Seven Centenary cars were supplied by East Lancashire Coachbuilders of Blackburn between 1984-1987 to replace the OMO cars of the 1970’s which were becoming life expired. The first of the class, 641, was a prototype acquired in 1984 for evaluation prior to committing to an order for further cars. Suitably impressed, two batches of three cars were ordered and delivered in 1986 (642-644) and 1987/8 (645-647). An eighth member of the class was added in 1990 following the purchase from GEC traction of a near identical tram that had been built in 1985 as a test bed for their own control gear. Numbered 651, it had been tested sporadically on the Blackpool tramway in service conditions, but with the trials now over it was re-equipped as per 641-647 and took the next number in sequence, 648.
Our 645 was repainted into the revised livery of the 1990’s in 1990, but by 1994 was in all over advertising – and the tram would not return to fleet livery again. Various all over adverts
followed, as did modifications to the front end (in line with the rest of the class) to simplify the headlamp arrangement, which ultimately resulted in the original recessed dash and grille
arrangement being replaced by a flat dash panel, whilst the traditional lifeguards were removed and replaced by a new arrangement.
In September 2004, 645 was transferred to the workshops for a comprehensive mid-life overhaul and was stripped to the frame. The Centenary cars had been subjected to ever more severe modifications at overhaul since 2000, receiving bonded glazing, roof side modifications (to prevent pantograph grease running down the sides) and front-end alterations. 645 would represent the ultimate development of these modifications and emerged with an altered appearance that was perhaps better than the four which immediately preceded it (643, 644, 646 and 647) which had been rebuilt with very angular ends. 645 was also the only example to receive bonded, rather than rubber mounted, windscreens.
645 returned to use in late 2005, in a blue based livery for the Palm Beach Hotel, and remained in service (in various different liveries) until the end of the 2011 season – indeed it failed on the very last day of traditional tramway operations (6th November) and was towed back to Rigby Road depot, never to run again!
Six of the Centenary cars were sold early in 2012, including 645, which transferred a few miles away from Blackpool to Windy Harbour Caravan Park at Little Singleton, where it became a club room for children. Here it slowly deteriorated, until an approach from the Blackpool Heritage Trust (BHT) in 2017 was successful and 645 returned to the tram depot in July thanks to sponsorship from Peter Watts of PW Consultancy. 645 was principally re-acquired to provide spares for sister cars 642 and 648 which have remained in use with Blackpool Heritage Tram Tours. However, it has always been considered a contender for static display in a future transport visitor centre in Blackpool. Ownership transferred to the FTT in December 2019 as part of the merger with the BHT.