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A 1965 example of the largest AEC Regent V model bought by Devon General, 513 was bodied rather unusually for the company by Park Royal (the last time Devon General had bought Park Royal double deckers new was in 1945).

Devon General were big users of the Regent V, buying 91 of them in 2 periods, from 1955 to 1957 and from 1962 to 1966.

1965 AEC  Regent V  CTT513C

By 1962 the trend in BET companies was increasingly towards the new generation of rear-engined buses that offered greater capacity. Devon General had been a pioneer of the Leyland Atlantean, taking 56 of them between 1959 and 1961. However, they had experienced significant teething troubles and in 1962 the company resumed buying the trusty Regent V instead

The Regent V model evolved during that time, with heavier and longer chassis offering more powerful engines, and bodybuilders began to offer enhancements such as fluorescent tubes for interior lighting.

513 represents the model’s penultimate evolution, being equipped with the 9.6 litre AV590 engine; the more powerful 11.3 litre AV691 engine was offered from 1966.

This Regent V renaissance featured a range of bodybuilders: 7 in 1962 bodied by Weymann, 16 in 1963 bodied by Metro-Cammell, and 8 in 1964 bodied by Willowbrook.

Quite why so many bodybuilders were involved is a matter for conjecture (perhaps delivery dates were a factor), but the list was about to grow even longer with Park Royal.

Why Park Royal? Well, between 1962 and 1963 Park Royal bodied 39 AEC Regent Vs for East Kent (out of a final total of 161) and as can be seen from this letter from The Bus Archive, they were keen to have a share of Devon General’s order book.

1981 Restoration at Oxford

Transport Museum

2007 Re-paint

As a member of the BET group, Devon General had the benefit of the work carried out by the BET Federation ‘behind the scenes’, agreeing standard specifications with chassis manufacturers and bodybuilders in order to obtain discounts for volume orders.

BET companies were, nevertheless, given some latitude to choose the particular chassis / body combination they wanted and Devon General were free to choose vehicles which they felt suited their operational needs.

On this occasion Park Royal were successful, and at the Devon General Board meeting on 28th November 1963, 6 x AEC Regent V 2D3RA type chassis with 69 seat 30 feet long Park Royal bodies were approved for purchase at a cost each of £6,200. These became fleet numbers 509 to 514 (CTT509-514C). Quite a long lead time applied to these orders, as delivery was not anticipated until 1965. Perhaps a factor was that the AEC and Park Royal factories were still churning out Routemasters for London Transport at the time.

Park Royal didn’t get their hoped-for repeat order, though. For 1966 Devon General reverted to a mixed order of 6 Atlanteans and 5 Regent Vs for their double deck intake, this time bodied by Willowbrook and MCW respectively. By 1969 the model was out of production. Not only were high capacity single deckers suited for one person operation increasingly in favour, but the introduction in 1968 of New Bus Grant offering a 25% (later 50%) government contribution to the purchase price of rear-engined buses, and the rationalisation of the AEC product range that accompanied the creation of the British Leyland Motor Corporation the same year, effectively brought the era of front-engined buses to a close.

The design that Park Royal produced for Devon General clearly evolved from that produced in large quantities for East Kent, but it had deeper skirt panels and a less severe appearance, having perhaps benefitted from styling changes made for the 19 Sheffield Corporation Regent Vs delivered in 1963, and the 5 delivered to South Wales Transport in 1964. Devon General also specified a luggage rack in the lower saloon and embellished the rears of its Regents with an aluminium strip.

513 went into service from Sidmouth depot in May 1965, running on Service 9 to Exeter.

With 128 horsepower at hand from its AV590 engine and a synchromesh gearbox, an AEC Regent V was easy to drive and the Park Royal body offered a bright interior for passengers. And what a glorious sound it made from the gearbox!

513 went on to also work from Exeter, Exmouth, Newton Abbot and Torquay depots, but the type was most strongly associated with Service 2, Exeter – Dawlish – Teignmouth – Newton Abbot (later numbered 187). 513 survived the transition into Western National ownership in 1971, and the application of National Bus Company poppy red livery in 1976, and finished its operational career at Exeter depot on 31st October 1980.

It was soon purchased for preservation by members of the Oxford Bus Museum, who restored it to original Devon General colours, and then passed to the West of England Transport Collection at Winkleigh.

Subsequent owners spent much time, money and effort to keep it roadworthy and it remains in very good condition today. The present owner purchased it in 2017 from the estate of the late Philip Platt and placed it on loan to the Trust so that it could be looked after alongside the other AEC vehicles in the Trust’s collection.