JVW 430 Returns Home

JVW 430 Returns Home
Originally published in “Request Stop”, CPTMS Newsletter, December 1988
Written by Douglas Payne

On 14 February 1944, JVW 430, a Bristol K5G chassis carrying a new design of Eastern Coach Works Lowbridge body was licenced for the road by Essex County Council. JVW was a combination of a pre-war chassis assembled during World War 2 and a prototype post-war lowbridge ECW body built at Erthlingborough near Northampton.

During the war, virtually all vehicle production ceased other than for the war effort as factories were turned into production sites for munitions, and because of its proximity to the East coast,  all work at the Lowestoft bodybuilding factory  was transferred inland to be further away from the clutches of a certain Mr Hitler. After the war, the Lowestoft factory resumed bodybuilding and the double deckers produced were to the same pattern as JVW, though some were produced in Highbridge layout.

JVW 430 had been licenced in the name of the Eastern National Omnibus Company Limited, and was to spend the first twelve months of its life painted green with no relieving colour, touring England and Wales as a demonstrator vehicle together with a sister bus in Highbridge layout which later entered traffic service with Western National as their JTA 271. The Western National vehicle was later re-bodied and, unlike JVW, did not live long enough to enjoy preservation.  After touring the Tilling companies as a demonstrator, JVW returned to Eastern National at Chelmsford and was repainted into Tilling Green with cream relief and ‘silent black’ lining, entering service from Chelmsford’s Duke Street garage. It must be explained that ‘silent black’ was actually a very dark green colour which was later replaced by black.

Drivers were impressed with JVW which had by now received its first fleet number 3885 which it carried on a rather large cast iron plate on the steel front panel below the driver’s windscreen. A wooden sliding cab door was fitted, which could be clipped open in hot weather. Following its stint at Chelmsford, 3885 operated out of Bishops Stortford and Maldon garages before moving to Braintree on January 7, 1956. It was at Braintree where JVW was to record its highest mileage in service while at one garage. By the time it was allocated to Braintree, JVW had lost its large 3885 fleet plate and had received two pressed aluminium fleet number plates carrying its new number, 1274. One was fixed to the front panel as before, and the other to the rear wall below the platform window. Eastern National’s fleet renumbering had taken place on July 18, 1954 when with ex-Westcliff, City and Hicks Brothers vehicles a common numbering policy was adopted.

Between March 25 and June 1, 1959, 1274 as JVW had now become, was de-licenced and entered Central Works at New Writtle Street, Chelmsford for modifications to bring it into line with the rest of the double deck fleet. The front destination screen was modified and the glass was now rubber mounted in an effort to stop water getting into the cab in wet weather. The top deck windows were also rubber mounted, together with the side and lower deck front windows. The rear destination box remained unaltered. Originally, a narrow nearside destination aperture had been in evidence over the rearmost lower deck nearside window, but this had been panelled over along with a small route number box above the platform in October 1958.

At the time of the window modifications, it was thought it might be possible to alter access to the driver’s cab, but in view of the vehicle’s age and pending withdrawal from the fleet it was considered uneconomical and drivers of larger proportions were to struggle in and out as before.

JVW soldiered on at Braintree and was to finish its working life with Eastern National on contract work for the building of the Bradwell Nuclear Power Station. It remained in the fleet just long enough to receive its third fleet number, 2201, on Saturday August 8, 1964, and carried this until it was delicenced on October 3, 1964.

JVW 430 then sat around until sold for preservation on November 21, 1964. After sale, it attended several historic vehicle rallies and was also used as a “Wedding Special” on several occasions. After a few short-term owners, including John Sayer during whose ownership it had been stored inside at Canvey for a time. John lived some 40 miles from Canvey and was unable to give the vehicle as much of his time as he would have liked, hence its sale to the Braintree-based ENPG in November 1974. JVW became their second vehicle, joining ex-Eastern National 1407, the 1953 Bristol KSW5G with rear platform doors. 1407 had enjoyed a busy life working for many years on the Limited Stop service 322 from Braintree to London Kings Cross and in preservation kept the Group very busy.


JVW was showing distinct signs of suffering from being stored outside for much of the time and was in a sorry condition at this time. Several upright pillars on the wood-framed body had rotted beyond existence, and the nearside top deck supporting rail needed major surgery. All this, and plenty more besides, led to the Braintree Group reluctantly deciding to prioritise 1407 and JVW was purchased in 1977 by Tony Langley, also a member of the Braintree branch of Eastern National Preservation Group. When Tony bought JVW, it was already partly stripped –all seats had been removed and it looked very sad indeed compared to its last rally appearance in Ipswich in 1971.

