` Exclusive First Editions - Bristol VRT Series I Bus Review
Click the small pictures throughout the review to view larger versions.

38101 - EFE Midland Scottish Bristol VRT Series I Double Deck Bus
38101 - EFE's Midland Scottish Bristol VRT Series I was the first release of this new tooling.

A Brief History
Bristol VRT

   The Bristol VR made it's public début at the 1966 Commercial Motor Show in London, the first pair of prototypes had longitudinal mounted engines fitted behind the rear axle. The vehicle was originally designed for use as both a double & single vehicle and Bristol at one time planned to call it the N type, however VR was adopted for Vertical Rear and the single deck plans never came to fruition.

High off-side rear view - Click to enlarge

The chassis was available in two lengths, 32'9" (9.98m) and 36' (11m), these were allocated the suffix S or L for long or short.

The VR also marked the return of Bristol's products to the open market, between 1948 & 1965 their products had only been available to other operators within the nationalised British Transport Commission.

   The first pair of prototype vehicles had bodywork by Eastern Coach Works who like Bristol Commercial Vehicles had had their products restricted to the BTC group members. The 80 seat bodies had a flat windscreen and staircase positioned directly behind the drivers cab. The ECW bodies had four leaf folding doors and nearside lower windows extended all the way to the rear of the body.

In 1967 a further version was announced which had the more conventional transverse engine layout, this was known as the VRT and was exclusively designed for use as a double deck vehicle. Following the introduction of the VRT the original version was re-designated VRL. The introduction of a government bus grant in July 1968 stipulated that eligible vehicles required a transverse engine and as a result only a small number of VRLs were actually built.

38101 Nearside front view - Click to enlarge 38101 Off-side front view - Click to enlarge 38101 Nearside rear - Click to enlarge 38101 Off-side rear view - Click to enlarge
EFE 38101 - Midland Scottish MRT5 (SMS 35H) carries the operators blue & white livery

The first production vehicles were delivered in 1968 to Eastern Scottish a member of the Scottish Bus Group. SBG took fairly large numbers of the early production vehicles which unfortunately suffered various reliability issues with the transmissions & had engine overheating problems. The problems were similar to those that affected the early Atlantean & Fleetlines, but by 1973 the Scottish Bus Group had had enough of the Bristol VRs and exchanged 91 of the vehicles on a one for one basis for older National Bus Company Bristol Lodekkas.

The Bristol VR was updated in 1970 and the must visible change was to the engine compartment which saw the original single piece rear engine cover replaced by a two piece design.
The series 2, as it was know, was like the original version mainly bodied by ECW. The original bodywork included a flat windscreen and front grille panel and could be produced in both dual & single door layout, the single door layout was by far the most common however. Regardless of the door layout the body incorporated an offside staircase which was positioned directly behind the driver cab area.

38102 Nearside front view - Click to enlarge 38102 Off-side front view - Click to enlarge 38102 Nearside rear - Click to enlarge 38102 Off-side rear view - Click to enlarge
EFE 38102 - Ribble 1992 (OCK 992K) carries the operators traditional red & cream livery

ECW soon introduced an updated design with restyled curved windscreen and more rounded front dash panel and was also known as a Series 2 vehicle.
Other bodywork could also be fitted to the Bristol chassis and Northern Counties, East Lancs, and Alexander were among some of the builders who offered an alternative to ECW product.
During 1974 a further update was made to the VRT, this saw a minor restyling of the ECW front panel which incorporated a larger grille and saw the previous air vents in the rear engine compartment repositioned to the between deck panels at the rear. This was known as the series III and was by far the most common version.

Nearside - Click to enlarge Front & rear - Click to enlarge Off-side - Click to enlarge

In all over 4,500 Bristol VR vehicles had been built by the time the model was discontinued in 1981. The type became the standard double deck vehicle for the majority of the National Bus Company operating divisions and proved extremely reliable with many continuing to operate well in to the late 1990's with their original owners.
The last examples faded from public service in the late 2000's after some examples had given a very respectable 25 years of service.

High off-side front view - Click to enlarge High nearside rear view - Click to enlarge
EFE second Series I VRT featured a Ribble vehicle
The Model
The first pair of Flat Screen VR models - Click to enlarge

   It's been sometime since EFE released a totally new double deck bus tooling, the last was the London RLH over five years ago. The new flat screen ECW bodied Bristol VRT appears to be a cross between a series I and series II vehicle with a one piece rear engine cover which lacks the wider flanges at the top.
The first pair of Flat Screen VR models - Click to enlarge - Click to enlarge In something of a departure for EFE they have chosen to produce the main body as a single piece casting, all the previous EFE double deck models have had separate upper & lower deck castings. The previous VRT models also had separate engine housings and front grille panels to allow the main body casting to be used for both series II & III models.

Despite having the single piece body the model's construction uses EFE's now traditional internal pole method, however compared with the earlier series II & III versions of the model these have been fairly successfully hidden behind the window pillars and internal fittings. The diecast body also seems much thinner than the previous models and the model has a less chunky feel about it.

Mark I & mark II models - Click to enlarge On first examination the model looks very similar to the existing Series 2 EFE casting in terms of the panel detailing and rear engine compartment. The new tooling has slightly more beading detail then the earlier EFE VRT models, although this is only evident on the panels immediately above the lower deck side windows.
Mark I & mark II models - Click to enlarge Like the other versions there is only limited beading on the side between deck panels and the area below the lower deck side windows, the roof treatment also stays true to the original versions whereby only the fore & rear most beading strips are reproduced, the other panel joints appearing more like an overlap than beaded joint. The six small roof vents along the sides of the roof have also been made less prominent on this new version. The window detailing - Click to enlarge

The glazing on the new model has been improved and now appears much more flush with the exterior of the of the casting. The window vents were moulded into the glazing on the earlier models but this hasn't been repeated, all the panes are now flat, and have the window vents tampo printed on the outside in silver. This change will no doubt make it easier to represent different window arrangements.
An attempt has been made to reproduce the cream window rubber beading used on the early VRTs, although a nice touch some might feel it perhaps over emphasizes this feature somewhat.

