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Make/Model: LEYLAND LEOPARD
Chassis: Ld PSU4B/4R 7200351
New to: MAIDSTONE & DISTRICT
Current Owner: Peter Simpson
EKL456K was new in July 1972 to Maidstone & District Motor Services as fleet number 3456, and is of some historical significance as it was the last bus to be delivered in the traditional M & D green and cream livery before National Bus Company leaf green was adopted.
It was one of a batch of 35, of which 15 were expected in July 1972 and K suffix registrations EKJ441-
Built as a 45 seater, 3456 spent its first eight years at Bexhill. Then in December 1979 it was upseated to 52 seats and spent the next 3½ years in Hastings. From here it moved up into Kent, first to Hawkhurst and then, in 1985 to Tunbridge Wells as one of nine from the batch retained for working rural routes, mainly Tunbridge Wells to Edenbridge.
3456 stayed at Tunbridge Wells for ten years. Towards the end it was earmarked for official preservation by the company and in late 1994 it was fully refurbished. The entire running gear – brakes, steering, suspension etc., was replaced using new parts from the stores, something that has been enormously beneficial to the bus in preservation. All external panels were removed, the frame repaired as required, and the interior was refurbished using the best parts from 3456 and sister 3452 which was broken for spares. 3456 was then repainted back into traditional M & D livery and returned to service for nine months before officially transferring to the preserved fleet in 1995.
From then on it was used mainly for preservation/promotional type work – including conveying dignitaries through the new Medway Tunnel from Strood to Rochester during the opening ceremony on June 12 1996. It was, though, kept fully PSV taxed and tested, and still occasionally used in normal service.
By 1998 M & D had become part of the Arriva Group, and preserved buses from former companies were not part of the new owners plans. Accordingly, the three preserved buses were all sold, and 3456 was bought from the company by present owner Peter Simpson for ongoing preservation.
The bus has now been in private preservation for nearly 19 years, and it is used regularly during the show season. As it is often used to operate free bus services carrying a full load of passengers Peter has kept it Class 6 (PSV) tested. It lives undercover, is serviced regularly, and various small ongoing repairs have of course been needed. However thanks to the quality of the 1994 rebuild no major work has been needed other than a full overhaul of the braking system in 2015.
Of the 35, three buses survive, but just 3456 is currently active. 3448 (EKJ448K) is preserved at Chatham Dockyard in Kent but has been out of use for several years, while 3457 (withdrawn by M & D in 1983) was exported to Malta in 1990 where it remained in service (registered DBY427) until the end of Malta’s traditional owner-