Missing The Bus: Bedford Style From The Past


The Hooniverse is a broad church, we know that. Whatever your vehicular poison, you can be sure that, one day, it will be represented here somehow or other. Of course, the particular mechanical steed we all relate to on a daily basis tends to be The Car, and that makes up the majority of Hooniversal throughput. And we also know what everybody likes a good Truck every now and again, I know I do.

And now, to add further variety, here’s a 1940’s Bedford as seen at a local car show in uncharacteristically non-monsoon conditions.


Buses generally don’t get nearly as much exposure as perhaps they deserve these days. There are a plethora of websites around the globe on which schoolkids might debate the comparative merits of Ferrari vs Lamborghini, or certain adults might discuss the finer points of early ’80s Austin Rover digital dashboard technology, if they were so inclined. But rarely do you chance upon a heated argument based on Neoplan versus Setra.

It’s never been very fashionable to show much of an interest in buses or coaches. They have all devices on board required for stopping, going and the carriage of people, ergo a bus is basically a very large car. What’s not to like?


Looking back at the buses and coaches of all time is a pretty depressing business, though. As with cars, every bus was subject to the stylistic trends and technologies of the day, and every coachbuilder had their trademarks. However, unlike cars which, these days are defined (as far as the consumer is concerned) by their styling and image, the vast majority of buses have adopted a pretty regular parallel sided oblong aesthetic, the better for durability, ease of manufacture and repair, and cramming as many people on board as possible.


This old Bedford is a case in point. Underneath the flowing curves sits a Bedford OB chassis, to a design basically unchanged from before the war through to cessation of build in 1951. Although the chassis itself was derived from that intended for a truck, it was adapted quite heavily for bus use as a result of Bedford’s very close working relationship with Duple, the builders of the coachwork found on this example.


The bodywork design was christened “Vista”, and was developed from the earlier, shorter “Hendonian” model. It went on to become one of the most recognisable shapes on UK roads.


Rather brilliantly, SunStar produce a 1:24 scale model (oh, for it to be 1:18) of the OB/Vista combination, and their website features a superb potted history of the type, head over there to know more.

Considering that this bus was the product of an era mired in post-war austerity, it’s a wonder that the bodywork appears to stylistically optimistic, exuding a grace and generosity of line that you don’t find in very many cars from the time, at least not English ones, anyway. The flowing curves of the Duple bodywork, (and indeed of many bodies from Harrington, Burlingham, Plaxton and a great many more) would do justice to something far more romantic than a simple bus chassis, and surely H J Mulliner would have been proud to put their name to it.


Such style was symbolic of the glamour of travel and the excitement of going places, and as the gloss of such activity has evaporated, as has the intricacy of coach design become lost.  Of course the likes of Neoplan and Bova have created some very striking bodywork over recent years, but those and a sprinkling more are the exception rather than the rule.

All of the above is pretty obvious, really. Flamboyance doesn’t really score highly when a bus-operator is choosing their tools. But in the ’40s it was seen as worthwhile to have the equipment in place to inspire your customer as well as serve them, which is a maxim that I doubt even registers today.

[Photos Copyright 2014 Hooniverse/Chris Haining]


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