South African bus fleets in the early nineteen-eighties [1]

In the early nineteen-eighties, minibus-taxis were making serious inroads in areas served by bus operators. To compete with this, several concerns – notably the United and Cape Tramways groups – bought in small fleets of “midibuses” with 24 or 25 seats during 1984. The idea was not a conspicuous success. Other purposes were found for most of the vehicles, such as conversion to mobile ticket offices.

Fleet acquisitions by the major operators were as follows (years to 1984).


The East London municipality placed only three new buses in service between 1981 and 1984. These were Mercedes 0305 rear-engined 50-seat single-deckers bodied by Busaf Port Elizabeth in 1983.


A large number of Leyland Victory 2 vehicles entered service in Port Elizabeth 1981. They were bodied in-house with 53 seats. Fleet numbers allocated were 200-219 and 314-389.

There were also six Toyota Dyna single-deckers with 23 seat Busaf bodies, fleet nos 5500-5505.

Port Elizabeth Tramways gained six older 58-seat Victory 2 Leylands in May 1981 when Tollgate Holdings sold its subsidiary company Intertown Passenger Services running between Pinetown and Durban. Five were Busaf products, the sixth (fleet 884) had been bodied in-house at Port Elizabeth. All six dated from the early nineteen-seventies. Fleet numbers were 871, 884, 909, 910, 911 and 921.

A comprehensive fleet renumbering scheme was in progress at Port Elizabeth during 1982.

Further Leyland Victory 2 vehicles were taken into service in 1982. Fleet numbers were 378-432 and 806-809 These deliveries continued into 1983 with fleet nos 227-236,433-459 and 800-805.

Fleet nos 271 to 278 were almost new ERF Trailblazers acquired from the Ciskei Transport Corporation in 1984. They had 53-seat bodies by Busaf Letaba.

In 1984, twenty 24-seat midibuses on Leyland 708 chassis were acquired from Busaf, fleet 5506-5525


Germiston municipality’s 1982 intake (there had been nothing new in 1981) featured Leyland Victories 209 to 226 with 70-seat single-deck bodies by de Haan. Five new Leylands in 1983, 227 to 231, had 50-seat single-deck bodies by an unidentified builder.

In 1984, ERF Trailblazers 16 to 30 joined the fleet, with 70-seat single-deck bodies, again by an unidentified builder. Then there were four Mercedes 55-seaters bodied by Busaf at Letaba, fleet nos 33 to 37. A further series of ERF single-deckers in 1984, bodied by de Haan with seating varying between 65 and 66, were numbered 232 to 242.


Durban municipal transport – more specifically the Durban Transport Management Board (DTMB) – followed the general South African trend during the early eighties, placing a large number of front-engined vehicles in service.

Though Leyland Victories NDC 3400 to 3486 had featured prominently in 1981 (Mark 2A single-deck buses with 52-seat Busaf bodies),

MAN was the preferred supplier in 1982, delivering single-deckers 3200 to 3226. with 50-seat Busaf bodies.

Mercedes had the next order – in 1983 – for OF1624 single-deckers bodied by Busaf with 53 seats. NDC numbers were 3900 to 3936, and 3939.

There were also six ERF Trailblazers in 1983, no details known.

The pendulum swung back to Leylands in 1984, when further Mark 2A Victories 3300 to 3360. came in (single deck Busaf bodies, with varying seating).

The next order – for MAN single-deckers with 53-seat Busaf bodies – was split between 1984 and 1985. NDC numbers 3232 to 3253 were allocated to the 1984 vehicles.


At Cape Town’s City Tramways company, Leyland Victory Mark 2 vehicles were prominent among acquisitions in 1981 (“standee” buses 1301 to 1432 as previously detailed) and 1982 (1433 to 1522).

Further Victories – 1523 to 1552 – were acquired new in 1983, some with 47 seats and some with 51. All these vehicles were supplied by Busaf in Port Elizabeth.

Additional Leyland Victories – fleet 6240 to 6269 – came second-hand from Associated Bus Holdings (ABH) in 1983, followed by a further batch (6270 to 6276) the following year. Most had 67-seat Busaf (PE) bodies. These transactions represented the absorption of ABH into City Tramways.

Up until this point, almost all City Tramways buses had been bought new. They were bodied either by Busaf in Port Elizabeth or in-house.

The exceptions included completely revamped double-deckers in excellent condition from London Transport, acquired during the sixties when trolleybuses were being withdrawn in Cape Town and local resources could not meet the replacement demand.

In 1984, the first ERF “Trailblazer” vehicles were seen in Cape Town. Bodied by Busaf at Letaba, these 65-seaters were supplied by the Industrial Development Corporation, being originally intended for the Ciskei Transport Corporation. Fleet numbering ran from 3000 to 3039.

A further delivery of ERF 50-seaters (fleet 3040 to 3066) came to City Tramways new from Busaf’s Cape Town plant – formerly Blanckenbergs – in 1984.

This factory also supplied a small fleet of 25-seat “midibus” vehicles on Leyland 0708 chassis, nine being delivered in 1984 (fleet 2290-2298) and the balance the following year.

Article 148 in this series contains further details applicable to the early nineteen-eighties, specifically in respect of Johannesburg, Pretoria, Pietermaritzburg, the United Transport group and the South African Railways.

Leyland Victory 2 with 53-seat Busaf (Port Elizabeth) body, NDC 3300, was new to the Durban Transport Management Board in 1984.

Germiston 239, a 71-seat ERF bodied by de Haan in 1984. From a photo by Andrew Johnson.


East London municipal Mercedes 0305 of 1983, Busaf-bodied with 50 seats.

City Tramways Cape Town 1982 Leyland Victory “standee” bus 1371, bodied in-house.

City Tramways Cape Town 3015: Busaf Letaba 65-seat ERF, 1984. Delivery diverted from Ciskei Transport Corporation. Port Elizabeth Tramways 271-278 were similar.

City Tramways Cape Town 3015. ERF similar to 3035.

Port Elizabeth Tramways 803 of 1983. Leyland Victory 2 with Busaf Port Elizabeth body seating 49.