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driver classics heritage fleet

The Driver family is proud to present our Classics collection of restored & preserved buses, trucks and cars from the 1930’s through to the 1980’s.

Since 1931, the three generations of the Driver family have seen many vehicles come and go. With a deep seated passion for our companies history and our industry in general, we have preserved these vehicles for future generations to enjoy and appreciate.

Over the years some vehicles were trend setters and game changers, others just did their job, while some did not even achieve that. But there were always vehicles that performed way above expectation and influenced progressive change in the industry.

With our collection, we have tried to find significant vehicles that stood out as leaders in design and reliability for their era. Our passion is for buses that we operated, or that were operated by companies that we acquired, or buses that operated in Australia and had a profound influence on our industry and our company. Because of our general interest in all things automotive, we have also collected cars and trucks that stood out in design or that we simply like.

Restoration of our Driver Classics collection has been done in our own Melbourne workshops and body shop by our dedicated and highly skilled staff. Our vehicles are regularly displayed at enthusiast shows and community events in and around Melbourne and country shows throughout our state of Victoria and on some occasions, even interstate. You may also see them in movies and TV shows from time to time.

Our 1946 Bedford OB-Grice is currently on long term display at the Glen Campe Motor Museum in Hamilton, Victoria and our GM and MCI coaches have a changing rotation through the Sir Reginald Ansett Transport Museum, also in Hamilton, Victoria.

Each vehicle in our collection has detailed information available when you click on ‘read more’. All stories in ‘read more’ have been written and researched by Gary Driver with grateful assistance from the Bus and Coach Society of Victoria. Unless noted otherwise, all photos are from Gary Driver and Ralf Boetker.

We hope you enjoy these fine examples that helped build Australia’s bus, coach and automotive industry.

Driver Classics
Heritage Fleet

Last update:

1929 Pontiac 29-6
with Holden Tourer body

Pontiac was a brand established in 1926 by General Motors in the USA as a companion make to GM’s more expensive Oakland brand. Pontiac was named after a famous Indian chief as was the town of Pontiac, Michigan where they were built.

Eric and Reg Driver’s first two vehicles were Pontiac 29-6s with Grant Brothers 7 passenger bodies and they operated on the Camberwell – Glen Iris service in Melbourne’s south east, commencing on March 31 1931.

The small Pontiacs were known as ‘cabs’ and they were built on a standard car chassis with a specially constructed small cab body. The bodies were built by Eric and Reg Driver at their father’s bodyworks, Grant Brothers in Station Street, Malvern - a suburb of Melbourne. Both Eric and Reg were experienced body builders and had worked for their father building bodies, before deciding to become cab operators.

The twenties and early thirties in Australia saw private transport operators commonly use small cabs on fledgling route services. Multiple operators were able to work on a particular route and fierce competition ensued. There were 11 cabs including Eric and Reg Driver working on the 3 mile Camberwell-Glen Iris service.

The original 7 seat cabs were configured with one seat up front next to the driver, three seats each side facing inwards and a full height door at the rear. Passengers would pass money forward to the driver to get a ticket.

The cabs offered frequent service but timetables were loose or non-existent as the aim was to compete to maximise passenger numbers. The Driver Brothers tried to introduce a timetable but competing operators would run a few minutes ahead of their scheduled time making it impractical. Long hours were worked on each shift to attempt to make the business viable.

The Camberwell-Glen Iris ‘cab’ service was declared a gazetted ‘bus’ route with the Driver Brothers gaining a license to operate the new bus route in 1934. A timetable was reintroduced and all but one of the competing operators abandoned the route. Shortly after, Driver Brothers acquired the remaining operator and became the sole operators of the route.

Between 1931 and 1934, Eric and Reg had acquired one of the other operators Cleveland cab and purchased an additional GMC cab. So when the Camberwell-Glen Iris service was declared a bus route, all four of the Driver Brothers cabs were replaced by two 12 passenger Bedford WHB buses with Grummet bodies.

Driver Classics acquired this Pontiac 29-6 in October 2003 from Ragtop Tours on the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria where it was operating ‘niche market’ local tours. It features a Holden built Tourer body seating 5 people and is representative, not an exact version of Eric and Reg’s original Pontiacs.

This Pontiac 29-6 is powered by a Pontiac 200ci, 6 cylinder, petrol engine with a 3 speed constant mesh transmission. The accelerator is positioned between the clutch on the left and brake pedal on the right, which was typical of pedal layout in this era.

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1936 Federal
with Grummet body

In 1910, the Bailey Motor Truck Company of Detroit, Michigan USA changed its name to the Federal Motor Truck Company. In the thirties and early forties, US sourced chassis’ such as GMC, Diamond T, Reo, International, White, Ford and Federal were extremely popular with Melbourne private bus operators, but the Driver Brothers preference was for Federal, in part due to the Federal dealer/agent who impressed them greatly.

Driver Brothers first 12 passenger Federal, arrived in December 1935 and it replaced a 1934 Bedford WHB. A second 12 passenger Federal followed shortly after in January 1936 also replacing a 1934 Bedford WHB. In December 1936, this now preserved 19 passenger Federal arrived in the Driver Brothers fleet and was followed by further 19 passenger Federals in 1937 and 1938, and ‘a war time special exemption delivery’ in 1941.

Driver Brothers purchased 3 different Federal models between 1935 and 1941, but other than size, all had similar specifications. The first were 12 passenger models in Federal’s Silver Anniversary series from 1935. They were identified by 4 horizontal chrome bars, mounted on the side of the engine cowl with a Federal nameplate above the bars and a drop centre front bumper.

The second model from December 1936 was Driver Brothers first 19 passenger bus and this is the example that we have preserved in our Driver Classics collection. On this model, the side of the engine cowl featured 3 chrome bars placed over vertical louvers with the Federal name on the centre bar and it also had the drop centre front bumper.

The final series from 1938 became known as the ‘bullnose’ with a modern wrap-around grille, 3 chrome bars on the side of the engine cowl with a circular emblem containing the Federal name and this time, a straight front bumper.

“With Federal at the four corners of the Earth” – that was the headline used on Federal’s 1935 Silver Anniversary brochure highlighting the significance of the export market. Federal trucks and chassis’ were now shipped to 131 foreign ports including Hong Kong, Africa, Syria, Japan, Australia, Spain, India and China. The Federal chassis’ were partially disassembled and completely boxed for export shipment. “The Silver Anniversary Federals are as sturdy as they are beautiful!” stated Federal’s advertising.

With the outbreak of WW2, all new commercial vehicles began to be seconded by the Australian Army. With new vehicles unavailable, the pre-war Federals had to last the duration of the war, which was obviously unknown at the time. With good servicing practises and skilled repairs, the Federals performed outstandingly well for the duration of the war years.

At the conclusion of the war, General Motors-Holden offered a modern, radically styled forward control bus, including both body and chassis – the Bedford OB. Although the Federals had a proven track record, many operators, including Driver Brothers, switched away from Federals and similar vehicles, to this modern post war design, rather than the traditional conventional layout of the Federal.

This 1936 Federal, Driver Brothers fleet #2, is believed to be a Federal Model 25. Federal #2 carried out eleven years of reliable service and was sold in December 1947 with the arrival of the new Bedford OB.

Our Federal was re-discovered in 1977 by bus enthusiast Charles Craig who found it in a barn on a farm in Bachus Marsh, Victoria. Although dusty and full of junk, it was in surprisingly good condition. Charles subsequently purchased the Federal and invited Eric Driver to authenticate its originality. Eric Driver confirmed it was indeed ex Driver Bros Federal, fleet #2.

After garaging and maintaining the Federal for a number of years, in May 1989, Driver Bus Lines purchased the Federal back from Charles Craig.

The Federal Model 25 chassis was built in Detroit, Michigan USA and the body was built by Grummet body builders. H. A. Grummet was established in 1926 by Hugo August Grummet in West Brunswick, a suburb of Melbourne.

This Federal is powered by a Hercules 228ci, 6 cylinder, JXA petrol engine with a Clark 4 speed constant mesh transmission.

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1946 Bedford OB with Grice body

General Motors UK initially built Chevrolet light trucks and buses for the UK market but in 1931, GM UK launched the Bedford range of local light trucks and buses heavily based on the existing Chevrolet chassis. Bedford’s origins date back to Vauxhall Ironworks, a company set up at Vauxhall, London in 1857 by Scottish engineer Alexander Wilson. Vauxhall moved to Luton, Bedfordshire in 1905 and was bought by American giant General Motors in 1925.

