The Eldorado History - 3

The Small Stuff

At the other end of the scale were a pair of Ford Transits, bought in 1970 for contracts and private hire work.  These were replaced in 1977 by no less than seven Mercedes  L407Ds with Deansgate bodies, which were additionally used on "Shopper's Link" services in addition to existing commitments.  The service did not prove a success, and the Mercedes' were sold when less than four years old, with the exception of one, which was converted into a van and used by the engineering department until as late as 1997.

At this time, most single deck stage services were still being run using coaches relegated from front-line duties, with Eldorado having few purpose built single deck buses - the Panthers, a Park Royal bodied Tiger Cub and a couple of Willowbrook bodied Leopards being exceptions.  The end of this practice was signalled in 1974, with the arrival of the first Leyland National.   The National became the standard single deck bus until the end of its production, by which time eight had been purchased, to be joined later by a further two secondhand examples.

Meanwhile, the Leopard continued as the standard coach chassis, with examples bodied by both Plaxton and Duple, plus a solitary Alexander "T" type, until the first Tiger arrived in 1982, which was also the company's first 12m vehicle, with Plaxton Supreme V coachwork.

The First of the "Eldorado Standards"

Meanwhile, on the double deck front, a further Northern Counties bodied Atlantean had been added to the fleet in 1973.  This was the first of the AN68 type, and had a radically different body style from previous examples.  Its dual door bodywork closely resembled those being delivered to SELNEC at that time, as their EX-series, and was to become the standard Eldorado double decker until the end of Atlantean production.  Their story is told separately as part of "The Atlantean Story" .  There were to be a total of 10 of these (8 new, 2 more acquired secondhand) over the years, until the Atlantean ceased production, the last new example being delivered in 1982.  Later that same year came the first of what was intended to be the new generation of Eldorado standards - a Leyland Titan TN15.  We all know the story of the Titan, and it remained a one-off.

The first Olympian, the "other natural successor" to the Atlantean, arrived in 1984, with ECW body, followed over the next few years by a further ECW bodied example, and four bodied by Alexander, one of which had coach bodywork to CH53/19Ft layout, and a handful of secondhand ones.

On the single deck front, the National was eventually succeeded by the Lynx, with Eldorado perhaps surprisingly purchasing only two new examples, in 1988 and 1990, but then picking up another seven relatively recent secondhand examples (4 Mk 1's and 3 Mk 2's).

Coach Crisis - and Solution!

By the mid-90's, the coach fleet had deteriorated drastically, having suffered from lack of investment caused by indecision in the management.  Following deregulation, as we all know, the market was very uncertain, and many large fleets were concentrating on bus services and divesting themselves of their coaching operations. Eldorado couldn't make up its mind one way or the other, so the coach fleet suffered.  In 1996, the newest coach was a four year old Scania/Jonckheere - the last coach to have been bought new, followed by a five year old Plaxton bodied Tiger, with Eldorado "originals" going backwards from there down to 17-year old Leopards, accompanied by a real hotchpotch of "non-standard" secondhand acquisitions which included (or had included) a Dennis Javelin, a DAF SB2300, a Bova Futura, a pair of Tiger Doyens, Scanias which now totalled four, and even (briefly) a Quest 80 VM16!

Throughout this time, these "old faithfuls", particularly the original Tigers and Leopards, were still pounding the motorways on the London express services, as reliable as ever, but looking dated compared with rivals.  They were ably assisted by the secondhand Scanias, whose reputation was growing amongst both crews and mechanics, but even these were "getting on a bit" by now.  Something had to be done!  In 1997 a solitary Scania K113 was purchased, with Van Hool bodywork to a high specification, and again it seemed as if the management was dithering. The following year, however, they decided that Eldorado DID have a future in coaching, and committed themselves to the largest ever expenditure in one single year for the company.  In 1998 came a total of eight new Scanias, six bodied by Van Hool, including a 10-metre 37 seater, an executive 25-seater, and four normal 47-seaters with toilets, the remaining pair, one of which was the three-axle variety, having Irizar Century bodywork

Two years later, a further five were added, this time with Plaxton bodies - 3 Premieres and 2 Excaliburs.  These were followed, surprisingly, by a pair of Neoplan Cityliners, which were part of the deal which saw the introduction of Neoplan Centroliners to the double deck fleet, plus a further Plaxton bodied Scania, this time with the rather more unusual Prima bodywork.

A selection of the secondhand coaches Eldorado was running in the mid-90's (see text above):



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