Click the small pictures throughout the review to view larger versions.
Review, photographs & videos by Kevin Ellis.
Models reviewed were randomly purchased examples.

Rapido Trains: 71503 & 71010 - Birmingham New Look Guy Arab IV - click to view super hi-res image
Rapido Trains: 71503 - Birmingham City Transport (Deluxe) & 71010 - West Midlands Travel (Standard)

   Releases of new model bus castings have been rather rare events in the past few years. Most of the established UK manufacturers, bar Oxford Diecast, have scaled back investment in new tooling greatly over the past decade. We've also seen a dramatic drop in number of model bus & coach releases compared to that available a decade ago.

It's clear that the 2010s have been tough period for the four main UK diecast model bus manufacturers. As we start the new decade only Northcord are currently releasing new models on a regular basis. Britbus & B-T models are still around but currently only being produced as privately commissioned items.
EFE's once annual output of 80 plus releases as dwindled to just a handful following Bachmann's takeover. New tooling is in development, indicating commitment to the range going forward.
Corgi's 2019 catalogue was the first since 1994 not to include any new OOC model releases, there hasn't been any new tooling for the range since 2014 either. The Hornby Group has been to through a really difficult period and hopefully the new management team can get it back on track and allow the Corgi OOC range to receive some much needed investment in the near future.

Unsurprisingly not many new players have ventured into to this market, Forward Models did produce a series Birmingham Standard diecast models between 2012-8, sadly the economic pressures of rising production costs caused the company to cease production of future models in 2019.

Canadian based Rapido Trains is primarily a producer of railway models for the North American HO market, more recently its also expanded in to the OO market and produced a number of UK related rail products.

Its first move into the world of model buses came in 2017 when an HO (1/87th scale) New Look GM Fishbowl bus was launched. This was available in a number of different operator liveries, multiple versions of each livery depicting different vehicles & routes were issued

All issues of these models were produced in two versions, standard & deluxe, the difference being the deluxe models included working front & rear lights, internal lighting & illuminated destination displays. They also had a higher level of detailing on the interior such as painted seat backs.
A second version of the New Look GM bus with the narrower rear exit has been announced and is expected to be available during 2020.

During 2017 Rapido Trains announced they would be entering the UK market with a new 1/76 scale bus model, the subject of the model was revealed at a public 3D laser scanning event at the Wythall Transport Museum in Birmingham. During this event the Museum's Birmingham City Transport New Look Guy Arab IV JOJ 976 (2976) was subjected to the said scan.
The model version was originally expected to be ready for release during 2018, but the schedule slipped and the first batch of models eventually arrived with UK retailers in November 2019.

BCT nearside front view - Click to enlarge BCT offside rear view - Click to enlarge
WMPTE offside front view - Click to enlarge WMPTE nearside rear view - Click to enlarge

The Real Buses

Guy Motors showed Birmingham City Transport engineers their plans for a new double deck chassis in 1948, impressed by this new design with enclosed radiator and draft free drivers compartment BCT agreed to order 100 examples, these were suitably modified to meet BCT's specifications which included the fitting of a Gardner 6LW engine & pre-selector gearbox. Permission was also gained to allow the frontal styling to be used by both Crossley and Daimler.

The first batch on 100 vehicles with the new Guy Arab IV chassis entered service between July 1950 & May 1951. 2526-2624 had Metro-Cammell bodies built to BCT's own design and were 26 feet long.

A second batch of 100 with longer 27 foot bodies were order in 1951 and delivered between July 1952 & March 1953. These started a new numbering sequence & became 2901-993/6-3000, a further order for another 100 followed on & 3003-3102 entered service between May 1953 & October 1954.

A final order for one more vehicle was placed in 1952, 2994 was ordered to replace 3001 which had been fitted with a revised lightweight version of the Birmingham standard design body.
The 301 buses were destined to give Birmingham City Transport BCT) & later West Midlands PTE (WMPTE) passengers sterling service, some dating from the first 1950/1 batch, remained in passenger service until the end of October 1977.

BCT crest & legals - Click to enlarge West Midlands PTE inherited these vehicles - Click to enlarge
The models have been produced in both original BCT & later WMPTE liveries

The Models

Rapido Trains had initially announced eleven models, these depicted three different livery variations, BCT dark blue & cream with either early gold or later black fleet numbers, the third version portrays the livery of Oxford Blue & cream used by BCT's successor WMPTE. Each model is available as either a standard or deluxe release, as with the earlier New Look GM models the deluxe versions feature additional external & internal lighting, but are otherwise identical to the standard versions.
Each model depicts a different vehicle and route with one exception. 71000/71500 was supplied with blank destinations and featured the Wythall Museum's own 2976 bus. The same bus was also produced with route destinations for route 750 as 71007/715007.

