SHINE BRIGHT LIKE A DI­A­MOND

Few might ex­pect a bus op­er­a­tor to be a Steve Ir­win Award-win­ning pro-en­vi­ron­men­tal busi­ness, but that is just one of many tal­ents the Fun Over 50 team ex­udes. And its lat­est ‘Di­a­mond Class’ Irizar i6 coach on Volvo B11R chas­sis is a bril­liantly ex­u­ber­ant

ABC (Australia) - - CONTENTS - WORDS / IM­AGES PAUL ALDRIDGE

OP­ER­A­TOR Fun Over 50 in Spring­wood, Queens­land, is do­ing things with style – di­a­mond-class style, to be ex­act. Its stun­ning Irizar i6, 3-axle Volvo coach looks and feels a cut above the rest. Paul Aldridge re­ports.

FUN OVER 50 – an un­usual name for a travel com­pany to some, but Spring­wood, Queens­land­based own­ers Rob Archibald and Toni Bren­nan knew what they were do­ing of­fer­ing amaz­ing V.I.P coach ex­pe­ri­ences and sus­tain­able tours to that dis­cern­ing tar­get mar­ket. Tours en­sur­ing pas­sen­gers are hav­ing ad­ven­tures with like-minded, ac­tive peers and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the very best Aus­tralia has to of­fer. And they de­liver ex­pe­ri­ences well out­side the box, en­hanced by the re­cent ac­qui­si­tion of a very spa­cious and ‘sparkly’ (guess how!) Irizar i6 to the fleet.

BUSI­NESS CLASS ON WHEELS

With this be­ing the fourth Irizar pur­chased – the oth­ers mak­ing up Fun Over 50’s (FOF) pres­ti­gious Gold Class of coaches – Archibald was quick to point out why they’ve stuck by the Span­ish brand.

“About nine years ago I was talk­ing with one of the op­er­a­tors from Pe­ga­sus Coaches in Syd­ney. I was look­ing to buy a coach, but couldn’t af­ford a new one at the time. We had a look at dif­fer­ent sec­ond-hand ones, but that op­tion we were a bit wary of. We de­cided to go on our knees to the bank and see what we could come up with. Pe­ga­sus told us Irizar and Sca­nia were do­ing some great deals with some of the Euro­pean chas­sis man­u­fac­tur­ers, mak­ing it very af­ford­able for com­pa­nies like ours, so that’s what ini­tially got us in to the Irizars,” he ex­plained.

“How we pack­age our prod­ucts, they pretty much do the same thing and that makes it pretty easy for you. The Irizars are big in Eu­rope and I did my home­work about them; the price was af­ford­able and [it] didn’t look like the nor­mal run-of-themill coaches.

“Irizar has al­ways had good back-up and that was a big thing for us. I also ap­proached Sid Fogg’s and he also had good ac­co­lades for them,” Archibald said.

“I went to a few of the bus and coach shows and credit to all the coach builders – there are some great coaches out there – but we couldn’t get past the good looks of the Irizar. It just has nice lines with the bull nose that ta­pers off,” he added.

IT’S A WRAP

So what kind of paint was used to get that sparkling, di­a­mond ef­fect? Er … none!

“Toni had come up with a con­cept to have the coach fin­ished in a di­a­mond-look fin­ish for our ‘Di­a­mond Class Tours’. We went to quite a few paint places, but to get that ef­fect would cost a for­tune be­cause of the size of the ve­hi­cle – plus it would be hard to get the glit­ter con­sis­tency we wanted,” Archibald ex­plained. “Toni had, fun­nily enough, found the colour she was search­ing for on a nail chip at a beauty salon – Lexus Gold 82 – so she took the chip to Irizar.”

...they de­liver ex­pe­ri­ences well out­side the box of what you might ex­pect.

This be­gan a time-con­sum­ing process to achieve Toni’s vi­sion for the new coach.

“We thought it just wasn’t go­ing to hap­pen but Irizar sug­gested that we go for a wrap – a to­tally new thing for lux­ury coaches. We went to Mel­bourne and met three dif­fer­ent com­pa­nies Irizar had sug­gested.

“The com­pany we chose do great work – Ex­otic Graphix in Car­rum Downs. I was im­pressed from the mo­ment I walked into the of­fice.

“There were lots of rec­om­men­da­tions on the wall and I could see that they do the po­lice cars. They told us they had done nor­mal buses, but noth­ing like what we wanted – there were a lot of things to con­sider be­cause of re­flec­tive­ness and keep­ing within the laws. When the sun hits it looks amaz­ing!” he ex­plained.

