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Plaxton, Scarborough (GB)
Firmaet grundlagt: 1907
Produktion 19??: -
Firmaets postadresse: Plaxton Coachbuilders Ltd., Plaxton Park, Cayton Low RD - Eastfield, GB-YO11 3BY Scarborough, England, tlf. +44 1723 - 58 15 00
The Plaxton of today is the successor to a business founded in Scarborough in 1907 by Frederick William Plaxton.
The business was founded as a joinery workshop, and expanded into building contracting. As a building contractor, Plaxtons built a number of notable buildings in Scarborough. Soon after World War I Plaxtons diversified and began to build charabanc bodies on Ford Model T chassis. Of more importance at the time was the construction of automobile bodywork. This included bodywork for Rolls-Royce, Sunbeam and Daimler, but principally for Crossley car chassis. This activity continued through the 1920s, but the depression of 1929-1933 created difficulties for manufacture of luxury automobiles. As a result, the manufacture of charabanc, and later coach bodies became more important through the late 1920s and early 1930s. Customers during this time tended to be local to the Scarborough area, Scarborough being a popular seaside resort.
By 1936 the company felt justified in construction of a large new manufacturing facility in Seamer Road, Scarborough. This allowed increased production, and Plaxtons became popular with many independent operators throughout Northern England. Many of these operators purchased their vehicles through independent dealers, rather than directly from the factory. In this regard, Plaxton's sales were through Lancashire Motor Traders Ltd of Manchester and Arlington Motor Co Ltd of London. The company became known as F.W. Plaxton & Son by 1937, as the founder's son, also named Frederick William joined the company at the age of 18. FW Plaxton junior was to be known as Eric to avoid confusion with his father.
Plaxtons built a number of different coach designs through the 1930s, until settling on a distinctive house style. The style typically consisted of a very rounded front profile at the windscreen area with side windows that sloped backwards at the front, were upright at the center, and sloped forward at the back. Bodywork for the Bedford WTB chassis was particularly distinctive, sloping severally from the bottom of the front wheel arch to the roofline, leaving the "bullnose" radiator grille protruding. The rear also sloped prominently. The WTB chassis was very popular choice for operators at that time, together with the Dodge RBF and SBF. Leyland and AEC chassis were also popular for larger coaches, notably the Leyland Tiger PS1 and AEC Regal III.
On the outbreak of World War II in 1939, coach production halted and the factory was turned into a munitions factory under the control of the Ministry of Aircraft Production. Many records from the early years were lost when an incendiary bomb set fire to the Seamer Rd factory in 1943 causing much damage.
Plaxton launched a new design - the Panorama Elite - at the 1968 Commercial Motor Show in London. This essentially set the basic design of British coaches for the next 14 years. The design was stylish, with long sleek lines and gentle curve in the vertical plane. The windows were gasket glazed and the glass gently curved in the vertical plane to suit the body curve. The rear again used the large soup plate lights of the Panorama I, and the front grill was also from the Panorama I.
The interior of The new Panorama Elite was to the usual high standard that everyone had come to expect from a leading coachbuilder like Plaxtons. It made more use of laminate then before but this was tastefully specified & well balanced. The interior skirt panels, racks and front cabinet made extensive use of this easily worked & easy to maintain material. The analogue clock in the front dome was flanked either side by small square controllable air vents. The dashboard was improved and made use of a panel of rocker switches infront of the driver with each switch designation lighting for night time operation. Previous dashboards hid the switches in places inaccessible whilst moving. Ventilation was again improved though using the same design of moulded air output & light assembly as the final version of the Panorama I. The racks were trimmed with laminate instead of using vinyl like material from the previous design.
The first major update of the Panorama Elite was unrivaled at the 1970 Commercial Motor Show at Earls Court London. The changes though relatively subtle were very relevant to a product that had so far enjoyed wide acclaim and sale.
The Panorama Elite II range built on the success of the Panorama I and Panorama Elite. The front grill was squared up although it still used the same twin headlight layout. The first bay on the near side was tidied up so the top of the window was in line with all the other side windows. Parcel racks were redesigned so the supply of fresh air and light output was more readily available. The service units were now mounted front to back instead of side to side and were much slimmer to maximize on headroom when leaving the seats. Crash padding was provided along the inner side of the racks in the form of black PVC squares filled with padding. The dashboard was again improved as was the front cabinet. The rear of the vehicle still used the soup plates from the previous range.
The Panorama Elite III was the last in the ELITE series. Improvements continued to the basic Elite design, this included rear lighting, rear emergency door and subtle changes to the front grill. The rear emergency door was brought about by changes in legislation and did improve the offside appearance of the Elite. The rear lights abandoned the soup plates in favour of tall lozenge shaped lights and the name badges were re-located from between the side bright metal strips at the back to the front just behind the front door.
All three marques of the Elite range were available with bus grant specification front doors and interiors, although this option was late for Panorama Elite and only a few built. It was however a very popular option for the MkII and MkIII. To compliment this destination blinds were also available in both the front grill and on the roof or front dome for front radiator chassis. This became known as "the Bristol Dome" due to the popularity of orders from National Express (BET etc)for coaches on Bristol LHL chassis.
The major competitor for the Panorama Elite III was the Duple Dominant launched at the 1972 commercial motor show London. The Duple was of all steel design and was obviously based on the Elite as many of the attributes designed in Scarborough were copied. That said it sold quite well but never caught up with the Elite. The mere fact that at the launch only one Dominant was available due to a long strike at the Blackpool factory couldn't have helped much. That was Duples most important launch for years.
