Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Spice of Life

There are moments when the various particles of one’s life collide in the most unlikely yet thoroughly rewarding ways. Last weekend, 270 KTA and I had two…

Last year I hosted a charity auction for the BBC Radio Devon Air Ambulance Appeal, and one of the less coveted lots was to spend a day with myself and co-host Jo eating scones and jam.

Given that two charming listeners had donated so generously for such a small privilege, I thought it would be a welcome bonus to include a ride on our friend in the proceedings (not part of the financial deal, please note, Mr VOSA).

How lucky that our guests were enthusiasts, and turned up in a topless Triumph TR6 ready for adventure.

We travelled to Slapton Sands for lunch (incidentally, 270 KTA would have been there for many a day-trip in the 60s, but probably hadn’t been since), and onward to Blackpool Sands for a cream tea (incidentally, this was a favourite location for Western National and Royal Blue publicity shots). Yes, incidentally…

The weather was kind, and our friend was kinder still. I can honestly say 270 KTA is sounding better than ever, and performed a treat on what is quite a hilly and narrow route. Just as well, because the adventure wasn’t over…

I’d been asked to host the Stagecoach Long Service Awards that evening, a prestigious event with lots of important guests from the bus industry. No pressure.

“You’ll be bringing the bus, won’t you?” asked Michelle Hargreaves, Managing Director of Stagecoach Devon, one of life’s sweetest charmers, and a great supporter of my endeavours.

So with tuxedo carefully folded in the boot (I’ve learned never to wear anything decent near a bus, even if you don’t intend to get filthy), we immediately set off for Sandy Park Stadium on the outskirts of Exeter, home to the Exeter Chiefs Rugby Club - and for that evening, home to our friend.

Almost everybody was thrilled to see 270 KTA, and to have their long-service photograph taken alongside. But I immediately realised my party faux-pas when a gentleman, twice my height, approached me after the award ceremony…

“Next year, DON’T bring a green bus.”

I smiled; he didn’t. He raised his eyebrows and continued a steely glare.

Of course, these were former Devon General men, and the old rivalry with Western National lives on 40-odd years after their company was swallowed up, and 20 years after either company properly existed.

Then I remembered my secret weapon.

“But mine was a Devon General bus for a while… It worked out of Newton Abbot… It was red...”

I showed him a photo on my phone (always good to have one, just in case), and he immediately softened. It had probably saved my life.

“You should paint it like that. In that red.”

I quickly ended the conversation. I didn’t want to spoil a nice day…

Stagecoach kindly arranged accommodation for our friend at Exeter depot, another old haunt which she hadn’t visited for a while. Meanwhile her owner was whisked back to Sandy Park to enjoy the rest of the party.

I think we all slept well that night – well done, 270 KTA.

In the next post, I’ll bring you some 270 KTA scandal. A recently discovered photo suggests there’s a dark secret in her past, and one which hasn’t yet been recorded anywhere. Suffice to say, her loyalty to Western National was tried by a force much greater than even Devon General…

Friday, 18 May 2012


Time has shown it would be foolish to publish a list of the ambitious Summer plans I have for our friend. But then, what is a man who makes plans for an SU at all, if not a little bit soft in the head?

So here's where you should find 270 KTA over the next little while. There may be more opportunities, and of course there may not even be this many, but here's how it stands at the moment. We'll see...

26 (Daytime) BBC Radio Devon Listeners' Cream Tea Outing
26 (Evening) Stagecoach Devon Long Service Awards (owner is the MC!)

6 MOT Day
17 50TH BIRTHDAY TOUR: Day 1 (Weymouth Rally)
20 50TH BIRTHDAY TOUR: Day 4 (Anniversary of delivery to Kingsbridge)
30 Royal Blue Run (Exeter to Salcombe)

1 Royal Blue Run (Kingsbridge to Bristol - 'Official' 50th Birthday)
15 Devon Coastal Run
22 Plymouth Hoe Rally

12 Bristol Vintage Bus Group Rally, Brislington

2 Torbay Running Day
15 Kingsbridge Running Day
16 WHOTT Rally

My next blog post will offer some detail on the 50th Anniversary Tour for those who have asked for it. Does anybody know how to bake a cake?

I meant to tell you too, a test run on the now time-honoured 'Kingsbridge circular' has proved that the manifold gasket replacement had been a success. No more the deafening chuff. So at present, I'm feeling confident about our friend's ability to meet at least some of her special 50th Year commitments.

Yep - another really foolish thing to say...

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Ribbons and Gaskets

There’s always one guest who gets a bit loud at a wedding. The weekend before last it was 270 KTA.

Following our deafening return from Penzance, I managed to create a temporary fix to muffle the blowing exhaust manifold. Glorious engineering it wasn’t – just a careful squirt of heat-resistant sealant to plug the gap – but it was just about good enough that we could keep our promise to friends Linda and Mark, who we met from their wedding on The Hoe in Plymouth.

With ribbons, bows, and another carefully made destination blind (in correct font, you’ll note – I’m sure they did), we set about two short tours of the City before duly delivering happy guests to their reception by the sea. The sound of laughter just about drowned out the diminished bark, and I think we got away with it.

But this weekend I did the decent thing.

Changing the manifold gaskets on a Bristol SU is a horrible job. I helped my Dad with one when I was 14, and I was then the only member of the team who could fit his hands through the gaps.

At 30, forget it. Every nut is a logistical struggle. Throw in some broken studs and the need to disconnect most of the throttle linkage, it’s a real delight; but I did it.

You’ll see the extent to which the old gasket had blown, hence the noise at Penzance.

With the manifold removed I took the opportunity to paint the chassis behind, as well as the engine-block and inlet manifold itself, before reassembly in record time (well, seven hours).

The bark has gone, at least when the coach isn’t under load. The real test will come with a trip up the road, but for reasons with which most of the UK will sympathise, I don’t think any of us fancied that this weekend…

Like the exhaust, we’ll find out when it gets a bit hotter.