There is no known documentation as to why General Motors Vauxhall chose Bedford as the name of its new UK commercial vehicle brand, but it was most likely because of the location of Vauxhall’s Luton plant in the county of Bedfordshire, in the east of England.

The Bedford OB was designed as a successor to the 1930s Bedford WTB. The first Bedford OB was built in 1939 but stayed in production for only 2 months, with just 73 being built, when all of Bedford’s production was turned over to the war effort.

During the war years, in addition to truck production, Bedford produced 3,398 OWBs along with 5,640 Churchill tanks. The Bedford OWB was a war time austerity version of the Bedford OB combined with bodies that were even more austere. Bodies were designed by Duple and built by Duple along with other coach builders, to Duple’s design.

Post war production of Bedfords restarted in October 1945. Bedford built 12,693 post war OBs in the UK with ‘O’ series production finally ceasing in 1953.

Unlike Australia where Bedford OBs were the most popular choice for private city route service operators, UK production catered for regional commuter service and charter operators. Bedford itself collaborated with Duple to develop the ‘Vista’ coach body for the Bedford OB chassis.

Although General Motors-Holden Australia sold complete Bedford OBs as forward control (flat front) buses from 1947, other Australian bus body builders such as Syd Wood and Grice, initially built bodies on Bedford OB chassis’ with conventional layout, as was done with this example in 1946. This practice was curtailed with the arrival of the General Motors designed body on the Bedford OB chassis.

Our 1946 Bedford OB with Grice body originally operated in Toowoomba, QLD until the mid 1970s. It was subsequently acquired by John Masterton, a bus enthusiast and owner of Bellarine Bus Lines with John then completing a superb restoration. Driver Classics purchased the Bedford OB from the Masterton family in July 2000.

This Bedford OB is powered by a Bedford 214ci, 6 cylinder, petrol engine with a 4 speed constant mesh transmission. Bedford’s OB designation signifies ‘O’ as the model series and ‘B’ for bus. Driver Classics is currently displaying our 1946 Bedford OB/Grice at the Glen Campe Motor Museum in Hamilton, Victoria.

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1947 Bedford OB

General Motors-Holden Australia (GM-H) began offering Bedford OBs as complete buses including both chassis and body in 1947.

GM-H imported the Bedford OB chassis from General Motors UK’s Vauxhall-Bedford division, designed the body and began selling the Bedford OB as a complete bus, as opposed to body-on-chassis. GM-H outsourced the body building task to CAC (Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation) at Fishermans Bend, Melbourne located nearby to the GM-H plant.

CAC was a builder of aircraft, but as WW2 had recently ended, CAC was looking for additional work to maintain its staff levels. The contract offered by GM-H suited CAC, so they began building buses right alongside aircraft production lines. GM-H originally intended to build the bus bodies in-house, but with the pending introduction of their new Holden motor car in 1948, all GM-H resources were to be dedicated to Holden car production.

A scale model of the Bedford OB was constructed in February 1946 by General Motors to assist with the building of a full size prototype OB bus at GM-H’s Woodville plant in Adelaide, South Australia.

Of the 12,766 Bedford OB chassis’ built at Vauxhall Bedford’s Luton plant, all were conventional (engine out front) with around a dozen being built in forward control layout (flat front/body over engine).

The private bus market in Australia after WW2 was dominated by conventional layout pre-war buses from US manufacturers, such as Federal, White, Diamond T, GMC and Reo. GM-H itself had recently built complete Chevrolet buses.

But GM-H wanted a forward control bus that was modern, different and bold, with a design that would set a new benchmark in Australia.

So GM-H decided to modify the Bedford OB chassis for its Australian release at its Fishermans Bend plant in Melbourne. Conventional Bedford OB chassis’ arrived from the UK in CKD form and were then modified to forward control by GM-H and driven nearby to CAC, where the General Motors designed body would be manufactured.

GM-H established exclusive distribution of Bedford OBs through its dealer network while withdrawing the opportunity for other bus body builders from building on the Bedford OB chassis. However, the similar Bedford ‘O’ series conventional truck chassis was still accessible by other bus body builders.

GM-H’s Bedford OB body styling was dramatic…with enclosed wheels, the use of aluminium bright work and of course a fully flat front, all quite radical for the day and so different to anything else on the market. Compared to the conventional (engine out front) buses of the day, the Bedford OB looked more like a spaceship had landed! The all-around aluminium lower bright work styling feature appears to have been borrowed or at least influenced by GM USA’s unique Parade of Progress display buses used in Motorama shows throughout the USA at the time.

A noticeable design difference between the scale model and the full size bus was the addition of elaborately styled park light fittings on each side above the front bumper. These beautifully designed fittings were added to cover a protruding steering arm on the driver’s side of the bus as a result of the modification from conventional to forward control layout.

GM-H advertising from the period promoted the Bedford OB as the ‘Forward control Bedford “Transit”…the better bus’ in 27 and 33 passenger variants on two different wheel bases.

The Bedford OB was hugely successful for GM-H in Australia with 932 produced (plus the Adelaide prototype) from 1947 until 1952, at which time it was replaced by the larger Bedford SB series. The Bedford OB’s modern forward control layout combined with government post war currency restrictions limiting trade with the USA, resulted in the Bedford OB dominating the Australian private bus market, especially in the State of Victoria.

The Bedford OB was a work horse of a relatively basic design. Drivers and owners either loved them or hated them…sometimes at the same time. The high pitched whine of the transmission was perhaps it’s most notable and endearing feature, but above all it was cost effective and reliable, attributes sorely needed after WW2.

Driver Brothers purchased Bedford OBs after WW2 and continued purchasing Bedford OBs, SBs, VAMs and a single YRT until the 1970s with the last Driver OB still operating in commercial service in 1967.

Our Bedford OB was purchased from the Victorian Bus Preservation Association in May 1996 and received a full restoration right back to the frame. It now represents #3 from the Driver Brothers fleet in 1947, and it was publicly unveiled in November 2007 at the Historic Commercial Vehicle Show at Sandown in Melbourne.

This Bedford OB is powered by a Bedford 214ci, 6 cylinder petrol engine with a 4 speed constant mesh transmission.

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1948 GM PD 4151 Silversides (#349)
(Awaiting Restoration)

Prior to WW2, GM in the USA was developing a new coach which was to become known as the Silversides, because of its fluted aluminium siding. The original pre-war coach was 33 feet long and had a petrol engine whereas post-war Silversides were 35 feet long and used a diesel engine.

There were 1,643 GM PD 3751 Silversides built in 1947 and 1948. The PD 4151 followed later in 1948, with 357 being built and the major change being seat capacity increasing from 37 to 41.

Of all the Silversides built, only 10 were built with restrooms, eight being PD 3751’s and two being PD 4151’s.

This PD 4151 was a ‘limited’ model with special seating layouts, white steering wheel and a restroom. It operated for Pacific Greyhound primarily on the San Francisco to Reno, Nevada route and had Greyhound fleet number 819.

Greyhound sold the coach to Mr Harley in South Carolina who owned it for 20 years. From there it went to Mr Harley’s brother, also in South Carolina and onto Brian Kenny in Georgia. Then Australian bus enthusiast Paul Wright from the Gold Coast, Queensland purchased the Silversides in 2006 and had it shipped from the USA to Australia in 2007. Driver Classics purchased the Silversides from Paul in 2014.

The PD 4151 is powered by a GM in-line 6, 2 stroke diesel engine, 426ci model 6-71, transversely rear mounted with a 4 speed column shift constant mesh transmission. The model designation PD 4151 stands for – Parlour (coach), Diesel, 41 seats, series 51.

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1948 White 798-12

White Trucks Australia imported this 798-12 route bus from the White Motor Corporation plant in Cleveland, Ohio USA when it came off the line in December 1948, with the hope of creating interest and in turn orders, primarily from government authorities, for this very advanced route bus.

Between 1937 and 1948, White Motor Corporation built 1,532 model 788-12s and 798-12s. Forty five of the 798-12s were built right hand drive (RHD), with all but this one operating for the City of Kingston on the Caribbean island of Jamaica. To our knowledge, all of the Jamaican Whites are gone with this being the only example left in the world of a RHD White 798-12.

As part of its Australia wide inaugural demonstration tour, it was put into service with the New South Wales Department of Government Transport for a three month trial in 1950 to show off its impressive performance and reliability. It was substantially more advanced than other buses of the day with integral construction, a 35 foot length…5 feet more than any permissible length at the time, an aluminium body and effortless performance from its 12 cylinder, horizontally opposed, under floor petrol engine.