A further BCT version was announced just prior to the UK release. Finally the model was also produced in unpainted kit form, again there are versions with & without the lighting.

Here's the full list of the first batch of 13 models:

Cat No.
Standard / Deluxe
Fleet No. Registration Route No. & Destination
Birmingham City Transport
Dark blue & cream with khaki roof (Gold fleet numbers)
Birmingham City Transport
Dark blue & cream with khaki roof (Black fleet numbers)
West Midlands PTE
(Oxford Blue & cream with khaki roof)
Undecorated Kits


Construction wise these models are almost entirely plastic, there are some small etched metal parts and internally the gangway grab poles are also metal. Silicon circuit boards form an integral part of the interior structure.

This model has been laser scanned and with that in mind the results can only be described as excellent, the shape of the vehicle is spot on, the one piece plastic body has very slim window pillars, something that always gets compromised to some degree on diecast models.

Body detailing wise, everything down to the individual rivet heads on the panel beading has been crisply reproduced on the model.
Satin finish paint has been used on the models, personally I think this looks more realistic at this scale, but some may have preferred the more traditional full gloss finish applied by other model manufacturers.
Either way the paint has excellent coverage and is evenly applied without any noticeable obstruction of the finer body detailing. Junctions between the different colours are well defined & have no visible bleeding.

The cab windscreen & door have windows with silver painted surrounds, paint has additionally been used to highlight the side window vents. All are precisely applied without any over spray onto the glazing or surrounding body panels.
The glazing itself is all flush fitted to the body and allows distortion free views of the interior.

71503 - BCT front nearside view - Click to enlarge 71503 - BCT nearside view - Click to enlarge
71503 - BCT rear nearside view - Click to enlarge 71503 - BCT rear offside view - Click to enlarge
71503 71503 - BCT offside view - Click to enlarge 71503 - BCT front offside view - Click to enlarge
71503 - Deluxe Birmingham City Transport version
2986 (JOJ 986) on the 32 Gospel Lane Loop via Lakey Lane route


71010 - WMPTE front view - Click to enlarge 71010 - WMPTE nearside view - Click to enlarge
71010 - WMPTE nearside rear view - Click to enlarge 71010 - WMPTE rear offside view - Click to enlarge
71010 - WMPTE offside view - Click to enlarge 71010 - WMPTE front offside view - Click to enlarge
71010 - Standard West Midlands PTE version
2995 (JOJ 995) on the route 15 to Blakenall


The tampo printed decals on these models include, fleet numbers, operator names/crests plus various legal lettering. The front registration plate is applied in this way and all are cleanly applied with even the smallest lettering fully readable.

The destination displays & rear number plate are tampo printed onto the rear of clear plastic, giving a convincing glazed looked. These are all accurately cut to size and glued into recesses on the body. In the case of the destinations, the apertures pass right through the bodywork which allows the internal lighting to illuminate the displays.

71503 - BCT rear detailing - Click to enlarge 71003 - BCT front nearside detailing - Click to enlarge
71003 - BCT front offside detailing - Click to enlarge 71010 - WMPTE front destination - Click to enlarge
71010 - WMPTE rear off-side detailing - Click to enlarge 71010 - WMPTE front grille - Click to enlarge

Other nice aspects of the body, include the engine cover which is a separate part that is glued in place. The resulting slight gap around it produces a very authentic effect.
The front grille has slits that pass through the body, a black plastic radiator is mounted to the base behind.

Two small round driving mirrors are fitted, these are very delicate and are glued into holes in the body. Each model has a bag taped to the underside of the plinth that contains a spare set, handy should you loose or damage the originals.

The front grille & radiator - Click to enlarge A spare set of mirrors - Click to enlarge

Etched metal parts are used on the models for all the platform hand rails & central pole, All of these are extremely fine & scale wise are without doubt the best I've seen on a mass produced model of this scale. Other etched parts are the skirt lifeguard rails & the single front windscreen wiper.

Headlights are clear plastic inserts while the nearside front fog lamp is orange tinted.
On the rear the brake & tail lights are moulded body features that have the lenses reproduced with red paint. The rear indicator are incorporated into the previously mentioned registration plate aperture.
A number of other body features are also highlighted with paint including the drivers cab door handle, emergency exit handle, front sidelights & the side mounted turn indicators.

