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All Model photographs kindly supplied by Phillip Jones
Review & NB4L vehicle photographs by Kevin Ellis
OM46601 - Corgi's representation of New Bus for London LT1 (LT61 AHT)
|The Real Vehicle|
The New Bus for London or NB4L as I shall refer to it from now on, is the result of a project started by Conservative London Major Boris Johnson. He announced during his first election campaign in early 2008 that he would look into introducing a new modern version of Routemaster if he was elected.
After winning the mayoral election in May 2008 Boris Johnston followed up his manifesto pledge by announcing an open competition to design a “New Bus for London”. The competition called for among other things, a red double deck bus with an open rear platform & at least one other doored entrance/exit.
New Bus for London LT1 (LT61 AHT) the subject of Corgi OOC model OM46601
The main prize was eventually shared between two designs, one submitted by Capoco Design and the other a joint submissions from Aston Martin & Foster & Partners. However neither of these winning submissions resulted in any actual vehicles being built and instead the winning designs were passed on to bus manufacturers along with an invitation to submit a competitive tender to design and build a new bus. Among the conditions that had to be met, was the ability to supply up to 600 vehicles over a three year period. Although six manufacturers expressed an initial interest only four went on to submit tenders.
During December 2009 Transport for London announced that Wrightbus had been awarded NB4L contract and on the 17th May 2010 the Heatherwick Studio designed vehicle was unveiled to the public. The futuristic vehicle was unlike any previous London Bus and featured generous curves and asymmetric glazing. The vehicle had three entrance/exits which included a rear one that could either be used in a conventional doored form or as an open platform.
Mechanically the NB4L is a hybrid powered vehicle which was designed to be 40 per cent more fuel efficient than conventional diesel buses and 15% more efficient than the current generation of hybrid London buses.
A full scale mock up of the vehicle was constructed and unveiled to the press at the London Transport Museum's Acton Depot in November 2010. It was announced that a batch six pre-production vehicles would be built and as trial would operate on a central London route, this was later increased to 8 vehicles after further funding was made available.
At the time of writing (August 2012) no further vehicle orders had been announced despite Boris Johnston being re-elected London Mayor in May 2012 and pledging to do so in his election campaign.
The Corgi Model
Corgi announced it's intention to produce a model of the NB4L in their October 2011 to March 2012 catalogue, however delays in production saw the model deferred to the April to June 2012 catalogue and its release eventually occurred in August.
The first release depicts the LT1 (LT61 AHT) on route 38 bound for Victoria. The model carries the original TfL “Designed for Londoners” side advertisements. These were applied to the first six vehicles delivered and remained on them until July 2012. This first release OM46601 has the rear exit doors modelled in the closed position. A second model with the doors in the open position is set to be released as part of a three model set in September.
The futuristic design of the NB4L seems to divide opinions with some seeing beauty & others a beast, whatever your view, there's no doubt its a head turner. I'm afraid to say I'm not a big fan of the NB4L design, but I'll try not to let that swing my opinion of the model during this review.
Corgi have chosen to use a diecast & plastic construction for the model. The main diecast content is a single piece component which incorporates the roof, between deck side panels, lower side and the rear. The vehicle's design means this is quite an achievement in itself with just the diagonal off-side staircase panel supporting all the front end of the large roof structure.
Painted plastic is used for the front grille panel and area surrounding the destination display. The windows are clear plastic with some moulded detailing for pillars & the door structures. Black paint has been applied over the glazing to represent the bonded glazing.
The first thing to say is Corgi have done a really good job of capturing the external rounded shape of the NB4L, at first glance its difficult to spot anything that actually looks out of place, however lets take a closer look, starting with the all important front.
As already mentioned the front end is mainly plastic which has been used to good effect to produce the large one piece windscreen & upper deck front window, the glazed destination is also part of the same component and has the actual blind display nicely set back behind it.
