Budgie Toys No.296
Motorway Express Coach
Issued 1963-66 Length 121mm OO/HO scale (1:76)
Following the opening of the Motorway from London to Birmingham, the Midland Red bus company introduced a regular service between the two cities by Express Coach. The Budgie model was fairly accurate to the real vehicle but the heavy duty knobbly tyres were not true to life!
During the three years that it was produced, the Motorway Express underwent several changes with two different bodies, four different bases and two colour liveries. Two of the variations included suspension.
The first issue of the Motorway Express Coach was a straightforward body casting into which a flat base holding the wheels was clipped. Painted red with a glossy black roof, the coach was finished with silver trim on both front and rear bumpers and the headlights. Inside, a large clear plastic window (sometimes slightly tinted) with a distinctive front windscreen was fitted. On the coach sides were 'Midland Red' decals and on the roof 'Birmingham-London Express Coach' decals in gold. The destination board at the front read 'London Motorway Express'.
The glossy black Type 1 base featured the main drive shaft leading to the rear axle and carried the wording 'Midland Red', 'Motorway Express' and the model number 'No.296', 'A Budgie model' and 'Made in England'. The wheels were large silver plastic with knobbly tyres.
After this Budgie decided to re-cast the body to incorporate a different silver-painted base on which the headlights and bumpers were cast. To accomodate these, holes were added at the front of the body so when assembled the headlights poked through. There were also changes to the lower edge of the body at front and rear to allow for the bumpers. The base lettering remained the same as did the colour and decals of the coach (variation 2).
The third variation had the same body but Budgie designed a new third-type base with the intention of incorporating suspension. This appeared in the red & black livery but was also used for a an American variation in which the Coach was painted blue and cream with side decals reading 'Washington D.C' and 'Blue Line Sightseeing Tours' with 'Tours' on the front destination board. On the rear signboard a decal read 'LA 9-7755'.
The type 3 base was the first to have suspension and the design incorporated stiff wires inserted down the centre. However, maybe because of problems with assembly, many of the models did not in fact have the wires fitted. On this base the model number and the words 'Midland Red' and 'Motorway Express' were blanked out with raised panels. New wheels were also fitted using the ridged silver plastic type with knobbly tyres but these were smaller than the original ones so the model sat rather low on the ground.
The last and final version of the Motorway Express Coach saw a return to the red and black colours and decals, and 'Midland Red' and 'Motorway Express' restored to the base and cast onto the raised panels (but not the model number). Suspension was now fitted successfully but again the smaller ridged plastic wheels meant there was not much chance of trying the suspension without the coach scraping on the ground!
Boxes for the Motorway Express Coach were the standard 'Budgie Models' box with descriptive panel (B2). The US blue & cream version and the later red issues were sold in open-sided window packs (C1).
A popular model, the red Motorway Coach is not hard to find although the last issue is scarce. The variation in US livery in the original pack is quite rare.
Budgie No.296 Motorway Express Coach
1) RED type 1 body (SILVER trim) BLACK roof BLACK type 1 base spw B2 box
2) RED type 2 body (no trim) BLACK roof SILVER type 2 base spw B2 box
3) RED type 2 body BLACK roof SILVER type 3 base (w.or w/o suspension) ridged spw C1 pack
4) BLUE type 2 body CREAM roof SILVER type 3 base (w.or w/o suspension) ridged spw C1 pack
5) RED type 2 body BLACK roof SILVER type 4 base (with suspension) ridged spw C1 pack
Budgie No.296 Motorway Express Coach - Four base variations
Flat base within body
'Midland Red' etc. lettering
Painted gloss black
Base with outer front & rear bumpers and front lights
'Midland Red' lettering
Type 3 (1)
Provision for suspension but not installed in this example
Lettering and number blanked out with raised panels
Type 3 (2)
Model with suspension wires installed
With suspension wires
'Midland Red' & 'Motorway Express' cast onto raised panels.
Number blanked out