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Amongst the last of the Bristol RE buses built by BCV were a run of around 150 for the Christchurch Municipality in New Zealand. A number of these were bodied by ECW (with kits sent from the UK), a number by Hawke, a local body builder, but similar to the ECW design, and 96 with a radical design by Hess of Switzerland, also sent to NZ as kits. Not only were the bodies of these buses different from any other RE, this batch of chassis also had spring parking brakes as opposed to the ratchet type, and were the only RE models with this feature, with the exception of one built for Bristol Omnibus Company as fleet number 1338. All of New Zealand’s Bristol REs had the fixed head Leyland 510 series engine, more familiar in the UK as being fitted to the Leyland National.
Following several visits to New Zealand to see the former Christchurch REs, which by this time were operating with a number of independent operators, principally on school buses, Mike Walker was able to secure one example for export to the UK. After having some restoration work undertaken in New Zealand, the bus departed Auckland in November 2010, arriving in the UK in January 2011. Certification for operation within the UK was a protracted process, but the bus was eventually tested and licensed for use on the UK roads in early August 2011, just in time to be unveiled to the public at the 2011 Brislington rally. Formerly Christchurch 538, JD4954, the bus is now registered XOU396T, and is in the livery of Bayline Coaches, Tauranga, North island, with whom it last operated “down under”.
Although the bus is owned by Mike Walker, she is not technically part of the Bristol Vintage Bus Group (www.bvbg.org.uk) as she does not fit the profile of the Collection, although she often supports Collection vehicles at running days.