A vintage coach bought for £1 and restored to full use after being left in a field for 20 years has become the subject of a die-cast model.
A 20-strong team at Stockport transport firm Belle Vue Manchester painstakingly stripped down, repaired, rebuilt and repainted the Duple Roadmaster coach in their spare time over an 11-month period.
The 41-seater, built in 1951, nowadays forms part of Belle Vue’s vintage fleet and is used 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.
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.
Kenny says: “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% 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, MD of Belle Vue Manchester, says: “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 model collection.”
Founded in 1996, Belle Vue Manchester provides services to schools, holidaymakers, corporate and social groups via its fleet of executive coaches, minibuses, standard and vintage coaches.
The company is based at Discovery Park, Stockport, and employs 90 staff. For more information visit www.bellevue-mcr.com