£1 vintage coach restored to former glory

Kenny Walsh (left) with Phil Hitchen
Kenny Walsh (left) with Phil Hitchen

A vintage coach bought for £1 has been restored to full use after being left in a field for 20 years.

Staff at Stockport transport firm Belle Vue Manchester stripped down, repaired, rebuilt and repainted the Duple Roadmaster coach in their spare time over almost a year.

The 41-seat coach, built in 1951, now forms part of Belle Vue’s vintage fleet for weddings, school prom nights, charity outings, funerals and even political party campaigns. It is also regularly displayed at vintage shows.

Only 17 of its type were ever produced, and Belle Vue’s coach is thought to be the only one currently on the road in the UK and possibly the world.

Now a miniature replica has gone on sale after being commissioned by Oxford Diecast, a company which supplies model vehicles to the collector, gift and promotional markets.

The vehicle features in its new Oxford Omnibus collection of modern and classic coaches and buses, and is on sale in toy and model shops and online.

The model replica inside the vintage coach
The model replica inside the vintage coach

Adrienne Fuller, product manager at Oxford Diecast, said: “We add to our range of replica collectibles every year. I conduct extensive research based on what collectors say they are looking for. We do like to consider quirky models.

“As soon as we found out about this vehicle, we knew it would fit the bill.

“It has a wealth of history and not many of its kind were made, which makes it extremely interesting and appealing to collectors.”

The replica is painted in Belle Vue’s colours of red and cream, and bears the original number plate – LOE 300.

The coach had several owners before it was bought in 1990 by a man who ran it for two years then left it parked in a field in Flint, north Wales, for over two decades.

Belle Vue’s engineering director Kenny Walsh and his brother Ray have a reputation for restoring vehicles, and were offered the chance to buy the coach.

The coach before it was restored
The coach before it was restored

Kenny said: “We paid £1, and promised the owner that he could have it back if we did not restore it to roadworthy condition within a year.

“He’d advertised it for sale but the only people who inquired wanted it for spares or scrap. I think he was glad we could give it a chance of being put back on the road.

“It was in a pretty sorry state when we went to collect it, but with a battery power pack it actually started first time, and we towed it back to Stockport.

“About 20 colleagues at Belle Vue helped on the restoration project, volunteering to come in on their days off, at weekends and in the evenings. They all wanted to play their part.

“There was plenty for everyone to do – the coach needed steam cleaning to remove years of grime, then stripping down, repairing, rebuilding, welding and painting.

“We used 95 per cent of the original panels and there are lots of other original features. The main thing that is new is the upholstery. Overall, the cost of the restoration was about £3,000.

“It’s a lovely vehicle with so much charm and character. For us, the harder the challenge the better, and they don’t come much harder than this.”

Phil Hitchen, managing director of Belle Vue Manchester, said: “Kenny and the team did a fantastic job in restoring the coach, which is a firm favourite with our customers. It makes us all very proud to see their work recognised by having the vehicle feature in a replica collection.”