In 1984 Harry Blundred began operating a fleet of 16-seat Ford Transits around Exeter, aÂ scene which would quickly be copied by operators on many urban networks as the minibusÂ boom took hold. Two years later upon deregulation Mr Blundred led a management buy-out of the Devon General company from the National Bus Company, itâ€™s first subsidiary toÂ be passed into private ownership. As the van-based 16-seat Transits became a more popularÂ purchase, and therefore less readily available due to demand, the Freightrover began toÂ be seen as an obvious substitute and that too grew in popularity. With itâ€™s capability of negotiatingÂ narrow urban streets etc the mini-bus had created a niche for more passengersÂ which in turn would require bigger and better such vehicles. This brought about the introductionÂ of the midi-bus, initially usually larger Mercedes van based vehicles and which inÂ some cases would be coachbuilt to order.
The origins of Carlyle date back to 1983, when the Midland Red Omnibus Company set upÂ the business specifically for that purpose of coachbuilding and converting vehicles for passengerÂ carrying use. It had started with the initial Transits for Exeter, progressing on toÂ Freightrovers by 1986, only to be privatised a year later together with other NBC engineeringÂ departments, passing to Robert Beatties Frontsource, although it soon became subjectÂ to a management buy-out. The first coachbuilt bodies appeared in 1987, and the MuseumsÂ example, with body number C2.002, indicates it to have been the second such vehicle to beÂ built. However it saw very little passenger service use when new, as a demonstrator vehicleÂ it was dispatched to a variety of companies for assessment, which included Midland RedÂ North, Grampian Regional Transport, Cumberland and South Wales. After fulfilling this roleÂ it was then sold to the Department of Transport for testing and training their vehicle inspectorsÂ and had a number of mechanical faults purposely rigged for their trainees to identify.
The vehicle was kindly offered to the Keighley Bus Museum in November 2003 by the VehicleÂ and Standards Operating Agency (VOSA), as that branch of the Department ofÂ Transport had become, and it underwent safety checks to ensure that the deliberate defectsÂ were rectified.