Unfortunately the White 798-12 was launched just before the Commonwealth Government acted to freeze trade with the USA by restricting currency exchange to force Australia to deal with the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries. The 798-12 also had an unhealthy appetite for petrol and with government and private orders not forthcoming, no further White 798-12s were brought into Australia.

In May 1952, the White was advertised for sale for 6,950 pounds and in March 1953, the White was sold to Quodling Brothers, Queanbeyan, ACT where it operated the Canberra – Queanbeyan route service. The Quodling Brothers repowered the White in 1958 with an AEC diesel engine and ZF 6 speed transmission which improved its fuel economy considerably. The Jamaicans also repowered their 44 White 798-12s, but with Leyland engines and then rebranded them as ‘Whitleys’.

In 1977, Quodling Brothers sold their business to Doug and Dawn Lever and the White continued in service with Lever Coach Lines.

The Levers also operated the White on the Canberra-Queanbeyan service and later, on school services until 1990, when they sold their business. They did not however, sell the White.

The Levers bought Bega Valley Bus Lines in Bega, NSW and the White was taken to Bega…for its retirement.

Driver Classics are proud to preserve and maintain the White, now based in Melbourne, on behalf of the owners, Doug and Dawn Lever and their family.

The 798-12 was originally powered with a White 12 cylinder, 681ci, 210hp, horizontally opposed petrol engine with a 3 speed White transmission. Today it still has the repowered AEC 11.3 litre 690 six cylinder diesel engine mounted under floor but now with a Fuller 5 speed transmission.

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1954 Ansair Flxible Clipper (#AF34)

Flxible was founded in 1913 as the Flexible Side Car Company by inventor and entrepreneur Hugo H Young in Loudenville, Ohio USA, based on the development of a flexible coupling to improve stability of motorcycle sidecars. The ‘e’ in flexible was later dropped so the name of the company could be trademarked. The company moved into commercial vehicle production and later found a lucrative niche with its art deco, aerodynamic Clipper coach first released in 1937. Flxible declared bankruptcy in 1995 and at the time was the largest transit bus manufacturer in the USA.

In the late 1940’s, Pioneer Tours owned by Ansett Transport Industries (ATI), was operating International KB6’s, Ford’s and Federal’s with Ansair ‘Road Cruiser’ bodies. Ansair was the bus body building division of Ansett Transport Industries. Pioneer Tours was looking for a more sophisticated and capable coach to operate its long distance routes. ATI owner, Reg Ansett, favoured a US General Motors coach, the GM PD 3751 ‘Silversides’, which Greyhound in the USA was using at the time, but because of its 35 foot length it was not able to be brought into Australia. Legal maximum lengths varied in each Australian state, but in Ansett’s home state of Victoria it was just 27 feet 6 inches.

Ansair executives made two visits to the US in 1947 visiting US coach builder Flxible. On the home front, Ansair was busy building a new coach aimed at meeting the needs of Pioneer’s long distance tours and routes. It was a Reo Pusher model 96H (rear engine) chassis, 31 feet in length with a prototype Ansair body that was heavily influenced by Flxible and US styling in general, garnered after the first US visit to Flxible by Ansair executives. The 1947 Ansair Reo Pusher also faced over length issues like the favoured GM ‘Silversides’.

Pioneer obtained a special import license, #342261 on August 8 1947 covering the importation of: “one (1) complete ‘Pilot’ model Flxible Clipper 29B1-47 from the USA into Australia along with one (1) complete range of unassembled components, the dollar values respectively $9,000 and $5,000 making a total of $14,000”. Pioneer was granted the import license a few months prior to the introduction on January 1 1948 of the Australian government’s currency restrictions limiting trade with the USA.

On August 19 during the second US visit in 1947, Ansair General Manager Gil Cornish signed an agreement with the Flxible Corporation to import one Flxible Clipper, along with unassembled components and the rights to build Clippers locally in Australia. This put an end to any further development of the Ansair Reo Pusher prototype and it became a one off that was short lived in the Ansett organisation.

When Pioneer’s 1947 Flxible Clipper 29B1-47 arrived in Australia on October 31 1947, it became the most advanced coach ever to operate in this country. Its unique streamlined shape and roof mounted air scoop was a standout in modern coach design. The Clipper’s fuel efficient light weight all metal construction, featured a rear mounted in-line Buick Fireball 320ci, ‘straight 8’ petrol engine. Seating capacity was 29 luxurious reclining parlour seats with foot rests while luggage was carried in a large compartment just ahead of the rear mounted engine. The Flxible Clipper introduced a style and flair that created interest in road passenger transport of which none of Pioneer’s competitors could hope to match. The pilot model 1947 Flxible Clipper, serial number P3, later fleet number D2 and originally registered MM-210, still exists today and has had a full restoration.

1948 saw the pilot Flxible Clipper converted to Right Hand Drive and then act as a ‘template or model’ to facilitate Ansair readying itself for full scale production utilising the imported sub-assemblies and parts to manufacture copies in volume. The pilot Flxible Clipper completed demonstration tours in 1949 for operators and government officials and set about proving itself in Australia’s harsh conditions.

To address Pioneer’s immediate need for coaches prior to Australian Clipper production commencing, in 1949 and 1950 Ansair built 32 Commer Avenger ‘Scenic Clippers’ for Pioneer’s short haul work. The front end design had a strong similarity to the imported pilot Flxible Clipper 29B1-47 and it complied with the State of Victoria’s 27 feet 6 inch length limit.

Around September 1950, it was announced that the maximum length in the State of Victoria would increase to 33 feet on January 1 1951, allowing Ansair’s local production of the Clipper to finally commence.

From December 1950 until June 1960, 131 Clippers were built under license to the Flxible Corporation, Ohio USA at Ansair’s Essendon plant in Melbourne. All but 3 Ansair built Clippers featured the new larger ‘Visicoach” windows that had recently been introduced by Flxible in the US instead of the smaller original ‘Airporter’ styled windows.

With US trade restrictions firmly in place, sourcing of non US components to use in local Clipper production proved difficult and resulted in a variety of UK and locally sourced components being used in Ansair built Flxible Clippers.

The first fifty one Ansair Flxible Clippers used Leyland AU450 diesel engines with a 4 speed Spicer constant mesh direct drive transmission. The Leyland AU450 diesel was an upgraded civilian derivative of the Leyland 7.0 litre Matilda tank engine. This was followed by twenty Cummins JBS600 diesel engines and finally sixty air cooled Deutz F6L614 and F6L714 diesels. None of these engines were particularly suited to Pioneer’s requirements with the Leyland engines being reasonable performers but without the engine life required, the Cummins engines good performers but also found wanting in durability while the Deutz engines performed well but had head issues. Later in their life, many of the Cummins and Deutz powered Clippers were repowered with GM 4-71 engines that proved highly durable and performed well on long distance work.

By the mid-1950s, local Flxible Clipper production was in full swing but Reg Ansett was still not content. He wanted to import General Motors latest model, the GM PD 4104 but the Australian government currency restrictions were still in force and put paid to any idea of importing GM PD 4104s.

The advanced design of the Ansair Flxible Clipper coach enabled Pioneer to establish the first non-stop express service between Melbourne and Sydney on January 24 1955, after the findings of the Hughes and Vale case in late 1954 cleared the way for unimpeded travel over state borders. Although the Ansair Flxible Clipper raised the bar and was superior to any other coaches operating in Australia at the time, Reg Ansett’s quest to fulfil his vision of the ultimate long distance coach would not stop.

In 1957, Ansair commenced building 15 mid-engine Leyland Worldmasters for Pioneer’s interstate express services but they were short lived on express suffering from weight, noise and reliability problems. The Leyland Worldmasters were reconfigured and relegated to sightseeing work.

In the late 1950s, Pioneer had Ansair build another prototype coach, an exceptionally stylish 41 seat Ansair Jupiter model AJ1 with an air cooled rear engine Deutz and an aluminium monocoque design. It was introduced in October 1960 and despite its advanced light weight construction, the Jupiter’s high cost combined with the use of heavy componentry resulted in it becoming overweight and therefore ending up as a one off for Pioneer.

Finally, US trade restrictions were lifted on February 15 1961 and on that same day Ansett placed an initial order to import 10 of General Motors’ latest coach, the GM PD 4106. The GM PD 4106 achieved Reg Ansett’s ultimate goal and became the forerunner to next generation GMs and larger MCI coaches into the future. Some Ansair Flxible Clippers were still serving Pioneer in 1972, a testament to its success.

