Donington Park recently hosted Europe’s largest bus and coach gathering – Showbus 2016. Despite the wind and constant threat of rain (which did eventually come), there was a good turn out of both old and new for everyone to see. Mike Humble caught up with someone rather well known in the motor trade and made a day of it…
Bus and Coach rallies… Well, to be fair, I try to avoid them like a bad cold but every now and again I will attend one and have, in the past, even exhibited a vehicle or two. Showbus, as the header mentions, is the largest gathering of all things PSV in Europe – possibly the world. Donington, famed for its motor racing and rock concerts, hosted this year’s event for the first time. Despite one or two logistical and marshalling glitches which no doubt will be ironed out for next year, it all went rather well. No one was run over, no one accidentally bumped into another vehicle and some lovely old vehicles were on public display.
Normally, I would have given this event a miss owing to distance from my place in leafy Sussex. However, this time I had a perfectly good reason to go – I was driving one of the vehicles to and from the actual gathering. A big fan of the site happens to be an ex-Rover apprentice, a former Austin Rover public relations boss and current communications director – Denis Chick. Not only is Denis rather potty about cars, he also is totally besotted with trains and buses. I can vouch for the former as he turned up with the world’s biggest umbrella and some tasty camera equipment for the recent High Speed Train 40th party at the St Philips Marsh Depot in Bristol.
Vauxhall Motors’ Communications Director Denis Chick with his 1966 AEC Regent
Moreover, not only does he admire all things AEC, go barmy for a Bristol RE or even dotty for a Duple Bella Vega, he speaks with some authority as he part-owns not one, but two vintage AEC buses. Denis and his mate Royston Morgan both own a single and a double-decker – they are both in splendid condition – and the buses look pretty good, too. Both of the vehicles were new to Devon General – the double-decker is an AEC Regent V with MCW Orion body of 1966 vintage and the single decker is a 1964 Marshall-bodied AEC Reliance 590. Suffice to say I was pleased to get an email asking if I would be interested in joining in as both were to be on display.
The other half (reluctantly at first) agreed to come along too and, before we knew it, we were in the convoy of vintage buses queuing to get inside. Once we were all registered and parked up, Denis and Royston went into warp factor ten bus spotter mode while the missus and I had a leisurely stroll around the exhibits and trade stalls. Having held a couple of sales positions in the PSV trade, I soon bumped into one or two former customers, which was as much of a surprise to them as to me. AROnline’s readers would expect no less, so I also made sure to have look at some of the truly wonderful Leyland stuff which was on display – and found that I had regularly driven a sister vehicle to one of them.
This 1987 United Auto Tiger 260 with Plaxton Paramount 3200 Mk3 body looked almost
brand new. For many years they were the backbone of National Express along with the
Leyland Leopard. I could quite happily have taken this home…
All of the once great British manufacturers were represented and those on display included a number of splendid looking Bedfords, (this year marks 30 years since the brand’s demise), Bristols, Daimlers, Leylands, Plaxton – you name them, they were there. My own personal favourite was a preserved National Express Rapide Leyland Tiger 260 Paramount from the mighty fleet of Darlington-based United Automobile Services Limited – one of the largest members of the old National Bus Group prior to the de-regulation of public transport. That company played a huge part in my younger days, their Grange Road central works and depot was so large, in fact, that thousands would once queue up on open days to have a look around.
The rain eventually came and that scattered the crowds to the winds. Thankfully, the sun shone again for the hundreds of waiting spotters cameras at the ready for the massive convoy of buses and coaches leaving the grounds. If you have an interest, and have never attended a bus rally, Showbus is a cracking day out if a bit tiring after a while – lots and lots of walking and standing. I, for one, really enjoyed myself and thank Denis Chick and Royston Morgan for the steer in one of their lovely old buses.