A Tricentrol tribute

With my interest in the present-day bus and coach scene on the wane, I've started researching some of the many firms who used to ply their trade in my area but are sadly no longer with us. Very little evidence of the group's existence now remains and younger readers may never have heard of them as they went out of business about 30 years ago, but throughout the 1970s Tricentrol was one of the biggest and most familiar names in Bedfordshire and beyond. The Tricentrol empire was a substantial business, comprising not just a large fleet of coaches but also many other ventures in the car sales and truck industries managed from the head office in Dunstable, but has now vanished almost without trace.

I'm too young to have ever actually seen any Tricentrol vehicles in the flesh and not much has been written about the coaching side of the business, so this article has been compiled from PSV Circle records and contemporary news reports and there may be some inaccuracies as a result. Special thanks go to Frans Angevaare from the Netherlands for allowing use of photos from his extensive collection.  Read on for more on the rise and fall of Tricentrol...

A typical Tricentrol Bedford in London on one of the express services
(Photo: Frans Angevaare)


February Funfair

One thing I wasn't expecting to see last weekend was a funfair. The bonfire fairs typically mark the end of the season so most showmen return to their yards for winter during November and apart from a few small Christmas and New Year events don't go on the road again until mid to late February or sometimes March. The Kings Lynn Mart is the traditional season-starter and that didn't open until Valentine's Day, by which time this fair in Milton Keynes had been there for a week, so it is very early in the season for them to be open for business.

It was quite wet. This was as close as I could get to Denzil Danter's Volvo because of that massive puddle


Corgi buses for 2018

I've been meaning to write this for several weeks now but the announcement coincided with my busiest period at work and life has just got in the way since then, so better late than never, here at last is my review of Corgi's model bus release schedule for January to June of this year, revealed exactly a month ago. I didn't even bother reviewing the models from the second half of 2017 as there were only two of them and neither were worthy of note: yet another Borismaster and a second Harry Potter Gemini very similar to the one released the previous year. Things are slightly better this time around, with four all-new liveries, each available with a choice of two destinations. There are still no new castings though (unsurprising given the company's poor finances) and nothing of interest to me.

Wright Gemini, Brighton & Hove, Pride - all themes Corgi have already done recently


Very un-appy with eBay

My first proper post of this year is unfortunately another rant about the bizarre actions of a tech giant, this time eBay for their inexplicable decision to remove their mobile app's compatibility with older Android versions and woefully inadequate response to the resulting backlash. It all started when I did a factory reset on my phone. It's a Samsung Galaxy S2, which may be old but I've looked after it so it still works fine and perfectly suits my needs of reading emails, Facebook browsing, a few calls and texts, and the occasional photo. I deplore the wastefulness of modern society and can't stand to see perfectly functional products thrown away simply because they're old, so I can't justify replacing the old S2 to myself while it still works.

The reset installed Android Jelly Bean 4.1.2, the newest version of the operating system officially supported by this device. Everything was going well and all the apps I installed worked fine - until I tried to install the eBay app, only for the app store to refuse to download it as it is "not compatible with my device". Huh? The version I had before worked fine, going from version 4.0 to 4.1 isn't even a major upgrade and Android 4.1.2 was released only about five years ago so it's hardly an ancient obsolete operating system that no one uses anymore. Being unsupported but still usable is one thing but incompatible and totally unusable is quite another, so how come the eBay app is no longer compatible with my OS and why aren't eBay doing anything about it?


Apologies for absence

Just a brief update to let you know I'm still here and the blog hasn't been abandoned, even though it's more than two weeks into the new year and I haven't published a single post yet. I was back at work on 2nd January after an all-too-short Christmas break and straight into one of our busiest periods, which has meant a hectic schedule and working some overtime, leaving little time and energy to type up the blogs I have drafted in my head. Things are starting to calm down now so normal service will be resumed soon. I'll take this opportunity to wish all my readers a very belated Happy New Year and thank you for your support over the past three years. Rest assured there will be new material coming soon so stay tuned for updates!


Unsung heroes: CVE Omni

Travel on any modern low-floor bus and you'll soon notice a fundamental design problem. With the engine mounted at the rear, a flat floor is impossible and while the front half may be nice and low there's always an awkward arrangement of steps or ramps up to the back seats. Wouldn't it make far more sense to put the engine at the front and drive the front wheels so it's completely out of the way of the passenger compartment? Such a vehicle did exist almost thirty years ago and had the potential to revolutionise the minibus industry but sadly turned out to be a bit of a flop that has disappeared into obscurity, so I've nominated it as my final unsung hero of the year.

H389 KPY is the sole surviving Omni in PSV service
(By Pimlico Badger - EMPHAST H389KPY, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25343829)


The mysterious MilMod

I hope my readers had a good Christmas and got the gifts they wanted. I'm a difficult person to buy for so the majority of my presents were model kits from myself to add to my ever-growing stash, including a couple that are particularly unusual and not at all well documented. I thought it was worth writing something to shed a little more light on the mysterious little-known firm of MilMod, whose approach to kit production is rather individual to say the least. 

The model kit market in 1/76 scale just hasn't been the same since the demise of BW Models on proprietor Barry Wright's well-deserved retirement a few years ago. The moulds for the huge range were sold in batches to various other firms and while some former BW kits have reappeared, others have yet to emerge and their fate currently remains unknown. Thanks to a bit of detective work, some have now been traced to MilMod, with several already available and others scheduled for release next year. I had never heard of MilMod before and they seem to keep a very low profile, so who are they and what are their kits like?


Cedric's Scandinavian adventure

Here's a first for this blog, as I've been asked by someone else to write about their experiences with classic cars. This is such an epic adventure that there was no way I could say no when my friend James asked me to feature his Scandinavian road trip bringing home a rare Nissan he had just bought in Finland of all places. He spent a whole week on the road just doing his own thing, clocking up the miles and living his dream, so read on to find out how this adventure of a lifetime came about...

What a thing of beauty! I bet many of you have never seen one of these.


The Renaultvation continues

It's been a few months since the excitement of finding the Renault 6 hidden in Bob's garage and bringing it to its new home. A lot has happened since then and the car now looks very different from the dusty and forgotten relic we first clapped eyes on, although there is still a long way to go before it sees the road again. There has been a lot of frustration and the term 'because French' has been coined to describe its wilful idiosyncrasies that cause so much swearing and head-scratching, but an overwhelming outpouring of love and support from everyone who has come into contact with the car has kept us going.

It's come a long way from here. Still doesn't run though.

It quickly became the subject of the most popular thread ever on the Autoshite forum with over a hundred likes, and everyone is keen to see it recommissioned. The generosity of forum members is incredible, gladly offering advice and donating rare parts and literature to the cause for no more than the cost of postage, and massive thanks go to everyone who has contributed to the rescue of this rare car. Here's how things have progressed so far...

We're hoping it'll end up like this once more


Unsung heroes: Eagle Premier

This month the unsung heroes series returns to the USA with an especially bizarre choice that non-American readers will probably never have heard of and even Americans are likely to have forgotten. The Eagle Premier is a product of the 1980s, a dark time in US automotive history that created some frankly terrible cars, and if remembered at all is often cited as a perfect example of these with its unreliability and dull-as-ditchwater styling - a site called TheStreet.com even declared it the worst car of all time. I feel that is completely unfair: while the Premier may seem pretty boring it was actually very competent and quite innovative by American standards and I can think of cars that are far, far worse. Read on for the fascinating story behind this Franco-American crossbreed and how it should have shaken up the US motor industry. 

The perfect combination of American and European? It looks a bit like an Audi if you squint
(Image: allpar.com)

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