The LH designation stood for Lightweight chassis, Horizontal engine. It replaced the Bristol SU and was succeeded by was the Leyland National B Series for operators in need of a small or lightweight bus. The Bristol RE was in production at the same time for those in need of larger or more robust vehicles
The standard Bristol LH model was 30 feet (9.1 m) long. It was also available as the 26 feet (7.9 m) LHS (LH Short) and the 36 feet (11 m) LHL (LH Long). It was available in two widths, initially 7.5 feet (2.3 m) and later also 8.17 feet (2.5 m).
The bus was available with a choice of six cylinder diesel engines, either the Leyland O.400 (later replaced by the Leyland O.401) or the Perkins H6.354. The 5.8 litre H6.354 produced 101 bhp; the 6.54 litre O.401 produced 138 bhp. The usual gearbox was a Turner Clarke synchronized five-speed model equipped with manually selected overdrive. Some buses were fitted with a semi-automatic transmission and power steering. The engine was positioned in the centre of the chassis but its relatively high position meant that several steps were needed in the entrance. This was arranged in the overhang ahead of the front wheels allowing one-man operation (as it was known in those days) with the driver taking the fares and issuing tickets as passengers boarded. The radiator was positioned at the front of the chassis. The suspension was by half-elliptical leaf springs, although BCV had offered pneumatic suspension on heavier buses since 1962.
Bodies were fitted by different manufacturers, who adapted them to the needs of different operators. Bodies could be fitted out as buses, coaches or dual purpose buses which could be used for coach services when traffic demanded. Bus bodies usually came from the Eastern Coach Works (ECW), which was owned by the same Transport Holding Company. This was a government-owned company but Leyland had acquired a 25% share in 1965. Plaxton bodies were preferred for coaches. Other manufacturers of bodies for the LH were Walter Alexander, Duple, East Lancashire, Marshall, Northern Counties, Weymann and Willowbrook.
For the standard LH the 31-seat Plaxton coach and 41-seat ECW bus of ECW were most widely used; the bus bodies manufactured in Belfast by Alexander for Ulsterbus had 45 seats. The LHS was produced as both buses and coaches with 26 to 35 seats. The LHL had up to 53 seats as a coach or 55 as a bus. Between 1975 and 1982 Vanplan built eight with delivery van bodies.
Altogether nearly 2,000 LHs were built: 1,505 LH, 174 LHL and 308 LHS.
Principal bus operators
The following lists only include vehicles ordered by the company named, however many took additional vehicles second-hand from other operators. The code following the chassis model 'type' column shows the number of seats. The prefix B represents a bus body, C a coach or DP a dual purpose vehicle. The suffix F shows a single front door, D shows dual front and centre doors.
Alexander Midland operated 41 LHs with Walter Alexander Y-type bodies and Perkins engines in Scotland. All but the last three were coaches.
Bristol Omnibus Company received six LH buses in 1971 with semi-automatic gearboxes. A further 110 (with manual gearboxes) were ordered for delivery between 1975 and 1980. A few more buses were acquired second hand including two LHSs from London Country.
NB 351-356 were initially B44F but rebuilt with one less seat to allow a window to be inserted in the rear panel to improve the driver's view when reversing.
Crosville operated services in Wales and north west England. They bought 16 Perkins-engined vehicles in 1969 and 40 Leyland with engines from 1975.
After taking 50 LH and 5 LHS buses between 1968 and 1972, Eastern Counties did not take any more new LHs until 1977 when a further 15 were added to the fleet.
Eastern Scottish was the only Scottish Bus Group company to order LHs apart from Alexander Midland when they took 34 Perkins-engined LHs finished by Walter Alexander as Y-type coaches.
Hants and Dorset
Hants and Dorset and the associated Wilts and Dorset company were unusual in specifying dual-door configuration for their early LHs. Buses in the 521–530 series were allocated to Wilts and Dorset, the remainder to Hants and Dorset.
Lincolnshire is a largely rural county so Lincolnshire Road Car always had a need for a number of small buses. Their orders amounted to 72 standard buses, 24 dual purpose, and 10 LHS buses.
London Country 23 standard width LHSs (their BL class) and 44 narrow LHSs (their BN class) as no other suitable narrow vehicles were available at the time.
Several versions of the Bristol LH were used in London. The 17 narrow LHSs with six-speed gearboxes delivered to London Transport in 1975 to replace Ford Transit minibuses on narrow roads were known by them as the BS class. These were followed in 1976 by standard LHs with automatic transmissions and narrow bodies known as the BL class, 95 of which were purchased. The 7ft 6in bodies were not only because of narrow roads on some routes, but also due to the restricted space at Kingston garage in Surrey which prevented the Leyland National being deployed there.
United Automobile Services had five coaches with Plaxton Elite bodies, but the remaining 218 LHs ordered for this fleet were standard ECW bus bodies for services in north-east England. A number of second-hand buses were also acquired.
Much of south west England is rural in nature and many narrow roads mean that Western National needed a large fleet of small buses. In 1969 the associated Southern National fleet was merged with Western National. The coach services of both companies were mostly operated under the Royal Blue brand. Neighbouring Devon General was also brought under Western National control in 1971, having just placed their first order for 6 LHs (88–93).
The orders for this large fleet of 209 buses and coaches were spread across ECW, Marshall, Plaxton and even Duple. Second hand vehicles brought the total number of LHs operated up to nearly 300.
Between 1972 and 1982 Lawrence Wilson and Son bought 3 LH and 10 LHL chassis which were fitted with van bodies. The first three LHSs were completed by Marsden and the remainder by Vanplan. They were used for delivering Wilson's Silver Cross brand of prams. One further LH (CUT 730K in 1972) was fitted out as a racing car transporter for Wheatcroft of Leicester.
A former Hants and Dorset standard LH (NEL 847M of 1973) was fitted with additional flanged wheels in 1980 to allow it to operate on railway lines. It was owned by the North East London Polytechnic of Dagenham and some work was done by Lucas Aerospace. It was tested on the West Somerset Railway between Bishops Lydeard and Crowcombe Heathfield in August 1980.