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CTA Show 2005 review

CTA Show 2005 review Plaxton's updated Beaver with new Cheetah front end.

Greater variety and increasing sophistication were the key trends among vehicles exhibited at this year’s CTA show in Manchester.

Two surprises were a restyled Beaver from Plaxton and an all-new bus body, the Advantage, from respected fire appliance builder John Dennis Coachworks. There was also a taste of things to come in the low-floor sector, with the part-built Irisbus Daily Logo, which is being bodied by MCV.

The Indcar Wing, which was shown in left-hand-drive form at last year’s CTA show, is now available in right-hand-drive through BASE, the Lancashire-based dealer. It offers genuine coach style and comfort, being built by a company which specialises in coaches rather than buses. And, let’s face it, attempts by bus builders to create coaches don’t always quite work out.

Although not at the show, UV Modular unveiled its plans to build bigger buses with a 24-seat body for the Mercedes-Benz Vario, which is due to be launched early in 2006.

Plaxton’s Beaver is an old product, dating back almost 20 years. It still sells well in the welfare market, offering a long operational life and with good service support. Now Plaxton has radically updated the Beaver by simply grafting on the stylish front end used on its successful Cheetah luxury coach.

This gives users the best features of the Beaver, including gasket glazing and a tail lift, with the style of a proper coach. The Cheetah is sold only as a coach, but with the Beaver there is a wide range of options for the interior specification, in terms of seats and trim materials. The Beaver is based on the Mercedes-Benz Vario.

There were two John Dennis Coachworks vehicles, on Iveco Daily chassis, and they were well-built products, as might be expected from a company building bespoke bodies for the demanding fire appliance market.

As they were essentially prototypes the company was keen to hear reaction from potential customers. A key criticism which will be addressed on production bodies was the entrance arrangement, which ends with a shallow step from the top of the entrance area to the saloon floor. This will be eliminated, and the low first step will be raised – which might also allow the company to reshape the awkwardly-styled skirt panel.

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The vehicle is 2.3m wide, a dimension reached after designing the interior layout so that the seats are not hard against the vehicle side, something which JDC’s research showed users wanted. This makes the Iveco look over-bodied, and JDC is talking to Iveco about using a chassis with a wider track.

The Iveco Daily Logo is currently available with bodywork by Nutrack – who were not exhibiting – and in the next few weeks the first Logo to be bodied by MCV will be completed. A part-built vehicle, showing the floor layout, was on Iveco’s stand. The Logo has a low front section, with raised seating at the rear – just like a scaled-down version of full-size low-entry buses.

This layout is also featured on the Mercedes-based Mellor Sprinter Accessible. This has been around for a couple of years now, and recognising that roll-on access through the main entrance is not always practical for welfare users, Mellor now offers the Sprinter Accessible with a tail lift.

It can be hard to identify what separates a proper coach from a tarted-up bus which might use the same seats, trim materials, curtains etc – but whatever it is the Indcar Wing has it. Perhaps it’s no more than a deft touch of style. Anyway, the Indcar Wing on the Iveco Daily chassis has that Iberian flair which makes it a refreshingly attractive vehicle inside. It’s perhaps not the vehicle for short trips to the day care centre, but for operators who regularly undertake longer-distance journeys, or who want to offer a high standard of comfort for local trips, the Wing is ideal.

The Wing can seat up to 26 people and offers wheelchair access using a tail lift.

Indcar may be an unfamiliar name in the welfare market, but the company has been supplying Iveco-based small coaches to the UK market for almost 10 years. The supplying dealer, BASE, may also be unfamiliar, but is another established name in the coach business, run by the respected Holmeswood Coaches operation.

TVAC is another unfamiliar name, but the specialist engineering company is now producing the 16-seat Spirit on a modified Fiat Ducato tri-axle chassis. The Spirit was previously built by Swain Bus & Coach, but production was taken over by Leyland-based TVAC earlier this year. It’s a low-floor product with ramps providing roll-on access at the side or at the rear.

The Bluebird Vehicles Tucana attracted a lot of attention when it was launched at last year’s CTA show, and it’s an attractive product. Based on a Volkswagen chassis, it offers roll-on access using the main entrance, with the option of rear roll-on access too. It is also one of the most stylish small buses around. The Tucana has a jig-built Cromweld stainless-steel frame, which should ensure the longevity of the body.

UV Modular is one of the biggest manufacturers in the small bus market. It offers its Treka on a range of chassis – Iveco Daily, Ford Transit, VW LT46 and Mercedes Sprinter – typically with 15 or 16 seats. The existing Treka is about to be joined by a bigger model, the Treka 24 on the Mercedes Vario chassis. Like the current models it will have a stainless-steel frame, the option of bonded or gasket glazing, a choice of tail-lifts, and will be a fully-engineered product.

UV Modular’s approach is designed to ensure what the company describes as “repeatable quality” – and the fit and finish of the Treka interior is impressive.

Regarding interiors, Unwin displayed its latest range of vehicle flooring systems with its latest four point webbing restraints. The latest systems include a new over-centre buckle allowing easier operation, plus a shorter webbing length for added versatility and a stop button for safety benefits. Unwin also displayed its combined four-point Quattro system with a split reel double inertia passenger restraint giving both safety and comfort. The passenger and rear Quattro restraint are mounted together enabling the operator to set both features at the same time for rapid installation and ease of operation. Fitted with Solo anchors, the new Combined Quattro is ideal for vehicles with dedicated wheelchair space.

Q’Straint also exhibited new products for the four-point restraint systems market. The QRT Max on display features an automatic system and is self-locking and self-tensioning, offering the benefit of single-handed operation. Other features include a unique positive lock indicator on the track fitting to provide instant visual indication to the user that the wheelchair has been safely secured. The new QLK-200 system was also on display, providing a fast, safe securement option for wheelchair-seated drivers and front seat passengers. The low-profile docking system allows the wheelchair to be locked into place via a single attachment point.

The Burnt Tree Group used the CTA show to unveil its new Xcess-a-bus operation, providing accessible minibuses for short and long-term rental or leasing. Three vehicles were on show with conversions by Stanford Coachworks – a VW LT46, a Vauxhall Vivaro and a Citroen Relay – to demonstrate the range of vehicles which will be available.

LDV was not exhibiting, but an example of the Maxus was displayed by Rescroft, showing the company’s Embus floor system, which is M1/M2 compliant. The front-wheel-drive Maxus was launched earlier this year by LDV and is powered by a 2.5-litre Italian diesel engine, from VM Motori, a company in which DaimlerChrysler has a 49 per cent stake. The Maxus can seat up to 12 passengers.

Next year’s CTA show is once again being held at Manchester’s G-Mex centre, The dates are 10-12 October.

www.basecoachsales.co.uk
www.bluebirdvehicles.com
www.burnt-tree.co.uk
www.irisbus.co.uk
www.jdcfire.co.uk
www.ldv.com
www.plaxtonlimited.co.uk
www.rescroft.com
www.tvac.co.uk
www.uvmodular.co.uk
www.woodall-nicholson.co.uk