By the end of the 1970s the British coach scene was dominated by two similar vehicles - the Plaxton Supreme and the Duple Dominant. In the early 1980s coach services over 30 miles were deregulated and there was an increasing attempt by some operators to compete with the railways and airlines for express and intercity travel. As a result there was a move away from light-weight chassis by Bedford and Ford to heavier-duty chassis from Leyland and Volvo, and an emphasis on improved comfort and amenities. There was also a growing interest from operators in imports from Europe due to their stylish eye-catching designs that attracted passengers. In particular, designs from Neoplan and Van Hool received much attention.
In response, Plaxton returned to Ogle Design to create a new look for their coach products. The result was the Plaxton Paramount, which appeared at the 1982 British Motor Show. The Paramount was a squarer design than the Supreme, with cleaner lines, a flatter roof line and a distinctive "feature window" just behind the front wheelarch. From there the waistline sloped down to meet the deeper windscreen. The new style was considerably more modern and was well received. Initially there were two versions, the Paramount 3200 (available in 8, 10, 11 and 12-metre lengths) and the high-floor Paramount 3500 (available in 11 and 12 metre lengths). To the surprise of Plaxtons the majority of early orders for the Paramount were for the 3500 high-floor option.
In 1984 the design was adapted to produce the Paramount 4000 double-decker coach, initially built on Neoplan underframes. Neoplan's Skyliner coach had popularised the use of the double-deck coach layout, often with a galley, toilet and other amenities on the lower deck. By comparison the Plaxton design was somewhat more utilitarian, usually more focused on higher capacity than on luxury. The design later appeared on chassis by Volvo and Scania.
The mid-1980s brought difficult times for Plaxton. A decline in orders due to the economic climate was compounded by management and production problems. The seasonal nature of coach production made recruiting difficult. In March 1987 Plaxton was taken over by Kirkby Bus & Coach, who were Plaxton's largest dealer. Kirkby soon invested in modernising the Scarborough factory and addressed some industrial relations problems.
In 1989 Plaxtons bought Henlys, a company that included motor dealers and Coleman Milne, makers of funeral hearses. The name of the company was changed to Plaxton Group PLC.
In July 1989 Plaxton bought the manufacturing rights for the coach products of its main domestic competitor, Duple for £4m. This included the jigs for the Duple 300 and the Duple 425 integral. Duple Services Ltd., the spares and repair business, was also purchased.
The 320 was re-worked by Plaxtons at Scarborough later in 1989 and 25 were built and sold as the Plaxton 321.
A modified version of the 425 design was introduced in 1991 and was built by Carrosserie Lorraine, a French coachbuilder Plaxton had recently purchased from Iveco. Only 12 vehicles were manufactured, and Carrosserie Lorraine was subsequently closed in 1992.
The Dennis Dart, released in 1989, had been a runaway success, so in 1991 the Plaxton Pointer midibus was announced, this was quite a utilitarian, square body. This was followed by the Plaxton Verde, which Plaxton hoped would match the success of its smaller sister, but it failed to capture the market quite as much as the Pointer, and it was clear that the bus industry wasn't buying 12m single-deckers in as large numbers anymore. Later that year new coach bodies, the Plaxton Premiere and Plaxton Excalibur, were launched.
Henlys pursued a strategy of diversification and expansion through the 1990s. The established bus bodybuilder Northern Counties was bought in 1995 for £10m. The UK bus and coach manufacturing business, trading under the Plaxton brand, continued to produce a range of bus and coach bodywork. It also owned one of the largest UK coach dealers, Kirkby, and provided after-sales services to coach and bus operators.
In August 2000 a joint venture was formed with Mayflower, owners of the Dennis and Alexander brands. The joint venture, known as TransBus International, included only the United Kingdom bus manufacturing operations of both companies, including Plaxton and Northern Counties. Henlys held a 30% stake in the joint venture, which employed 3,300 employees at seven locations. The traditional brands of Alexander, Dennis and Plaxton were replaced by TransBus International. In 2004 Mayflower Group failed, and TransBus International went into receivership. An initial offer from the Plaxton management to buy the coach segment of the company was rejected by the receiver, but was later accepted when a senior TransBus manager and Brian Souter and Ann Gloag of Stagecoach agreed to buy the Alexander Dennis portion of the company.
Thus the new company, Plaxton Limited, re-emerged as an independent company, employing almost 300 people at its main coach plant in Scarborough and a further 59 at its facility in Anston, which builds small buses and coaches such as the Beaver and Cheetah.
In May 2005 Plaxton announced its return to the service bus market, launching the Centro, a low-floor single-deck vehicle initially to be offered on VDL SB120 and MAN 14.220 chassis, in 10.7m and 12m lengths respectively, with the first bus completed in February 2006. The Centro will also be available on the VDL SB200 and Volvo B7RLE chassis by the end of 2006, with a 10.2m length also offered.
The company also revealed the Primo, a 28 seat low-floor minibus, in September 2005. This 7.9m long vehicle is powered by the Cummins ISBe Euro III engine, mounted transversely at the rear. The Primo frame is assembled in Hungary by Enterprise Bus, effectively a conventional chassis in most respects but one which extends up to cantrail level, before being shipped to Scarborough for completion.