D275 OOJ

Privatly Owned Not for Hire

1987 Freightrover Sherpa 374D

Carlyle B20F

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The Story

In 1984 Harry Blundred began operating a fleet of 16-seat Ford Transits around Exeter, a scene which would quickly be copied by operators on many urban networks as the minibus 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, it’s first subsidiary to be passed into private ownership. As the van-based 16-seat Transits became a more popular purchase, and therefore less readily available due to demand, the Freightrover began to be seen as an obvious substitute and that too grew in popularity. With it’s capability of negotiating narrow urban streets etc the mini-bus had created a niche for more passengers which in turn would require bigger and better such vehicles. This brought about the introduction of the midi-bus, initially usually larger Mercedes van based vehicles and which in some cases would be coachbuilt to order.

The origins of Carlyle date back to 1983, when the Midland Red Omnibus Company set up the business specifically for that purpose of coachbuilding and converting vehicles for passenger carrying use. It had started with the initial Transits for Exeter, progressing on to Freightrovers by 1986, only to be privatised a year later together with other NBC engineering departments, passing to Robert Beatties Frontsource, although it soon became subject to a management buy-out. The first coachbuilt bodies appeared in 1987, and the Museums example, with body number C2.002, indicates it to have been the second such vehicle to be built. However it saw very little passenger service use when new, as a demonstrator vehicle it was dispatched to a variety of companies for assessment, which included Midland Red North, Grampian Regional Transport, Cumberland and South Wales. After fulfilling this role it was then sold to the Department of Transport for testing and training their vehicle inspectors 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 Vehicle and Standards Operating Agency (VOSA), as that branch of the Department of Transport had become, and it underwent safety checks to ensure that the deliberate defects were rectified.