A40 was one of only two buses to be bodied by Saunders Roe (SARO) for
Liverpool Corporation. SARO was a firm from Beaumaris, on the Isle of
Anglesey, that had its origins in boat building but had got involved with the
manufacture of aircraft during the Second World War. During the early 1950s,
SARO diversified into building bus bodies and even secured a large order with
London Transport for double deck bodies on RT chassis.
A39 & A40 were part of the order for 100 AEC Regent IIIs, the other 98 receiving Crossley bodies (60 of them completed at Corporation's Edge Lane Works). All these buses were fitted with the AEC A218 9.6 litre engines and synchromesh gearboxes.
The SARO bodies were built mainly out of aluminium instead of the usual steel and wood that most builders used at this time. This method of construction gave a weight saving of almost a ton compared to the Crossley bodied examples, and did not suffer from as much body corrosion as the steel bodies - but their initial purchase cost was greater.
A40 entered service from Prince Alfred Road garage in November 1954 and became known as "The Silver Bullet" due to the fact that it was entirely unpainted (not because of its top speed!).
A further 17 buses (on both AEC and Leyland chassis) were delivered over the next few years in this mainly unpainted form as part of an ongoing experiment to compare the cost savings of not painting buses. Other operators around Britain also tried out the unpainted look but it was soon found that the initial savings on not painting the bus were soon exhausted by the additional effort in keeping the vehicles clean and presentable, especially when repairing accident damage.
When new, A40 was totally unpainted externally (apart from its wheels) but, to improve its appearance and to make it more visible in the fog at the time, it received a green band between the decks in 1956. Around the same time it also lost the front upper saloon opening windows.
In May 1964 A40 was transferred to Edge Lane garage where it remained until being transferred to Speke in November 1970. It passed to the Merseyside Passenger Transport Executive (MPTE) on its formation in December 1969. A40 was the last remaining former Liverpool Corporation AEC Regent III still in service when it was withdrawn at the beginning of May 1974. The vehicle's significance was acknowledged by the MPTE, and A40 became the first of many vehicles to be donated to the Mersey & Calder BPG by the MPTE, a practice continued right up to the last days of the MPTE owning vehicles.
During the many years that A40 has been in preservation it has appeared at numerous rallies throughout the country and it has also appeared in a few TV programmes and films.
To this day, the SARO body is a credit to its manufacture, with it suffering from very little corrosion, something that cannot be said about its Crossley-bodied cousins!
A40 has been part of the Merseyside Transport Trust Collection since its formation in May 1999. Over recent years, some remedial work has been carried out to the platform bearer and the lower saloon and some of the non-standard window rubber it carries has been sourced. Once some of the current projects have been completed, A40 will be brought back into the restoration programme.