Saturday, 17 November 2007
The AEC (Associated Equipment Co.) of Southall had commenced production of the “Regent” double decker in 1929. Regents in various forms remained in production until 1968 when AEC ceased production of double-deckers, having no rear-engined model to offer the market. Devon General bought its first examples in 1932 having already been purchasers of the Regent’s single deck equivalent, the “Regal”. The company remained loyal to AEC through the years buying all variants of the type up until 1959 when, requiring a rear engined vehicle, they “defected” to Leyland.Following the well documented shortcomings of Devon General’s first Leyland Atlantean deliveries the company returned to AEC when looking for a reliable, large-capacity double decker. To this end eight heavyweight AEC Regent Fives with 30 foot long front entrance Willowbrook 69 seat bodies were delivered to the company between January and April 1964.
The eight were fitted with the AEC AV590 engine of 9.6 litres, were numbered 501-508 and were registered 501-508RUO.They began their service lives in April 1964 on Torquay circular routes Nos. 50 and 55 but could soon be seen on many Newton Abbot and Exeter services. On 1st Jan 1971, following the NBC takeover, all eight became the property of the Western National Omnibus Co. and were repainted from Devon General maroon livery into NBC poppy red. In January 1973 No.504 was badly damaged in an accident at Tipton St. John following the unfortunate death at the wheel of its driver. It was repaired and returned to service. In March 1976 Nos.507/8 were converted to open-top at Newton Rd. garage. Both were repainted into the same livery as the nine “sea-dog” convertible Atlanteans and given names. No.507 became “Prince Regent” whilst 508 was named “Regency Princess”. The intention had been to use them on the 137 Torquay to Dawlish Warren limited stop service but sea-dogs virtually monopolised the route. Consequently the two converts actually saw little service use and in 1978 they were both withdrawn and sold to London Transport. Withdrawal of the remaining six vehicles commenced at the beginning of 1980. Nos. 502/3/5 were stored at Newton Abbot’s power station site and 501/4/6 at Torquay’s Newton Rd. garage. In March No.504 had its engine removed to provide a replacement for another vehicle and by July No.506 had been cut up on site by Western National staff. So, do any survive? Luckily the answer is yes, three. No.503 is currently undergoing restoration by a member of the Devon General Society and No.507 is still earning a living running for Chepstow Classic Buses of Gwent. Fellow open topper No.508 has moved to the sun and is now operated by Big Red Tours of San Luis, California. One other example, No.505, was initially secured for preservation but was unfortunately sold on to a local farm where it was used as staff transport for fruit pickers. Whilst under this ownership it was regrettably destroyed by arsonists.