I AM CHRISTOPHER LEACH THE ARTIST. I started this blog so that I can share with everyone my vast collection of transport photographs showing a personal and nostalgic view of the industry with images that span some 45 years taking in the U.K and some of Europe. I have no darkroom and so rather than being the perfectionist after tidying them up I upload the images warts and all, and even those that won't scan squarely or are scratched. In a way it adds age and character. You are all free to download these for your personal use but please remember I still own them and you are not just free to use them without prior permission for any knd of publishing. Click on images to enlarge them and if you want to see more leave your comments or visit my website for the mother-site with galleries including those Buses & Girls: PICTUREWORLD

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Willowbrook: Bend or Die

With all these Leyland Leopards with Willowbrook and Duple Dominant Coachwork gathered around the entrance of Victoria Coach Station during the busy Afternoon Peak Period in the mid-Eighties one might surmise that new products from Plaxton were in the minority but it was Willowbrook the Loughborough bodybuilder who was feeling the pinch. When the new National Bus Company swallowed them up it told the former BET Group members that now they had to buy whenever possible it's new state-or-the-art bus the Leyland National. So like Marshall of Cambridge whom had also enjoyed a healthy order book building so called same-at-both-ends single-deckers life suddenly became hard. Even the market from the Independent Sector dried up for dual-purpose vehicles with bus-shells because they found they could with a government grant purchase attractive proper coach based vehicles from Duple and Plaxton provided they spent most of their time being used as buses. Willowbrook turned more towards bodying double-deckers including a large order for Baghdad. Sadly after some promising orders for the NBC it's most promising venture the slightly futuristic Spacecar never came to anything and so a healthy order book afterwards for a new less radical design called the 003 should have got the company back on it's feet. But not only were there problems fulfilling this crucial order, vehicles were not delivered on time and there were serious issues with the build-quality. No doubt even though Willowbrook must have heaved a huge sigh of relief by this time the situation had become critical as I expect the work famine had resulted in most of the previously loyal skilled craftsmen finding work elsewhere. Most if not all of these 003 bodies were built on the Leyland Leopard chassis by this time the NBC standard for coachwork like this example belonging to Hastings and District.

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