd, 1984.
Leyland Bus MkII, by Doug Jack, Transport Publishing Company (TPC), 1984.

I shall leave comments about the Leyland P76 and its styling, dubbed the 'Leyland Lemon' by some in the contemporary Australian motoring press, to other board members who might perhaps have some (infinitely dull / blunt) axe to grind, or have nothing better to do with their time.
Intrigued by how some enthusiasts are selective in remembering, or forgetting - maybe blinding them to reality http://www.busaustralia.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=46&t=42961
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Re: The Leyland National

Postby Swift » Wed Dec 30, 2009 11:05 pm

panther998 wrote:
Being a long-standing Leyland National 'afficianado', I do hope you will enlarge on the basis for this, to me highly dubious, assertion. Dubious, given that NEITHER of the Wikipedia links you supplied definitively and/or specifically mentions Giovanni Michelotti's involvement in the design of the Leyland National.




I read it on a web page quite a while ago.The writer mentioned only specifically the front end styling was his work.He didn't exclude other parts of the bus being his work but I believe the general shape of the bus was probably influenced by practicalities as much as styling (full heating ducting for the windows for example).
Ian Allan's book has an illustration of an unstyled prototype being used for extreme winter testing which suggests Michelotti may have only done the final frontal ,and perhaps some other cosmetic treatments while the fundamentals were done by Leyland engineers.
Sorry ,I cannot recall where the article was but it was what got me to look up this designer's other work and the P76 headlights do have a similar layout to the National's park and blinker assemblies beside the headlights ,as with the Triumph Stag and 2500 sedan.
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Re: The Leyland National

Postby panther41 » Thu Dec 31, 2009 4:25 am

Deanes 5013 is absolutely correct. It rang a bell with me immediately and I have just dug out a photocopy of an article in the British "Design" magazine on the Leyland National when it was first launched. After devoting four pages to the vehicle, the final paragraph reads "It was somewhat ironic that the Leyland National as exhibited at Earls Court [location of the British Commercial Vehicle Show at the time] revealed so little of the immense design effort put into it - the interior was by no means finalised and....the external appearance has been cleaned up by Michelotti ...but the vehicle remains a functional design in which appearance is mainly determined by practical consideration".

I'm sure I have other press cuttings which refer to Michelotti's involvement, but I'm afraid it would take some considerable time to locate them!

By the way, if anyone is aware of the current location of any Nationals still extant as campers or whatever, I'd be grateful for a PM with the details.
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Re: The Leyland National

Postby Fleet Lists » Thu Dec 31, 2009 7:35 am

Posts with more photos have been split into a separate thread viewtopic.php?f=48&t=48280 to prevent more than 10 photos in a thread.
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Re: The Leyland National

Postby VQ » Mon Jan 11, 2010 11:51 pm

I was told that the MMTB ordered 100, but cancelled at 30 due to major engine problems, brake failures causing injury and various other problems, however, the MMTB also spent money to develop the original motor to be more reliable and powerful. The motor in them were also unique not using a head gasket.
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Re: The Leyland National

Postby Swift » Thu Dec 07, 2017 9:15 pm

panther41 wrote:Deanes 5013 is absolutely correct. It rang a bell with me immediately and I have just dug out a photocopy of an article in the British "Design" magazine on the Leyland National when it was first launched. After devoting four pages to the vehicle, the final paragraph reads "It was somewhat ironic that the Leyland National as exhibited at Earls Court [location of the British Commercial Vehicle Show at the time] revealed so little of the immense design effort put into it - the interior was by no means finalised and....the external appearance has been cleaned up by Michelotti ...but the vehicle remains a functional design in which appearance is mainly determined by practical consideration".

I know this is an old topic but here is the entire article.
https://vads.ac.uk/diad/article.php?tit ... e=d.263.26
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