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AEC Swift

The Swift was AEC's offering for the late 1960s rear-engined bandwaggon. In fact it was designed after the takeover of AEC by Leyland and was little more than a Leyland Panther with AEC mechanical parts. It also suffered some of the shortcomings of its much unloved Leyland counterpart, but its reliability wasn't quite so bad and it outlasted the Panther by a number of years, even continuing in production for a couple of years after the Leyland National was introduced.

It came in 33ft. and 36ft. lengths, although for some strange reason London Transport chose to apply the name Merlin to their 36ft. models.

All the photographs on this site are from the author's personal collection unless credited otherwise.  If you would like to contribute photographs or news of AEC Swifts in service please email the author at

Click for full size picture of SUB 415G
SUB 415G
Leeds City Council took a number of AEC Swifts with locally built Roe bodies which later passed to the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive. Near the end of its life, dual-doorway 1015 was seen at Headingley in June 1983 on a service that also used to be home to unusual single-deck Daimler Fleetlines with almost identical bodywork.
Click for full size picture of AUB 164J
AUB 164J
A later style of Roe bodywork is seen on WYPTE 1064, busy at work on a Leeds city circular service in May 1984.
Click to see TDK 547K
TDK 547K
Another corporation to buy AEC Swifts as part of the trend toward rear-engined single-deckers in the late '60s and early '70s was Rochdale.  TDK 547K, with Pennine bodywork usually associated with Seddons, was one of the last batch ordered by Rochdale and delivered to SELNEC PTE.  It was seen at Caernarfon in June 1982 while in the ownership of Gwyneth area independent Silver Star of Cesarea.
Click to see TDK 546K
TDK 546K
Another of the ex SELNEC Pennine bodied Swifts to find a new home was sister TDK 546K, here seen at Longton in January 1984 with Staffordshire independent Stoniers. Stoniers was an associate of well known independent Berresfords of Cheddleton, and between them they fielded a varied array of secondhand vehicles on local services - providing variety against the NBC Potteries standardised fleet of Bristols and Leylands.

EGN 283J
London Transport bought 33ft. and 36ft. versions of the AEC Swift, with Park Royal and Metro-Cammell bodywork. They were relatively unsuccessful, with sometimes suspect reliability, while the longer ones had difficulty manoevouring through the heavy traffic (the latter lesson had to be relearnt in the 1990s with shortlived Dennis Lances and Volvo B10Bs, although longer buses have returned again in the form of MB Citaros and the controversial artics).
SMS283 was one of a dwindling number on regular services when seen at Aldgate bus station in January 1980.

EGN 362J
Another of the shortlived LT AEC Swifts, SMS362 was seen at Uxbridge in June 1980. Stockley Park was already a feature of destination blinds at that time, even before pharmaceutical giant Glaxo moved their sales and marketing operation to the site.
Click for full size picture of VLW 94G
London Transport decided to apply the Merlin name to their 36ft. models, and this was reflected by the MB prefix to their fleetnumbers. As part of the country fleet, MB94 passed to new NBC subsidiary London Country in 1970. It was still running in original London Country Lincoln green livery when seen at Guildford some nine years later in April 1979.
Click for full size picture of DPD 499J
DPD 499J
Shorter version SM499 was painted into the special livery adopted for the high frequency "Superbus" services serving the burgeoning estates in the new town of Stevenage. It was seen at the town's bus station in April 1979. The pattern of service on many Stevenage routes remains very similar today, although the branding and operators have changed several times since. The LT specified Metro-Cammell bodywork of this bus looks very dated compared to the BET styled Swift below.
Click for full size picture of XCY 466J
XCY 466J
South Wales never really got on with their Swifts, which seemed to have trouble coping with the hilly terrain. They quickly migrated to new NBC subsidiary London Country which was suffering from fearful reliability problems with its inherited LT fleet. Marshall bodied SMW8 was seen at St. Albans bus station in April 1979, having arrived on the service from Dunstable.