Our 1954 Ansair Flxible Clipper, AF34 was new to Cooks in Tasmania. In 1961, it became D17 in the Pioneer fleet when Pioneer took over the intercity routes operated by Cooks. It later became D104 for Tasmanian Coach Lines, then a workers’ lunch room at an orchard and was finally ‘discovered’ by Bill Hardinge for potential restoration. Bill was not so much a bus enthusiast but a Clipper enthusiast!

Bill shipped the Flxible to Melbourne, without its original Leyland engine and transmission, where it was acquired by Driver Bus Lines in 1983 for a full restoration. The restoration was completed by January 1985 for the 30th anniversary re-enactment of Pioneer’s first non-stop service to Sydney on January 24 1955.

Our Ansair Flxible Clipper AF34, is powered by a GM Diesel 2 stroke engine, model 4-71, 284ci, in line 4 cylinder with a 5 speed Fuller constant mesh transmission. The model designation AF34 stands for: AF - Ansair Flxible, 34 - build number.

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1959 Bedford SB3

General Motors UK Vauxhall-Bedford division introduced the forward control ‘S’ series truck and bus chassis’ in 1951, with bus chassis arrivals in Australia beginning in 1952. Vauxhall-Bedford and GMH’s (General Motors-Holden Australia) marketing referred to them as the Big Bedfords. A larger 300ci petrol engine was featured with a smoother and quieter drive line. The ‘S’ series bus chassis was designated ‘SB’, with an SBG (Gasoline) later called SB3 utilising a petrol engine, while SBO (Oil) later called SB5, offered a diesel engine.

The first version of the General Motors designed body that was built by CAC for the Bedford SB was later to become known as the ‘flat screen’. Like its predecessor Bedford OB, the Bedford SB flat screen was massively successful with 818 being built in Melbourne between 1952 and 1957. On very early Bedford SBs produced in 1952, CAC (Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation) body production used carryover smaller Bedford OB side windows before offering the larger design side windows, but still with flat front windscreens similar to the OB.

When the larger side windows were adopted they offered greater vision and appearance, but the large windows had a downside… they rattled considerably. In the 1950s, tear off block type tickets were widely used by private operators, and the cardboard backing for each ticket block became invaluable…it could be jammed in the window frame to stop it rattling!

In 1957, GM-H released a facelifted version of the flat screen Bedford SB that became known as the ‘wrap around’ due to its large curved windscreen. It was a stylish bus with a design that took full advantage of the wrap around windscreen trend and it truly captured the styling of the late 1950s.

Of the 377 Bedford SB wrap arounds that GM-H built, 217 were directly sold by GM-H dealers as a complete bus. In 1958, GM-H decided to remove itself from direct marketing of complete buses and handed over the sales role to Bus Sales, a division of Victoria’s Road Passenger Service Operators Association (RPSOA), later Bus Proprietors Association VIC (BPA). A further 160 Bedford SB wrap arounds were built by CAC and directly marketed and sold by Bus Sales.

Other bus body builders were once again able to build bodies on Bedfords, as Bus Sales were now able to provide Bedford SB chassis’ to any bus body builder. The Bedford SB was now widely sold throughout Australia. Ansair, a division of Ansett Transport Industries and a major bus builder, saw the potential to compete with CAC and acquired significant bus body builder, Symons and Fowler, to increase its sales volume of the Bedford SB.

The wrap around Bedford SB was the last model designed by GM in Australia. The next model, known as the ‘Comair CAV 12’, was fully designed and built by CAC on the Bedford SB chassis.

The Bedford SB3 with the 300ci petrol engine was a delight to drive. It was easy to maneuver, had an easy shift Turner syncromesh or crash gear box and although not quick, it had enough power to drive comfortably in most situations. But most importantly, it was a bus that private operators could make money with.

Our SB3 was new to Willis in Vermont, eventually passing to Craig Coop of Nuline Bus Service before being acquired by Driver Bus Lines in 1994. It has been meticulously restored to represent No. 5 HHS-805, a Bedford SB3 wrap-around originally operated by Driver Brothers.

This Bedford SB3 is powered by a Bedford 300ci, 6 cylinder petrol engine with a 5 speed Turner constant mesh transmission. The model designation SB3 stands for – S – model series, B - bus, 3 - petrol engine.

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1961 GM PD 4106 (#623)

The GM PD 4106 was arguably the most influential coach ever to operate in Australia. Building on the success of the Flxible Clipper, the PD 4106 raised the bar to an unprecedented level and set a new benchmark for the entire industry in Australia to follow.

The PD 4106 introduced many significant firsts to Australia - powerful rear mounted GM diesel engine, air conditioning, air suspension, tinted windows, large underfloor luggage capacity, restroom, a new increased length to 35 feet and incredible durability and reliability. The PD 4106, along with its successor model the PD 4107, also inspired a young Alan Denning to build a simpler Australian version at a reasonable price that revolutionised the entire Australian coach industry…the GM Denning Mono.

GM built 3,226 PD 4106’s at GM Truck and Coach in Pontiac, Michigan, USA with 43 destined for Australia, 35 new and 8 ex Greyhound USA.

Before the importation of the first GM PD 4106s into Australia, Ansair - the bus building division of Ansett Transport Industries, had discussions with General Motors about manufacturing the PD 4106 in Australia, in a similar manner to how Ansair built the Flxible Clipper under license to the Flxible Corporation, Ohio USA. Both Ansair and GM ultimately agreed on full importation of the PD 4106 after currency restrictions were lifted in 1961.

Built in August 1961 for Ansett Pioneer, then imported into Australia and converted to RHD by Ansair in Melbourne, our PD 4106, fleet # 623, was first registered in Melbourne in January 1962. After years of reliable service over millions of miles, with 3 different paint schemes and various work duties spanning long distance express, tours, charter and school work, Ansett Pioneer sold this PD 4106 to McCafferty’s Coaches , Toowoomba, QLD. From there it went to Dunkley’s in Brisbane, QLD and finally to Les Bishop in Lexton, Victoria. Les spent over 10 years painstakingly restoring the GM in his shed in preparation for it to become a motorhome, until he had a change of heart.

Although the coach had no interior, Driver Classics purchased the GM from Les in 2015, along with another GM, the ex Turnbull, Mt Gambier PD 4106 #3163 as a parts coach, and continued the restoration, but now to become a seated coach.

To bring the PD 4106 back to a seated coach required the sourcing of many interior fittings. Using our parts coach, PD 4106 #3163, and with assistance from the Ansett Museum’s PD 4106 #1225 in Hamilton, Victoria, PD 4106 #623 is once again a fully seated coach with original fittings.

The GM PD 4106 is powered by a GM V8 2 stroke diesel engine, 568ci model 8V71, transversely rear mounted, with a 4 speed Spicer angle drive constant mesh transmission. The model designation PD 4106 stands for – Parlour (coach), Diesel, 41 seats, series 06.

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1967 GMC Ansair Scenicruiser (#RE 185)
(Awaiting restoration)

The concept of the Australian Ansair Scenicruiser tour coach was instigated by Reg Ansett, founder of Ansett Pioneer, to essentially be an affordable, lower capital cost version of an imported American GM PD 4106, but one that was specifically designed for day tours and short multi day overnight tours.

The GM PD 4106s were extremely successful for Ansett Pioneer in their higher yielding interstate express services that criss-crossed Australia in the early 1960s. The GM PD 4106s offered unparalleled reliability and introduced many firsts for Australia including air conditioning, powerful rear mounted GM engines, aircraft style seating, tinted windows, under floor luggage compartments and a new longer length of 35 feet. Their only downside was the cost, being three times that of other makes available at the time, therefore making them cost prohibitive for the day tour market.

The tour market, and sightseeing day tours in particular, did not have the high yield of interstate express services, so an affordable version of the GM PD 4106 for tour work was a logical step. Ansair, an Ansett owned Melbourne based body builder, set about designing and building a body for the 49 Scenicruisers built between November 1965 and December 1967 with initially, all to be on Reo chassis’. But after the first 5 Reos were built, Pioneer unexpectedly switched the remaining 44 to a GMC chassis.

Unlike the GM Detroit Diesel 6V53 powered Reo chassis with a manual transmission, the GMC DSPA-5019 chassis was powered by a GMC Toro-flow V6 engine. The Toro-flow engine was a dieselised version of GMC’s gasoline 401 engine that was made by GMC and not by GM’s Detroit Diesel division. All of the GMC Toro-flow engines were later replaced with GM Detroit Diesel 6V53 engines.

Ansair’s RE-145 body was a stylish large window, fully equipped tour coach body that featured an imported GM transit bus front end with a curved glass windscreen. The aluminium RE-145 body borrowed design features from the PD 4106 and boasted full air conditioning, tinted windows and reclining aircraft style seats that compared favourably to the amenities of the GM PD 4106. With the Scenicruiser’s ‘fishbowl’ curved glass front-end, it looked part of the GM family.