Corgi have used clear plastic which has been over painted as per the recent Scania Irazir PB & Levante coaches. Red and black paint has been used to produce the relevant body panels and window frames. This has all been done very neatly with no sign of any paint bleed around the edge of each colour.
The small moulded side lights below the headlights, and marker lights either side of the destination are also finished with tiny spots of silver paint. The side lights do however look a bit puny and would have benefited from a larger blob of silver paint.
A silver TfL roundel badge is tampo printed onto the grille above the registration plate.
Nice headlights but the under-sized registration & puny side lights aren't so good
Etched wiper blades are fitted and although these look a bit short for the large windscreen they do seem to match those on the real thing.
On the nearside there are thin diecast pillars either side of the front & centre exits, these have been left in the red body colour which is a feature not present on the real vehicle. Painting these black to match the surrounding glazing would have probably been better option.
The destination display by the front entrance door is printed on the inside of the glazing giving a fairly convincing appearance.
Note the red pillars around the doors that are not present on the real NB4L and that the advertisement is missing a line of text
Various decals are tampo printed onto the both sides of the model including white Arriva fleet names, LT1 fleet numbers, the TfL “Buses” roundel and tiny Arriva London legal lettering. All are sharp and a look to be around the correct size.
“Designed for Londoners” advertisements are applied to both sides, these appear to be printed on a fairly thick plastic film material which sits noticeably proud of the body panels.
There's some difference between the size of the grilles on the model & real bus
The four air cooling grilles around the rear of the model are all moulded into the main casting, these all include some very subtle detailing for the individual grille slats.
The cooling grille above the door is rather small compared to the real thing
In general all the glazing fits into the metal casting extremely well with no noticeable gaps present on the review model. This is particularly impressive at the rear where there are some tricky angles and curves to contend with.
The rear light clusters are moulded into the casting with the lights individually picked out with the appropriately coloured paint. Like the side destination the rear route number is printed on the back of the glazing. Happily Corgi have done a better job with the rear registration plate which is much better proportioned and has lettering that looks much closer to scale.
The brownish red wheel hubs are plastic and although the rear one looks OK the front ones seem to be missing the silver ring fitting found on the real vehicles. The rubber look tires do however look convincing.
The rear of the model & NB4L
The roof with it's white painted centre and large black radio call sign includes a raised central area which includes what I presume is an emergency escape hatch. The only other detail is a small raised strip which I suspect houses the vehicles radio antenna.
The baseplate is metal and includes some representation of the underside components. There's no visible rivets or screws in the base or any retaining poles inside the model for that matter. Those thinking about repainting one of these models may find dismantling the model a bit of a challenge as a result.
The interior detailing on this model is somewhat disappointing, Corgi have to their credit have attempted to reproduced must of the high visibility yellow grab rails found throughout the bus. Unfortunately the effect is rather spoiled by the over scale diameter of the plastic poles. The poles are all connected to central ceiling & floor panel strips which have been left in the same yellow colour as the poles. The rest of the interior detailing is made of maroon coloured plastic and the only feature picked out is steering wheel which has been painted black.
Note the yellow floor and maroon interior
The somewhat over scale interior yellow grab poles
Not painting the maroon interior dash panel black makes a big difference to the frontal appearance of the model
Taking everything into account this is still impressive model which certainly captures the unique design of this futuristic bus. The interior detailing is the biggest let down and falls well short of what we've seen previously from the likes of say CMNL. Most of the other points are minor and many could be addressed with a little more thought at the production stage. The only real problems, that wouldn't be an easy fix, on the exterior are the under sized front registration plate and rather heavy vertical panel joints on the lower side panels.
Captures the exterior looks of the real vehicle well
Good build quality
Generally good paint finish & decal application
Poor interior detailing
Under sized front registration plate
Quite a few detailing issues
Three London bus classes together at Wisley. Will NB4L gain the same ironic status as the RT & RM?
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