The Fleetline was built mainly for the United Kingdom market, but a number of Fleetlines had been exported to Portugal, South Africa and Hong Kong.
It was the second of three bus models to have a marque name as well as an alphanumeric identity code. The other two were the Freeline and the Roadliner.
The Fleetline was the second rear-engined double deck bus chassis to be launched by a UK manufacturer, following Leyland's introduction of the Atlantean in 1958. From the outset, the Fleetline had a drop-centre rear axle fitted as standard, enabling low-height bodywork to be fitted without necessitating an inconvenient seating layout in part of the upper deck, as was the case with early Atlanteans. Leyland responded by offering a drop-centre rear axle as an option on the Atlantean, but after the two companies came under the same ownership in 1968, the low-height Atlantean option was discontinued.
The prototype Fleetline was fitted with a Daimler engine, but when production started only the Gardner 6LX or 6LW engines were offered. By 1968 Gardner's new and more powerful 6LXB was also an option, and in 1970 Leyland's 0.680 engine became available. Gardner engines had an excellent reputation for reliability and economy while Leyland engines were more lively and more thirsty. Most Fleetline customers preferred Gardner engines, but the Leyland engine became popular - particularly for a period in the 1970s when Gardner could not meet demand.
In late 1960s, Daimler developed the longer 36' double-deck Fleetline which was based on the single-deck Roadliner chassis. This chassis had a longitudinally-mounted Cummins engine at the rear offside corner. It was designed mainly for export, but one was built for Walsall Corporation Transport.
In mid-1970s, Leyland developed a special version of the Fleetline, known as the B20, with Leyland 0.690 engine, chimneys on both sides above the engine compartment and reduced noise levels. All of these went to London Transport.
As with many British bus chassis including the comparable Leyland Atlantean, the bodywork was supplied separately by a range of different companies to their own designs, meaning it can be difficult to identify the chassis. Some, but not all, vehicles have a manufacturer's badge on the rear. A notable difference between the Atlantean and Fleetline is that the front of the engine cover, towards the rear of the lower deck, is sloped at about 10 degrees on the Daimler, but is vertical, with a notch at the top, on the Leyland.
Daimler Fleetline chassis designations started with the letters CR, of which the C is variously reported to stand for Coventry or Commercial, and the R stands for Rear-engined. For single-deckers this became SR (although not on the earliest examples which were referred to with the standard CR).
This was followed by a code to indicate the engine fitted: D6 (Daimler 6-cylinder, prototypes only); G6 (Gardner 6-cylinder, more often than not this was expanded to the more specific G6LW, G6LX or G6LXB); L6 (Leyland 6-cylinder); C6 (Cummins 6-cylinder).
The standard length of the Fleetline was 30' but lengths of 33' and 36' were also available, which were sometimes (though not consistently) identified by a suffix of -33 or -36 (sometimes with an oblique stroke in place of the hyphen).
Later Leyland Fleetline chassis designations were different: FE for Fleetline, followed by 30 or 33 (length in feet); A (if applicable) for Air brakes; G for Gardner or L for Leyland engine; R for Right-hand drive.
London Transport was the largest British Fleetline operator, whose DMS and DM classes totalled 2,646 vehicles (the last 400 were built as B20s), in addition to the earlier XF (eXperimental Fleetline) class of eight buses.
The DMS and DM-class vehicles were fitted with either Park Royal and MCW bodywork, and were given fleet numbers (DMS 1 - DM 2646) under the drivers' window on the offside and at the rear of the nearside of the vehicle.
The first vehicle into service was DMS 1 at 0454 on 2 January 1971 from Shepherds Bush Garage on route 220. However, celebrations at the garage meant that the bus left two minutes late and thus DMS 31 at Brixton Garage actually entered first at 0455 on route 95. The last vehicle was DMS 2438 also on 2 January, in 1993, returning home in the dark at 1845. This bus operated a farewell tour between Croydon Garage, Chipstead Valley and Hammond Street, London on special one-day only route 459.
A total of 60 garages operated DMSs in London. The smallest allocation was at Willesden where just 10 vehicles in total ever operated, and the largest at Croydon with a huge allocation total of 417 spanning a period of twenty years from 1973. In the Croydon example, an allocation could be as short as two months or as long as ten years. Croydon were the last garage to operate the type in normal passenger service in what became known as DMS heartland principally because of the other large operational garages at Brixton, Merton, Sutton, Catford and Thornton Heath.