In 1975, Driver Bus Lines purchased a 1966 GMC Ansair Scenicruiser, #RE159 from Ansett Pioneer. That Scenicruiser was the first air conditioned, GM powered coach that Driver Bus Lines ever operated. With the purchase of Shave Bus Service in 1986, Driver Bus Lines inherited another Ansair Scenicruiser, this time a 1965 Reo Ansair Scenicruiser #RE145.

Our Driver Classics 1967 GMC Ansair Scenicruiser, fleet # 445, was purchased from Matt Smith, Sydney in July 2018. Matt used the Scenicruiser as a motorhome and it is our intention to return it back to a seated coach.

This GMC Ansair Scenicruiser is 35 feet long and powered by a GM Detroit Diesel V6 2 stroke engine, 318ci model 6V53, rear mounted in-line, with an Allison MT 640 transmission and pedal operated retarder.

Driver Classics Ansair Scenicruiser Brochure. Published June 2018

  • GMC Ansair Scenicruiser brochure by Driver Classics

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    Note, you can download the brochure by right clicking and saving. You can also view full page spreads if opened in Adobe Reader.

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1968 GMC PD 4107 (#1137)

The raised deck GMC PD 4107 was a stylish evolution of the PD 4106. It retained all the features of the PD 4106 but added vastly increased luggage capacity and better viewing for passengers because of its higher deck and a half styling. Its muscular stance coined some nick names…in Australia, the Jumbo and in the US, the Buffalo. Styling was inspired by the American Greyhound GM PD 4501 Scenicruiser. GM built 1,267 PD 4107s between 1966 and 1969 at GM Truck and Coach, Pontiac, Michigan, USA, with 27 purchased by Ansett Pioneer.

Our PD 4107, build number 1137 and built in May 1968, was number 719 in the Pioneer fleet and was converted to RHD by Ansair in Melbourne. Early PD 4107s were branded GM, but around 1967 the brand was changed by General Motors to GMC.

Our GMC PD 4107, fleet # IPC719, passed from Ansett Pioneer to Alan Crawford's Premiere Roadlines, Adelaide SA and then to Fawlty Tours, Adelaide SA, then Wayward Bus, Adelaide SA before acquisition by Driver Classics in 2007. It also featured in the movie Ghost Rider with Nicolas Cage.

The GMC PD 4107 is powered by a GM V8 2 stroke diesel engine, 568ci model 8V71, transversely rear mounted, with a 4 speed Spicer angle drive constant mesh transmission. The model designation PD 4107 stands for – Parlour (coach), Diesel, 41 seats, series 07.

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1972 MCI MC-7 (#9520)

Harry Zoltok founded Fort Garry Motor Body and Paint Works in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in 1932. In 1941 the name was changed to MCI (Motor Coach Industries) and in 1948, Western Canadian Greyhound, a subsidiary of Greyhound Corporation USA bought shares in MCI leading to full ownership by Greyhound in 1958. Today and for many decades, MCI has been the largest selling coach builder in North America and MCI’s current owner, New Flyer, is the largest selling transit bus builder in North America.

MCI’s ‘MC’ series of coaches, dates back to 1959 when MCI introduced the MC-1 Challenger, a two axle 35 foot coach with a rear mounted GM 4-71 diesel engine. The 1963 MC-5 model was the first MCI to be exported in quantity to Greyhound in the USA. The MC-7 Challenger was the first 3 axle 40 foot coach made by MCI, predating the MC-6. MCI built 2550 MC-7s between 1968 and 1973.

Ansett Pioneer placed an order for an initial batch of 10 MC-7s, when it was denied bringing 40 foot versions of the GM PD 4107 into Australia because of non-compliant dimensions. Australian vehicle length laws were however, able to be increased for the MC-7 and it became the first 40 foot coach to operate in Australia. The MC-7 was later followed by 29 MC-8s and 15 MC-9s.

In a bid to increase loads and carrying capacity on services operating across Australia from the east coast to Perth on the west coast, Ansett Pioneer endeavoured to introduce larger second hand ex Greyhound USA, 40 foot GM PD 4501 Scenicruisers, at the same time as the MC-7s. Because of poor conditions on the main cross continent road to Perth, it was deemed inappropriate to use new 40 foot MC-7s, hence the application to utilize large, proven ex Greyhound USA flagship coaches. But it was to no avail, as the dimensions of the Greyhound Scenicruiser, had the same non-compliance issues as the regular 40 foot GMs.

Our MC-7, fleet # IPC805, was purchased from Eastside Coaches, Sydney in 1994 for restoration.

The MC-7 is powered by a GM Detroit Diesel V8 2 stroke engine, 568ci model 8V71, rear mounted in-line, with a 4 speed Spicer constant mesh transmission.

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1976 MCI MC-8 (#11964)

The MCI (Motor Coach Industries) MC-8 ‘Crusader’ was an updated version of the very successful MC-7, the first 40 foot coach to operate in Australia.

There were 4,475 MC-8s built between 1973 and 1978 by Motor Coach Industries in Pembina, North Dakota USA and Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada.

When Ansett Pioneer ordered the MC-7s from MCI, they placed an initial order of ten with more to follow. The MC-8 had replaced the MC-7 by the time the additional vehicles were required, so Ansett Pioneer then ordered a total of 29 MC-8s that were delivered between June 1974 and February 1977.

Pioneer had intended to order 30 MC8s but after taking over the Broken Hill - Sydney service where an RFW coach was inherited, the order was amended to 29. The first 5 (#811-815) were converted to right hand drive (RHD) by Ansair in Melbourne with Ansair also making the seats. The next 15 (#816-830) were converted to RHD by Blitz in Chicago USA and it is believed they were delivered with seats. The remaining 9 (#831-839) were built RHD by MCI, the last 4 being built without toilets.

The MC-8 was a modernised version of the MC-7. The ruggedness of the MC-7 had given way to an MC-8 with a smooth, more refined design that simply did its job as intended with the utmost reliability.

There were obvious design differences with the MC-8…the roof window of the MC-7 was gone and replaced with a low raised deck design, the destination sign above the windscreen was also gone, the header/marker lights were flush with the body and the overall shape was smoother with less fluting used on the exterior panels.

Early Ansett Pioneer MC8s had a very similar paint scheme to their MC7s but featured a new, dramatic black window look.

The MC-8’s new black window sash combined with the next generation paint scheme, the ‘Pepsi’ red, white and blue, was impressive to say the least. It inspired a new trend of ‘black windows’ in Australia. As with previous Ansett Pioneer liveries, the new ‘Pepsi’ paint scheme was based on a Greyhound USA design.

Ansett Pioneer used the MC-8 primarily as a flagship long distance intercity express coach until the arrival of the MC-9s in 1984 and the Denning Landseers in 1985. Some MC-8s were also used in Ansett Pioneer’s tour program.

Our MC-8, fleet # 2PC822, was purchased new by Ansett Pioneer in April 1976. Ansett Pioneer sold the MC-8 to Grenda’s Bus Services, Dandenong VIC and it then went to Stuart Douglas, Langwarrin VIC to operate West Coast tours from Melbourne and sometime later it was acquired by Rob Duke in Gembrook, VIC to be converted to a motor home. When Driver Classics located the MC-8, Rob had been working on the exterior and mechanicals and was about to gut the interior for the motorhome conversion.

Driver Classics tried to purchase the MC-8 from Rob, but he was only interested in selling if we could find another MCI that would be suitable for him to make into a motorhome. We located a good condition MC-9 with a gutted interior in Brisbane, QLD that was perfect for Rob’s use. In October 2017, Driver Classics purchased the MC-9, had it trucked to Melbourne and traded it for Rob’s still seated MC-8! We believe it was the last seated MC-8 coach that remained in Australia.

The MC-8 is powered by a GM Detroit Diesel V8 2 stroke engine, 568ci model 8V71, rear mounted in-line, with a 4 speed Spicer constant mesh transmission.

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1983 GM Denning DenAir Mono (#955)

Denning was Australia’s most successful coach manufacturer from the early 1970s until the early 1990s, with operators nationwide purchasing GM Dennings. They had style, outstanding road performance, durability, reliability and although expensive compared to other vehicles of the day, they were still within reach of many coach operators. It was the coach that a large number of Australian operators aspired to, including Driver Bus Lines.