The single piece rear engine cover - Click to enlarge The engine cooling grilles - Click to enlarge - Click to enlarge Taking a more detailed look at the rear, the engine cover is a single panel rather than the two piece version found on the earlier models, the vents in the panel are no longer recessed but are instead tampo printed decals. The emergency engine access panel is still a raised feature but the rear light clusters are now of the earlier smaller style.
The engine side covers have the beading moulded into them and use tampo printing to reproduce the fine mesh of the large cooling grilles

Close up of rear nearside - Click to enlarge Close up of the rear off-side - Click to enlarge

Close up of the front grille & windscreen - Click to enlarge The door detailing - Click to enlarge The largest differences between the flat screen versions and later VRT models is at the front of course, the first thing to note is the fitting of driving mirrors which are made of fairly rigid plastic, these look to be to scale and have authentic looking support arms. These have been finished to match the body colour and have silver painted mirrors on the rear. The flat front allows the entrance to be positioned further forward on this version of the vehicle leading to a wider pillar between the door & first lower deck window. It also means there's a notably longer drivers cab window on the off-side.

Close up of front nearside - Click to enlarge Close up of the front off-side - Click to enlarge

The external entrance door grab handrails - Click to enlarge The entrance has a four piece folding door and EFE have added the grab rails to either side of the entrance, although these are part of the main casting rather separate components they have been picked out very neatly with silver paint and manage to look very convincing.

The windscreen - Click to enlarge The front windscreen is a separate glazing component and uses EFE's favoured system where small tabs on the edges of the glazing clip over the internal edge of the main casting. The screen like the rest of the glazing has a cream edging to represent the rubber glazing gasket. A silver painted raised central glazing bar is also moulded on to the glazing along the windscreen wipers.

Close up of front grille - Click to enlarge

The model's dash panel and front grille capture the design well with the distinctive moulding around the lights and grille well captured. The headlights are finished in white paint but have silver surrounds to represent the chrome fittings. This works fairly well although it has to be said clear plastic inserts would have looked much more convincing although these have never been a feature on previous EFE models.

The grille detail is again tampo printed in black, the fine detail pattern used is however somewhat lost against the dark red body colour of the Ribble model.

The roof detailing - Click to enlargeTampo printing is also used to produce Bristol VR & ECW badges on the front and rear, the destination displays are applied using the same method and like the previous VRT models there is no detailing for these on the actual casting which does allow plenty of freedom for different configurations.
As usual EFE's tampo printing is crisp and cleanly applied in all instances.

The baseplate detailing - Click to enlarge

Being a one piece casting means the cast base found on the earlier VRT models has been replaced with a plastic one, this still contains virtually identical detailing however.

Finally mention has to be made of the interior detailing, in the past this has been fairly limited on EFE models but it's been stepped up a degree or two on this latest tooling. Firstly the cream plastic seating units have been re-done with somewhat finer detailing applied to the seating and partitions.
The seats have extra detailing - Click to enlarge All the seats have their cushion areas painted red and have silver paint applied to the top to represent the hand grabs, this improves the model overall appearance by some degree.

Detailing on the cab ceiling - Click to enlarge

The model also has a fairly detailed lower deck ceiling which includes panelling and strip lights above the side windows. There's even a ceiling light above the drivers area which has been painted white and an internal mirror that has a silvered finish to it's rear facing side.

Cab detailing - Click to enlarge At the front of the lower deck the cab detailing includes a ticket machine and separate steering wheel. EFE have also added an internal bulkhead behind the entrance which actually has a glazed panel in it. Finally there's a rather nice silver finished grab rail and pole positioned behind the doors.

The EFE Bristol VRT models - Click to enlarge The EFE Bristol VRT models - Click to enlarge
EFE's full range of Bristol VRT models; Series I, II & III

Overall a pleasing model which improves on EFE's earlier VRT models, the one piece casting also eliminates the joints that although well disguised before were none the less still a noticeable feature.

The increase in internal detailing is also welcome, it's true to say it's still not to the level seen on some of the CMNL & Britbus products of the past but it still a step forward and strikes the right balance between detail & a competitively priced product.

The only downside I can see with the model's one piece casting is that it makes an open top variant an expensive tooling option unlike the previous models, but having said that there probably aren't that many livery options anyway so it not going to be a big loss.

38108 Depicts Eastern Counties VR408 in the rather drab red N.B.C. coporative livery that many VRTs spent the majority of their life wearing
38108 Depicts Eastern Counties VR408 in the rather drab red N.B.C.
corporative livery that many VRTs spent the majority of their lives wearing

Since doing the initial draft for this review back in May 2012 and then finally getting around to posting it in August 2013 EFE have released nine further models. Generally all have matched the quality of the first two issues although some collectors feel the red used on the United version may be a little too dark.

  • Captures the vehicles looks well
  • One piece body casting
  • Good paint finish
  • Good detailing very neatly applied
  • Improved Interior detailing
  • Reproduction of rubber glazing beads look a bit heavy
  • Still has internal poles
Construction: 9/10
Livery Application : 9/10
Decal Application: 10/10
Interior Detailing 8/10
Likeness to Subject: 9/10

Overall: 9/10

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