Leopards spotted in new book

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Three new to Southdown 1960s Leyland Leopards meet in preservation for the first time. NICK LARKIN

Former Southdown Motor Services driver Paul Llewellyn has published a book devoted to the much-missed operator’s Leyland Leopards. A lifelong bus and coach enthusiast brought up in Crowborough, East Sussex, Paul joined Southdown in 1983. He was based at Uckfield and Haywards Heath depots, leaving in 1989 after the company was taken over by Stagecoach. He transferred to Maidstone & District and currently drives part-time for Compass Bus.

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Paul took four years to research his book, Leopards Prowl around Southdown and Beyond, covering the 166 examples of the breed new to the operator in the 1960s. It includes detailed coverage of each, including a full history and subsequent career.

The book is in A4 hardback format running to 200 pages and featuring over 350 photos. Sections also range from an explanation of the Eaton twin-speed axle to the legendary Heathfield Pool, where many bus services linked in the Sussex town.

There are also reminiscences by drivers, Leopards in preservation and 1:76-scale models. A 1976 route network map from a timetable appears as a frontispiece. The book was originally going to be launched at an event marking 40 years since the closure of Southdown’s Crowborough depot – Paul owns the ‘last bus in,’ Leyland National PCD 80R.

Sadly this had to be postponed until next year so the debut took place at the recent Tinkers Park Bus Rally where for the first time in preservation history, three Southdown 1960s Leopards appeared together. These were two Marshall-bodied examples, 273 AUF, a 1963 B49F-bodied bus now in the guise of subsequent operator East Kent, BUF 122C, a 1965 bus with B45F bodywork and KUF 199F with Willowbrook B45F body dating from 1968, of which Paul is part-owner.

“The book took a lot of work but I’m very happy with the result and hope people will enjoy it,” said Paul.

Copies cost £25 each and it is available post-free from the author at 19 Burwash Park, Fontridge Lane, Etchingham, TN19 7DE, with cheques payable to Paul Llewellyn.