BRAZIL TO HOME

As Archibald ex­plains: “The body was made in Brazil. The chas­sis leaves Volvo in Swe­den as a short­ened version and it goes to the fac­tory in Brazil where it gets cut and length­ened to the cus­tomer’s specs – in this case 13.5m – then they put the body on. Af­ter that it comes to Aus­tralia with a body as a shell with just the over­heads and floor­ing but no seats”.

“When it ar­rived here Sty­leride did the leather seat­ing. We had spo­ken with them at a bus show in Syd­ney and told them what we wanted. We were re­stricted in seat size by the ADRs (Aus­tralian De­sign Rules); we could only go 50mm wider and you are re­stricted by the re­cline.

“In other coun­tries they don’t have the same safety re­stric­tions. We did the best we could within the reg­u­la­tions. We wanted a seat that was a sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence to sit­ting in busi­ness class on a plane and I think we have achieved that. We have arm rests on both sides for ex­tra com­fort and in­cred­i­ble legroom.”

“We are im­pressed with the Volvo, but we got it by de­fault. We were go­ing for a Sca­nia but they had a de­lay get­ting the chas­sis to Brazil to get the coach de­liv­ered on time. Full credit to Sca­nia, though, they did ev­ery­thing they could world­wide to meet our specs.

“Daniel Cas­tro from Irizar said he had two Volvos ready to go in Brazil. I’d never had a Volvo, but the I-Shift is great with 450 horses. I like

to have more power than we need be­cause of the ter­rain we travel in. It’s early days, but I have been very im­pressed so far,” Archibald said.

“On all coaches we al­ways take out a top-of-the-range, pre­ven­ta­tive ser­vice that cov­ers ev­ery­thing, so we don’t need a me­chanic! Volvo does have longer ser­vic­ing in­ter­vals, so when I asked about it they said have con­fi­dence in the qual­ity of their prod­ucts to go the dis­tance,” he con­cluded.

ON THE ROAD

She’s im­pres­sive from the start; the body­work is stun­ning in the day­light – cer­tainly not your stan­dard fin­ish for a coach.

With only 26 pas­sen­ger seats, the spa­cious­ness is ob­vi­ous once on board. The flat tim­ber floor and ‘ di­a­mond’-em­broi­dered, plush black leather seats cer­tainly let you know you are in for one lux­u­ri­ous ride.

There’s even a kitchen equipped with a mi­crowave and a fridge filled with snacks – love it!

The per­sonal au­dio-con­trol unit has chan­nel op­tions, a USB charg­ing port, Wi-Fi and stereo head­phones on each seat, so tech­nol­ogy is at your fin­ger­tips.

The pull-down blinds are sleek and do not to­tally block your vi­sion or that of other pas­sen­gers; this helps keep with the over­all glam­orous look.

His and hers toi­lets are sure to please fussy trav­el­ers, while the win­dows are all dou­ble glazed, so tem­per­a­ture and noise lev­els in­side are su­perb.

Toni had … found the colour she was search­ing for on a nail chip at a beauty salon – so she took the chip to Irizar.

The leather air-op­er­ated driver’s seat was more than com­fort­able and the driver-ac­ces­si­ble out­side win­dow is elec­tric – much eas­ier than man­u­ally op­er­at­ing ones. There is a driver’s bed that is also handy as a back-up if a pas­sen­ger be­comes ill.

Leav­ing FOF HQ at Bur­bank we travel along the Gate­way Mo­tor­way to­wards Bris­bane to get a feel for how tour­ing in this coach might be. This one has the big­ger 450hp and 2200Nm pow­er­plant matched with the Volvo I-Shift 12-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion.

This combo cer­tainly is im­pres­sively pow­er­ful and one of the fastest off the mark. It was cho­sen as the tours often take the coach into tougher out­back con­di­tions.

The Volvo’s elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled disc brakes are fault­less; we did a few hard brakes and they were nice and flat, very pre­dictable. Through some tight bends around Bris­bane Koala Bush­land Park, the steer­able axle tag is magic – don’t for­get this is a 13.5m coach!

OVERVIEW

All in all a great all ‘round coach, im­pres­sive visu­ally and in­ter­nally and cer­tainly this Irizar was a plea­sure to drive. No me­chan­i­cal or driver-ex­pe­ri­ence neg­a­tives could be found.

It’s a com­bi­na­tion of a good-priced prod­uct that de­liv­ered on looks and ser­vic­ing with good re­fer­rals within the in­dus­try that made FOF ini­tially choose the Irizar-B11R as its Di­a­mond Tina.

Top: Pas­sen­gers en­joy spa­cious com­fort on the lux­u­ri­ous leather Above: View from the back Left: Crea­ture com­forts for the B11R’s driver Right: A tech­head’s heaven!

Top: The sparkling Di­a­mond Tina is un­mis­tak­able on the roads

Left and op­po­site: Pow­er­ing up; All the in­tri­ca­cies of the Volvo chas­sis and Irizar body

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