Although more widely known for the construction of heavy lorries than with the production of passenger chassis, Atkinson Vehicles Ltd., of Walton-le-Dale, Preston, made a late entry into the PSV market in 1950.
Their manufacturing technique was basically to assemble components produced by outside companies, such as Gardner engines, David Brown gearboxes and Kirkstall axles, by hand. Minor components, designed by Atkinson, were manufactured by Atherton Brothers Ltd, a subsidiary.
At the time, there was a move towards the underfloor engine in single-deck chassis, and Atkinson thought that there might be a market for a horizontally mounted version of the Gardner engine with a constant-mesh gearbox (a combination that only Guy Motors were offering in any quantity).
Collaborating with local operators, North Western Road Car Company and Lancashire United Transport, Atkinson Vehicles produced chassis to individual specifications.
The Alpha chassis’ were given the designation either PM745H or PM746H, the first letter of which represented the type of chassis (P = Passenger); the second letter represented the weight of the chassis (Medium or eventually Light).
The first figure represented the nominal payload + body (7 tons); the second figure represented the number of wheels (4); and the final figure represented the number of engine cylinders (5LW or 6LW); the final letter stood for the plane of the engine (Horizontal).
There was a choice of gearbox, either the Atkinson-manufactured HO556 five-speed gearbox, or the David Brown 557CM five-speed gearbox.
The top speed (with 6LW engine fitted) was 42 mph with the David Brown gearbox, or 55 mph with the Atkinson gearbox.
The North Western Road Car Company ordered the first Atkinson chassis in 1950 (Nos. 394-395), although it was not until August 1951 that they entered service. They had Weymann rear-entrance bodywork in a style popular with North Western at the time.
The very first Atkinson chassis to enter service (MTJ807) was with Sandown Tours of Burnley in June of the same year, sporting a Trans-United C41C body.
By 1952 North Western had 10 more Atkinson PM746H vehicles (Nos. 500-509) in service and two of the PM745H-type (Nos. 510-511; the only chassis of this type to be manufactured). Lancashire United purchased its first examples of Atkinson chassis in the same year with 10 PM746H-type chassis being delivered (Nos. 479-488).
Atkinson introduced a new lightweight chassis in 1952 with the option of Gardner 4LW engine. North Western took one PL744H chassis (No. 512), but found the engine too small and it was replaced by a Gardner 5LW.
The sister vehicle (No. 513) already had a 5LW engine, but both vehicles had single tyres on the rear wheels. Twin tyres were fitted in October 1955. In the event these chassis proved to be the last Atkinson chassis ordered by North Western.
The following year Lancashire United purchased ten PL745H chassis (Nos. 490-499) and a further nine (Nos. 522-531) in 1954.
By this time the PL745H chassis was interesting other operators and was fast becoming the most popular.
In 1954 the Stalybridge, Mossley, Hyde and Dukinfield undertaking put two PL745H chassis in service, and took a further six Atkinson chassis over the following years. The PL745H chassis was also popular amongst independents, including coach operators.
In 1955, Atkinson introduced the PD746 double-deck chassis, of which only one was built. It was purchased by the Stalybridge undertaking (No.70) and remained the only Atkinson double-deck to enter service.
In 1956, Sunderland Corporation took delivery of an Atkinson chassis, specially constructed with extended wheelbase of 18ft 3¼in, with a vertically mounted engine at the front. It was numbered 30. A similar vehicle was delivered the following year.
Thereafter, Atkinson received only two minor orders, one in 1959 from the Stalybridge undertaking and the last in 1963 from Sunderland Corporation for three PL746H chassis, just a short while before Atkinson Vehicles announced that it was to cease production of passenger chassis altogether.
Atkinson Vehicles Ltd.
UK Passenger Chassis Production 1950-1963
|Chassis No.||Type||Reg. No.||Body||Seating||Operator||Fleet No.|
|FC2390-2393||PM746H||OTD531-533||Northern Counties||B44F||Lancashire United||479-481|
|FC2743||PM746H||OTD537||Northern Counties||B34C+27||Lancashire United||485|
|FC3049-3050||PM746H||OTD535-536||Northern Counties||B44F||Lancashire United||483-484|
|FC3051-3053||PM746H||OTD538-540||Northern Counties||B34C+27||Lancashire United||486-488|
|FC3079||PL745H||RTC681||Northern Counties||B34C+27||Lancashire United||490|
|FC3082-3085||PL745H||RTC682-685||Northern Counties||B34C+27||Lancashire United||491-494|
|FC3300||PL745H||NWY44||Burlingham||C41C||Everett, South Kirkby||–|
|FC3312||PL745H||TTD300||Northern Counties||B34C+27||Lancashire United||531|