Amazing 94-year-old Leyland Lion bus still running

Posted by Chris Graham on 19th April 2023

We report on the arrival of an amazing, 94-year-old Leyland Lion bus at the Friends of King Alfred Buses in Winchester.

Leyland Lion

An old photograph that shows RU 8678 when in use as a motor caravan. (Pic: Ross Scoular Collection)

The Friends of King Alfred Buses (FoKAB) in Winchester has, thanks to a benefactor who wishes to remain anonymous, taken ownership of a fully-restored Leyland Lion PLSC3 that was built in 1929. This vehicle, registered RU 8678, was B268 in the fleet of Hants & Dorset Motor Services (H&D) from 1929 until 1948, and is believed to be the only operational pre-war H&D bus still in existence.

The bus has been based  at the Scottish Vintage Bus Museum (SVBM) at Lathalmond since 2003, where the late Dougie Scoular and his son Ross, the previous owners, had rebuilt the vehicle.

It’s now being repainted into the green and ivory livery of King Alfred Motor Services, but the long-term plan is to restore it to its original H&D condition, in time for its centenary in 2029. King Alfred Motor Services took delivery of two Leyland Lions early in 1929, known as ‘Lion 1’ and ‘Lion 2’ and registered as OT 8608/9.

The Lion in its present, restored condition, carrying Edinburgh Corporation Transport livery. (Pic: James Freeman)

This acquisition means that FoKAB can now demonstrate how these buses looked, sounded and felt in use. Although RU 8678 is a native of Hampshire, it was built for arch-rival H&D, for whom it ran in Bournemouth and Poole for 19 years until 1948, owing its long life apparently to its ability to use the Sandbanks Ferry without modification. 

This Lion survived because it became a motor caravan for almost 20 years, before being found and rescued by Colin Shears in 1967 for £50, and taken to the West of England Transport Collection at Winkleigh.

It then passed to The Complete Automobilist, a business in Peterborough that used it to tour the country selling vintage vehicle spares. Later it was sold to the Leyland Museum although, in due course, it became surplus to requirements; by this time in a partially deconstructed form.

The hulk was rescued by Jasper Pettie of the SVBM at Lathalmond. He had the vehicle transported to Scotland where it passed into the ownership of father and son team Douglas and Ross Scoular, who used all their skills to carry out a comprehensive and magnificent rebuild of the bus, getting it back to pretty well original specification in every respect. They took one liberty, however.  Coming from Edinburgh as they did, they decided to present the vehicle in the livery of Edinburgh Corporation Transport. In that guise it played a prominent role in the centenary celebrations of Lothian Buses just before the pandemic in 2019.

Sadly, Douglas died in the early part of 2022 and his son Ross decided to refocus his activities, leading to the difficult decision to find a new home for the Lion. 

In Winchester it will join FoKAB’s other two pre-war vehicles, the well-known Dennis 30cwt 18-seater of 1931 owned for over 30 years, and the recently reinvigorated 1935 Albion Victor 20-seater coach, as part of the King Alfred fleet. It’s therefore expected to be the star attraction at The Original King Alfred Running Day in Winchester on May 1st, which is Bank Holiday Monday.

This news item comes from the latest issue of Old Glory, and you can get a money-saving subscription to this magazine simply by clicking HERE


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