Founder Alan B Denning started out as a panel beater in 1950 and in 1956 began building bus bodies under the name of A B Denning and Co. Initially Denning built side loader bus bodies and in 1960, the first A B Denning coach body was built. Denning then focussed on chassis conversions with many front engine chassis’ becoming rear engine chassis’ to meet a demand for rear engine coaches that was not satisfied by suppliers at the time.

In 1962, Denning released its first body-on-chassis coach which became known as the Highway Traveller. The Denning Highway Traveller had some subtle styling inspiration from the US 1950s GM PD 4104 Highway Traveller and also had design input from customers Rex Law of Redline and Russell Penfold of Greyhound, both buyers and supporters of early Denning products.

Denning then further refined and modernised the Highway Traveller into a new design that it would continue to build until the introduction of its next landmark model.

Then in 1966, Denning’s bold Square Line body-on-chassis design was introduced and in September of that same year, Denning built its first integral coach - the GM Denning Mono, also featuring the Square Line body design. This first GM Denning Square Line mono coach was built for Grendas in Dandenong, Victoria and it boasted a prominent new styling feature…a raised roof deck-and-a half design which had the benefit of more under floor luggage bin capacity and better passenger vision. With its fluted aluminium panels and GM Detroit Diesel 6V53 power, it was absolutely stunning.

Alan Denning sold A B Denning and Co to UK firm Leyland in 1969 and Alan then took on the role as Denning’s Managing Director until 1971, only to return again as Managing Director in 1973. In 1971, Denning introduced another model series, now often referred to as the Classic series, following on from the early Highway Travellers and the Square Line. It also introduced its second generation GM Denning Mono integral coach which grew rapidly in popularity eclipsing sales of body on chassis models. The GM Denning Mono was conceived to be a simplified and affordable version of the imported American GMs that Ansett Pioneer purchased during the 1960s. The only visible exterior branding on early edition Denning Monos was GM, which certainly signified its intent and pedigree. After Alan Denning permanently departed A B Denning and Co in 1976, the GM branding was dropped, however the industry always did, and still does, refer to the Mono as the GM Denning.

The Classic series GM Denning Mono was to become arguably, Denning’s greatest ever design and certainly its longest series in production. This latest GM Denning Mono appeared relatively conservative compared to the Square Line with a smooth, more rounded styling theme and a prominent deck-and-a half design that took inspiration from the imported GM PD 4107. It firmly placed Denning on the map and at the top of most company’s fleet purchase list.

Billed as ‘The Magnificent Australian’ with its large chrome bumpers and high shine stainless steel side panels, the 1971 GM Denning Mono made a strong statement about Denning’s design and the capability of Australia to build world class coaches. It was a true head turner, and commanded attention from the outset.

After Alan Denning’s departure in 1976, he partnered with Athol McKinnon to create the Denmac coach, a new version of the integral Monocoach. The partnership was short lived but the coach was not. The Denmac became the Domino Tourmaster and later the Austral Tourmaster and was in production for just on 20 years.

The first update of the classic series GM Denning Mono occurred around 1976 when a new forward sloping destination header was introduced, a wider front grille, a 2 piece rear window with a single centre divide replacing the 3 piece rear window, new front and rear aluminium bumpers replacing the large chrome bumpers, elimination of the roof window resulting in a non-see through deck-and-a-half design and full exterior ‘Denning’ only badging.

GM Denning Monos were extremely robust with leaf spring suspension, and in the new 3 axle 40 foot configuration, first introduced to Australia by Ansett Pioneer’s imported MCI MC7, the tag or lazy axle was air suspended. By 1978, Denning was offering an air over leaf suspension system which soon gave way to Denning’s first fully air suspended coach – the 1979 GM Denning DenAir Mono. In those days, Denning had the ultimate research and development regime – relentless travel in the remote Australian Outback under the most gruelling conditions imaginable, carried out by Denning’s own engineers. It was this severe testing and its’ on road prowess that earned Denning its reputation for ruggedness and durability.

Also in 1979, Denning released its Denflex ‘chassis-only’ model for other builders to construct bodies on.

Throughout the 70s and 80s, the standard Denning power plant was a GM Detroit Diesel engine, being either a V6 model 6V71 or a V8 model 8V71, usually mated to a Fuller T905D 5 speed transmission. Around 1980, Denning began offering a large V6 GM Detroit Diesel engine in forty foot long coaches, model 6V92TTA as an option to the tried and true V8, model 8V71 engine.

The GM Denning Mono was marketed from 1971 until 1984 when it was replaced by the new, world class Denning Landseer. The final interpretation of the GM Denning Mono was perhaps the most notable with the deck-and-a-half roof line being brought further forward than its predecessors, giving quite a distinctive appearance. Other updates included a new dashboard that was to carry over to the Landseer, electric wipers replacing air operated, 4 tail lights instead of 3, a larger windscreen and a new front bumper and grille.

Our superb example of a GM Denning DenAir Mono was purchased new by Driver Bus Lines in 1983, as fleet # 4, and remained in service until 2008, making it one of the longest serving vehicles Driver Bus Lines has operated. It performed its varying duties with the utmost reliability.

This GM Denning DenAir Mono, build number 955, is powered by a GM Detroit Diesel V8 2 stroke engine, 568ci model 8V71, rear mounted in- line, with a 5 speed Fuller constant mesh transmission. Note: For a full story on the life of Alan Denning, please visit the Bus and Coach Society of Victoria’s web site at bcsv.org.au and click on ‘Buses over the years’.

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1988 Denning Landseer (#1318)

Improving on the very successful GM Denning Mono was always going to be a challenge.

Spanning over 12 years from 1972, the GM Denning Mono had catapulted A B Denning and Co, then owned by Jaguar Rover Australia (JRA), to become the number one seller of premium coaches in Australia. To make improvements on this model was risky, as conservative Australian operators loved the style, performance and reliability of the GM Denning Mono and were exceedingly happy with it.

But Denning knew it had to take the long serving GM Denning Mono to another level and come up with a coach that was truly world class.

In late 1984, Denning unveiled its magnificent ‘Landseer’ coach; a stunningly beautiful coach that retained all that was good about the Mono but added new flair and style, and backed it up with even more substance.

The Landseer offered a new and fresh design. Gone were the traditional deck-and-a-half styling, visible pillared windows and most stainless steel bright work. In its place was a wind tunnel tested aerodynamic, smooth sided coach with higher windscreens, flush side glazing and even a streamlined roof mounted air conditioning pod. This resulted in not only a great appearance, but in significant fuel savings too.

The interior was extensively upgraded with a myriad of high quality trim and material choices available to enable customisation of every Landseer.

The standard engine was the GM Detroit Diesel 310hp Silver 6V92TTA turbo mated to a Spicer 6 speed transmission. Available options were the GM Detroit Diesel 8V71 or 8V92 turbo engines with a 6 speed Spicer or Allison automatic transmissions. The standard engine was soon upgraded to a GM Detroit Diesel 350hp Silver 6V92TTA.

The name Landseer, chosen by Denning to replace the ‘DenAir Mono’ name, was derived from one of two sources or a combination of both. For a tour coach, a derivative of ‘land-seeing’ seemed quite appropriate, but perhaps the most obvious explanation, although less romantic, is that Landseer also happened to be the name of the street where the Denning plant at Acacia Ridge, Queensland was located.

The standard Landseer was soon followed with different versions to cater for all perceived operator requirements: The ‘Landseer High Screen’, the ‘Landseer High Deck’ with twin front screens, the ‘Double Deck’ and a ‘Majestic 11’ body for alternate make chassis’.

Perhaps the biggest compliment to Denning was the take up of the Landseer by Australia’s largest interstate operator at the time, Ansett Pioneer. Ansett Pioneer had preferred imported US coaches from GM and MCI, and would not consider local products as they believed they did not measure up…until the Landseer arrived! Ansett Pioneer wasted no time in ordering a significant number of Denning Landseer’s which in turn closed the door on importing US coaches into Australia.

In December 1992, Driver Bus Lines with a number of new Denning Landseer’s already successfully in service, purchased a 1988 Denning Landseer #1318 from Melbright Coaches when that operator sold out.

This Landseer was originally built for Kingston’s, Stawell VIC by Denning at Acacia Ridge, Queensland in November 1988 and generally had the same specification as other Driver Bus Lines Landseer’s. This included 48 Denning ‘Easy Ride’ reclining seats, restroom and a carpeted floor.

It became #58 in the Driver fleet and was originally painted in the ‘Gray Line Melbourne’ colours of the early 1990s. Its primary role encompassed extended tours around Australia and providing back-up on day tours in Melbourne. The livery was updated again in the late 1990s with the same Gray Line colours but now with ‘Gray Line’ only branding to reflect the national reach of Gray Line in Australia.

