Formerly operated by London General Omnibus Company,1922 AEC S-Type open-top double-deck bus  Chassis no. 21708 Engine no. B2664
Lot 1243
1922 AEC S-Type open-top double-deck bus
Registration no. XL 8962 Chassis no. 21708 Engine no. B2664
Sold for £281,500 (US$ 477,065) inc. premium
Lot Details
Formerly operated by London General Omnibus Company
1922 AEC S-Type open-top double-deck bus
Registration no. XL 8962
Chassis no. 21708
Engine no. B2664


  • "S454" is one of 928 S-Type buses built for the London General Omnibus Company by the Associated Equipment Company of Walthamstow between 1920 and 1927. The S-Type was the third bus type built for the LGOC by AEC, succeeding the pre-war B-Type and the immediately post-war forward-control 46-seater K-Type, the first bus to be built on a production line. This actual bus was delivered to the LGOC's garage at 20-26 Nunhead Lane, South Peckham – opened in 1911 by the National Steam Car Company – where Michael Banfield's father Charles was employed as a driver; it went into service there on 2 October 1922, with the "Metropolitan Stage Carriage" plate No 2635. Among the routes that it plied from Nunhead Lane was No 12, which ran from The Plough at Dulwich to the Princess Victoria at Uxbridge Road, Shepherd's Bush, a journey of 13.3-miles for which the full fare was 8d (3.5p). Its driver would have been paid £4 a week, his conductor £3 15s (£3.75).

    At that time, the AEC S-type double-decker was the cream of London buses. Its chassis alone cost £1150 with solid tyres; pneumatics – the added comfort of which the LGOC obviously felt was unnecessary – would have added another £150 to the bill. AEC built 849 S-Type double-deckers and 79 single-deckers. Powered by a fixed-head bi-block 35-hp AEC 4-Type engine displacing 5.1 litres, the S-Type had a three-speed crash gearbox for London service; models used in provincial work had four-speed boxes. The rear axle had underslung worm drive and the braking system operated through rods to a pair of concentric drums on each rear wheel, the inner of which served the handbrake and the outer the foot brake.

    The original open top body of S454, No 6120, was built by Christopher Dodson of Cobbold Road, Willesden, London NW, and seated 54 passengers, 26 inside and 28 out. While the inside passengers on the lower deck enjoyed a reasonable degree of comfort, with upholstered cushions and bentwood seat backs, "outside" passengers on the open upper deck only had wooden seating, since it was impractical to have upholstered seats. Their only weather protection was the provision of canvas storm sheets; a notice exhorted upstairs passengers that they should "in wet weather refix cover over seat".

    This bus ran on various routes during the 1920s and was finally withdrawn from service in 1931, when it was working out of the Old Kent Road LGOC garage with the Metropolitan Stage Carriage plate number 5988. It was sold to the War Department on 27 April 1931; this seems to have been simply a "holding operation", since on 20 May the same year it was in the hands of Carjax Ltd, of Albemarle Street, London W1, a company concerned with the financing of hire-purchase agreements. A few weeks later, Carjax sold it to Dependence Motor Transport (Cartage and Removal Contractors) of 1/8 St John's Mews, Plough Terrace, Clapham Junction, London SW11, for "use at some future date as a petrol goods lorry".

    In July 1934, the S-Type was sold via Ford Main Dealers Allan Taylor & Co of Wandsworth to Mr T. Hyatt of Blackshaw Road in nearby Tooting.

    From that point until 1964, the history of S454 is unknown until in July 1964, the magazine Old Motor and Vintage Commercial published a photograph of what was believed to be "the remains of an LGOC K-type bus... in a Berkshire scrapyard".

    Nothing happened until the following May, when at a committee meeting of the Historic Commercial Vehicle Club (later Society), the future registrar of the HCVC persuaded Michael Banfield – who had joined the HCVC as a founder member in 1957 and risen to its chairmanship as well as being vehicle preservation officer – that the "K-type" in the scrapyard should be preserved.

