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The Dennis 'E' Story

In 1936 the Aldershot & District Traction Company disposed of a large number of "out of date" buses and coaches. Bought around 1928, they had had their 8 years of service, so off to King & Taylor, who disposed of them for the Company. Someone had a brilliant idea and bought at least one, possibly four, redundant buses and parked them by the River Thames at Walton-on-Thames. A photographer who specialised exclusively on railways must have been Passing by and snapped the four buses, the only buses photo he ever took! And we have the photograph!

So, this was in 1936 and one of the buses, described as "scrapped" became a home for someone and their family. This bus OT 8902 must have become too small for a growing family, (This is a bit of speculation by ADORRS Chairman), so they built a house/bungalow around the bus. There it remained for the next 70 years, until along came someone who was going to demolish the building, found the bus inside and thoughtfully informed Cobham Bus Museum as it might have been an old, rare London Bus. Cobham Bus Museum paid to have the bus removed to the then Cobham Bus Museum, but could not identify the bus. A message eventually got through to the then Chairman of ADORR Society, Ray Le Mesurier-Foster, who got to Cobham fairly quickly, living just a couple of miles away. It was quickly identified as a Dennis bus, but what was it? Ray knew from past experience where the chassis number was and using some sandpaper revealed the number. This number confirmed the bus was OT 8902, and as such one of the oldest Aldershot & District buses in existence and of course had to be saved. As mentioned above, the bus was INSIDE a building, and because it had been out of the way of any weather, it was in a remarkable condition. ADORRS paid Cobham the cost of rescuing it and they gave us the bus, a fair swop.

At this time ADORRS were just starting to rent premises in Milland, so the bus was taken there and a plan made to restore the chassis. Hardly any recoverable parts of the body were on the chassis, so it was decided to take these off and work out how we were going to start restoration. A few years went by, until we had over £14,000 in donations ready in the bank. So the go-ahead was given and first, and the most important part, was to get an engine up and running. We had several engines in various states of disrepair but we realised that we could make one good engine from the four we had. We sent the engine to a restorer but we were not satisfied with the work and overpricing so found an expert in Reading who took on the task. In the meantime the chassis was given a good clean and was slowly built up with parts we had in store.

In 1996 when we rescued two Dennis "E" buses from Four Marks, we decided that we would obtain and keep as many parts as possible and having made several trips around the country procured about two of everything!
That procurement has paid off as we have more or less built the chassis (OT 8902) using these spare parts.

The Four Marks buses have reasonable bodies that we could use, but their chassis are not too good, so a body can be taken off OT 8592 and put on OT 8902. It should be mentioned that in the 20's bus bodies were made separately and put onto chassis ready made. The bodies were clamped to the chassis using large U bolts.

Some items that we needed to purchase included tyres. The tyres were difficult to get and now come from the USA. North Hants Tyres are tyre experts and got hold of the six we needed, plus inner tubes and flaps. Of course we needed wheels to put the tyres on, and again our 'stock' of parts included some 25 wheels in various condition. We picked the best six and sent them away to be shot-blasted. The wheels/tyres/flaps/tubes were eventually brought together and are now on the chassis. We asked the question as to the colour of the wheels. The book about A & D said that the colour was yellow then we discovered when cleaning another wheel that under the black paint was - YELLOW!

But, we had problems with that dreaded word 'ASBESTOS' to deal with. We had this on the brake shoes, on the cone clutch and the brake retarder clutch. Fortunately a company called ORCA are based in Bordon not far from Milland and they did a wonderful job of replacing with modern material. The steering wheel needed a total refurbishment so we sent it to Ramsgate and a wonderful job was done on that.

The exhaust system was still intact on the chassis, but a bit rusty so we decided that a stainless steel exhaust would be best. Luck again was that the right Company was just 1 mile from the Presidents home, Cheesman's carried out making a brand new exhaust system and this was fixed to the chassis. The old silencer had the round plates at each end embossed "DENNIS GUILDFORD" and these being very rare, we had them included in the silencer. (remember we have got two of everything? We have another two round end plates!)

Another very essential task is to clean and test the fuel tank, so to be sure we have sent the tank to Leeds to have a first class job done on it. Unfortunately the tank is so old and large that the inside could not be de-rusted. The solution was to have a new tank made. This will be with us by mid-September.

Another major problem was the radiator. We had an original A & D radiator, the correct one for the Dennis "E", but it is made of Aluminium and after nearly 90 years, the Aluminium has deteriorated and is very brittle and later examination of the lower water tank showed signs of pitting. If we replaced with new, almost an impossible task, the radiator would not be original, whereas we have arranged with Guildford Radiators, to have it looking like the original, which it is, but having a modern core to keep the engine cool.

The other outlet we have made use of is FRM in North Town, Aldershot, so any bits we need they have been able to find and they have looked after us very well.

We have been able to start the engine, thanks to Graham in Reading, and have tested the clutch. After adjusting the clutch with a spanner, we were able to drive the chassis, just a few feet, but after 81 years OT 8902 moved using its own power, and that has to be a good result. There are several items to do on the chassis, but we could have in a roadworthy state in a couple of months.

Currently we are making the spare wheel carrier on the back of the chassis, and a spare wheel has been found that will do the job. This wheel will be an 'original' and could be 90 years old

When the bus was in Cobham Museum we took a bold step and registered it with the DVLA. The bus is so old that it does not require an MOT, nor is it liable for road tax, but we will insure it as we would any bus we have.

The Future
OT8902 is not quite a bus as it stands, there is no body on it, no seats, no windows. So we are thinking that we could use the body from OT8592 and repair or replace the wooden uprights, floor boards, window surrounds, but there are a lot of other body parts to make. Windows need making, open and shut mechanism , lights made and wiring replaced. We have an original A&D bell, a huge item! Then all the seats will have to be made and it will be a guess as to how they were made and what they looked like. The floor had lino and we will have to try and get the same colour to replace this.

An estimate of the cost to make the body good and sound is around £25,000, so we will look to make an application to the Lottery Heritage Fund and we may be able to get some funds to complete the project. Other funding may come from the Transport Trust, not that much, but every £100 will help!

Also see
Dennis E - OT 8902
Dennis E's - at Four Marks
Dennis E - Restoration Photo Gallery

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