AEC RELIANCE 9 RDV
In June 1964, four AEC Reliance 590s with Marshall 53 seat bodywork entered service with the Devon General Omnibus and Touring Co. Ltd – 9 RDV was registered on May 1 1964. They were the first 36ft. long vehicles in the fleet and until 1968 were crew-operated. Numbers 9 – 11 (9 – 11RDV) were initially allocated to Sidmouth depot to replace double-deckers on service 9 to Exeter, whilst 12 (12RDV) was allocated to Exeter depot to work service 129 to Plymouth.
Numbers 9-11 were fitted with the melodic 4-speed AEC all-synchromesh gearbox as fitted to the contemporary ‘Regent’ Mark V 590 double deckers. No. 12 was initially fitted experimentally with an AEC 6-speed overdrive constant-mesh gearbox but this was soon changed to the same type as fitted to numbers 9 – 11.
They were known affectionately by the staff as ‘Long Toms’ or ‘Long Johns’ and initially driven very cautiously because of their length.
In January 1966, 9 was swapped with 12 to work service 129 but returned to Sidmouth in November 1969. It had been converted to a 51-seat one-man operated bus in June 1968.
Following the Western National takeover of Devon General in January 1971, the nearside front seat was removed and a luggage pen installed. Poppy red livery followed, replacing the traditional and attractive DG red and ivory livery.
In October 1978, 9 was reallocated briefly to the Western National Chard depot and finally to their Seaton depot in March 1979, from where it was withdrawn in January 1980.
It was successfully purchased direct from WN for preservation and subsequently restored to its original livery in the West Midlands. From there it was then maintained and rallied, initially by Chris Jeavons and subsequently by Steve Cope. It returned to its native Devon in July 2011 and undertook a number of local events culminating in the East Devon Reliance tour in October 2011, covering the old service 9 and other local routes from its early service period.
9 has since been purchased by Denis Chick and Royston Morgan and now lives with its big brother, Devon General AEC Regent V/MCW Orion number 524, in the East Midlands from where both vehicles are regularly rallied.