    Since 1955, Michael had been working for his father's company, Banfields coaches. This had been founded in the 1920s, when LGOC driver Charles Banfield had begun "moonlighting" at weekends with a 1919 Garford charabanc. One morning in 1928 Charles was called before Nunhead Garage superintendent Mr Dillon and asked, "Do you own a 20-seater Garford?" He admitted ownership, and the one-man band was sacked for competing with his employers, whose bus fleet numbered hundreds! And thus the South East London coach firm of Charles W. Banfield Ltd came into being...

    In an instance of supreme irony, in 1957 Charles Banfield bought the Nunhead Lane garage, which had been closed by London Transport, the LGOC's successors, three years earlier, as the headquarters garage for his now substantial coach fleet.

    For many years, Charles Banfield had nursed the desire to acquire an S-type bus as a souvenir of his start in business, but only one was known to survive, and that was in museum preservation.

    On 6 June 1964 Michael inspected the "K-type" at J.T. Evans' scrapyard in Lodge Way, Chesham Road, Wiggington, near Tring: it had the remains of the lower deck of its body still fitted and was being used as a chicken coop. Four days later, Michael sent a £10 cheque as deposit to secure the old bus, and on 15 June he paid £120 in cash for it and transported it back to Nunhead Lane, where it became clear that it was no K-type, but the substantially-larger S-type; subsequent investigation showed that it had been delivered new to Nunhead Lane and almost certainly had been driven by Charles Banfield.

    It was put to one side while Michael Banfield began restoring a 1917 Maxwell van, then early in 1966 his father asked if he would start restoration of the S-type. On 17 April the remains of the body were removed from the chassis for pattern purposes, and three days later, work started in earnest. Then, without warning, on 26 April Charles Banfield died suddenly. Said Michael: "I knew in my heart that he had had a premonition and wanted to see the start of the rebuild of this vehicle."

    The S-type proved to be mechanically complete – "all the essential parts were there" – and needed little more than new pistons, big and small ends and valve springs. Nevertheless, every working part was stripped down and reconditioned, while the four road springs were completely overhauled.

    However, what survived of the bodywork was only usable as patterns. Fortunately the London Transport Board was able to supply original body drawings and the Curator of the Museum of British Transport, John Scholes, loaned their 1923 S-type S742 – which differed only in having rounded instead of straight lower body panels – for comparison. At each stage of the restoration, which was carried out "in-house" by members of the Banfield's Coaches staff, contemporary photographs were consulted and transport historians consulted to ensure absolute authenticity. Period signs and advertisements were reproduced exactly, and the period lining-out and signwriting on the carefully replicated bodywork meticulously mirrored the original livery.

    Almost exactly two years to the day from the start of restoration, the restored S-type made its public debut at the Historic Commercial Vehicle Club's London-Brighton Run on Sunday 2 May 1965 and was deservedly awarded "best in class", winning the Modern Transport Challenge Cup for the best passenger vehicle with over 20 seats, the first of a number of concours awards deservedly won.

    In 1969, Commercial Motor road-tested S454 on the original No 12 route from Dulwich to Shepherd's Bush and was greatly impressed by the 47-year-old bus: "The steering accuracy of this vehicle has to be sampled to be believed," wrote CM's staffman. "I find many modern vehicles difficult to keep on a straight line when travelling in congested conditions, but the S-type can be relied on to go exactly where it is aimed. Neither are there any reversals and harsh kicks through the steering gear, which might be expected. Most certainly the feel of the machine is there all the time...

    "Altogether it was a fascinating and illuminating experience to drive the S-type; although I have had a fair amount of experience with what are now considered ancient vehicles, it proved to be far and away the most advanced and pleasant of all the oldies I have handled."

    For so long the lynch-pin of the Banfield collection of commercial vehicles, in a new ownership this wonderfully authentic London omnibus, which is in running order, will surely continue to draw as much attention as it did on its post-restoration debut almost 50 years ago.

    A comprehensive file includes old registration documents – including a buff log book – photographs, correspondence and press clippings.
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