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Reg. Charity No:  1153451              Twitter: @DevonGeneralOT

The Bristol LHS was a small, lightweight chassis specifically designed for rural routes and was ideal for the narrow, windy, Devon lanes. 88 was one of six ordered by Devon General before the company was absorbed into the National Bus Company and was one of the last buses to be delivered in the famous maroon and ivory livery into which it has recently been restored. It is unusual in having the rather angular Marshall body which very few operators bought. 88 spent most of its time at Newton Abbot depot before passing to an operator on Guernsey and later worked as an airport bus on Jersey. Recovered to the mainland for preservation, restoration work commenced in 2005 after several years in storage, culminating in 2009 with a full repaint into traditional Devon General maroon and cream as delivered when new.

After the bus finished service with Aurigny Air Services on Guernsey during late 1998 it was returned to the mainland and kept for a while at the South Devon Railway, Buckfastleigh. The vehicle changed hands again during October 2000 and eventually found its way to Winkleigh, home of the West of England Transport Collection. During the 3 years or so it was at Winkleigh it was stored in the open and deteriorated steadily in the harsh conditions.

Hence, by the time it was purchased by the current owner (Terry Bennett) in February 2005, 88 was in a very poor state. As a relatively modern vehicle, arguably of little 'historical' interest, its outlook might well have appeared bleak but for one largely 'sentimental' factor ... the new owner remembered the vehicle when it was virtually new and travelled many times on it during the mid 1970s! Logic was therefore bypassed and the restoration project commenced.

First, it may be worth looking at a couple of shots of 88 in service with Devon General (photographers unknown):

The original circular wing mirrors  suggest that these were taken when the bus was relatively new (the mirrors were not liked by drivers and were soon replaced by the rather better rectangular versions)

Now in NBC Poppy Red livery and with the replacement radiator grille. This was fitted by September 1980 following a front-end collision. The backdrop is Haytor Rock, Dartmoor and the 193 ran on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays only

Newton Abbot Bus Station again - early 1980s

88 is seen here in Torquay, probably during 1984. The 'T' prefixed services were run as pilots prior to introduction of mini buses within Torbay.

Few shots of 88 during its time in the Channel Islands seem to exist but here are a couple that record its life with Guernseybus and then with Aurigny Airways:

88 is seen here (left)on the apron at Jersey Airport whilst providing airside transit for Aurigny Air Services. This dates the shot to sometime between late 1990 and late 1998. Note the towing eye in place on the back of the bus enabling luggage carts to be attached

As already mentioned, a few years stored out in the open will have adverse effects on any vehicle and here are a few shots of 88 from early 2005 showing the poor state of both the exterior and interior of the bus. All taken 2 March 2005 (copyright Terry Partridge):

As can be seen, the exterior panelwork was in poor shape and a number of windows were missing. This had allowed considerable water ingress.

Aurigny had altered the seating arrangement to 'perimeter' to allow for more standing passengers but by the time this photograph was taken nearly all the seats had been removed from the vehicle. Those that were left were in poor condition but at least provided a pattern for what was eventually needed as the restoration progressed. The cab was in particularly poor shape with water having damaged (beyond repair in many cases) most of the key controls and dashboard instruments

The bus is secured prior to setting-off on the long journey to High Wycombe

On the M5 near Bridgwater heading north

  28 April 2005 saw 88's departure from Winkleigh on the back of Colin Billington's low loader, driven by Ward Jones88 was to spend nearly 3 years with Ward Jones before finally returning to Dorset. During this time extensive work throughout the bus was required.

Although the complete list is too long to reproduce here, below are a few of the key tasks undertaken:

Replace missing/broken windows

New window rubbers throughout

Replace floor and floor covering

Passenger doors missing

Both alternators seized

Injector pump overhauled

Clutch cable broken

Replacement radiator

Several panels damaged

Front grille replaced

Pedals seized

Seat frames required **

Door motors inoperable

Various oil leaks

Speedometer unserviceable

2 x New batteries required

6 x new tyres required

Corrosion in a number of areas throughout

Engine stop lever broken

Tail light fittings replaced

New wing mirrors fitted

Destination displays refurbushed

Fuel pipes replaced

Various re-wiring

Interior lighting overhauled

Heaters re-fitted

Air pressure and temperature gauges replaced

** Although 3 or 4 of the original seat frames remained in the bus, these were in very poor condition and could only be used as patterns for what would eventually be required. Being a 7'6" wide bus, the slightly narrower frames were harder to come by in the style required, but a scrap Marshall bodied Dart (47069 - M809FTT) was finally located at First's depot in Plymouth and permission obtained to remove the seats. This was undertaken with Phil Platt's help on 11 April 2006 and the seats transported to High Wycombe. The moquette, although significantly different from the Holdsworth JH-433 used on the seats when new, is nonetheless a similar shade of red and is in reasonable condition. A supply of the original pattern is held but re-trimming has been held-up trying to locate a supplier for the 'Gold Leaf' Formica required on the seat backs - this is proving to be very elusive!

