At the beginning of 2018 things were looking dire for Custom Bus as it went into administration, but the start of 2020 tells a completely different story. Its brand new body, the Endeavour, has been tweaked from nose to tail – a symbol of Custom Bus’ transformation into a bus manufacturer with ‘industry-shaking’ plans up its sleeve.
This new Endeavour built for Busabout will be a route bus whose home won’t be far from the St Marys Custom Bus manufacturing plant. It soon will be back home to do runs from Campbelltown to Narellan. Having driven the Custom Coach CB80 previously, it was good to see the changes and adaptations this new bus had been given. We’ll start on the cosmetic changes as Neskes mentioned that this is where small things make overall a big change.
The Endeavour has retained the same stainless steel frame work, windscreens and roof structure as its predecessor and many of the changes have been cosmetic after taking on board customer feedback while keeping all features that they knew worked well.
The driver’s area is surprisingly luxurious for a route bus, which might have to do with the inclusion of the Mercedes chassis, but it was more comfortable than expected. Leg room and vision for the driver is excellent. Features particularly appreciated are the left foot rest, the cup holder and the driver’s AC booster fan.
The internals have been updated and the luggage area is really strong and robust. Chequerplate and stainless steel racks give a bright and quality finish that will definitely stand the hardest wear. The stippled stainless wall linings also mean there will be no tired-looking finishes as this bus ages. With a 25-year lifespan the use of these durable finishes can make all the difference to longevity of the interiors.
One issue addressed was the gap behind the rear seat and underneath seats being great points for rubbish deposits, so these have all been fully sealed. Another amended issue is the new powder-coated ducting, which has eliminated rattles and helps with ease of cleaning. Not sure if it was this change that did make for a much quieter drive than previous models of the CB80, but overall drive was definitely quieter.
Externally, the biggest changes have been the new front end with fold-down apron and lights for ease of maintenance and the inclusion of LEDs. The new larger desto gives the front a modern full-glass appearance; the previous model desto size had issues with compatibility with some operators’ programs. Again, these changes were made based on feedback.
The rear header is also a new design – now with a cavity where the fire-mitigation system that was usually stored under the bus has been moved to. The internal access is a safety improvement, making for quicker access and easier ability to check certification, as well as helping keep the equipment clean. The new rear also has chamfered corners and lights. Neskes says this feature was changed because damage often happens to buses from drivers cutting corners and taking out the rear corners. With that being chamfered, they are hoping this helps reduce the amount of damage caused.
The roof has been adapted to have a gutter rail that runs both sides the length of the bus, which eliminates water sitting on the roof when it rains. This dirty water used to spill over the windows when the bus tilted, but the new system means water is now dispersed to the front or rear of it.
This Endeavour is fitted with seats built by Custom Bus and has a Denso LD8 air-con at Busabout’s request. It has been using these systems for quite some time and has been really happy with them and it is a good example of Custom Bus adapting to customer requirements.
The drive took us from the Busabout headquarters at Smeaton Grange through Camden and Cobbity, which was scenic. We did a little bit of highway driving and the residential areas that this bus will normally travel.
The Endeavour has a Mercedes Benz OC 500LE chassis harbouring 7.7-litre engine with 299hp (223kW) and 1,200Nm. There are no complaints with the Mercedes running gear behind the new Endeavour.
The ZF- Eco Life six-speed automatic transmission has no surprises and it knew which gear to be in at all times. There is also an impressive turning circle on this chassis, which is great for busy urban routes and the many roundabouts this area has.
The brakes were very car-like and very well matched to the size of the body. This improved Endeavour will certainly take the Custom Bus fleet to a new level for everyday driving.
*ACTIA® Multiplex. One of the key benefits of Actia multiplexing systems is the ability to add functions without the need for new hardware. Common sensor and control data, such as vehicle speed and engine temperature, are available on the network. This way data can be shared, eliminating the need for redundant sensors. By reducing the wiring loom and removing the fuse boxes, relays and the associated cabling systems, cable trays, fixing system and other wiring accessories, multiplexing simplifies the vehicle’s electronics, whilst allowing functionality and control.