Vehicles I have owned: 5 – 1968 Daimler Fleetline CRG6LX / Northern Counties, registration number XDH518G.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve loved buses. According to my foster sister and brother, my first two words were ‘bus’ and ‘pub’. I’ve been in possession of both.
My first bus, yes – first, was still in service during the first two years of my apprenticeship and was, at the time, the last of 99 of its type to remain in use. Another emerged, phoenix-like almost as soon as I and my close apprentice chum, Frank Sharkey, had paid the £823.40, including VAT and tyres to our then employer, the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive (Wumpty for short) and drove it away, with the assistance of some experienced bus driving pals, to a museum site to the south of Birmingham, 20 to 30 miles from our homes.
Our intention was to restore the bus to its original Walsall Corporation livery, bright, almost turquoise blue, lined out with lemon beading straps and then take it to glorious rallies up and down the country, showing off our oddball vehicle. This never happened. After all, what would distract a couple of teenaged lads from fettling a bus?
Yes, that’s right, girls…and pubs, and girls in pubs.
Frank hadn’t a car and mine had a girlfriend in it, plus I was playing in bands at the weekends. To add to that, we hadn’t a plan of action in place and so our bus dream faded.
Fast forward to spring 1983, word reached us that another enthusiast wanted to buy our bus. By this time, we had advertised the bus for sale and had received some rather juicy offers from breakers wanting its coveted Gardner 6LX, 150bhp diesel engine for export. The enthusiast matched the scrapman’s offer and so the bus was saved from the cutting torch, for the time being.
However, the enthusiast wasn’t able to pay us in a single lump sum and so Frank and I agreed on receiving the cash in monthly instalments. These were paid regularly and so throughout the summer of 1983, our income was boosted by a rather decent amount of money. In addition, my foster mother had rather strangely decided that she wanted to work at a holiday camp for the summer and so gave me a few quid a week to ensure that I didn’t starve.
Needless to say, I didn’t starve. This first glorious summer of freedom was spent working on other lovely buses at my favourite garage (Sutton Coldfield), by then in its last year of existence, after which I’d head off swimming with some of my workmates. A quick nip home to change into some dandy threads and have a bite to eat – I’ve always loved cooking, and then off down to The Gate pub for a few pints before catching the closing time bus home.
Wham, in their then current hit ‘Club Tropicana’ sang “all that’s missing is the sea”. Truly, I agreed with them.
I didn’t need the sea anyway, with the municipal swimming baths on my doorstep at 30p a dip, 1983 prices.
- Fuzz t