The platform rails & pole are all etched parts The etched metal skirt lifeguards - Click to enlarge
Paint is used for the side indicators & cab window detailing - Click to enlarge The rear emergency exit - Click to enlarge

The base of the model has very good detailing of the various tanks, drivetrain & chassis structure. There's no detailing of the underside of the main engine block due to the poseable wheels.
A separate part made of silver plastic is used for the exhaust pipe. The aforementioned front poseable wheels, unlike some previous OOC models with this feature, have a very robust mechanism which is able to support the model without any noticeable splaying of the wheels.
Soft plastic tyres that have a good representation of the tread are fitted to the unpainted black plastic wheel hubs. Both front & rear hubs have a good level of detailing.

The base has good detailing and a sturdy assembly for the poseable front wheels - Click to enlarge Roof vents & detailing - Click to enlarge

The body can be removed from the base to allow access to the interior passenger seating, the body is released from the base by slightly spreading the body away from the base along the lower edge.
This is fairly easy to do, once you know where the five retaining clips are. The etched grab rail fitted across the rear platform window will need to be either removed, or if possible detached from its nearside fixing point and then swivelled into the stairwell opening. The upper deck floor will otherwise jam against this rail & prevent removal of the interior. Also remove the thin central platform grab pole before attempting to dismantle, because its easy to lose!

The body & interior can be easily separated - Click to enlarge Five clips on the body secure it to the base - Click to enlarge
A grab rail needs to be removed to disassemble the model - Click to enlarge The grab rail swivelled to clear upper deck floor - Click to enlarge

The interior of the model has a rather unique construction method which incorporates the two silicon circuits boards used for the saloon lighting on the deluxe models. Surprisingly the passenger saloon circuits boards complete with the LEDs are also present on the standard version, although the circuit board for the headlights and all the wiring is absent.
The gangway gab poles and rail along the top of the upper deck staircase panel also double as the metal electrical connections between the two circuit boards.
Two staircase handrails are made of silver plastic and are glued to the inside of the body or interior stairwell structure.

Both versions of the model nonetheless have the same level of interior detailing, the saloon floors are light brown plastic & have a representation of the metal strips that run down the gangways, these are moulded and highlighted with silver paint. The upper deck seats are undecorated dark brown plastic, the lower deck ones use the same plastic but have an intricate reproduction of the cloth moquette applied to the seat cushions.
The front row of upper deck seats are mounted on their own floor section which is glued to the main bodyshell above the cab & bonnet.

A brown bulkhead is fitted at the front of the lower saloon while at the rear there is a glazed bulkhead on the platform side.
If you remove the small cross head screw in the base below the staircase it's possible to remove the platform bulkhead, it simply slots in between the platform & upper deck floor and secured with a small spot of glue. This features means you can if so desired, swap the a deluxe BCT interior into a standard WMPTE version or vice-versa without comprising the livery.
The platform is textured to represent the slated floor construction and has a shallow locating hole for the vertical grab pole, the other end locates into a deeper hole on the edge of bodyshell.

The driver's cab interior is glued in place along the bonnet side, this can be released with the careful use of a knife to break the glue bond. It can then be levered out if you wish to fit a driver.
This part is made of the same coloured plastic as the seats, a black steering wheel and two floor mounted levers are also present along with some basic detailing for other cab controls.
I managed to push fit this part back in to its housing where it remained without any glue.

Standard & deluxe interiors - Click to enlarge The interior from a deluxe model - Click to enlarge
Another view of interior - Click to enlarge Lower deck seats - Click to enlarge
The upper deck seats - Click to enlarge The driver's cab - Click to enlarge

Finally the model has an internal black plastic radiator at the front which includes mesh detailing, this also houses the LEDs for the working headlights if fitted.

That more or less covers the main features of the models, however I'll now cover the lighting features that are only found on the more expensive deluxe versions.

The lighting consists of eight white LEDs, two are used for the headlights and these produce fairly bright beams that will light the area in front of the model.
The other LEDs are used to light the passenger saloons and platform. There are three large LEDs on the upper deck & two more on the lower deck, these are powerful enough to provide a good level of illumination in both saloons.

