Bus Stop Classics: Bedford VAL (1963-1973) – English Charmer

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Let me begin by issuing an apology to our good colleagues Roger Carr and Johannes Dutch for “poaching on their territory” – I typically stick to reviewing vehicles from North America or Japan; areas I’m somewhat familiar with.  I have no first-person experience with this European coach, but I came across it when researching the Sultana TM 40 and it just immediately grabbed my attention…

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It’s a Bedford VAL series intercity coach – I understand they were quite common in the UK in the 1960’s and ‘70’s.  My first impression was it looked exactly like something that came from the imagination of Gerry Anderson or his collaborator, Derek Meddings.  It’s just a strikingly different design – with all sorts of interesting details to catch your attention.

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Leyland 0.400                                                                          Bedford 466

It was built in two series; the Model 14 produced from 1963 to 1966, and the Model 70 from ‘67 – ‘73.  The main difference between the two was the powertrain; the Model 14 used a Leyland 0.400, while the Model 70 used Bedford’s own 466 cu in engine – both were six cylinder inline diesels.

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Obviously the twin-steer, tandem front axles stand out –  their use allowed for smaller diameter, lighter wheels which resulted in a lower floor height.

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But just as striking are the large windows aligned side-by-side, making an extremely open and airy interior.  As was typical in the UK during this period, various different coachwork manufacturers provided bodies that went over the basic chassis.  This is an early Model 14 with a “Paramount” body by Plaxton – Plaxton provided a majority of the bodies through the 10 years of production.

Bedford VAL 1969 with Plaxton Panorama Elite Coachwork for Abbey Coachways (Selby). The Panorama Elite was launched in 1968 designed by Ogle design and continued until the Panorama Supreme of 1974. The Bedford VAL chassis had been launched in the late 1960s with unusual 'Chinese Six' wheelbase giving four front steering wheels.

This is a later 1969 Plaxton bodied Model 70 – named, accurately, the “Panorama Elite.”

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Duple Coachbuilders was also a major supplier…this is a “Viceroy”…

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And a Duple “Super Vega Major”…note the skylights in the roof…

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Harrington also provided coachwork – this is a Model 70 “Legionnaire.”

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Custom bodies could also be specified…that looks like Jack Brabham in the middle of the three gents in the door.

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The coach came in a single axle version also (Bedford VAM), and while attractive, loses a great deal of its distinctiveness…

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These are wonderful buses with lots of character…

…next trip to the UK I’m definitely going to look one up.