© Bristol Vintage Bus Group 2014-15.  Charity No: 1083056


Bristol ‘RE’

XOU396T is a Bristol RE delivered in kit form to Christchurch Transport Board in New Zealand

Between 1974 and 1983 Christchurch Transport Board in South Island, New Zealand, imported 152 Bristol RE chassis from Bristol Commercial Vehicles, all but one being delivered as kits, and all but two being bodied for service, the remaining two being for spares. The first two batches had bodies by ECW and then Hawke (an ECW lookalike product), and the final batch had bodies built from Hess kits by New Zealand Motor Bodies. This final batch also had a spring parking brake instead of a ratchet hand brake, a feature seen on only one of the thousands of Bristol REs built for the home market, Bristol Omnibus Company’s 1338. Despite Christchurch Transport Board wanting Gardner engines for their Bristol REs, Leyland Motors would only supply them with the fixed head 0.510 engine, more familiar in the UK as the engine that powered the Leyland National.

When these buses were released by Christchurch Transport Board they found ready owners throughout New Zealand, and one such operator, the Bayline Group of Tauranga, North Island, built up a sizeable fleet, with as many as 28 still in operation in 2006. A number of these had been re-engined with MAN 6-cylinder power units fitted, although a number retained their Leyland engines.

During the course of a number of visits to New Zealand Mike Walker approached Bayline with a view to bringing one of the Bristol REs back to the UK, and in the summer of 2010 he was offered the choice of two vehicles which were said to be in good condition. One of these had lost its front destination box, whilst the other had been re-seated, and so Bayline agreed to reseat the second example with the original seats from the first, and Mike then had the bus overhauled by neighbouring Kiwi Bus Builders, and she passed her New Zealand Certificate of Warrant (equivalent to our MOT test).

In mid-November JD4954 (Bayline No.38, former Christchurch Transport Board 531) was driven to Auckland Port by Bayline staff and set sail on the car transporter “Fedora” to Singapore, where, after a few days on the dockside, she was transhipped to the car transporter “Faust” and arrived in Southampton on January 24th (after sailing via Avonmouth, Rotterdam and Bremen!).

She was cleared by customs on January 25th, collected by David Hoare and Mike Walker and driven to Chepstow on trade plates: within a week she had passed the class 5 MOT test.

After much discussion with the DVLA and VOSA it was determined that, in order to be registered to operate on British roads, the bus would need to pass a pre registration inspection (PRI), but one of the requirements for this was that her glass would need to carry BS or EU safety markings – she did not comply with this however because her glass was marked with AUS and NZ markings, and although it would be possible to change all of the flat glass so as to comply, the windscreen is of such an unusual and uncommon shape (based on the Mercedes 0305 Citybus) that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to easily replace it. After several calls to VOSA and consideration by Department of Transport Compliance, it was agreed at the end of June that as long as she has safety glass, this would not prove to be an obstacle, especially as AUS and NZ standards were almost certainly derived from BS standards. Consequently, at the beginning of August she was presented for her PRI and, with only minor modifications, passed. She was registered for use on British roads by Tuesday August 9th as XOU396T. As a former Chrtistchurch Transport Board Bristol RE, she is unique in the UK, and although owned and in the care of Mike Walker she forms part of The Bristol Vintage Bus Group collection.

Technical stuff:

Manufacturer:  Bristol Commercial Vehicles

Type:  RELL6L

Registration No: (NZ) JD4954

Registration No: (UK) HHW920L

Engine: Leyland O.510

Body manufacturer: Hess

Original operator: Christchurch Transport Board

Fleet number: 531

Livery: Bayline Group

Subsequent owners:

Back in the UK.  Photo: Mike Walker

At the Warminster rally, October 2011.  Photo: David Cullimore

More photos>>