Daimler Fleetline

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Daimler Fleetline
Chingford Bus Station - geograph.org.uk - 1178244.jpg
London Transport MCW-bodied Daimler Fleetline in Chingford in April 1980
Body and chassis
Doors1 or 2
Floor typeStep entrance
EngineDaimler (prototypes only)
Gardner 6LW
Gardner 6LX
Gardner 6LXB
Leyland 0.680
Leyland 0.690
Capacity8.4 litres - 11.3 litres
Power output112 - 188 bhp
Self-Changing Gears
Length30 feet (9.1 m)
33 feet (10 m)
36 feet (11 m)
SuccessorLeyland Olympian

The Daimler Fleetline (known as the Leyland Fleetline from circa 1975) is a rear-engined double-decker bus chassis which was built between 1960 and 1983.

It was the second of three bus models to have a marque name as well as an alphanumeric identity code. The other two were the Freeline and the Roadliner.


Preserved Teesside Municipal Transport Northern Counties bodied Daimler Fleetline in April 2012
South Notts Northern Counties bodied Daimler Fleetline in Loughborough in 1989
Mayne Coaches Northern Counties bodied Daimler Fleetline in Manchester
Preserved West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive Park Royal bodied Leyland Fleetline in 1992
Open top Daimler Fleetline in Oxford in 1989

The Daimler Fleetline was the second rear-engined double-decker bus chassis to be launched by a UK manufacturer, following Leyland's introduction of the Atlantean in 1958. From the outset, the Fleetline had a drop-centre rear axle fitted as standard, enabling low-height bodywork to be fitted without necessitating an inconvenient seating layout in part of the upper deck, as was the case with early Atlanteans. Leyland responded by offering a drop-centre rear axle as an option on the Atlantean, but after the two companies came under the same ownership in 1968, the low-height Atlantean option was discontinued.

The prototype Fleetline was fitted with a Daimler engine, but when production started only Gardner 6LX or 6LW engines were offered. By 1968 Gardner's new and more powerful 6LXB was also an option, and in 1970 Leyland's O.680 engine became available.[1][2][3] Gardner engines had an excellent reputation for reliability and economy while Leyland engines were more lively and more thirsty. Most Fleetline customers preferred Gardner engines, but the Leyland engine became popular - particularly for a period in the 1970s when Gardner could not meet demand.

In late 1960s, Daimler developed the longer 36 feet double-deck Fleetline.[4][5]This chassis had a longitudinally-mounted Cummins V6 engine, same as the single-deck Roadliner, at the rear offside corner. It was designed mainly for export, but one was built for Walsall Corporation Transport.

In mid-1970s, Leyland developed a special version of the Fleetline, known as the B20, with Leyland O.690 engine, exhausts on both sides above the engine compartment and reduced noise levels.[6] All of these went to London Transport.

The first prototype Fleetline was unveiled in December 1960.[7] Between 1960 and 1973, the Fleetline was manufactured in Coventry, with production then transferred to Farington.


Daimler Fleetline chassis designations started with the letters CR, of which the C is variously reported to stand for Coventry or Commercial, and the R stands for Rear-engined. For single-deckers this became SR (although not on the earliest examples which were referred to with the standard CR).

This was followed by a code to indicate the engine fitted: D6 (Daimler 6-cylinder, prototypes only); G6 (Gardner 6-cylinder, more often than not this was expanded to the more specific G6LW, G6LX or G6LXB); L6 (Leyland 6-cylinder); C6 (Cummins 6-cylinder).

The standard length of the Fleetline was 30 feet but lengths of 33' feet[8] and 36' feet were also available, which were sometimes (though not consistently) identified by a suffix of -33 or -36 (sometimes with an oblique stroke in place of the hyphen).

Later Leyland Fleetline chassis designations were different: FE for Fleetline, followed by 30 or 33 (length in feet); A for Air brakes; G for Gardner or L for Leyland engine; R for Right-hand drive.

United Kingdom[edit]


London Transport was the largest British Fleetline operator, purchasing 2,646, the last 400 being built as B20s, in addition to the earlier XF (eXperimental Fleetline) class of eight buses.[9][10][11][12][13][14] At the time of delivery of London Transport's first Daimler Fleetline (December 1970), the Fleetline was a successful model (when comparing sales against other chassis), more than 3,500 Fleetline buses having been produced for other operators.