The first batch of London Fleetlines had Gardner engines, but Leyland engined the majority. The final type of DMS, the B20, appears to have been the least reliable and several were fitted with Iveco engines during the 1980s.
DMSs proved unpopular in London, mainly due to the slow boarding times compared to those of the open-backed Routemaster class and the speed at which parts became defective. Withdrawal commenced in 1979 with the early vehicles being the first to go, the first to leave the fleet in this way being DMS 251 in February 1979, quickly departing for bus breaker Wombwell Diesels in Yorkshire. The very first vehicle to leave the fleet was DMS 1248 which was completely destroyed by fire whilst in service on route 280A from Sutton Garage in August 1978. In London, the successors of the DMS/DM buses were the Leyland Titan and MCW Metrobus.
Many of the sold Fleetlines were sent to Ensignbus in Purfleet as a dealer for onward sale or spare parts. So many vehicles were despatched there between 1979 and 1983 that the yards became known as the 'DMS graveyards' as not enough buyers could be sought. Often vehicles could not be brought out and so rotted away where they sat.
However, hundreds of London Fleetlines proved popular secondhand purchases for operators throughout Britain from 1979 and during the 1980s, including the aftermath of bus deregulation. There were also a number of DMS/DM buses sold for export, many departing for the far east in Hong Kong. In addition, nearly 50 vehicles found operations in the USA for open-top sightseeing work.
Few vehicles have entered preservation, DMS 1 being with the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden, DMS 132, 999, 1051, 1052, 1515, 1601, 1868, 2375, 2456 and appropriately DM 2646 with the Ensign Bus Museum. DM 2646 has been preserved in the Shillibeer livery which it carried back in 1979. DMS1515 is still in its Supercar incarnation, from when the Travelcard was instigated. 2008 saw a resurgence of fleetlines being bought for preservation and DMSs 115, 550, 1002, 1911, 2216, and 2357 also reached cherished status, albeit work-in-progress. April 2010 saw DMS2127 enter the ranks of preserved DMSs, fresh from service at Whipsnade Sarafi Park.
Second in fleet size was Birmingham Corporation and its successor West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive with well over 1,000 buses, including the first single-deck Fleetlines in 1965. Other constituent municipal fleets - and Midland Red - also contributed Fleetlines to the WMPTE Fleetline fleet to boost the number to over 2,100. The Daimler factory in Coventry was, of course, in the WMPTE area.
West Midlands PTE preferred the Gardner engine, but received 220 Fleetlines with Leyland engines during 1974-76 when Gardners were hard to obtain. However, the Leylands were found to be less reliable, particularly in the hilly Black Country, and most received Gardner engines during the early 1980s. The 700 or so Fleetlines inherited by West Midlands Travel in 1986 all had Gardner engines, and the type lasted with WMT until 1997.
Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive purchased over 500 Fleetlines in addition to a similar number inherited from its constituents (although even in such numbers they were still outnumbered by Atlanteans). One of these, numbered 583 (BCB 613V) of the Lancashire United (subsidiary of GMPTE) was sold to Chester City Transport in 1992, numbered 79. It remained in regular service until May 2007 and it is now preserved in the Chester City Transport livery that it carried when withdrawn from service. It regularly attends rallies and when withdrawn was believed to have been the last closed top Fleetline in regular stage carriage service in the UK.
South Yorkshire PTE (SYPTE) operated a significant number of Fleetlines during the late 1960s and 1970s. Some were quite short lived although one example '1515' OKW515R saw service in London and Sheffield, then onto private operator Andrews of Sheffield where it served in competition to SYPTE for many years. Preserved in the late 1990s, the vehicle is said to be under local restoration for future bus preservation rally duties.
Another preserved fleetline from SYPTE 'WWJ754M' is owned by the Sheffield Transport Group and housed at Sandtoft, a museum near Doncaster. The vehicle was widely applauded as one of the best designs of double decker bus from the 1970s and is a centerpiece of local rallies. Using Sheffield Transport livery, it is said to be one of the last remaining examples of its type.
