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Dennis Dart
Burnley & Pendle 702.jpg
Preserved Burnley & Pendle Plaxton Pointer 2-bodied Dennis Dart MPD
Dart SLF INT.JPG
Arriva North West & Wales Plaxton Pointer-bodied Dennis Dart SLF interior
Overview
Manufacturer Dennis Specialist Vehicles (1989–2001)
TransBus International (2001–2004)
Alexander Dennis (2004–2008)
Thomas Built Buses (North American market)
Production 1989–2008
Body and chassis
Doors 1 or 2 doors
Floor type Step-entrance (Dart)
Low-floor (Dart SLF)
Powertrain
Engine Cummins B Series
Cummins ISBe
Capacity 23−44 seated
Transmission Allison
Eaton
Voith
Dimensions
Length Dart:
8.5m, 9.0m, 9.8m
Dart SLF:
8.8m, 9.2m, 9.3m, 10.0m, 10.1m, 10.6m, 10.7m, 11.3m
Width 2.3m, 2.4m or 2.5m
Chronology
Predecessor Dennis Domino
Successor Alexander Dennis Enviro200

The Dennis Dart is a rear-engined single-decker midibus chassis that was introduced by Dennis Specialist Vehicles of Guildford, England in 1989, replacing the Dennis Domino. Initially built as a high-floor design, 1996 saw the launch of the low-floor second generation Dennis Dart SLF. In 2001, production of the Dart SLF passed to TransBus International, during which time it was sold as the TransBus Dart SLF; Alexander Dennis took over production in 2004, renaming the product as the Alexander Dennis Dart SLF.

The Dart name had previously been applied to a front-engined bus chassis produced between 1978 and 1980; however, this design failed to take off, with only two front-engined Darts built. The subsequent rear-engined Dart and later Dart SLF saw much greater success, with more than 11,000 Darts being produced in total during a 19-year production run. Most were purchased by United Kingdom operators, although examples were sold in North America, Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore. In the United States, the Dart SLF, with Alexander ALX200 bodywork, was built and sold by Thomas Built Buses as the Thomas-Dennis Dart SLF 200.

The first generation Dart ceased production in 1998. Production of the Dart SLF continued until 2008, when it was replaced by the Alexander Dennis Enviro200.

Contents

First generation (high-floor Dart; 1989–1998)Edit

 
Preserved Stagecoach South 1991 Alexander Dash-bodied Dennis Dart in April 2009
 
GHA Coaches 1993 Wright Handybus-bodied Dennis Dart in Wrexham in March 2009
 
Joe's Travel 1994 Plaxton Pointer-bodied Dennis Dart in Birmingham in September 2010

The Dennis Dart was conceived when Hestair Group (owner of Dennis and Duple) decided to produce a bus between a minibus and a full-sized single-decker.[1][2]

It was launched in 1988 and was originally offered with the Duple Dartline bodywork. It was 2.3m wide and was initially available in the length of 9.0m, but later available in lengths of 8.5m and 9.8m. It was powered by a 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 to London Buses and to some operators outside London. Soon after it was launched, Duple was sold to Plaxton and the Blackpool plant closed. Plaxton decided not to acquire the design rights of the Duple Dartline and it was sold to Carlyle Works, 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.

In 1990, Wadham Stringer became the next builder to body the Dart with a body 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. 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's Scarborough plant). Later in 1991, East Lancs bodied the Dart with its EL2000. In the latter half of 1991, Alexander launched the Dash. 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 single-decker buses became more popular in late 1990s, orders for standard-floor Dart dropped heavily and production ceased in 1998, with the final five delivered to Jersey Motor Transport. 3,470 first generation Darts were produced in total.[3]

Second generation (Dart SLF; 1996–2008)Edit

 
Carousel Buses Plaxton Pointer-bodied Dennis Dart SLF in High Wycombe in July 2009
 
Stagecoach Grimsby-Cleethorpes 2006 Plaxton Pointer 2-bodied Alexander Dennis Dart SLF in Cleethorpes in April 2010

In 1996, Dennis launched a low-floor version of the Dart known as the Dart SLF, with the letters SLF standing for Super Low Floor in reference to the new low-floor design. It was 2.4m wide and initially offered in lengths of 9.2m, 10m and 10.6m, with air suspension introduced in place of the taper leaf used in the original design. The driveline of the step-entrance Dart was retained, although some early examples were fitted with Eaton manual transmission.

