L501 was numerically the second vehicle from Liverpool's batch of 200 Leyland Atlanteans (L500 to L699) bodied by Metro Cammell which were delivered between November 1962 and September 1964.
The bus was rebuilt prior to delivery with a revised rear end design, which differed from the other buses being built at the same time, and was displayed on Metro Cammell’s stand at the 1962 Commercial Motor Show held at the Earls Court Exhibition Centre in London. This revised rear end design was adopted for the vehicles delivered from May 1963 (L560 to L699).
The body was designed by Liverpool Corporation and incorporated ideas that were interpreted from contemporary car designs of the period and was a great improvement on the bodybuilder's standard product available at the time. Buses built to Liverpool’s design were also delivered to Bury and Bolton Corporations. The chassis of these Atlanteans differed from Leyland's standard chassis.
Liverpool had rebuilt its original 1959 experimental Atlantean, E2, with numerous new features and most of these were incorporated in the production batch. It was found that by moving the steering column and driver's controls to the offside by a few inches, a wider platform area was created improving passenger loading times. It also made it easier to reverse the bus as the driver had improved vision. The wheelbase was also extended by six inches to allow for the seating to be arranged in a back-to-back fashion over the rear wheel arches, increasing the seating capacity.
Large-scale introduction of the Atlanteans was delayed whilst the unions and the Corporation settled their differences over the use of bigger buses. So it was not until 4th February 1963 that the first routes, the 86 & 87 Pier Head - Garston Circular, were converted to Atlantean operation and L500 to L519 were allocated to Garston Garage for use on these routes. L501 remained at Garston garage until it was de-licensed in July 1969, after which it underwent a "B4 Dock", which was the initial overhaul that buses required after seven years' service. This was required for a Certificate of Fitness, the equivalent of a MOT, to be issued. The B4 Dock was a very thorough overhaul which saw nearly all the exterior panelling removed to enable the basic structure of the vehicle to be checked for damage and corrosion, and rectified if required. The mechanical and electrical components would also be checked and replaced where necessary. Following repanelling and a repaint the bus would emerge almost like new.
L501 was converted to facilitate One-Man-Operation at the same time as the overhaul, this included fitting a periscope, simplified destination displays and equipping the driver's cab with a cab door that housed ticketing and cash handling equipment. On completion L501 was returned to Garston Depot.
The 1st December 1969 saw the formation of the Merseyside Passenger Transport Executive, which took over the responsibility of running the buses from the corporations of Liverpool, Birkenhead and Wallasey. The new organisation created three Divisions, Liverpool North and Liverpool South, which retained the green and cream livery introduced by Liverpool, and Wirral, which adopted a new livery of blue and cream.
Shortly after, on 15th December 1969, L501 was transferred to the North Division and allocated to Green Lane depot. Here it was used on routes serving West Derby, Cantril Farm and Huyton. It was then transferred to Walton depot on 2nd April 1973 where it was used on the cross-city services such as the 3, 20 and the 25. It continued working at Walton until its Certificate of Fitness expired on 4th August 1975 when it was withdrawn from service and stored at Edge Lane Works pending disposal.
At the time, the bus building business could not keep up with the high levels of demand, and long delays were being experienced with the delivery of new vehicles. As a result, it was decided that fifty of the 1962-64 Atlanteans would be put through another B4 Dock overhaul to enable them to be re-certified and returned to service. In addition to the work associated with the B4 Dock, the buses were completely re-trimmed internally and lost the distinctive aluminium ribbed skirt in favour of plain aluminium sheet.
Apart from a few which saw further use as driver training vehicles, the rest went for scrap although a small number were sold on for further use, the largest batch going to Fylde Borough Transport, others went to small independent operators around the country. Two of them were exported to Australia where they were operated on school bus duties for many years eventually outliving the rest of the batch. (L554 is currently being restored in Australia).
L501 was one of those chosen for re-certification and it entered the rebuilding programme at the beginning of 1976, re-emerging in that April. It was initially allocated to Litherland depot to cover for the Bristol REs that were being overhauled.
On 7th June 1976 it returned to Green Lane depot where it stayed until the end of 1979. The South Division depot at Prince Alfred Road was L501's final home until it was withdrawn on 3rd August 1981 after nearly 19 years of service to the people of Liverpool. The last of these attractive buses in service in Liverpool were L509 & L510, which finally bowed out at Green Lane, at the end of 1981. Following withdrawal L501 was moved to Speke depot for safe storage.
In February 1982, following successful negotiations with the MPTE, L501 was placed on permanent loan to the Mersey & Calder Bus Preservation Group. Unfortunately, it had been stored outside at Speke during the harsh winter without any anti-freeze in the engine and as a result it suffered severe frost damage to its engine.
Apart from a couple of excursions including taking part in the filming of Channel 4's film "One Summer", it was stored awaiting the time and resources needed to restore it to its former condition.
As a direct result of bus de-regulation L501, along with the other buses loaned by the MPTE to the Mersey & Calder BPG, was donated to the group in October 1986 for continued preservation.
Since then a determined effort has been made on getting L501 restored back to its early 1960s condition. The cracks in the engine block were stitched up, the front suspension and steering reconditioned and the bodywork received considerable attention to revert back to its original two-man condition, replacing the fittings removed during its last two overhauls.
The bus is now operational again and appears at many events.