Wigan Corporation No 20

Leyland Panther Cub PSRC 1/1
Massey B43D body
Leyland O.400 6.54l 131bhp diesel engine
Leyland SCG 4 speed semi-auto
gearbox (electro pneumatic)
Wigan Corporation No 20
GMT No 1675
Delivered 08/1967
Withdrawn and exported to Malta 1980

Current status: awaiting restoration

DJP 468E was one of only two Leyland Panther Cubs delivered to Wigan Corporation Transport. DJP 468E entered service with Wigan Corporation in 1967, numbered 20. The second Cub, EEK 1F, was numbered 22 and was delivered shortly after.

Both Panther Cubs had identical 43-seat bodies by local coachbuilder Massey and were the first dual-door buses in the Wigan fleet. During their time at Wigan grilles were added to the engine cover flap on the back of the bus, most likely an attempt to combat the Panther Cub’s much talked about overheating tendencies. The Cubs (along with other single deck Corporation buses) were intended for use on the 20 and 343 services which had to pass under the low bridges of the Wigan to Southport railway line.

Nos 20 and 22 became 1675 and 1676 following the Greater Manchester Transport take-over of Wigan corporation’s buses in April 1974. No 22 had the dubious honour of being the first Corpy bus in the new orange and white livery. Both buses served their new owners until withdrawal in 1980. Enquiries made several years ago established that 22 saw limited further use and was sold on to a Stockport haulage contractor for use as an office. We believe she was scrapped in the mid 1990s.

To Malta…
However, our No 20 had a much more interesting career. Sold for export in 1980, 20 was shipped to Malta for use on government contracts. This type of work ensured that physical alterations were kept to a minimum, and original Wigan Corpy and later GMT features survived, including Corporation lettering and ticket information posters, along with the GMT fleet number, alarm siren and, in a dish on the roof, the GMT era cab radio antennae. From local knowledge it appears 20, as Maltese registered M1526, was used for about five years on government contracts before being withdrawn again.

The Cub’s continued survival was brought to the attention of Wigan bus enthusiasts (who would later become the Wigan Transport Society) at a rally in 2001. The yard of Cancu Supreme Coaches had become 20s resting place and the owner, Reno Abela was contacted. The wheels were now set in motion. The interested preservationists had now become the Wigan Transport Society with the aim of repatriating No 20. Ideas of putting the Cub back together and driving her back were dropped after the extent of the work needed became apparent. Other problems were resolved, which included questions over the legality of bringing the bus back (no problem), re-registering the bus with original mark (again, no problem – but we feel the EEK 1F plate would have been slightly harder to come by!) and finally the cost. We were helped in this by Julian Brown’s (the then owner of the bus) kind donation of the bus to us, and Reno’s willingness to get the bus ready in Malta and dragging it from his yard to the port.

… and back
The repatriation did not go smoothly however, with No 20 not being on the ship we were told she would be. We finally found that the Cub had been placed on a different ship to the one we were told. This is apparently quite common if you’re paying the lowest possible shipping fees, which of course we were. No 20 was finally returned to the very cold but very familiar surroundings of Wigan depot.

Home at last
First kindly accommodated No 20 until we found a permanent base for her. After making Wigan depot look untidy for a few months, No 20 was moved to the Ribble Vehicle Preservation Trust’s facility in Freckleton for further storage and some exploratory work. Structurally No 20 is in good shape with only the expected rot of wooden flooring and fillets.

Mechanically there is a lot to do. We have an engine which may be an o.400 or an o.401 version but it was mated to a manual gear box. We’ve tentatively identified this as a Tiger Cub so the assumption is the engine will be a 400 variant. This will need to be mated with the semi auto gearbox which came with the bus and is assumed to be the original. To join them together will require the bell housing on the engine to be changed.

Luckily we now have a suitable bell housing and fluid flywheel to complete this job, thanks to the donation of an o.400 engine block from the owner of Manchester Corporation Transport Panther Cub No 74.

No 20 was moved from Freckleton to the WTT premises in January 2005. Little work has been done as other projects have taken priority however some work has been carried out as the opportunity has arisen. A lot of exterior panels have been made and the work of sourcing spares is ongoing.

Recently (January 2014) an O.400 engine has been sourced which we have actually seen running! Unfortunately this engine will require extensive rebuilding as the engine furniture is all in the wrong place for a Panther Cub. It is not currently known when serious work will commence on this bus as it will take a lot of time and money and expertise to complete this project.