It’s about time I mentioned my first attempt at driving a bus. This occurred 25 years ago, in April 1985. I was at that time working for the Express & Echo, the evening newspaper for the Exeter area. Their offices and printing plant were then in Sidwell Street and my office was at the back of the building. As I was shown to my new graphic design studio I was rather pleased to see that it provided an excellent view of the bus station. However, I was careful to conceal my pleasure at this discovery because I was being paid to design advertisements, not watch buses!
Not long after I started work there Harry Blundred, who was Managing Director of Devon General then, began to introduce his revolutionary fleet of minibuses. These were to replace the remaining Bristol VRs, Leyland Atlanteans, Olympians and other assorted remnants from the erstwhile Exeter Corporation, Devon General and Western National fleets he had inherited.
However, I was much more interested in his driver training vehicle. This was a yellow ex-Hants & Dorset Bristol FS6G 5675EL, fleet number TV2. After seeing most other rear entrance half cab buses ousted by front entrance, rear engined vehicles, I was pleased to see (and hear) this survivor plodding up the hill into the bus station. The fact that it was an ex-H&D bus made it significant because it was possible that I’d seen it in service in former years in either Salisbury or Southampton. I fancied having a go in the old Lodekka before it too was consigned to the scrap heap.