London's Fleetlines were fitted with either Park Royal or MCW bodywork.

The first vehicles entered service on 2 January 1971 on routes 95 and 220 from Brixton and Shepherds Bush garages.[15] The last was withdrawn on 20 January 1993 from South Croydon Garage.

The first batch of London Fleetlines had Gardner engines, but Leyland engined the majority. Nearly 200 B20 Fleetlines were fitted with Iveco engines during the 1980s.[16]

The Fleetlines proved unpopular in London, mainly due to the slow boarding times compared to those of the open-platform AEC Routemasters. To counter this, London Transport trialled the AFC (Automated Fare Collection) turnstile entry system on some of the fleet. This was coin-operated and was intended as a quicker, second boarding option as an alternative to paying the driver. However, the AFC system proved unpopular due to unreliability and by 1979 the trial had been abandoned and the equipment removed.

Maintenance was also another major issue, as the parts became defective much sooner. Maintenance costs for rear-engined, front entrance buses were much higher than the older half-cab models due to the inability to separate the body from chassis for modular overhaul. This was also exacerbated by the presence of a 50% Government grant for new vehicles at the time, rendering withdrawal a cost effective option at or around the time of their first (seven year) recertification for service.

Withdrawal commenced in February 1979 with Leyland Titans and MCW Metrobuses purchased as replacements.[17]

Many of the sold Fleetlines were sent to dealer Ensignbus, Purfleet.[18][19][20] So many vehicles were despatched there between 1979 and 1983, that the yards became known as the 'DMS graveyards' as not enough buyers could be sought. Often vehicles could not be brought out and so rotted away where they sat, however the last of these were not finally scrapped until 1990.

However, hundreds of London Fleetlines proved popular secondhand purchases for operators throughout Britain from 1979 and during the 1980s, including the aftermath of deregulation. In some cases, the special modifications which had been built into the buses to meet London Transport's own specifications were removed at the request of the purchaser, to improve reliability and restore standardisation with other Fleetlines in their fleets. There were also a number sold for export, many going to Hong Kong.[21] In addition, nearly 50 vehicles found operations in the United States for open-top sightseeing work.

Outside London[edit]

Second in fleet size was Birmingham Corporation and its successor West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive with well over 1,000 buses, including the first single-decker Fleetlines in 1965.[22] Other constituent municipal fleets - and Midland Red [23] - also contributed Fleetlines to the WMPTE Fleetline fleet to boost the number to over 2,100.

West Midlands PTE preferred the Gardner engine, but received 220 Fleetlines with Leyland engines during 1974-76 when Gardners were hard to obtain. However, the Leylands were found to be less reliable, particularly in the hilly Black Country, and most received Gardner engines during the early 1980s. The 700 or so Fleetlines inherited by West Midlands Travel in 1986 all had Gardner engines, and the last withdrawn in 1997.

Park Royal-bodied Daimler Fleetline. Ordered by Manchester City Transport but delivered new to SELNEC Central in June 1971. It was withdrawn in 1984 by Greater Manchester Transport and is now restored in the 1974-80 livery. Seen here at Heaton Park, Manchester on Sunday 7th September 2014 during the annual Trans Lancs Rally event

Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive purchased over 500 Fleetlines in addition to a similar number inherited from its constituents (although even in such numbers they were still outnumbered by Atlanteans).

South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) operated a significant number of Fleetlines during the 1970s.

Other English PTEs, plus many fleets in the municipal, such as Cardiff Bus with 90 examples, BET Group, Scottish Bus Group and independent sectors purchased Fleetlines.

Unusual Fleetlines[edit]

Walsall Corporation specified some non-standard short-wheelbase Fleetlines, the first of which, 1 UDH [1][2], was only 25 ft 7 in long, had no front overhang and had its entrance behind the front axle. The next 29 vehicles were 27 ft 6 in long with a short front overhang and again only an entrance behind the front axle. The remaining 69 were 28 ft 6 in long, with a narrow entrance in the usual position along with the entrance behind the front axle. 1 UDH had Northern Counties bodywork with wrap-around windscreens on both decks, similar to that specified by Barton Transport on AEC Regents and a Dennis Loline.

