NTT 661 (DR661) is a 1952 AEC Regent III with Weymann 56-seat bodywork.
It is representative of the large fleet of Regent IIIs that Devon General operated during the postwar period.
The initial batch of eight in 1947 (DR326 to 333; HTT 326 to 333) had London Transport RT specification chassis, with a preselector gearbox and a characteristic low radiator design. Their chassis designation O961 translated as Oil, (in other words, diesel), the 9.6 litre A204 engine and model 661 (the Regent; 662 was the Regal single decker).
From 1948, deliveries were of a ‘series 2’ provincial design, with a taller radiator as a result of fitting an oil bath air cleaner to the top of the engine. The 18 vehicles received that year – DR549 to 566 (JUO 549 to 556) – had the A208 engine. From DR 559 onwards AEC introduced a revised chassis designation of 9612E, translating into 9.6 litre engine, model 661, series 2 and preselector (epicyclic) gearbox (E).
The 26 buses delivered in 1949/50 (DR567 to 592; KOD 567 to 592) continued with this specification.
In 1950 the maximum permitted dimensions for public service vehicles were increased to 27 feet long and 8 feet wide. Devon General duly placed an order during 1949 for 14 AEC Regent IIIs to the new width, which arrived in 1951 (DR646 to 659; MTT 646 to 659).
For this batch Devon General specified the 9613A type, which had a longer chassis (3) and a crash (constant mesh) AEC gearbox (A). Brakes were now vacuum rather than air. Despite their greater length, there was no increase in the buses’ seating capacity compared to their slimmer predecessors.
19 similar vehicles followed in 1952 (DR660 to 678; NTT 660 to 678). The 20th vehicle in this batch (DR679; NTT 679) was rather different, being a 9613S type with a synchromesh gearbox (S) and fitted with the prototype Weymann ‘Aurora’ body. Exhibited at the 1952 Commercial Motor Show, it was finally delivered to Devon General in January 1953. In time synchromesh gearboxes were retrofitted to the earlier buses in this batch.
The final batch of Regent IIIs (DR724 to 735; PDV 724 to 735) was different again. Continuing with the 9613S chassis, they had the new Weymann ‘Orion’ body and featured the so-called ‘new look’ front end with an enclosed radiator. They were also fitted with platform doors. They gained the nickname of ‘fire engines’.
Delivered in July 1952, DR661 (NTT 661) ran from Newton Abbot and Sidmouth depots for much of its life before withdrawal in February 1965. The rest of the batch were all gone by the summer apart from DR667, which saw further service as a tree lopper until 1970.
DR661 was then sold to Edmunds Omnibus Services of Rassau, near Ebbw Vale in South Wales, who ran it on their local route and on contract services to the steelworks.
Withdrawn from use in November 1966 with a worn out clutch, DR661 was purchased for preservation by Philip Platt and returned to Devon. It was stored at the West of England Transport Collection premises at Winkleigh for many years before restoration work commenced in the 1990s.
The completion of this work in 1996 led to appearances at local rallies, including the 2010 DGS event to mark 30 years since the end of AEC Regent operation by Devon General.
A lengthy period of storage followed, and following an appeal for funds, the DGOT acquired DR661 from the estate of the late Philip Platt in 2017.