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Homepage. This page: A further selection of 1920s' & 1930s' open-top motor coaches, or char-a-bancs as they were known.

Vintage charabancs (Page 2).

The charabanc photographs shown below continue on from those presented on this page, and as more turn up they'll be added in. If anyone can help with more vintage scenes like this, please drop me a line. Jim sent me a collection of images featuring old Crossley charabancs, they now feature on a page dedicated to these Crossleys.
The first charabanc to feature on this page was sent in by Jane in November 2009. Her grandfather was on a works' outing when it was taken - he worked for the LEB (London Electricity Board) for his entire working career. The charabanc owners' details are written on the side of the vehicle, although I can only make out part of the Garage name, and the location - Waltham Abbey. As with so many photos like this, the vehicle's front end isn't in shot, so whether anyone can identify this one from the details visible, I don't know.
It certainly looks very well loaded - with some 32 people readied for the ride out - and a small legend on the lower body advises a maximum permissible speed of 12 mph. No chance of all those flat caps blowing off then. Thanks for sending it in Jane!
A vintage charabanc

2. Bristol Tramways & Carriage Company Ltd.

The next photo is one I found, mounted on card and titled "Motor Coach Tour 1925". I count 19 passengers on board, plus the photographer and a driver. So in other words a full load - a small inscription near the vehicle number (72 385) advises that this charabanc was designed with 20 passengers in mind. A closer look also reveals the following writing on the locker lid, ahead of the rear axle: "Bristol Tramways & Carriage Co. Ltd Henry F. Cooper - Secretary". Dunlop S S Cord tyres are fitted.
A Bristol charabanc
The Bristol Tramways & Carriage Company Ltd was formed in 1887, following the merger of the Bristol Tramways Company and the Bristol Cab Company. In 1906 the company introduced motor buses for the first time, operating in the Bristol area alongside the trams they already had in service. In 1908 they introduced the first bus of their own manufacture, thus heralding the introduction of Bristol buses and charabancs to Britain's road network. Interest in these vehicles from other operators soon led to Bristol supplying vehicles to outside firms.

3. Green Car Sight-Seeing Service.

Dane in Australia kindly emailed this next picture over, one he bought at a garage sale. He's done some research already, and it seems that the vehicle shown is a Lansden Electric, an unusual electrically-driven char-a-banc used on the Green Car Sight-Seeing Service offered by the Hotel Bartholdi, of Broadway and 23rd Street, New York USA. All the passengers look very well wrapped up, with blankets over their knees, plus thick coats and headgear much in evidence. This vehicle was No.6 in their fleet, I wonder how many electric vehicles in all they operated? The chain drive to the rear axle is visible, and presumably the batteries were stored in the lockers beneath the seats.
A Lansden Electric char-a-banc in New York
Although not easy to see in this view, there is a Swastika painted between "B-Way" and "23rd St." on the side. This was at a time before Adolf and his cronies adopted the logo as their own, previously standing for good luck and prosperity. The Hotel Bartholdi operated bus tours of NYC for many years in the early 20th Century, and they made prints of these vehicles available to its passengers. Another period shot, again of vehicle No.6, can be found on this Connecticut History site, with a slightly different vehicle from the same fleet seen on the gettyimages.com.

4. The Pride of Edmonton.

Angela is hoping that the vintage char-a-banc in this next photo can be identified. The only information she has is that it was photographed in Enfield, Middlesex. The signwriting on the door says "Pride of Edmonton", and in the centre, the operator who appears to have been E.G. Sykes. The original front-end panelwork reminds me very much of the Ford Model TT, a commercial vehicle version of Ford's Model T car, and this has since been confirmed. If anyone can shed more light on this particular vehicle, or the char-a-banc's operator, please get in touch.
(Please click the thumbnail to view full-size image.)
Char-a-banc seen in Enfield

5. Florence Coaches.

Mike emailed this photo over, it shows his grandmother and a group of passengers ready for a day trip in a vintage char-a-banc of unknown make. Can anyone help with information on the operator of this vehicle - Florence Coaches - ??
A vehicle belonging to Florence Coaches

6. White Star char-a-banc.

This old photo, measuring 8" x 6", dates to the 1920s but sadly has very little information to share. A legend for "White Star" appears on the side of this char-a-banc, as does the number 7 on its scuttle (a fleet number?). There are few clues to the identity of the vehicle, perhaps the split "V" windscreen will help identify it, and I've yet to find a reference to a coach operator with the name White Star. People both young and not-so-young were taking part in this day trip in the 1920's, I count 33 passengers plus one driver, the latter having a swift drag on his Woodbine prior to departure.
A White Star char-a-banc

7. A party outside the Rams Head Hotel in Preston.

Gill emailed over this next vintage photograph. Mounted on card, the photographer is given as Russells', Photographers, Rams Head Hotel, Longton, which is situated in Preston. As with most photographs of this type, the front of the char-a-banc isn't in shot, the prime interest was to capture all the passengers set for their road trip. There was certainly no shortage of takers for this trip either, I count forty men, women and children.
There is some writing on the driver's door but is barely legible. Does anyone recognise the make of vehicle? Perhaps the pattern of the rear wheel, sporting a solid rubber tyre, will prove to be the biggest aid to identifying this vehicle.
A char-a-banc in Preston