Several operators purchased single-deck Fleetlines (Birmingham was the first, in 1965). Rotherham Corporation purchased two 33' single deck fleetlines with 45 seat Willowbrook dual purpose bodies. Mexborough and Swinton Traction Company ordered three similar vehicles with Marshall bodywork for White Rose Express services. However they were delivered to Yorkshire Traction following the takeover in October 1969. In late 1970, Yorkshire Traction purchased nine 36' Fleetlines with dual door Walter Alexander W type bodywork.

Unusual engines temporarily fitted by operators in Fleetlines in the 1960s included a Perkins V8 installed in a Walsall Fleetline, and a BMMO 10.5 litre unit in a Midland Red unit. Most remarkably, in 1972 a Rolls Royce LPG engine was fitted to a Teesside Municipal Transport Fleetline.[24]

Hong Kong[edit]

China Motor Bus purchased 336 Fleetlines between 1972 and 1980, followed in the 1980s both CMB by 207 second-hand former London Transport Fleetlines.[21] Kowloon Motor Bus purchased 450 between 1974 and 1979.[25] These were mainly deployed to Cross-Harbour Tunnel routes. On the basis of their large capacity, these were nicknamed Jumbos after the Boeing 747.[21][26]

Citybus and Argos Bus, operators of non-franchised routes and private hire services in Hong Kong, also purchased secondhand Fleetlines. Many Hong Kong Fleetlines were sold to China for further service after being withdrawn in 1980s/1990s.


A few Fleetlines have been preserved. The London Transport Museum has London Transport's DMS 1 kept in Acton Depot, while the Ensign Bus Museum has numerically the last, DM 2646, preserved in the Shillibeer livery that it carried during 1979. Other vehicles preserved include DMS 115, 132, 550, 999, 1002, 1051, 1052, 1601, 1868, 2216, 2375, 2394 & the special Ogle-designed 2456.[27]


  1. ^ First Leyland engined Daimler Commercial Motor 21 November 1969
  2. ^ Leyland engine option on Fleetline Commercial Motor 14 August 1970
  3. ^ Improvements to Daimler Fleetline Commercial Motor 28 August 1970
  4. ^ New-Design Daimler to Challenge Bristol VR? Commercial Motor 31 March 1967
  5. ^ Daimler Developments Commercial Motor 13 September 1968
  6. ^ Quietening the Fleetline Commercial Motor 1 November 1974
  7. ^ Daimer Fleetline in Birmingham Commercial Motor 23 December 1960
  8. ^ Manchester Orders 33-footers from Daimler and Leyland Commercial Motor 13 January 1967
  9. ^ LT signs order for 1600 Londoner double-deckers Commercial Motor 3 September 1971
  10. ^ LT's cast-offs could fit some one else's bill Commercial Motor 28 February 1981
  11. ^ Report doubts LT's wisdom Commercial Motor 11 February 1984
  12. ^ B20 hits the market Commercial Motor 14 April 1984
  13. ^ Adlam, James (1994). The DMS Handbook. London: Capital Transport. p. 96. ISBN 978-1854141712.
  14. ^ Daimler Fleetline Ian's Bus Stop
  15. ^ Double deckers of the future Commercial Motor 1 January 1971
  16. ^ Daimler's new life with Iveco Commercial Motor 14 January 1988
  17. ^ Premature burial for LT Fleetlines? Commercial Motor 2 February 1980
  18. ^ Cash loss for LT on Fleetline deal? Commercial Motor 6 July 1979
  19. ^ A future for Fleetline? Commercial Motor 28 February 1981
  20. ^ The History of Ensignbus Ensignbus
  21. ^ a b c "Hong Kong Buses Part 1: China Motor Bus Co" Fleetline issue 247 March 1997 page 49
  22. ^ 300 Fleetlines for Birmingham Commercial Motor 27 July 1962
  23. ^ More Fleetlines for Midland Red Commercial Motor 3 May 1968
  24. ^ LPG bus gets go ahead Commercial Motor 30 March 1973
  25. ^ Hong Kong seeks trad deckers Commercial Motor 11 November 1977
  26. ^ "Hong Kong Buses Part 3: Kowloon Motor Bus" Fleetline issue 249 July 1997 page 112
  27. ^ Leyland Fleetline DM2646 Ensignbus Vintage Fleet
  • Townsin, Daimler, Shepperton 2000

External links[edit]

Media related to Daimler Fleetline at Wikimedia Commons