1929 Maudslay relaunched at WHOTT Rally 2014

At last I can reveal the start of my next driving adventure and it involves this stunning 1929 Maudslay motorbus.

FJ6154-Westpoint-rally-1

After many years spent lying dormant and away from public gaze, FJ6154 has been painstakingly restored and made its public debut at the Westcountry Historic Omnibus & Transport Trust (WHOTT) Rally at Westpoint last Sunday. Its long history is fascinating and the story of how it came within a hair’s breadth of being scrapped will have to wait for another time.

I’d had the WHOTT rally in my diary for some time and had offered my services as a driver – or indeed any task – for the day. Little did I know that, a few weeks afterwards, I would be given a job I would never have dreamed of in a million years.

Namely, I was invited to become the Maudslay’s official driver.

It seems that my experience with vintage buses of various sorts, especially those with crash gearboxes, over the past 2 years has not gone unnoticed. Two other factors came into the WHOTT Trustees’ decision; I have a current PCV licence and I’m a nimble, reasonably small person. The latter becomes an obvious benefit as soon as you open the cab door!

Maudslay-FJ6154-cab

I had been following the progress of the Maudslay’s 2-year restoration within the pages of the WHOTT newsletter, as I prepare the artwork for this publication every quarter. No expense has been spared and the bus appears exactly as it would have done when it was new. Student-Prince-advert Authenticity has been paramount and, in pursuit of this, I had even prepared a period advert for the interior, based on a newspaper advert which appeared in the Express & Echo the same week that the bus was delivered to Exeter Corporation.

Although I had seen photographs, I had not seen the bus ‘in the flesh’, so to speak, until last week. I travelled up to the WHOTT restoration base to take the Maudslay on its first tentative road run just two days after work on the engine had been completed. Before that, it hadn’t moved under its own power for nearly 40 years! That first run was very momentous and the significance of it was not lost on me.Maudslay-FJ6154-first-road-run

After familiarising myself with the small and very spartan cab I shunted up and down in the yard to get a feel for the clutch and the behaviour of the engine. The bus has remarkably survived complete with its original Maudslay 4-cylinder petrol engine and coping with this alone is an adventure! Then, with the Chairman of WHOTT aboard, along with a Trustee and one of the restoration volunteers, I drove the 85 year old veteran up the farm track to the main road. Drawing heavily on my experience with crash box buses and interpreting the feedback I was getting from the bus, I managed to change successfully up to 3rd gear. After climbing uphill for a while we reached level ground and I changed up to 4th gear at which point emotion nearly got the better of me as the enormity of what I was doing hit me.

We turned the bus and stopped for a couple of photos before I brought the Maudslay back to the farm where it will continue to live for the time being. I will not forget that first journey for a very long time.

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The firm’s new van: a 1938 Austin ‘Big Seven’

Imagine my surprise when I brought the open top PD2 back from it’s afternoon tour to find this little beauty parked outside the office:

Austin-Big-Seven

It’s a 1938 Austin ‘Big Seven’, although I’m not sure how it acquired that name because there’s nothing ‘big’ about it at all. When there are two people aboard the experience is what you might call ‘intimate’! By the way, I don’t know who the bloke in the photo is, he just happened to be walking by.

Austin-Big-Seven-2

The owner of the sightseeing tours bus also runs a tourism-related publishing business and this delightful little van has been purchased as a means of visiting the clients of the various publications, all of which are reasonably local. In due time it will lose the Dominion Motor Spirit advertising, appropriate though it is, in favour of a livery which promotes the other side of the business. I will post another photo when this has been done.

I had the honour of driving the van on only its second outing since being delivered the same day. Apart from the ridiculously tiny space in the cab, it felt similar in some ways to my Morris Minor. There’s synchromesh on 2nd, 3rd and 4th gears and it’s relatively underpowered with only 25hp available from the 900cc engine.

Minor-Austin-LeylandBefore I left for the day I couldn’t resist posing my Minor next to the Austin and the Leyland PD2 for a photograph of a little part of Torquay which has gone all vintage!

In other news, I’m looking forward to attending the Westpoint Rally this coming weekend, organised by the Westcountry Historic Omnibus & Transport Trust (WHOTT). And finally, you have been reading my 200th post on this blog!

Bedford WTB on the Isle of Wight

While browsing through some old holiday photos today I came across this shot of Bedford WTB JT8077. I enjoyed a short ride to Osborne House on the Isle of Wight in this historic coach in 1995, a couple of years after it joined the small fleet operated by John Woodhams, Ryde. I remember it sounding every bit as tuneful as the Bedford OB which succeeded it!

Bedford-WTB-JT8077-Isle-of-Wight

Here is a brief history of this 1937-built vehicle, taken from the website of Vintage Tours where the Bedford still operates to this day:

JT 8077 is a 1937 Bedford WTB with 25 seat coachwork by Duple. JT was new to South Dorset Coaches at Corfe Castle in Dorset, and stayed with the company for thirty years before passing to Adge Cutler, of Wurzels fame. Adge and his brother Roy took her to a number of rallies, including the London to Brighton Historic Commercial vehicle Run. Following Adge’s untimely death in a road accident, she passed to new owners in Gloucestershire in the mid 1970s. She became semi derelict before passing to Pearce, Darch & Willcox, at Cattistock, in Dorset who restored her, and re-certified her as a psv in 1987. After two or three years the company and its modern coaches sold out to Southern National, but JT remained in the old garage until 1992 when acquired by the present owner. Very few WTBs survive today, and JT is the only example in passenger service.

Terry Browne’s Flickr photostream has a good photo of the WTB, in company with Bedford OB CCF648, on a wedding duty a couple of years ago.

Vintage bus driving – a photo potpourri

There have been so many vintage bus duties this summer that I haven’t had time to share each one individually so here’s a potpourri of recent activities.

YDL317-bath-coach-park

A private hire for Crosville that was unusual – it wasn’t a wedding or a school prom! Global Design Solutions had hired Southern Vectis 573 (YDL317) to take its staff from Bristol to Bath, where they were celebrating 10 years in business. While the party and presentations were going on in the Salamander restaurant, I parked the bus in the Riverside Coach Park where it contrasted starkly with much more modern machinery!

FFY403-Babbacombe-Downs

Another private hire involved the English Riviera Sightseeing Tours bus, Southport Corporation 86 (FFY403). Directly after the afternoon sightseeing tour we picked up a load of enthusiasts from the Merseyside Bus Club. On this occasion I acted as Tour Guide, wielding a microphone instead of a steering wheel. The latter was in the care of Glyn, with whom I share the regular driving duties on this bus. We took our passengers around the Torquay segment of our normal tour route, stopping on Babbacombe Downs (seen above) for photos and also Meadfoot Beach.

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