Four side windows on the top deck had been smashed and had to be replaced together with the lower half of the driver’s windscreen. Lights had to be modified to comply with the law. Canvey’s electrician had already converted the headlamps to double dip, but rear braking lights and flashing indicators as well as windscreen washers had to be fitted. The brakes were re-lined, a heavy job on the rear as the hub and drum are removed as one unit. Mice had even nested in one of the rear drums! The steering wheel was re-built as it was bent and cracked, the steering box had a loose drop arm and was leaking gear oil, and the engine had a split water jacket. The radiator had a large split in its bottom tank, the results of frost and not fully draining the system. A new water pump was fitted, new driver’s cab floor boards were made as was a new chequered plate over the front offside mudguard. Also, an oil gauge and replacement vacuum gauge were fitted, and the vehicle was completely repainted inside –including seat frames and wooden floors –and outside including adverts. Underneath, JVW was cleaned and silvered, and all seats were removed, beaten, cleaned with a solution of ‘1001’ and repaired wherever possible. The list goes on. The fuel tank was drained and the Autovac system was serviced. The nearside front mudguard was suffering from the ‘galloping metal maggot’ and had a large hole in the area of its top mounting bracket which was repaired with a metal plate.

The restoration of JVW, reunited with Braintree depot plates and 1274 fleet plates, took almost 3000 hours almost single-handed. The words ‘almost single-handed’ are used because Braintree Garage staff provided helpful information and support, especially Robin Abbott who undertook some of the harder tasks including heaving the heavy read hubs about.

August 1982 saw Tony Langley debut a restored JVW 430 and no early means of rallying. Old friend Ray Mead joined Tony to rally JVW between 1983 and 1985, with Ray doing most of the driving. During this time, over 3000 miles were covered with no problems. On Monday, July 21, 1986, JVW was sold to a South Wales dealer.


During the mid-1980s, the Canvey-based ENPG was hopeful that should JVW come up for sale, the Group would be able to purchase her. This wasn’t to be, and JVW went to Wales. But the Grapevine worked its magic and in October 1988, a tip was received that JVW was being sold on and an approach was made. Unfortunately, ENPG was 12 hours too late, as Stagecoach Perth had beaten ENPG to it. There the matter rested until November, when member Neil Trump heard that JVW may be up for sale again, and contacted ENPG Chairman, Joe Long, to see if the Group was still interested.

Joe instructed ENPG Treasurer, Frank Spence, to ‘go for it’ should the rumour be true. A phone call to Stagecoach next morning confirmed that they were willing to sell or even part-exchange JVW for a Bristol FLF. Unfortunately, the Group couldn’t lay its hands on an FLF for a reasonable price. The other bit of bad news was that the asking price for JVW had gone up to a shade under £5000. After much head scratching by Frank, the conclusion was that ENPG could afford JVW –just. We then kept it quiet in case someone else came along and offered a higher price. As an aside, at this time it was thought that JVW might have a “ticket” on her which might have made her of interest to a certain bus company with another vintage Bristol. As it turned out, JVW didn’t have a “ticket” but only a Class 5, but at the time we didn’t know that.

Anyway, ENPG was successful and Joe Long and Arnie Brown offered to go up and collect her, which they did by travelling up on the overnight sleeper train on Friday, November 11th1988, arriving in Perth at 6.15am on Saturday. In true preservation style, things never go quite to plan. First, on Friday evening, Joe and Arnie went to Basildon station to purchase their tickets, only to find the booking office closed. This meant a trip to Laindon station where, after the booking clerk had struggled for half an hour to get the computer to work, they were successful in getting the relevant tickets. The problem with the computer, as it turned out, was actually a problem with its operator, as the clerk was omitting the full point after inputting Arnie’s initial!

The problems only began there. On arrival at Stagecoach in Perth, there were blank looks from the security guards on the gate. Nope, they knew nothing about two characters turning up to collect a bus! In his notes, Joe never said what kind of reception they got but it couldn’t have been that unfriendly because after a few phone calls –including one to a lady who wasn’t amused at being woken up at 6.30am –the duty fitter was located and called in. Once JVW was found, her battery was flat, there was very little diesel in the tank, there were no papers in the cab and to cap it all, the wrecker couldn’t be started to give JVW a jump or snatch start. By the time all of this was sorted out and the dynamic duo were on their way, it was 8.30am, two hours later than the hoped for start time.

After a quick breakfast break at the end of the M80, the next stop was Carlisle for fuel plus a quick cuppa and a sandwich. Apart from these two stops and two other quick ones to phone in progress, they didn’t stop until they reached Canvey, some 452 miles and eighteen hours after departing Perth. Well done! It would have been a challenging journey even in a car with modern comforts, let alone a (then) 44-year old bus with no heating and a top speed of just 34mph!

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