The circuit boards on to which the LEDs are mounted are neatly concealed when viewed from the outside, all the electronic components are mounted on the upper surface of the lower deck board and hidden under the upper deck floor. The only slightly visible wiring inside the model when assembled are the two thin copper wires that run under the three rear most nearside seats to the platform LED which is hidden in an housing under the back seat.
This has a clear lens that passes through the floor to form a small bulb in the platform ceiling. This is much dimmer than the other LEDs and I actually didn't initially notice it. It a nice little feature nontheless and shows the care taken by Rapido in the design of this model.

Connecting cables - Click to enlarge Powering the lights - Click to enlarge
The headlights - Click to enlarge Interior saloon lighting - Click to enlarge
Interior saloon lighting - Click to enlarge The platform has a smaller ceiling light - Click to enlarge

The lighting has to be powered by an external power source, the model is designed to use a 12V DC source which will be familiar to railway modellers. A 9V battery can be used as an alternative.
Two wires around 30cm (12 inches) long are used to connect the model to the power supply. These are soldered to a small internal circuit board and pass through a hole in the base just behind the front wheel assembly.

Turning the lighting on & off is done by triggering a magnetic reed switch situated on the circuit board near the centre offside of the model. A plastic wand with a magnetic tip is supplied with the deluxe models for this purpose.

Five LEDs are used to illuminate the passenger saloons - Click to enlarge The lighting wand - Click to enlarge

I presume the deluxe models are mainly designed to be used on model railway layouts or dioramas, here the wires can be passed through the baseboard and linked to a hidden power supply.
The wires are otherwise quite hard to conceal & given the need for an external power source may not be that practical if you're intending to display the model in a case as part of a larger model collection.

BCT offside front view - Click to enlarge BCT nearside rear view - Click to enlarge
WMPTE nearside front view - Click to enlarge WMPTE offside rear view - Click to enlarge

The models are well packaged & each comes in a fairly large plastic display case. Models are attached to the black plinth using two cross-head screws. A study card outer box, that has clear plastic panels & information about the vehicle on the rear.
The box also contains a bag with a spare set of mirrors & a double sided leaflet. This gives a more in depth vehicle history & some general information about the model on the other side, it's well worth reading instructions! Deluxe versions of the model are additionally supplied with a plastic magnetic wand tool.
My models came in a thick protective sealed plastic bag, I'm guessing these may get removed by some retailers for display purposes.

Packaging - Click to enlarge Card outer packaging - Click to enlarge
The rear of the box - Click to enlarge Display case - Click to enlarge
Model & plinth - Click to enlarge Models & wand - Click to enlarge
The leaflet - Click to enlarge

Overall I'm impressed by these models, the amount of detail included on the body is excellent and even surpasses that found on the highly detailed Northcord models. Price wise they seem good value, given the quality of the finished product.
Whether an extra 10 is worth it for lighting features will depend on how you want to display it. It's a nice feature that been well implemented, but you have to ask yourself whether you'll really make much use of it in the longer term.

The models reviewed were purchased by myself and were a random selection, although both models appeared perfect, I've subsequently noticed while editing the photographs for this review, that the WMPTE model has an incorrect rear offside wheel fitted. It lacks the hub detailing & my guess is that the inner version of the twin wheels has been fitted by mistake. I've probably just been unlucky!

These models are only available from selected retailers, these are the known stockists: Rails of Sheffield, TTC Diecast, & The Yardley Wood Bus Club.
They're also listed on the Invicta Model Rail site, although at the time of posting, all are still shown only as pre-order items.
Some versions have already sold out & there hasn't been any indication as to the number of each produced. I believe there are plans for further releases if sales of the first batch go well.

A second UK bus model, this time featuring a West Midlands PTE style Daimler Fleetline was announced in late 2018. No further details regarding the expected release date or planned models has been published at the time of posting this review (Jan 2020).

    Pros:
  • One piece body with no internal poles
  • High level of exterior detailing
  • Good paint finish
  • Easy to dismantle
  • Keenly priced
    Cons:
  • Lighting features more suitable for rail & diorama modellers

Marks:
Construction: 10/10
Livery Application : 10/10
Decal Application: 10/10
Interior Detailing 9/10
Likeness to Subject: 10/10

Overall: 10/10

Two Youtube Model Spotlight videos, one for each model reviewed, containing full HD quality versions of most of the above pictures and many additional ones, are available below. Use the embedded video option to expand to full screen.


71010 West Midlands PTE (standard version)


71503 Birmingham City Transport (deluxe version)

Rapido Trains: 71503 & 71010 - Birmingham New Look Guy Arab IV
Thanks for reading the review.
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