In January 2001, #58 was extensively refurbished and reconfigured to 57 non reclining seats without a rest room enabling it to transition to local charter and school services. It later adopted the Driver ‘swoosh’ paint scheme which it would keep for the remainder of its commercial life. By early 2020, at 32 years of age, #58 was still in limited commercial service, but in June 2020 during the global Covid-19 pandemic, it was retired from commercial service and joined the Driver Classics heritage fleet. It currently holds the record as the longest serving Driver vehicle in commercial service since 1931.

This Denning Landseer, build number 1318, is powered by a GM Detroit Diesel turbo V6 2 stroke engine, 552ci model Silver 6V92TTA, rear mounted in-line, with a 6 speed Spicer constant mesh transmission.

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1989 Eagle Model 20 (#90052)

The first Eagle was built in 1956 for Continental Trailways USA, as a competitor to Greyhound’s GM PD 4501 Scenicruiser. After failing to find a US builder who would build the Eagle on Continental Trailways terms and design, they shifted their search to the UK and Europe and eventually found a willing builder, Kassbohrer Setra in Ulm, Germany.

Those early Eagles, dubbed Golden Eagles, owing to their golden aluminium panels, featured a rear viewing lounge, a galley and tables. Next was the Silver Eagle, also from Kassbohrer Setra, which was more conventional in its specification and better suited to line haul work.

In 1960, Eagle production also included coaches manufactured by La Brugeoise in Belgium, where the Silver Eagle Model 01 was produced along with Model 01 production from Kassbohrer Setra. In 1962, Continental Trailways established its own factory in Belgium, in cooperation with La Brugeoise. The new venture was called Bus and Car NV, and it continued building the Eagle Model 01, but with a revised grille arrangement.

The Eagle Model 05 commenced production in 1968 at Bus and Car, Belgium and was built there until 1976. In 1974, Eagle International was set up in Brownsville, Texas USA and it also built the Model 05. In the mid-seventies, the Belgian plant was sold to MOL, NV. In 1980, the Eagle Model 10 was introduced followed by the Eagle Model 15 in 1985 and in 1987, the Eagle Model 20.

Greyhound was the prime user of Eagles in Australia with the first Eagle Model 05 arriving in 1973. All told, 42 Model 05s and 13 Model 10s were operated by Greyhound, a Model 05 for Batterham’s, a Model 15 for Trailer Tours and a Model 10 and a Model 20 for Lever Coachlines. Lever later acquired Batterham’s Model 05. An overall total of 59 Eagles operated in Australia.

Both Greyhound’s Eagles and Pioneer’s MCIs were the flagship coaches for interstate express during the 70s and 80s in Australia, with both companies having routes that criss-crossed the country. Every long distance driver seemed to have an opinion on which coach they favoured, Eagle or MCI. One thing never disputed was the handling of the Eagle. The Eagle’s ‘torsilastic’ torsion bar suspension prevented the coach from leaning in corners and provided outstanding handling and ride. The downside was that unless the shock absorbers were in top condition the Eagles were sometimes known to have a bucking motion in their ride.

Our Eagle is the Model 20, originally new to Lever Coach Lines, Queanbeyan NSW, later passing to Narooma Bus Lines, NSW and onto collector Rob Verhagen, Gold Coast, QLD, before being acquired by Driver Classics in 2014. It was the last Eagle delivered in Australia and although it is a Model 20, it was designated as a Model 10LT to avoid re-assessment for Australian Design Rule requirements, as it was essentially the same as the Model 10.

This Eagle Model 20 is powered by a GM Detroit Diesel V6 2 stroke diesel, 552ci model 6V92TTA, rear mounted in-line, with an Allison HT750 automatic transmission.

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1977 Kenworth W925 S2R

Kenworth is an American based truck manufacturer tracing its roots back to 1905 when William Piggot formed the Seattle Car Manufacturing Co. to manufacture railcar and logging equipment. Seattle Car Manufacturing Co. merged with Twohy Brothers in 1915 to become Pacific Car and Foundry Co. In 1925 William Piggot sold control of Pacific Car to American Car and Foundry Co. Paul Piggot, son of the founder William Piggot, bought back a major interest in Pacific Car and Foundry in 1934.

Separately, Gerlinger Motor Co. launched its new Gersix truck in 1915. In 1917 Edgar K Worthington with partner Captain Frederick Kent bought Gerlinger Motor Co. renaming it Gersix Motor Co.

In 1923, Gersix reincorporated as Kenworth Motor Truck Company, now with partner Harry Kent, son of Frederick Kent. The name Ken-Worth was derived from the two major shareholders, Harry W Kent and Edgar K Worthington. In 1926, Kenworth started making buses as well as trucks and in 1933 introduced diesel engines as standard in their trucks.

In 1945 Paul Piggot of Pacific Car and Foundry acquired Kenworth Motor Truck Co.

Pacific Car and Foundry purchased US based Peterbilt Trucks in 1958, UK based Foden Trucks in 1981, Netherlands based DAF Trucks in 1996 and UK based Leyland Trucks in 1998.

In 1962, Australians Ed Cameron and George Blomfield imported seven GM Detroit Diesel 6V71 powered Kenworth S900s engineered for right hand drive into Australia and set up the infrastructure for continued importation. The first large order was placed by Ansett Freight Express in 1963 for two GM Detroit Diesel 6V71 powered Kenworth S921s and then in 1964, a further ten GM Detroit Diesel 8V71 powered Kenworth S925 prime movers.

In 1966, Pacific Car and Foundry, later to be called PACCAR, announced it would begin manufacturing trucks locally in Australia. Kenworth Motor Trucks was then incorporated and began assembling CKD (Completely Knocked Down) trucks. Kenworth Motor Trucks purchased 28 acres of land at Bayswater in Melbourne’s east in 1969 to build a factory and office. In March 1971, the first all Australian Kenworth, a K125CR cab over, was built at the Bayswater plant. By 2017, Kenworth had manufactured 60,000 trucks at Bayswater and in 2018 the plant also began assembling DAF trucks.

Driver Classics 1977 Kenworth W925 S2R was acquired in October 2009 from Yarragon Truck Centre, Yarragon, Victoria. It was originally built for Cronulla Carrying Company, NSW and featured a GM Detroit Diesel V6, model 6V71 engine.

This W925 S2R had many modifications during its commercial life including lengthening the bonnet to accommodate a larger Detroit Diesel V8 engine and the chassis extended to enable a refrigerated van configuration. After acquisition by Driver Classics, the refrigerated van was removed, a ground up restoration carried out and a flat-bed tray fitted to the chassis. The cab of the W925 was white when purchased, then changed to black with a red chassis and finally to its current silver, still with the red chassis.

Our Kenworth W925 S2R is powered by a GM Detroit Diesel V8 2 stroke engine, 568ci model 8V71 with a 10 speed Eaton Fuller Roadranger transmission.

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1986 Kenworth W925 AR

By the 1980s American based truck manufacturer, Kenworth Trucks Australia, had risen to become the top selling heavy duty truck on the Australian market.

Kenworth succeeded where others before had failed…surviving in the gruelling Australian outback.

Kenworth established a well-deserved reputation for quality Australian design, engineering and reliability that other manufacturers could only dream about. With this hard earned reputation, the legend continued to build, and even today, Kenworth is still the number one heavy duty truck and has achieved iconic status in Australia.

The W925 AR series Kenworth with its traditional long nose and large chrome grille came to epitomise classic Kenworth toughness and rugged good looks. It came as a surprise to the industry when in May 1976 it was discontinued in Australia when it could not meet the latest government dimension regulations and was subsequently replaced by the shorter sloping bonnet W925 SAR. However, with persistent customer demand and revised government regulations, the W925 AR was re-introduced in November 1978 and continues to this day, but now as the T900 series.

Driver Classics 1986 Kenworth W925 was originally built with a two stroke V8 GM Detroit Diesel model 8V92 Silver 400hp engine, but was repowered during its working life with a 12.7 litre Detroit Diesel Series 60. The torsion bar rear suspension was also replaced with Kenworth air suspension. Our Kenworth gained dubious notoriety in its early days when it was involved in a cigarette heist of rather suspicious circumstances in Northern Victoria.

Driver Classics Kenworth was new to Blue Circle Southern Cement Ltd and delivered through Gilbert and Roach, Homebush NSW. Driver Classics acquired the Kenworth in April 2010 from Danny Epema, near Bendigo in Central Victoria.

