Stantons of Stoke: Keeping it in the family

Visitors to the UK Coach Rally in 2016 may have noticed a black minicoach that, despite not taking part in proceedings, looked like it could put up a solid challenge against the minis that were entered.

Instead, the black Sprinter, owned by Stantons of Stoke, was used by MD Keith Stanton to ferry a number of volunteer marshalls from Staffordshire. But with 29-vehicle Stantons’ livery being white-based, there is a good reason for it to be the odd one out.

It carries the colours of BC Travel, which Keith’s late father Bill founded in the mid-1970s, and was taken to Blackpool to recreate a scene from an earlier Coach Rally.

“I remember very fondly back to 1980, when my dad announced that he had entered a coach into that year’s Rally,” says Keith.

“It was his second new coach, but was supposed to be the first ever Ford R1114 with the stylish Moseley Continental-badged Caetano Alpha body. He even put tables in it as a way of making it a true executive.”

Taking the Ford to Blackpool was a return to familiar haunts for Bill, who had worked for Blackpool Corporation as a conductor and driver. It was entered into the Saturday road run, and many of the marshalls were former colleagues of his.

“The first thing that greeted us at all the timing points was ‘what time do you want, Bill?’ He would always reply ‘the right time, please!’”

Keith and Bill were new to the Rally, but nonetheless they took part in the Sunday judging session. “We never understood what was required for the Concours d’Elegance, and I have total respect for the teams of today that make it look easy,” says Keith.

“Needless to say, we won nothing, but I have a lifetime of happy memories of that fantastic weekend.”

BC Travel closed in the mid-1980s but Bill continued a career in the industry, working for long-gone names Berresfords of Cheddleton and Stevensons of Uttoxeter before founding his own minibus operation – Stoniers – which he later sold to the predecessor of today’s First Potteries, having become a major thorn in the larger operator’s side.

As former General Manager of Arriva-owned Wardle Transport, Keith founded Stantons of Stoke in 2014 by purchasing a chunk of the Wardle business from Arriva. Bill was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in August 2015, and passed away on 6 February.

“I decided to have the Sprinter dedicated to my dad’s old company and painted into his distinctive livery, and it was fitting that I took it along to this year’s UK Coach Rally.

“It carries children to Blackfriars Special School in Newcastle-under-Lyme, and with the rear being dedicated to the Douglas Macmillan Hospice it also does occasional charity work free of charge.”

BC Travel may be history now, but thanks to Keith, it and his father’s memory live on.