How it all began……
Way back in 1988 I was driving past a country garage in deepest Essex when I spotted a couple of old buses parked up around the back and being of an inquisitive nature I stopped for a look. There were two, one was a Burlingham Seagull in pretty good condition and the other was identifiable as a Dennis Pax from the badge’s on it’s radiator grill and being local I remembered this one from my student days back in the seventies. It used to be parked at a garage near the college I attended and I walked past it every day. Unfortunately a lot of time and weather had passed since then and it looked decidedly tired. Somebody had left the sunroof open and all the fabrics inside had rotted away and some of the floorboards as well. The tyres were pretty flat and parts of the bodywork were a lacework of rust. But apart from that it seemed fairly solid. It had a crank handle which turned and seemed to have all it’s bits in the approximate right places. We were hooked!
It didn’t take long to convince ourselves that this was just what we needed. We had been looking for a project that the whole family could get involved in. After all we had already converted an old Bedford CF builders van into a campervan, how hard could it be? We mentioned it to a friend and he offered us a place to park in his field for free. So I took the first step.
I asked if it was for Sale.
“Not a chance” said the man in the garage “It belongs to the owner and he must get asked that twenty times a year”. So I asked and he said no. So I asked again a bit later and he still said no and then during the course of our not infrequent phone calls it transpired we had both worked for Eastern National in the early seventies. I was only there long enough to take the PSV driving course and drive for a couple of months before term started again and I left. But it must have been enough. Suddenly he decided I was a good and proper person to take over his ex pride and joy (Which he had left to rot) and so he asked me how much I was willing to pay and before long I was the proud owner of a classic pile of rust……
The pile of rust turned out to be a 1949 Dennis pax 29 seat coach. Originally owned by Lucacian Coaches in Windsor and previously owned and restored by Antiques Magazine in the early seventies.They had established that it was possibly the only remaining example of it’s type and celebrated it’s 25th birthday with a party. Then they sold it to the man I bought it from who ran several garages in Chelmsford and Brentwood. He took it to a couple of shows to promote his businesses and then it got left to rot. It had a 3.5 litre side valve petrol engine with a three speed box, an opening sunroof and mice under the dashboard.
Don’t worry I said to my wife, It’ll be on the road by Easter! (That phrase has become something of a catch phrase in our house, I can’t imagine why)
I had to sell my car and buy an older one so that I could afford to pay for the bus.
Wow, so I put it in gear and it moved. even better….
Now all I had to do was restore it……..
So I did……….
If you want to read the detailed version of that restoration click here other wise read on for the shortened version and the continuing story of….
Dennis Pax restoration no 3 …. circa 2014
Suffice it to say that I spent many happy hours/months/years restoring it in the middle of a friends field with lots of help from friends and family, a constant supply of tea and a small generator.
We called the bus Hamilton. No idea why it just seemed to fit.
We stripped it down, rebuilt the wooden framework, sandblasted the chassis, stripped and repainted the body,laid a new floor, rebuilt the engine, fitted a seat and took it for it’s very first drive (still short of lights electrics and an interior but It had to be done) It was brilliant, With the whole family and Dave hanging on for all they were worth we lurched out of the field and onto the road. We drove up the lane and back again just like a real bus and then we parked it back in the field and wrapped up the bus for the coming winter.
I never did get to finish it. Up to this point I had been working as a freelance cameraman so I had lots of spare time to work on the bus but then I was offered a full time teaching post and suddenly I didn’t have any free time at all. So the bus got wrapped up in tarpaulins and eventually we had to move it to a local farm for storage and there it’s sat, until now. Looking very sad and slightly dented where the farmer hit it with his tractor (Thanks Rob) Until now that is …. because after 15 years I’ve managed to escape the ravening grasp of education. I’ve chucked in my job and I’m free …. ish and racked with guilt that I’ve let our beautiful bus get into such a state.
So its time to pull off the covers and get on with it!!!
Now read on………… Click Here!