A Unique Eastern National FLF
by Peter Oughton
Among 184, 30ft long (9.Im) Bristol FLF buses delivered to Eastern National between 1960 and 1966, none stands out more for uniqueness than 2826(JHK 461C) an FLF6G that joined the company in March 1965. It was different from all the other FLFs due to having all its bodywork panels produced in glass-fibre instead of the usual aluminium used by E.C.W. in bodywork construction.
Glass fibre was used to reduce the overall weight of the bus for improved fuel economy and to allow for any damaged panels to be repaired more easily.
It seems to have had a normal service life (2 Bristol SCs also with glass—fibre bodies for Crosville and Eastern Counties were also normal time— expired buses) and was withdrawn in November 1980 and sold to Southdown along with three other FLFs for spares
From new the bus was distinguishable by a solitary cream band that later became a feature on all standard FLFs from 1966 until production ceased in 1968.It may also have been the first FLF with an inverted ‘T’ type rear destination indicator and revised front bulkhead, the bodywork acting as a ‘design exercise’ for future buses. The single cream band had no black lining and it had a chrome strip above the upper deck windows. 2826 was much lighter than a standard FLF at 8 tons 4cwts 3pounds,compared to a standard bodied FLF at 8.5.1. which made it almost 1 cwt
From memory, I can actually recall seeing the bus in Brentwood High Street not long after delivery and the gleaming paintwork and smoother look to the sides due to an absence of panel joins certainly gave a sleek appearance but I was surprised by it only having one cream band. I also seem to recall that it had rear wheel discs, either the same colour as the body or the chrome type of wheel embellishments found on coaches; Tilling companies at this time were putting chrome wheel—covers onto the rear wheels of some double—deck buses.
The livery colours of the Bristol SCs with glass—fibre bodies were achieved by colour impregnating the resin into the glass—fibre material. The book ECW 1946—65 published by Venture details this method. Eastern National’s FLF however looked to have had the panels painted in a similar way to a standard body judging from the superb finish achieved by E.C.W .It might have had the original finish painted over as pictures of the Bristol SCs show: the finish of the glass—fibre bodies to be fairly dull, although this may have occurred due to weathering
I’m quite sure the vehicle I saw in Brentwood was the subject of this article and not a later FLF of the 1966 batch that had the later year suffix to their registrations. On the day I saw it 2826 would have been on either a 251 or 151 service, both at that time London to Southend routes with the 151 traveling via Basildon, Hadleigh and Leigh(part covering the former 15 service) and the 251 via Wickford, Shotgate and Rayleigh. Each route went its separate ray from Billericay, Sun Corner.
An April 1967 ENEG News Sheet gave garage allocations for ENOC depots and shows the bus allocated to Basildon, which suggests that it could have been used on the 151 if garaged here from new.
Unfortunately, the group doesn’t hold a photo of 2628 but one of Bill Cansick’s is on the SCT61 web site – click here.