The 30th of October 2007 turned-out to be something of a Red Letter day for 88 as it passed an MOT (Class 5) for the first time in many years. With the end of the restoration then in sight, a test run was called-for and this took place on 9 November 2007 from High Wycombe to Henley-on-Thames and back. This was the first time the bus had been driven any distance and it performed well with just a few minor issues in evidence. James was on hand to record the event for posterity - click here to watch the YouTube video.

Here are a few shots of work progressing at Ward Jones's workshop:

What a mess! Not much progress yet

The cab, without much progress yet in evidence

Old flooring now removed to reveal a basically sound structure

Some work has been completed on various components

The rear panels have been re-made and new light fittings installed

The new front panels awaiting a replacement radiator grille

New flooring and Treadmaster makes a big difference to the interior appearance

At last! An MOT having been gained, a test run was required

(click here to view YouTube video showing some of the test run)

A bit messy but the replacement seats are now in and we're heading down the homeward straight

New flooring around the platform and step, along with replacement kick strips

Bristol LHS - VOD88K  The Restoration story

Parked in a lay-by near Henley-on-Thames

A further shot from the test run showing the now complete interior

The remainder of the work took a further 3 months to complete but the day finally came for 88 to be brought back to Dorset and this took place on 29 February 2008. The 125 mile journey was completed without incident and the bus parked-up with the rest of the ex Devon General Fleet.

M4 Reading Services and so far everything in going well

Solstice Services on the A303 and the light is fading

Almost home ... Greenhill, Sherborne

Although the bus had now been returned to roadworthy condition, much remained to do before it could be considered anywhere near 'complete'. The interior, although now tidy and functional, was still rather shabby and several areas still required attention. The exterior was now in two-tone Yellow and Grey ... a full re-paint was required.

The Journey Home

No time was wasted and a little over a month after returning from High Wycombe, 88 journeyed to Knowstone for a complete internal refurbishment by our good friend and bodywork expert, Terry Damerel. An extensive list of tasks was completed whilst the bus was at Knowstone, including:

Full interior re-paint

Re-paint all seat frames

Fit new cab door

Make-up and fit missing luggage racks

Replace rotten wood in several areas

Re-make area around back number blind

Refurbish cab area

Make and fit fascia on platform

Repair broken Formica in several areas

Renew/re-paint kick plates

Source and fit treads for wheel arches

Paint wheels

Make and fit new First Aid box

Adapt Setright stand and Cash Tray

Beading around front and back screens

Terry also carried-out rubbing-down and preparation for the external re-paint and applied undercoat in the original Devon General Red and Cream colours. Consequently, by the time the bus was collected from Knowstone on 20 September 2008, it had been completely transformed. The following sequence shows the work in progress and then the bus emerging in original DG livery once again for the first time in 32 years:

Much of the wood around the rear window and blind box was rotten. This was all re-made

Seats out again for re-paint and to allow unhindered access to the side panels

The panel behind the cab had been painted black. Returning it to the original cream made an instant difference

This panel was missing and had to be re-made

The dash board and cab area looking much better than in earlier shots

A fuel starvation problem had been encountered on the way to Knowstone and this had been traced to a split flexible fuel pipe. With a replacement having been fitted, a short test run was taken around the Knowstone lanes

The first outing in the new livery. A run out to Ilfracombe and Lynmouth was taken on 13 September 2008. 88 is seen here at Ilfracombe Bus Station (photo courtesy of Terry Partridge)

Lynmouth in the early evening (courtesy of Terry Partridge)

Ilfracombe Bus Station

With the interior now back in good shape and the bus looking tidy on the outside, it made its rally debut at the Kingsbridge Running Day on 20 September 2008 and appeared the following day at the WHOTT Rally in Exeter.

There seemed little point in carrying-out the final re-paint just ahead of the winter months so 88 remained in undercoat until the Spring on 2009. On 16 May 2009 it was then taken to the Transport Museum at Wythall (just south of Birmingham) where renowned bus painter Kevin Hill carried-out the final preparations and applied the top coat. Just 2 weeks later, on 29 May, we were able to collect 88 and return it to Dorset. It made its first appearance after re-paint at the Weymouth Rally a few weeks later.

The final sequence shows 88 newly re-painted:

Above and far right - Wythall, 29 May 2009

Lined-up with some of the other residents, including Woody's 5919

The present position is that a few fairly minor jobs remain to be done to the bus ... and one major one. The moquette referred-to above needs to be replaced with the original pattern and this is now in hand.  Hopefully this page demonstrates a little of what is involved in restoring a bus from what was, to all intents and purposes and 'wreck', to something near original condition. Well over 1,000 hours of work was involved in achieving this. The total cost? That doesn't bear thinking about!

My sincere thanks go to the following whose help with the project was invaluable:

Also to my colleagues in the Devon and Dorset Group.

(click here to view YouTube video showing part of the journey)

Although this bus belongs to one of the trustees rather than the trust itself, we thought you might be interested to read how a vehicle in completely derelict state can be brought back to life …