Click for full size picture of VJG 186J
VJG 186J

East Kent changed from Reliances to Swifts when they deemed the rear engine layout to be more suitable for urban buses. Initially confined to urban work, they started to appear alongside Leyland Nationals on longer distance routes when the last Reliances were withdrawn. One of the second batch of Marshall bodied Swifts, VJG 186J was seen at Dover in August 1979 on the frequent main road route to Folkestone.

Click for full size picture of YJG 582K
YJG 582K

East Kent turned to Alexander for their final batch of AEC Swifts. These were confined mainly to Dover town services, but later in their lives appeared on longer distance routes as AEC Reliances were withdrawn. Unlike some Swifts elsewhere, the East Kent ones with their AH691 engines lacked neither speed nor power and were well suited to the hilly terrain around Dover and the high speeds of some EK rural routes. 1582 was seen at Ramsgate harbour in April 1981.

MBO 523F
Cardiff Transport operated a batch of AEC Swifts with this unusual style of Alexander body. 516 and 523 had migrated to nearby independent Brewers of Caerau for school bus work when pictured in June 1982. The location is the company's former Maesteg depot, adjacent to that of another well-known former South Wales independent - Llynfi Motors. Brewers were bought by First Group and merged with part of the former National Welsh operation to create a bigger but rather different company based in Bridgend, before just becoming part of First South Wales.
Meanwhile sister MBO 512F is now preserved by the Cardiff Transport Preservation Group.
Click to see JEE 50P
Grimsby-Cleethorpes ran a number of East Lancs bodied Swifts.  Number 50, one of the last batch and amongst the last Swifts ever built, was seen in Grimsby in March 1981.
Click to see AML 569H
AML 569H
Former LT "Merlin" MB569 moved to Derbyshire independent Woolliscroft who ran it under the Silver Service name on services jointly with Hulleys.  It was seen at Woolliscroft's Darley Dale garage in September 1982.  Woolliscroft no longer operate but Hulleys continue to run in the area under their own name.

AML 602H
Another ex London Transport Merlin that was put to work elsewhere was former MB602, which was pictured in April 1980 working for the ferry company Townsend Thoreson as a transfer vehicle between the Dover Docks and Priory Station. East Kent operated a number of dockside contracts for Seaspeed and Hoverspeed with secondhand Daimler Fleetline single deckers and an AEC Swift as a backup vehicle, but Townsend Thoreson preferred to run their own service.

RJG 203G
Here is the East Kent Swift, one of their first batch of Marshall bodied vehicles, converted to dual-doorway and painted in National white coach livery for the purpose. It was photographed en route for Dover Priory on the same day as the picture above. Nowadays the few remaining boat ferries only take cars, so foot passengers use the Eurostar/Euroshuttle and the Dover Boat Trains from London are no more.

NTP 181H
Cosham Coaches of Portsmouth operated commercial services in competition with City of Portsmouth for a while after deregulation. It may have been quite galling for the incumbent operator that one of the vehicles used to compete against them, AEC Swift NTP 181H, had in fact originated from its own fleet. It was pictured in June 1987.

NTP 181H
Here is 181 at Cosham in July 1981 while in the ownership of Portsmouth Corporation Transport.
Click to see OFR 985M
OFR 985M
Kent County Council supported service 150 between the Medway towns and Tunbridge Wells had a succession of operators post-deregulation, with Maidstone & District having to take over at short notice from time to time.  One such was Auto-Reps of Gravesend.  In this March 1990 view a sluggish ex Blackpool Swift has arrived at Tunbridge Wells half an hour late, with an ex Manchester Atlantean in attendance.  The route has now ben cut back to run as Nu-Venture  service 77 between Tunbridge Wells and West Malling only.

ghp994l.jpg (34877 bytes)
GHP 994L

UTIC in Portugal built many vehicles around AEC Monocoach and then AEC Swift units, and the latter continued to be built for a while after production at Southall ceased in 1979. One batch of nine of these interesting vehicles found its way to Britain. One was GHP 994L, seen working for Westbourne Tours on a National Express duty in 1982. More information about this batch of coaches can be found in the Features section.

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