Over the years, Black Prince managed to build a well earned reputation for operating "quirky" vehicles, some of which were not only decidedly different, but started life as a challenge born out of Morley's "special projects" team, namely the Black Prince workshops!..
In the stories below, we aim to detail each of these unique machines-which were built, converted or re-constructed by either an outside contractor such as Plaxtons Coachbuilders, to Brian and Dave's specification, or tackled in house at Fountain Street, or other earlier premises-which allowed the fleet at the Morley business develop into the rich tapestry of buses and coaches we came to know and love!..
The story starts with ECK885E, an incredible story of a coach which was re-born and survives to this day, thanks to the determination of Brian Crowther
CHASSIS-Leyland Leopard PSU3/4R 700037
BODY-Plaxton Panorama 673297 C49F (Original Body) New May 1967
BODY-Plaxton Supreme IV 8111LC048/S C53F (New Body April 1981)
In May 1979, ECK885E, a stylish Leyland Leopard/Plaxton Panorama coach was purchased from National Travel.
The Leopard had been delivered new to Ribble Motor Services in May 1965.
In the Black Prince fleet, ECK was entrusted with private hire work and also often found itself operating "On Hire" contracted to it's former owner, National Travel, on the Blackpool Express service 298, from Morley to Blackpool via the Spen Valley towns.
One of the private hire duties which saw ECK regularly employed, was a contract to transport Jewish families between North Leeds and Manchester Airport, connecting with the Tel Aviv flights, returning with arrivals from Tel Aviv and taking the families home to North Leeds.
Sadly, on a fateful night in 1980, a driver was involved in an incident on the M62, in the Manchester area, when the coach hit some standing water underneath a bridge, spinning the vehicle around and causing the back end to collide with a concrete overbridge.
ECK sustained damage to the rear of the saloon, but-ever a trooper, the driver continued to Manchester to collect the waiting families, who, way before the days of "Claims Direct", were happy to return home to Leeds in a Leopard with a severely damaged rear end!
On arrival at the depot in Texas Street, Brian had chance to "Discuss" events with the driver concerned, then, with his workforce, deciding the best course of action would be to strip off the Panorama bodywork, and despatch ECK to Plaxton for re-building, with the new 1981 style "Supreme IV" bodywork, effectively gaining a brand new coach built on to the original 1967 chassis.
Brian also embarked on other areas of modernisation, taking the opportunity to upgrade the existing Leyland 0.600 9.6 litre with the newer 0.680 10.1 litre version, resulting in the "new" ECK returning from Plaxton in Scarborough in April 1981, to the latest specification.
Other chassis modifications included an upgrade of the gearbox, from the original 4 speed version to the new 5 speed, the modern luxury of power steering and the conversion of the handbrake from mechanical ratchet to air, bringing ECK right up to date.
In the image to the right, the Leyland Leopard chassis is shown being shunted by two members of staff, clearly having a whale of a time driving something a little "out of the ordinary!"
The chassis had been stripped down in a farm owned by a friend of Brian Crowther, located on the outskirts of Leeds, on the area now occupied by the "B&Q Depot" in Cottingley, which is part of the area shown in these two photographs.
The lower image highlights the comprehensive restoration of the chassis, smartly painted in silver and with a new type of gear selector in position, as it is being towed away by a BMC tow truck.
The site of the image is now roughly occupied by "Aldi", Ring Road Beeston!.
On arrival back at Morley, ECK was re-instated to traffic, sporting the super stylish Plaxton Supreme 4 style of body, contemporary for 1981 and a step up in luxury from the previous Plaxton body.
The coach looked brand new, hiding its 1967 vintage very well, the only clue being the original registration mark.
By clicking on the left/right arrows in the photo gallery, you can see some period images of the re-built ECK885E, including interior images showing the very "green" style!.
ECK formed an integral part of the fleet at Black Prince, operating a variety of duties including private hire contracts and Blackpool Express work until 1986.
ECK finally found itself being sold on in the October of that year, heading to Camm of Nottingham, before moving across the water to Ireland later in life, becoming re-registered in the Irish format, 67GI.
This incredible coach, an absolute credit to Black Prince, was to re-surface in 2016, as detailed below, in Ireland, in one piece!.
ECK885E was tracked down to a rural location in the far west of Ireland, where it has been stored outside for several years, after it's regular use ended when the owner decided to cease operating his Dublin express service in 2001, sadly because of regulation and competition.
The Leopard has been ravaged by the elements to an extent, but has seemingly stood up remarkably well to the harsh coastal weather.
Although the interior now has a different set of seats from it's original 1981 conversion, it was great to see such orignial features as the chrome gear selector column still in situ, original radio system and even original worksplates from the local coach dealer, Stanley Hughes, who financed the coach Re-Body in 1981.
By clicking on the images in the slideshow below, you can view some snaps taken whilst we had chance to visit the coach, compare them to the original views already previously seen in this history page.
Images from June 2016 taken by Bradley McMullan.
In 2016, by twist of fate, it just so happened that David and myself noticed a photograph of a very familiar looking coach pop up on the popular photography sharing website "Flickr".
The photo was courtesy of an Irish bus enthusiast who very kindly confirmed that the coach in question was as suspected, non other than the very same, ECK885E, now known as 67GI.
Much excitement followed, with the hasty booking of a road trip to Ireland arranged, in an effort to track down the Leyland Leopard and see for ourselves that it really does still exist!.
On arrival at the correct location, we were greeted with a wonderful warm Irish welcome, served tea and lunch by the family who own the Leopard (Thank You guys!) and told several entertaining stories about the history of ECK since leaving English soil in the 1980s'.
The Family certainly held a huge amount of affection for ECK, looking forward to a possible restoration program, when funds permit, and the current use of the coach as a storage shed for family items is renegotiated :-)
It was a pleasure to find the coach and see such amazing Black Prince history in the flesh-the image below showing a very happy Dave Crowther, posing with the re-discovered Leyland Leopard!.
A Morley Miracle!
The story of V3, a most incredible special project!.
In the November of 1992, V3 arrived in Morley, as a twisted wreck following a rollover collision in London. Brian and David decided to restore this unique bus, the project will be detailed on these pages later. V3 now enjoys retirement with Roger Wright, The London Bus Company.