Photo : Brian King

Portuguese reg no : GB-21-07
UK Reg no : KSV 102
Type :AEC REGENT III model 963 IE
Engine : 9.6 litre with preselector gearbox
Chassis no : 9631E1694
Body: Weymann metal-frame
Capacity: originally H32/26R ('58), converted to H37/28R ('66)
Body no : M6652

History of 255

The importance of preserving this bus is that it represents an all-British built (both chassis and body) double-decker of traditional UK design, but which in contrast was also purpose-designed for export to a country driving ‘on the other side of the road’.

As such it is now one of the extremely few survivors of the many hundreds of British manufactured left-hand-drive double-deckers, which were built albeit their use was concentrated in comparatively few cities.

Built and exported in 1954, this vehicle was one of many identical/similar buses delivered new to Lisbon, Portugal, where it operated for the (then) British owned Carris company.  Entering service on the 30 October that year it then worked hard and intensively for nearly 29 years, enduring an operating environment much more arduous than anything experienced in the U.K. 

The bus is 8'0” wide but of greater significance is its length. The 9631 chassis series was common for left-hand-drive AEC Mark III Regals (single-deckers) and Regents (double-deckers), their both having a wheelbase of 17'6" and overall length of 27'6". This commonality of length did not apply to home market single-deckers and double-deckers. No double-decker for use in U.K. was built to 255's length of 27’6”. (Instead, post-war front-engine double-deckers built for service in U.K. were all 26’0”, 30'0” or 31'0" long).

This left-hand-drive Regent was built and fully-assembled in U.K. for export to Portugal.

Over the years 1950 to 1957 a total of 112 of these left-handed open- rear-platform Weymann bodies were built, all to the order of Carris*. Of those 112, 84 were on AEC. 9631E chassis (of which four bodies were exported in kit form for local assembly to replace existing single-decker bodies) and 28 were on virtually identical AEC D2LA chassis. (*Twenty generally similar left-handed open-rear-platform double-decker bodies on left-hand-drive chassis were built in U.K. for Baghdad in 1953, but in this instance the body builder was Park Royal. The chassis model was another variant of the AEC 9631 series, the 9631A with manual gearbox.) Although of longer wheelbase than the equivalent home market model, no. 255 is a left-hand-drive ‘mirror-image’ of a traditional metal-framed Weymann body, (no. M6652). AEC Regent III, a chassis/body combination which, at the time was extremely popular with many U.K. bus operators.

255 also represents the sadly long-gone era when British manufactured vehicles dominated much of the world's export markets for buses and coaches, as well as for lorries and cars.

Carris withdrew their 255 in March 1983 after its providing nearly 29 years of arduous service, frequently fully loaded, in a hilly and hot city pounding along its many cobbled streets. It was amongst the last of the open-rear-platform double-deckers to remain in service in Lisbon; indeed virtually worldwide except in London.

The bus was purchased by John Shearman direct from Carris, straight out of service, for immediate preservation. Over the previous two years he had been liaising with the Company in order to acquire one of these buses and he had carefully selected an example that remained in substantially unmodified condition.

255 departed Lisbon on 17 April 1983, (an unusually damp day for the time of year) with its new owner and with the necessary assistance of friends, it was driven through Portugal and northern Spain to Santander where it was shipped by roll-on/roll-off ferry to Plymouth.[view pictures]

Since then those same colleagues have provided indispensable and solid, loyal support for the on-going preservation of 255 under the team's collective title of ‘The Carris AEC Preservation Group’.

Restoration work is continual with a policy that the bus is to remain in ‘as withdrawn’ condition, whilst it is tidied-up and smartened.

However, in contradiction to that strategy is the Group's desire to refit interior sun blinds and external rain shields over the windows as were fitted when the bus was new. These distinctive features will have the effect of restoring and strongly emphasising its visual appearance as an export design. The Group have these items in store, along with many other spare parts, most important of which is a spare left-handed A.E.C. engine, which would otherwise now be completely unobtainable.

Carris 255 has heritage importance in representing not only the traditional British double-decker bus in export guise, but also serves as a reminder of the era when the products of the British bus manufacturing industry dominated much of the world's import market for buses

255 is also representative of the era when British manufactured buses were the most dominant export force in selling to the world market for buses.

Furthermore, added interest is provided by the operator which purchased it. Lisbon Electric Tramways (‘Carris’), was notable in being one of the many British owned and managed bus companies which once operated overseas and, as such, this bus serves as a reminder of those near-forgotten British enterprises.

The appeal of 255 is that its design concept is of the once familiar layout of typical, traditional British double-deckers with their front-engine, exposed radiator, half-cab and open rear platform/staircase. And yet this vehicle is all so very different!

Significant dates
Circa Aug 1954 : Shipped from UK
30 Oct 1954 : Entered service
1966 : Upseated from H32/26R (58) to H37/28R (65)
Withdrawn 1983 (earliest  Jan, latest March) final use was with the reserve fleet
17 April 1983 : Collected from Carris & departed Lisbon via Spain
22 April 1983 : Arrived Plymouth
22 May 1983 : First public appearance (North Weald Rally)
01 June 1984 : First registered in UK (KSV 102)

1954 : Built at Weymanns, Addlestone, chassis from AEC, Southall
1983 : 29 years in service
2003 : 20 years in Preservation
2004 : 50 years old
2023 : 40 years in preservation
2024 : 70 years old