We frequently get asked why we have a London bus as our Twitter and Facebook avatar.
The answer is quite simple. We own one, in fact the very one in the photograph – Routemaster RML 2352.
That inevitably results in the next incredulous question: “What on earth do you want a bus for?” to which the answer isn’t nearly so straight forward.
The short answer lies somewhere amongst the following:
CUV 352C doing what it did best, Marble Arch late ‘90s
- It’s a design icon and top 10 British design classic
- An automotive engineering masterpiece
- A fascinating 50 year time capsule of London life since the ‘Swinging Sixties’
- Nostalgia – like many others I used to travel home on double deckers after school and commuted on Routemasters when working in London
- As advertising manager at Peugeot we advertised on them
- They make people smile
Admittedly it’s also slightly eccentric but we cope with that!
The long answer is not only longer and involves a number of people to thank – or blame! – but probably only of interest to classic vehicle enthusiasts, so feel free to jump off here!
The story starts on the Guild of Motoring Writers’ diamond jubilee celebration classic car run to Northern Spain in September 2004. After several days touring – we were in a 1973 Triumph TR6, a celebration dinner was held in the Centro del Vina Villa Lucia Cena in the Rioja region. After a fair quantity of the wine cellar’s contents had been sampled, the conversation turned to what vehicle we might bring on the next Guild Classic. On asking the rally planner Steve Brown of European Rallies Ltd (ERL) if we could have a route with a 14ft 6ins height clearance, he picked up the challenge and said “you buy it, I’ll plan it.”
Shortly afterwards, motoring journalist Brian Laban wrote a piece in the Daily Telegraph in which he compared driving a Routemaster with the Volvo VLW Wright Eclipse Gemini – Transport for London’s (TfL) then new generation ‘low-floor’ double-decker, and the now infamous Mercedes Citaro Bendi-Bus at the Millbrook Proving Ground. In it he commented on how “astonishingly easy” the Routemaster was to drive while also providing details of where you could buy one as TfL was selling off its remaining stock of these iconic buses. Read his piece here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/2731580/On-the-buses.html
Somewhat bizarrely – it must have been fate! – a few days later I found myself sitting next to Brian on a table hosted by Andrew Didlick, PR director of Peugeot UK at the annual Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) dinner. Poor man was quizzed ruthlessly, but he patiently answered my questions and confirmed just how easy it was to drive.
Contact was made with Steve Newman of Ensign Bus, the company charged with handling the disposal of buses as each route had its Routemaster fleet de-commissioned and replaced with new vehicles.
Several visits to Ensign at Purfleet, conversations with Steve and online research narrowed the search to our preferred model, an RML. At 30ft the ‘Routemaster Long’ is 2ft 7ins longer than the standard RM and more pleasing aesthetically than its shorter cousin. The RML seats 72 people, eight more than the RM and is instantly recognisable from the side by its additional small centre windows on both decks. We also wanted one powered by either a Scania or Cummins engine, the other option being an Iveco which we had been warned off for various reasons, not least because it didn’t sound like a Routemaster! (The Routemaster fleet was re-engined during the early 1990s as the original AEC units needed replacing).
We eventually found RML2352 languishing in a yard packed with old buses. It was in less than perfect condition, but it appeared as though it wouldn’t take too much TLC to get it roadworthy and apart from a gearbox failure (!) on the day we were due to collect it, took delivery the following week – 18 July 2005. Less than a year later and with the promised height clearance, we took part in the 2006 Guild Classic to Ypres in Belgium.
Arriving in Calais
Journos and PRs set off for the gala dinner
Fill ‘er up Jean Claude!
Today RML2352 is as they say in classic bus vernacular ‘in preservation’. Classed as an historic vehicle, it benefits from being free to tax and is insured complete with roadside breakdown cover for a relatively modest annual premium. This restricts it to carrying just eight passengers, but can be driven on a car licence!
|Annual MOT test||All aboard for the LawsonClarke Christmas lunch|
More information about the Routemaster:
The Bus We Loved by Travis Elborough: http://traviselborough.co.uk/books-3/the-bus-we-loved/
Routemaster Association: http://routemaster.org.uk/