SYPTE also saw a number of inherited 1973 'L' registered Fleetlines from Doncaster independents. These were operational on the popular Rotherham to Sheffield route 69 for almost 15 years boasting low floors, large luggage and buggy storage plus blue coloured interior lighting near the cab area.
Most notably though, SYPTE fitted all its vehicles with comfortable sprung leather or fabric seats.
Ending their life with the PTE in the early 1990s, the remaining Fleetlines were placed on short duties between Rotherham bus station and the nearby Asda supermarket formerly at the Eastwood Trading Estate. Upon re-location of the supermarket, the dwindling remaining members of the fleet were sent to Ipswich and Scarborough with the SYPTE choosing Dennis Dominators as replacement across the whole county.
Other English PTEs, plus many fleets in the municipal, such as Cardiff Bus with 90 examples, BET Group, Scottish Bus Group and independent sectors purchased Fleetlines.
Walsall Corporation specified some non-standard short-wheelbase Fleetlines, the first of which, 1 UDH, was only 25 ft 7 in long, had no front overhang and had its entrance behind the front axle. The next 29 vehicles were 27 ft 6 in long with a short front overhang and again only an entrance behind the front axle. The remaining 69 were 28 ft 6 in long, with a narrow entrance in the usual position along with the entrance behind the front axle. 1 UDH had Northern Counties bodywork with wrap-around windscreens on both decks, similar to that specified by Barton Transport on AEC Regents and a Dennis Loline.
Several operators purchased single-deck Fleetlines (Birmingham was the first, in 1965). Rotherham Corporation purchased two 33' single deck fleetlines with 45 seat Willowbrook dual purpose bodies, nos 169 and 170. Mexborough and Swinton Traction Company ordered 3 similar vehicles with Marshall bodywork for White Rose Express services. However they were delivered as Yorkshire Traction 228-230 following the takeover in October 1969. In late 1970, Yorkshire Traction purchased nine 36' Fleetlines with dual door Walter Alexander W type bodywork, nos 357-365.
Walsall Corporation purchased one 36' double-deck Fleetline CRC6 in 1968, which is now preserved.
Unusual engines temporarily fitted by operators in Fleetlines in the 1960s included a Perkins V8 installed in Walsall 8, and a BMMO 10.5 litre unit in Midland Red 5261. Most remarkably, in 1972 a Rolls Royce LPG engine was fitted in Teesside Municipal Transport (ex-Middlesbrough) S470.
China Motor Bus (CMB) introduced 336 Fleetlines between 1972 and 1980, and Kowloon Motor Bus (KMB) also introduced 450 between 1974 and 1979, these Fleetlines were mainly deployed to Cross-Harbour Tunnel routes. CMB adopted the word "Jumbo" (originated from "Jumbo Jet", which was the nickname of the Boeing 747) to describe the large capacity of its Fleetlines, so in Hong Kong, the Fleetlines were commonly known as the "Jumbo" (Chinese: 珍寶).
In 1980s both CMB and KMB purchased ex-London Transport DMS/DM-class Fleetlines. Citybus and Argos Bus, operators of non-franchised routes and private hire services in Hong Kong, also purchased secondhand Fleetlines (including ex-London Transport DMS/DM-class Fleetlines).
Many of the Daimler/Leyland Fleetlines in Hong Kong were delivered to China for further service after being withdrawn in 1980s/1990s.
- The first and last Fleetlines built were both destroyed by fire. Former demonstrator 7000 HP, which had passed to Blue Bus Services (Tailby & George) of Willington and later to Derby Borough Transport, was destroyed in a fire at the Willington depot on 5 January 1976. The last-built chassis, former South Notts ECW-bodied SCH 117X, was destroyed in a fire at the Nottingham Transport Heritage Centre on 21 February 2007 after it had been bought for preservation.
- In late 1990s Guangzhou Cityview Bus Installation Co., Ltd. (now known as Guangzhou Suijing Bus Co., Ltd.) rebuilt some of the ex-Hong Kong Daimler/Leyland Fleetlines in China with provision of new bodies, these Fleetlines became known as the "Eagle Fleetline" (simplified Chinese: 巨鹰珍宝; traditional Chinese: 巨鷹珍寶). A number of the "Eagle Fleetlines" were sold for service in Shenzhen, with the last bus being withdrawn in October 2008.