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50 year Extended Life program being devised for Leopards and Tigers.

As readers are aware the following vehicles have been transferred to Kells depot:

Tiger 434
Tiger 2610
Leopard 1902

N type Tiger 1274 is on its way to Kells as is Leopard 1891.

It is worth noting that Ballymena considered 1274 to be one of the best Tigers they ever had and are mourning her loss. However she will have a new life at her new depot and will outlive most of her sisters as a fifty year extendible maintenance program is being devised.

This may sound like a joke but it really is a major piece of work devising such a maintenance schedule as prior to this no such programs have been available. To date, 20 years is the limit of current maintenance programs so devising one to extend the life of the vehicle by another fifty years is a neat trick and will require lots of research as it is virgin territory.

The Leopard situation is even more interesting in that the last of these in service Leopards have already been there about 30 to 35 years so adding another fifty years to these vehicles life is going to be very interesting, to say the least.

The plan for doing this is to take Leopard 1902 and strip the engine and try and ascertain what wear exists and what is going to be needed to return it to as new condition. We really do not know what we will find but think a valve gear overhaul and new rings, pistons and bearings will be necessary. We will then try and cross relate the results of the stripdown to our other Leopards, all of course which have 680 engines.

We might point out that 1891 is one of only two survivors of the Scottish Leopard Fleet acquired by Ulsterbus. To have it in service some 33 years after it was built is a tribute to the indestructibility of the Leopard. There is no modern vehicle which will even approach this length of service life, most of which will be lucky to approach fifteen years.

Even more amazing is the fact that Ulsterbus still have about ten Leopards in service which is a tribute to their engineering department. In fact they are currently putting new liners and pistons in one 680 engine to allow this Leopard to last another few years. Very few bus companies today expect to have vehicles in service for forty years or so.

What was that about Leopard farewells? I think they were a little premature. As for Tigers the scheduled end of service life of some N types has now been extended to 2020, believe it or not which is absolutely amazing and a tribute to the ruggedness of the Tiger chassis. Then they will go on the new fifty year life extension program.

What it all boils down to is that Ulsterbus Leopards will still be running in 2060 and Tigers will emit the fantastic Gardner and TL 11 sounds certainly well into the sixties and hopefully the seventies. I only wish I could be around as most of these buses will outlive their human counterparts.

Hope this will be of benefit to those interested in extended life programmes for these vehicles. Nobody really knows how long they will last but I feel one hundred years is quite realistic and provided they have adequate maintenance there is no real limit.

Michael Grimes