8. The Royal Blue Cars.

This photo, printed as a postcard, shows a motor-vehicle operating under the name of "The Royal Blue Cars", yet despite this there is no livery on the vehicle which is surprising. A modestly-sized char-a-banc when compared to some of the goliaths featured in the gallery, a full load of eleven persons (including driver) are ready for their run out. Is there enough detail in shot to help identify the vehicle they're riding in? On the first page featuring char-a-banc photos there is a reference to Royal Blue Motor Tours - is this the same firm?
A tour operated by Royal Blue Cars

9. Carrimore Motor Services Co.

Doreen sent this next char-a-banc photo over, it was taken c1930 and shows her father and a group of his colleagues taking part in a works' day out. Does anyone have information on Carrimore Motor Services? Doreen says the motor trip would have started out in the East End of London, with the destination quite possibly being one of the popular tourist destinations in that corner of the country - ie towns such as Brighton, Southend, or Clacton perhaps. If anyone can shed light on this char-a-banc operator, I'll add it in.
A Carrimore Motor Services char-a-banc

10. A Riviera coach trip.

Although the photographer didn't make a note of the date, at least he/she did jot down the location - Gorge du Loup, in the French Riviera. Less easy will be identifying the smart open-top char-a-banc cum coach seen here, parked at the roadside with its driver leaning on the front wing. The radiator surround has a peak to it, which may help with identification. Despite this being in France, the vehicle is right-hand drive. There's no luggage on the roof rack over the rear compartment, suggesting that this photo was taken on a day-trip rather than on a longer voyage.
A vintage motor-coach in the Riviera

11. Kelly Springfield.

Had it not been for the lettering "Kelly Springfield" being visible on this char-a-banc's coachwork, just below the steering column, I probably wouldn't have been able to identify this well-laden vehicle. Certainly whoever operated it was able to fill all the seats. The occupants of this solid-tyred coach didn't have any substantial bodywork to keep them in place, just small iron frames at the end of each bench. No doubt passengers would maintain a firm hold of the seat back in front of them to reduce the chance of them falling out, and getting tangled up within the hefty chains driving the rear wheels. The lady sat behind the driver had the benefit of a small horn on which to rest her foot, for security, but no seat back to grab hold of if the going got tricky.
A Kelly-Springfield char-a-banc
Kelly (1910-1912) took over production of the air-cooled Frayer-Miller trucks. In 1912 a re-organisation saw the firm re-named to the Kelly-Springfield Motor Truck Co. Vehicles were produced from 1912 to 1929, at their factory in Springfield, Ohio. Initially air-cooled, their vehicles adopted water cooling and became known as Kelly-Springfields. They featured a coal scuttle bonnet, with the radiator being located between the engine and the driver's cab. Versions designed to carry payloads of 1,2 and 3 tons were listed early on, with further variants being added in later. From 1924 onwards the lighter trucks in their range featured a conventional radiator at the front of the chassis.

12. A char-a-banc from Blackpool.

Blackpool would have been the destination for countless char-a-banc tour operators in the vintage years. The vehicle in this photograph though hails from that area, King Edward Garage of Blackpool, owned by a Mr W.C. Standerwick it seems. There was certainly no shortage of willing passengers for this operator's services, if this photograph is typical of their day trips. Warm coats, scarves and hats were the order of the day in this scene, suggesting an autumn or winter's day. Note the solid rubber rear tyres. Thanks to Christie for sending this scan over.
A char-a-banc in Blackpool

13. "Sunbeam".

Alas no-one thought to jot down on the reverse of this photo, details of the vehicle, its operator, or where and when the photo was taken. The word Sunbeam is emblazoned across the front of this vintage machine, a clue as to the operator or just advertising the type of vehicle they were operating? I found a reference to horse-drawn "Sunbeam" char-a-bancs operating on the Isle of Man, but if more concrete information turns up, I'll add it in. Note the twin rear wheels fitted to the vehicle, and the spare roped on underneath the offside running board.
The Sunbeam

14. Grey Coaches.

John was kind enough to email over this next photo of a vintage char-a-banc, this particular example serving with Grey Coaches. It was photographed on a works' outing in 1926, John's father Les and uncle Bert are among the all-male passengers on this trip. What I really like about this photograph is that the entire side of the vehicle is in view - so often just the passenger compartment is shown. A note at the bottom right tells that the char-a-banc was parked at Farnham Common, just a few miles to the north of Slough. The solid-tyred vehicle was restricted to a top speed of 12 mph.
Grey Coaches char-a-banc in 1926

15. Pioneer Coaches.

Once again, an ancient char-a-banc and no front end visible to help its identification. Livery on the vehicle's side confirm that it was owned by Pioneer Coaches, although what the "M524" refers to I'm not sure, unless it was an operator's registration number of some kind. The male and female passengers look like they're ready for a fun day out anyway, quite possibly a "works" outing as a commercial building is in the background. While there are no details of the photograph's date, or exact location of this scene, there are some clues. For starters, part of a sign on the building can be seen - the word possibly ending in "cel". A stamp on the rear advises that this is a "Happy Snaps" photograph, a company that was located at 39 Broad Street, Jersey, C.I. (Channel Islands) and was in business throughout the 1930s at least.
Pioneer Coaches however was in business right up until recent times, 2000 to be exact, and there are several references to the firm's more recent activities online.
Pioneer Coaches
Return to Old Car Photos section, Page No. 10.
Page 3 of the char-a-bancs section can be found on this page.

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