Bus company breakdown trucks

Posted by Chris Graham on 9th May 2021

Dudley Rhodes offers a selection of photos featuring bus company breakdown trucks, many of which were themselves converted, classic buses.

Bus company breakdown trucks

Seen at the Oxford Bus Museum, at Long Hanborough, in Oxfordshire, is ex-City of Oxford Motor Services Guy Big J six-wheeled recovery, ABW 67F, in its previous operator’s striking livery.

In the past, most bus and coach companies – especially the larger operators – would have run their own breakdown vehicle, to recover back to base or the central workshops any vehicle which had suffered a breakdown or accident. Sometimes, operators which were part of the larger organisations, would recover vehicles belonging to other companies, which had the misfortune to ‘fail’ in their area.

Bus company breakdown trucks

Derby Corporation Transport used this interesting, normal-control AEC Mogul six-wheeler, fleet no 390, as its recovery vehicle. Here it’s seen at the garage on Ascot Drive, Derby, on September 28th, 1985, on Derby tradeplates 460 CH.

This has all changed now, of course, with recovery being left to specialist operators today, which cater for the needs of modern vehicles, with ‘underlifts’ and all sorts of other specialist equipment. It seems it’s not just a case of simply ‘hook it up and pull it out of the way’ any more!

Bus company breakdown trucks

East Kent and Maidstone & District towing vehicle, a cut-down AEC Regent V/Park Royal double-decker, PFN 865, seen at Herne Bay Garage, when still in use, on tradeplates, 780 KL…


Bus company breakdown trucks

…then in preserved condition at the South-East Bus Festival, held at the Kent Showground, Detling, on April 6th, 2019.

Many of the bus companies’ breakdown vehicles were actually ex-buses themselves, which had been converted to a greater or lesser extent to best suit their new role; often with stylish new bodywork added. This was also often the case if something like an ex-military AEC Matador was used and, sometimes, the base vehicles were barely recognisable.

Bus company breakdown trucks

East Lancashire Transport Trust’s VTC 715H; a cut-down Plaxton coach-bodied Leyland Leopard, acting as a tender at Battersea Park, on May 2nd, 1982.

Others were lorry-based, with the resulting breakdown vehicle looking unusual in a bus company’s colours. Here I’ve gather together a good cross-section of photographs of these vehicles from the past, some of which have survived into preservation…

Bus company breakdown trucks

Based on a Bristol FLF Lodekka double-decker from the fleet, CSG 29C, previously Eastern Scottish tow-bus E6, was seen at the Scottish Vintage Bus Museum, Lathalmond, on August 15th, 2009.


Bus company breakdown trucks

PSV recovery in action, with a foreign coach ‘on tow’ on the A2 near Gravesend, Kent, in 1993, behind a G-cabbed Leyland operated by a recovery specialist.


Bus company breakdown trucks

The old order; Hyndburn Transport tow-bus, a Guy-bodied Guy Arab III single-decker, KTC 615, but running on tradeplates 0707 B, seen at The Garage, Accrington, Lancashire on August 6th, 1979.


Bus company breakdown trucks

The Guy’s replacement, running on the same tradeplates, a Seddon Atkinson tractor unit, fitted with a ballast box.


Bus company breakdown trucks

The Scottish Bus Group companies created a number of stylish tow-buses from various Alexander Y Type-bodied Leyland Leopard buses and coaches. Here we see two of them, XXA 859M in Fife Scottish livery, and DMS 348C, in First’s ‘Barbie’ colours.


This Leyland Leopard/Alexander tow-bus, AMS 513K, ex-Alexander Midland MPE 113K, was later used by McKindless of Wishaw, as seen at the McKindless Business Park, Newmains, on June 7th, 2007.


Also seen at Lathalmond, on August 15th, 2009, was this ex-Alexander Fife tow-truck, registered TVS 347 in preservation; a smartly re-bodied AEC Matador.


An earlier recovery lorry once used by W Alexander & Sons, as its fleet No. 158, WG 5245, a 1936 Leyland Beaver TSC8, also seen at Lathalmond in preservation in 2015.


More recently seen at Lathalomond, hopefully receiving some ‘TLC’, but here at the West of England Transport Collection, Winkleigh, Devon, in 1981, we see Edinburgh Corporation’s recovery vehicle, FWS 853, fleet No 6; a Gardner-powered ERF, purpose-built in 1948.


Osborne’s of Tollesbury T1, Q524 MHK, an AEC Mammoth Major 8 Mk V, seen at the Essex independent’s garage.


An ex-London Transport re-bodied AEC Matador breakdown tender, now registered 616 FUF in preservation, seen at a bus rally.


Back at Winkleigh in 1981, we see an earlier, ex-Eastern Scottish tow-bus, based on an AEC Regal III single-decker.


In action at Winkleigh in 1981, pulling an ex-Eastbourne all-Leyland TD4 open-topper, JK 5605, named White Ensign, out of the hanger, was ex-Leigh Corporation Leyland TS11/Roe, once a single-decker, ETJ 108, fleet No 79.


Another ex-coach cut down to a towing vehicle is this somewhat multi-coloured, ex-Crosville Bristol MW/ECW, now registered TFF 251 in preservation, seen at North Weald on July 7th, 2013.


A more modern bus recovery vehicle, seen in 2012 at Go Whippet’s Swavesey garage, in Cambridgeshire, was this well-equipped Volvo FL10 ex-tractor unit, J100 SEA.

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