The Rally season is now in full swing and a big shout to the many bus and commercial vehicle preservationists who spend huge sums of money, and time, buying, restoring and exhibiting their vehicles. It is challenging as I can personally confirm.
More years ago than I care to remember, I was part of the nucleus group that founded the West Midlands Omnibus Preservation Society (WMOPS). We wanted a local bus - I wanted a Midland Red D9 - and initially looked at one of the former Stratford Blue Leyland PDs which were being operated by South Warwickshire operator Cateralls. The cost was too great so it was back to the drawing board. Eventually we bought an ex Stratford Blue Leyland Tiger Cub being operated in South Wales and followed this a few years later with a Midland Red S22. Separately, I was also involved with a group of staff from the West Midlands PTE’s Coventry garages in buying a former Coventry Daimler CVG, 239. But money and time took its toll and I left both groups, a decision I now regret, and eventually the WMOPS folded. The Tiger Cub eventually ended up in Ireland with New Age Travelers, but the S22 and CVG passed hands and remain intact and preserved, although the CVG is currently out of use with its owner DeCourcey of Coventry.
Having been involved in preservation I can share the pain currently being felt by the owners of ex United Counties Bristol RELH6G 273, ORP273F which was destroyed by fire at Rushden over the weekend. Northants Fire & Rescue Service has been reported as saying that they believe the fire was started deliberately.
Despite not owning any vintage buses, I have been privileged in being able to ‘work’ with historic vehicles with Stagecoach and also Wheels/Midland Red Coaches. Steven Knight Media also played its part several years ago in sponsoring the repaint of the Stagecoach Megadekka 14000 into the original Stagecoach stripes livery.
There is also a buzz from seeing your bus(es) on display at a Rally. I never did see any of the buses I was involved with rallied whilst I was still involved with them, but whilst working for the West Midlands PTE I did have the ability to take buses from the Coventry fleet to several bus rallies, and on several occasions with significant results bringing back awards to Coventry. The 1970s and early 1980s were a golden age for bus companies supporting bus rallies and created a real pride in vehicles. At Coventry we did adopt CVG 239 as a 'Showbus', but generally opted to take a bus just out of the paintshop or something that was historically significant - it was the latter that saw 239, a prototype Metrobus and a Neepsend-bodied Fleetline heading to Showbus at Hillingdon on one occasion.
Steven Knight is a Transport Specialist who has over 40 years experience in the bus and rail industries as well as in specialist transport journalism. He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists.