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The traditional Dennis Dart badge.

The Dennis Dart is a rear-engined midibus built by Dennis in the United Kingdom. More than 11,000 were built during 18 years of production.

It has proved popular with many bus operators in the UK, and has since been sold to several other countries around the world.

Contents

Standard-floor Dart

Dennis Dart was first planned around 1988 when Hestair Group (owner of Duple and Dennis) decided to produce a bus between a minibus and a full-sized single decker (i.e. a midibus) in the same year.[1]

It was finally launched in 1989 and was originally offered with the stylish Duple Dartline bodywork. It was 2.3m wide and was initially available in the length of 9m, but soon available in lengths of 8.5m and 9.8m. It was powered by the tried and tested Cummins 6BT engine and coupled to the Allison AT545 gearbox (the same engine and gearbox were also used in the MCW Metrorider, latterly the Optare MetroRider).

This model was sold well to London Buses and to some operators outside London. Unfortunately, however, soon after it was launched, Duple was sold to Plaxton and its Blackpool plant was closed down. Plaxton decided not to acquire the design rights of the Duple Dartline and it was sold to Carlyle, who continued producing the bodywork from 1991. Production passed to Marshall of Cambridge in 1992 who bodied five Darts to this design. In 1993, Marshall updated the design to the C36 and later, the C37, ironing out the weaknesses of the original design.

In 1990, Wadham Stringer became the next builder to body the Dart with a bodywork called the Portsdown, but it was sold in small numbers and replaced by the UVG Urbanstar in 1995. In the same year, Wright bodied the Dart with the Handybus, which was more functional than stylish. In early 1991, Plaxton launched the Pointer (which was initially designated as Reeve Burgess Pointer as it was built at Reeve Burgess's plant, until later in the same year when it was transferred to Plaxton at Scarborough). This bodywork quickly became the most popular, even though its boxy appearance was considered unattractive. Later in 1991, East Lancs bodied the Dart with its EL2000. In the latter half of 1991, Alexander launched the Dash, which was sold reasonably well. Another contender entering the market at the same time was the Northern Counties Paladin. Initially, it was built with a design of a barrel shaped windscreen with quarterlights (which were mainly sold to Warrington Borough Transport), later models had a deep double-curvature two-piece windscreen. It was phased out when Plaxton bought Northern Counties in 1995.

As the low floor buses became more popular in late 1990s, orders for standard-floor Dart dropped heavily and production was ceased in 1998, with the final three deliverd to Thames Transit.

Low-floor Dart SLF

In 1995, Dennis launched a low-floor version of the Dart called the Dennis Dart SLF (SLF stands for Super Low Floor), which later became known as the TransBus Dart/Alexander Dennis Dart.

It was 2.4m wide and initially offered in lengths of 9.2m, 10m and 10.6m in length. The driveline of the step-entrance Dart was retained, although air suspension was introduced in place of the taper leaf used in the original design. It was initially offered with the low floor version of the Pointer (which was notable for being wider), replaced by the updated Pointer 2 in 1997. It was also offered with a wide variety of bodies, namely the East Lancs Spryte, UVG Urbanstar (later renamed as the Caetano Compass; replaced by the Nimbus in 1999), the stylish Wright Crusader, Alexander ALX200 (discontinued in 2001 with the formation of Transbus International and being replaced by the Pointer 2), Marshall Capital (developed from the C37; later built by MCV), Caetano Nimbus and MCV Evolution (since 2005 - a further evolution of the Marshall bodywork).

Some Dart SLF buses with Alexander ALX200 body were delivered to North America and sold as Thomas Dennis SLF-series buses.

In 1997, the Dart SPD (Super Pointer Dart) was launched with the length of 11.3m (about the same length as a long Leyland National). It has a more powerful engine and a more heavy duty Allison World Series B300R gearbox, but also with an option of a Voith gearbox too. Originally offered only with the Plaxton Pointer 2 bodywork (hence the 'P' in the name) this larger bus was later offered with other bodywork such as East Lancs, the Alexander ALX200 and a few have also been bodied by Marshall. In 1998, it was accompanied by the MPD (Mini Pointer Dart) at 8.8m long, a model reminiscent of the original 8.5m Darts.

With the move to Euro III emissions in October 2001, the new Cummins ISBe engine was launched, with the 4-cylinder 3.9-litre model being used in all lengths except the 11.3m version, which uses the more powerful 6-cylinder, 5.9-litre version. The Cummins ISBe Euro IV engine became available on the Dart SLF chassis since late 2006.

The Dennis Dart SLF was superseded by the Alexander Dennis Enviro200 Dart in 2007. The last Dennis Dart SLF was delivered to Park Island Transport Company Limited in Hong Kong in March 2008, with registration LU2001.

Narrow width Dart SLF

A further variant of the Dart SLF appeared by 2002, when bus operators in the Channel Islands of Guernsey and then Jersey replaced the majority of their fleets with slightly narrower Darts designed to comply with the islands' vehicle size restrictions, sporting adapted versions of existing East Lancs and Caetano bodies respectively. Further examples have since joined them and small numbers of similar buses have entered service with other operators around the UK. Gibraltar also has a fleet of these narrower buses. The last ones entered service in summer 2007, but Alexander Dennis had not produced a direct replacement by September 2008.

Competitors

For Dennis Dart:

For Dennis Dart SLF:

Gallery

References








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