Reliability problems with earlier buses prompted the Department to have a look at the new Volvo B58 then being offered for the first time in Australia. A fairly conventional chassis in the traditional underfloor-engine format, the Volvo has been called the Swedish equivalent to the Leyland Leopard. After examining the one demonstration chassis which later received a Denning coach body, two Volvo B58-50 chassis were ordered and bodied by Freighter at the end of an order for 20 Swifts. Both were delivered in February 1972 and proved to be very reliable buses.
Volvo then introduced their turbo-charged engine THD 100A to the Australian scene and in February 1973, it was decided to order six B58-56 chassis powered by the new engine. The first such bus with a Smithfield body was Number 236, delivered in August 1974, and it entered service on the intertown route between Woden and Belconnen. It was among the first turbo-charged buses in Australia. Number 236 was followed by an order for a further sixteen B58s in September 1973 and another 54 in three batches in 1974. The one major obstacle to a higher Volvo sale to Canberra at that time was Volvo’s inability to supply more vehicles to meet a very tight delivery schedule, having just commenced their assembly line in Australia.
With the exception of 17 Volvos fitted with two-speed ZF 2HP45 fully automatic transmissions, all the Volvos had the Wilson semi-automatic transmission as fitted to the Swifts. Again, as with the Swifts, this transmission is sometimes not used correctly by drivers. At the time of writing, tests are under way to re-equip some Volvos with Voith 851 three-speed fully automatic gearboxes with integral retarders. The Department felt that such equipment should overcome the problems it saw in brakes and transmissions.
Fleet Numbers: 236-239, 250, 337-406
Number in class: 75
Chassis: Volvo B58-56
Engine: Volvo THD 100D
Gearbox: As delivered –
Wilson SCG four-speed semi-automatic with Monocontrol gear selector (236-239, 250, 337-386, 388, 394, 402)
ZF 2HP 45 003 two-speed fully automatic (387, 389-393, 395-401, 403-406)
Subsequent changes – Voith D851 three-speed fully automatic with retarder (384-386, 388, 394, 402)
Wheelbase: 18 ft 6 ins (5 640 mm)
Bodies: Smithfield Bus and Coach Works Pty Ltd, Smithfield NSW
Length: 36 ft 6 ins (11 220 mm)
General notes: Four vehicles, 350-353, received temporary registrations as their correct plates were not available. They received their correct plates during July 1975.