Plaxton invited operators of its coaches new and old to attend a celebratory event in Scarborough last week. The response saw 42 vehicles present
New to the coaching calendar for 2019 – and with a re-run already in mind for 2020 – was a rally organised by Plaxton for operators of its coaches old and new. It took place at the Scarborough factory on Thursday last week (8 August).
Open to invited guests, the event attracted a credible 42 entries and 500 visitors. It was followed by a road run around the town taking in Marine Drive and a celebratory dinner that was attended by 200 people.
Entries painted a varied picture of Plaxton’s more recent history. It is 112 years old in 2019. In particular, many restored examples of its Panorama and Supreme ranges from the heyday of British coaching were present.
Later models – from the Paramount, Excalibur and Premiere ranges – were also to be seen, while a strong showing of its current-day line-up was on display. Bookending the model range was a modern-day Panorama, Plaxton’s double-decker flagship on Volvo B11RLE chassis.
“This event was held to reward some of our loyal customers and to show them that we are in the coach market for the long term,” says Richard Matthews, Retail Sales Director of Plaxton parent Alexander Dennis (ADL).
“Many of our key customers have supported the rally by bringing coaches along. That gives an indication of what Plaxton means to them,” he adds.
Support was also in evidence from all levels of ADL and Plaxton. Held during the Scarborough factory’s summer shutdown, many staff volunteered to act as marshals and members of senior management from across both organisations were also present, including CEO Colin Robertson.
Addressing the evening gathering, Colin described the coach industry as “being like both a village and a close family,” adding that ADL remains proud to be associated with it. Concluding the event was the presentation of seven awards for vehicles judged to be the best of those entered.
Hardware on show
The oldest coach on display was an Austin K8 with 14-seat Venturer bodywork. In the livery of Scotts Greys, it dates from 1952. Other chassis marques common in the industry of yesteryear represented in the line-up included AEC, Bedford, Bristol, Ford, Leyland and Seddon.
From the latter manufacturer, Leicester operator GH Watts showed its Pennine IV with Panorama Elite II bodywork. The front-engined coach is powered by a Perkins V8, which made itself known during the road run. Bibby’s of Ingleton displayed its well-known Pennine VII with a Supreme body.
The ‘Chinese six’ Bedford VAL was also represented, with a 1963 example carrying early Panorama bodywork from Johnson Bros Tours complemented by a slightly newer example operated by Kenzies Coaches of Shepreth.
Two centre-door coaches recreated an element of the former Glenton Tours fleet. An AEC Reliance with Supreme III bodywork was entered by Coopers Tours of Killamarsh, complemented by a newer Volvo B58 with Supreme IV coachwork, owned by York Pullman subsidiary Dodsworths Coaches.
Predictably, Volvo featured strongly among newer exhibits. Its Euro 6 chassis were present, but the B10M was also to be found. An early example, and one that still earns its keep, was a 1982 coach with Supreme IV bodywork recently purchased by Henshaw’s Executive Travel of Moreton-in-Marsh.
Dodsworths also showed a B10M with a Premiere 350 body, while Henry Cooper Coaches was rewarded with an award for its imposing tri-axle B12T with Excalibur bodywork; a rare sight in 2019.
At the smaller end of the scale, Perry’s Travel of Malton made the short journey with a late-model Cheetah-bodied Mercedes-Benz Vario, while York Pullman and its subsidiary Wrays of Harrogate each entered a Cheetah XL, built on the Atego chassis.
Another good year
Although Plaxton held last week’s event as a thank you to existing, established customers, the company says that future business looks strong. 2019 is shaping up to be another good year for the Scarborough plant.
In particular, ADL’s investment in new models – which has established a range that is the most extensive in the UK market – is paying dividends.
Commercial Manager Mark Ballam reports that several new or returning customers have come into the fold. He also points out that the versatility of many of Plaxton’s products is proving appealing, with the ability to redeploy coaches onto different duties later in life an attractive selling point.
Promoted as part of the event were examples of the manufacturer’s used stock, while also present was ADL’s high-specification Enviro400 double-decker bus demonstrator.
Fitted with a wide variety of passenger amenities, the type has become popular with some coach operators as a short- to medium-distance private hire vehicle where high capacity is required but a double-decker coach cannot be justified.
Overall response to the rally from attendees was positive, with many appreciating the social side as much as the opportunity to gather coaches from down the years. News is awaited whether the event will return for 2020 – but if it does and you run a Plaxton, keep an eye out for the date.