It was initially offered with the low floor version of the Pointer bodywork (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 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).

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. In 2007 the Dennis Dart SLF was superseded by the Alexander Dennis Enviro200. The last Alexander Dennis Dart SLF was delivered to Park Island Transport of Hong Kong in March 2008. 9,191 Dart SLFs were produced in total, making it one of the most successful buses of all time.[4]

Cardiff Bus for instance was one operator that took order to many of low floor Dennis Darts and a few high-floor examples (Alexander Dash). These were numbered 23-28 (high-floor), then 301-320, 361-399, 144-199, and 211-244. In 2015, S302 SHB was preserved as one of the first low-floor Darts preserved and goes to many rallies.

Dart SPDEdit

 
Thamesdown Transport Plaxton Pointer 2-bodied Dennis Dart SPD in Swindon in October 2005

In 1997, the Dart SPD (short for Super Pointer Dart) was launched with a length of 11.3m (about the same length as a long Leyland National), typically seating 40 to 44 passengers. The Dart SPD was launched to compete with full-size buses such as the Volvo B10BLE and Scania L94UB, while retaining the more lightweight construction of the basic Dart SLF. The Dart SPD has a more powerful engine and a more heavy duty Allison World Series B300R gearbox than the Dart SLF, but also with an option of a Voith gearbox. Originally offered only with Plaxton Pointer 2 bodywork (hence the 'P' in the name), this larger bus was later offered with other bodywork such as the East Lancs Myllennium, the Alexander ALX200 and a few have also been bodied by Marshall. At least 230 Dart SPDs were produced.[5]

Dart MPDEdit

 
Bluebird Bus & Coach Plaxton Pointer 2-bodied Alexander Dennis Dart MPD in Manchester in July 2008

In 1998, the Dart MPD (short for Mini Pointer Dart) was launched. At 8.8m long, the Dart MPD was a model reminiscent of the original 8.5m Darts; it was launched to compete with newly emerging shorter midibuses such as the Optare Solo. The Dart MPD typically seated 23 to 29 passengers, and was available in both provincial and London specifications. As with the Dart SPD, the MPD was launched initially with only the Plaxton Pointer 2 bodywork, although other bodies became available later on.

Narrow width Dart SLFEdit

In 2002, TransBus launched a narrower-width variant of the Dart SLF at the request of bus operators in the Channel Islands of Guernsey and then Jersey, who 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 Myllennium and Caetano Nimbus 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 in Gibraltar.

Thomas-Dennis Dart SLF 200Edit

The Dennis Dart SLF, with Alexander ALX200 bodywork, was constructed in the United States for the North American market by Thomas Built Buses, being sold as the Thomas-Dennis Dart SLF 200 in reference to both the chassis and bodywork.[6]

ExportsEdit

Although primarily sold in the United Kingdom, some were sold overseas:

Hong KongEdit

In Hong Kong, New World First Bus had purchased 76, Kowloon Motor Bus had purchased 60, Citybus had purchased 30, New Lantao Bus had purchased 3, Park Island Bus had purchased 15 and Discovery Bay Buses had purchased 5. They were delivered between 1994 and 1999. Most of the buses retired in 2014 - 2017.

SingaporeEdit

In Singapore, Singapore Bus Service had purchased 10 buses in 1994 for smaller routes (M1, M2, M4 and 183). All the buses were retired in 2010 and replaced by Volvo B10Ms.[11]

GalleryEdit

Earlier front-engined DartEdit

The Dart name was originally applied to a front-engined single-decker bus chassis produced by Dennis between 1978 and 1980. However, the front-engined Dart remained unsuccessful, with only two examples produced, both with Marshall bodywork. The first was built for the Iraq University and exported to Baghdad in 1978; the second was produced for the West Midlands Fire Service as a mobile command centre in 1980.[12]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit