Bristol VR III First Eastern National – Braintree 70
The Bristol Commercial Vehicle Company developed the VR rear engine design in the mid 1960's. The first VR's were however somewhat trouble some, the in-line vertical engine proving a major problem. Thankfully these VRL's were soon replaced by a more reliable transverse engine version which was classified the VRT.
The VRT was produced in three versions, the mark I that had a flat windscreen, the mark II that featured a curved windscreen, and the most popular mark III version that featured a redesigned radiator grille and rear engine cover.
Bristol VRT's were the standardized double deck type for most operators within the National Bus Company, however examples of the type also found favour with several municipal operators.
Almost all the VRT's were bodied by Eastern Coach Works, although some operators specified small batches with body designs by other builders.
The model continued in production until 1981 by which time over 4400 examples had been built. Its demise came as a result of the introduction of the Leyland Olympian, sadly this event also marked the end of the Bristol Commercial Vehicle business.
Convertible open top versions of the ECW bodied VRT were popular with several National Bus Company operators who operated coastal services. Southdown had several batches of such vehicles that operated seasonal open top services during the summer period, and then had the roofs re-fitted during the winter months allowing operation of normal services.
Many Bristol VRT's after withdrawal by their original owners found further service with independent operators across the UK. Today small numbers of this sturdy work horse continue to provide sterling service, while a growing number are passing into the hands of preservationists.