It seems turn­ing 40 is ‘the new black’ for a range of other age groups – just take your pick! Yet when test driv­ing this mint 40-year-old Mercedes-Benz O305 Mark 1-1923 from the Syd­ney Bus Mu­seum she still feels in the prime of her life.


FORTY AND FAB­U­LOUS? Ab­so­lutely! At a re­cent visit to the Syd­ney Bus mu­seum this MercedesBenz 0305 Mark 1-1923 was cho­sen for a test drive out of the col­lec­tion there for two rea­sons. We’d seen the Mercedes last year at Syd­ney Bus Show and thought it was in amaz­ing con­di­tion – plus nos­tal­gia took over.

The Mercedes was ini­tially al­lo­cated to Kings­grove and Tempe de­pots, where they had 49 of them in 1978. It op­er­ated there un­til the early 1990s, be­fore be­com­ing an early with­drawal.

Be­ing in such per­fect run­ning or­der, we asked An­drew Chech­lacz, op­er­a­tions man­ager at the Syd­ney Bus Mu­seum, what the Mercedes is usu­ally used for.

“A cou­ple of weeks ago Trans­port NSW used it in the Syd­ney Mardi Gras pa­rade. The rea­son they picked that bus was that it was built in 1978 and that’s the year the Mardi Gras be­gan, so it was a 40-year cel­e­bra­tion,” he ex­plained.

He added: “It came to us in good con­di­tion; the guys at Kings­grove did it up for us and the Bus Union paid for it to be re­painted in its orig­i­nal colours. It goes like a rocket and when you drive it, it’s hard to imag­ine it is a mu­seum piece. I think it could put a few new buses to shame be­ing a pow­er­ful 11.1-litre. For a 40-year old bus it goes very well.”

What makes this bus spe­cial and unique is the liv­ery it’s painted in – it was unique to the Mark 1 Mercedes. It’s an over­all blue with a bit of white lining, which, apart from be­ing smart-look­ing, is also a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the first Mercedes-Benz buses when they changed from a British-base chas­sis to Euro­pean base.


The first thing you no­tice when you drive the Mercedes is the power with an 11.1-litre Mercedes-Benz six- cylinder diesel.

This bus cer­tainly has ‘get up and go’ with a solid 200hp.

The one thing that was re­ally im­pres­sive was the power steer­ing; at any speed you could steer this old girl with one hand. Even at slow speed on full lock the pump didn’t strug­gle or lag – it al­ways ap­plied the right pres­sure.

Vis­i­bil­ity was sur­pris­ingly good. There are plenty of mirrors for both good in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal viewing. The glass area vis­i­bil­ity was also un­ex­pected as some­times the older ve­hi­cles have limited vis­i­bil­ity for driver and pas­sen­gers. There were no is­sues with blind spots and ob­vi­ously the Mark 1 is a very good ex­am­ple of work­man­ship and de­sign for its era.

In­ter­nal noise was sur­pris­ingly bet­ter than ex­pected. Be­ing a rear-mount en­gine from a driver’s per­spec­tive, it was good. The naughty kids sit­ting down the rear might have a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence, though.

The 1923 has dual-cir­cuit air brakes with a spring-ap­plied park­ing brake and, af­ter driv­ing for a short time, you get to feel how much pres­sure to ap­ply to them. Yes, it’s a bit more foot pres­sure than a mod­ern sys­tem, but it was a re­ally wet day dur­ing our pho­to­shoot and it didn’t take long to ad­just and feel su­per con­fi­dent with them even in the poor con­di­tions. Go­ing up and down the gears with the Mercedes-Benz W3D 080 au­to­matic trans­mis­sion was su­per smooth; there was no jerk­ing and it seemed to know what gear to be in.

The’ re­furb’ of this bus has been done im­pec­ca­bly. It re­ally was a plea­sure to be in. All of the orig­i­nal sig­nage and de­tails are amaz­ing: the chrome bezels around the tail-lights and the Mercedes-Benz badg­ing – ev­ery small de­tail is in­tact.

For many fam­i­lies back in the day who didn’t own a car, they’d catch buses just like this one ev­ery day. Driv­ing one now, you could eas­ily feel like an ex­cited kid back in 1978 wait­ing with your fam­ily on Par­ra­matta Road to hop on board.

The mu­seum records show that the 1923 was with­drawn from ser­vice on Jan­uary 10, 1992, with 580,00km on the speedo. For 1978, the Mercedes guys re­ally had this bus down to a fine art when it was built, giv­ing a truly nos­tal­gic and im­pres­sive his­tor­i­cal drive to­day.

Our nos­tal­gia ex­pec­ta­tions were well and truly met.

…It goes like a rocket and when you drive it, it’s hard to imag­ine it is a mu­seum piece.

Top right:

It may be 40 years old, but the bliss­ful Merc gives its younger coun­ter­parts a run for their money

Top left: A po­lite re­minder for those hopping on board

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