Our Kenworth W925 AR is powered by a Detroit Diesel 4 stroke engine, 12.7 litre Series 60, 430hp with a 13 speed Eaton Fuller Roadranger transmission.

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1950 Dodge DF1-08 ‘Pilot House’
light duty truck

Produced in North America between 1948 and 1953, the Dodge Pilot House light duty trucks were also assembled and later manufactured by Chrysler in South Australia. The term ‘Pilot House’ was coined by Dodge to describe the taller cab and larger glass area which offered a better view of the road.

This Dodge was sold new in 1950 to Mr H A South, a farmer from Mundubbera, Queensland. Mr South used the Dodge on his farm until eventually it was left in a paddock to rot away.

In 1999, Mr South was having work done on a Bedford OB truck by Bill Cobden from Bill Budd’s Auto in Kirra, on Queensland’s Gold Coast. Mr South was struggling to pay for the work, so he struck a deal with Bill and gave him the Dodge as part payment.

Two weeks later it was purchased by Paul Wright, also from the Gold Coast. Driver Classics purchased the Dodge from Paul in October 2014.

It was initially thought to keep it ‘as is’ for a feature display on the back of the 1977 Kenworth W925 truck, as it is quite fascinating in its original state.

However, things change and it may end up being restored. We’ll see!

The Dodge is powered by a Dodge 218ci 6 cylinder petrol engine with a 3 speed column shift transmission.

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1959 Cadillac Coupe de Ville

Simply awesome - Excessive and outrageous styling with the world’s largest tail fins on a production automobile! Cadillac’s design philosophy at the time was heavily influenced by jet aircraft and the global space race. This can be seen in the tail light design representing the exhausts of a jet.

The ’59 Cadillac represents the pinnacle of post war prosperity in the USA. At a time when the rest of the world was rebuilding, Cadillac was setting the trend for future consumerism.

The Cadillac Coupe de Ville measures 18 foot 9 inches and weighs in at 4750 pounds, a large vehicle even for its day.

Cadillac’s total production in 1959 was 129,923 cars and 21,924 were Coupe de Ville’s. Notable options on the ’59 Cadillac’s were cruise control, ‘Autronic Eye’ automatic headlights and air suspension, all features that were way ahead of their time.

Cadillac’s 1959 advertising says: “In its great beauty and majesty…in its fineness of performance…in the elegance of its Fleetwood interiors…and in the skill of its craftsmanship…it is far and away the finest fruit of Cadillac’s unending quest for quality.”

Our 1959 Cadillac Coupe de Ville was meticulously restored in Adelaide, SA around the early nineties. Ralph Plarre of Essendon, VIC acquired the 1959 Cadillac soon after completion of the restoration. Ralph was also president of the Cadillac La Salle Car Club of Victoria at the time.

Ralph’s 1959 Cadillac was not actually for sale but during a casual conversation with Ralph about the car and how hard it was to find a top condition Cadillac, Ralph surprisingly said that he may agree to sell it as he had plans for another Cadillac. Driver Classics subsequently purchased the ’59 Cadillac from Ralph in 1997.

The 1959 Cadillac Coupe de Ville is powered by a 390ci V8 petrol engine with a 4 speed Hydra-matic automatic transmission.

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1961 Cadillac Coupe de Ville

With its contemporary razor edge styling, the ’61 Cadillac represents the epitome of carefree sixties motoring. Tail fins were lower for 1961 and were complemented by ‘skegs’ - long pointed fins on the lower section of the rear side panels.

The windscreen had lost the panoramic wraparound 50’s look, but still featured a switchback design at the bottom of the front pillar, while the rear window was curved in a bubble type style.

Overall the ’61 Cadillac range looked lighter and felt more agile than their predecessors. The combination of smaller fins and sharp edge styling resulted in one of Cadillac’s most pleasing and appealing designs. Cadillac built 20,156 Coupe de Ville’s in 1961 out of a total production of 112,753.

Cadillac’s 1961 advertising says: “A new Cadillac car is one of the few material possessions for which there is no completely acceptable substitute”.

Our 1961 Cadillac Coupe de Ville was purchased from Peter Selge in Belair, SA in 1996 and was a good reliable, straight car. Many quality US imports came to South Australia in the 80s and 90s, as at the time, LHD registration was permitted in that state but not in others. Our 1961 Cadillac Coupe de Ville has never had a complete ‘body off chassis’ restoration but has had many areas restored to keep it in top shape.

The ‘61 Cadillac is powered by a 390ci V8 engine with a 4 speed Hydra-matic automatic transmission.

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1962 Ford Thunderbird Sports Roadster convertible

Inspired by the space age with sleek fuselage-like styling, the ’62 Thunderbird earned the nick name ‘bullet bird’ and was a mild facelift of the ’61 T’Bird.

The ’62 Thunderbird Sports Roadster of which just 1,427 were produced, was able to conceal its top automatically at the touch of a button.

When fitted with a factory fibreglass tonneau (headrests included) hiding the rear seats, the ’62 T’Bird had the appearance of a two seater but with the simple removal of the tonneau cover, four seats were revealed.

The rear jet inspired taillights capped off a stunningly beautiful design. Ford advertising for the ’62 Thunderbirds stated: “Sparkling with original ideas, from Swing-Away steering wheel to ‘floating’ rear view mirror…all crafted to Thunderbird standards of extraordinary quality”.

The Thunderbird shared many common traits with the ’61 Lincoln Continental including headlights and the full length fender ridge.

The ‘power dome’ bonnet of this 1962 Ford Thunderbird Sports Roadster concealed a 390ci V8 and a ‘Cruise-O-Matic’ automatic transmission.

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1968 Ford Fairlane 500 (ZB Series)

The 1968 ZB Fairlane was a slightly face lifted version of the 1967 ZA model. The ZA to ZD series of Fairlanes were the first home grown Fairlanes that were designed and developed for the Australian market. All previous Fairlanes were designed in the US and assembled in Australia, usually with parts supplied from Ford of Canada.

This range of Fairlanes used the Falcon XT platform, but with a 5 inch longer wheelbase of 116 inches and an overall length of 196 inches. The front part of the car was essentially an Australian Falcon with a locally designed grille and twin headlights, while the rear panels and boot were imported and of US design. The comparable US Fairlane of the ’67 and ’68 era had a stacked headlight arrangement which did not appear in Australia until the ZC model.

The popularity of the Fairlane grew rapidly and it soon became a leader in its class. Cars at a similar level of luxury were often double the price. Total production for the Fairlane ZB model was 10,708.

Ford advertising at the time stated: “This is the luxury motorcar that more people move up to than any other car”.

The Fairlane Custom was the base model while the Fairlane 500 was the top of the range and came equipped with “Twin- Comfort lounge” front seats, a “Mustang” V8 engine and a “SelectShift Cruise-O-Matic” automatic transmission.

The ’68 Ford Fairlane 500 is powered by a Mustang V8, 302ci petrol engine with a 3 speed automatic transmission.

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The Driver family is proud to present our Classics collection of restored & preserved buses, trucks and cars from the 1930’s through to the 1980’s.

Since 1931, the three generations of the Driver family have seen many vehicles come and go. With a deep seated passion for our companies history and our industry in general, we have preserved these vehicles for future generations to enjoy and appreciate.

Over the years some vehicles were trend setters and game changers, others just did their job, while some did not even achieve that. But there were always vehicles that performed way above expectation and influenced progressive change in the industry.

With our collection, we have tried to find significant vehicles that stood out as leaders in design and reliability for their era. Our passion is for buses that we operated, or that were operated by companies that we acquired, or buses that operated in Australia and had a profound influence on our industry and our company. Because of our general interest in all things automotive, we have also collected cars and trucks that stood out in design or that we simply like.

Restoration of our Driver Classics collection has been done in our own Melbourne workshops and body shop by our dedicated and highly skilled staff. Our vehicles are regularly displayed at enthusiast shows and community events in and around Melbourne and country shows throughout our state of Victoria and on some occasions, even interstate. You may also see them in movies and TV shows from time to time.

Our 1946 Bedford OB-Grice is currently on long term display at the Glen Campe Motor Museum in Hamilton, Victoria and our GM and MCI coaches have a changing rotation through the Sir Reginald Ansett Transport Museum, also in Hamilton, Victoria.

Each vehicle in our collection has detailed information available when you click on ‘read more’. All stories in ‘read more’ have been written and researched by Gary Driver with grateful assistance from the Bus and Coach Society of Victoria. Unless noted otherwise, all photos are from Gary Driver and Ralf Boetker.

We hope you enjoy these fine examples that helped build Australia’s bus, coach and automotive industry.