Birmingham AEC Regent Update May 2016
Throughout the last quarter of 2016 I have continued with visits to Ian Barrett's workshop, spending alternate weeks there working for four or five days at a time alongside his team. Bit by bit, the Trust's Birmingham Regent 486 is being made to look more like the bus that rolled out of Metro-Cammell's factory back in 1931.
Work by Saul Woods and Ian on the bodywork has included the platform area and destination blind boxes on either side and at the rear. Following on from the work to the area around the nearside box, the framework around the rear blind box has been renovated. This framework also incorporates the mounting for the tail light and that section was riddled with woodworm and had to be completely replaced, incorporating a new tail light bulb mounting in the process.
The bottom section of the frame surrounding the rear blind box also had to be replaced but the rest has survived to fight another day. The box itself has been renovated with a new top section fitted and the remainder cleaned up. Likewise, the framework surrounding the offside blind box situated at the bottom of the stairs has been partly remade, the bottom being totally rotten, and a completely new box has had to be made by Saul to fit in it. The next challenge will be to procure or manufacture a set of winding gear for each of the four boxes and repair or make the access doors for the three rearmost ones which also have the holes in them to insert the removable winding handle as well as windows allowing light in the lower saloon to illuminate the blinds at night.
The bottoms of all body pillars have now been trimmed to the correct length and horizontal closing timbers made and fitted to prevent dirt and moisture getting up between the outer and inner panels.
Upstairs, the stairwell partition or courtesy screen has been trial fitted after Will Letts carefully stripped off old leathercloth and glue and Ian carried out repairs to delaminated plywood and the aluminium panel that acts as a canopy over the bottom of the stairwell. The latter item was particularly battered but has been retained and strengthened by adding a new panel over the top. The aluminium angle that holds the base of the panel to the upper saloon floor has also had a new section made and welded in.
In the same vicinity, Saul has skilfully manufactured and installed the internal and external curved wood finishing trims around the rear 'D' light windows either side of the upper saloon. This was achieved by steaming ash wood before gluing two thin planks together and bending them in a former where it was left for several days to set. The resultant laminated piece was then removed before being cut and carved to the correct profile, the result of which is a work of art. The interior sections are now in my care for staining and varnishing, along with what seems like acres of other wood fascias and cappings.
Ian has also used the steaming and forming technique to make new ash retaining beads to fit around the radiused corners of the glass in the emergency door. With these made and fitted, the emergency door can be added to the list of items for staining and varnishing, this particular component having a polished wood finish on its entire internal surface.
The whole front bulkhead within the lower saloon now has its leathercloth applied where required and Andy Baxter has connected all the saloon lights and the stop and tail lights. He has also fitted a new brake light switch, mounted on a bracket on the chassis, rather than screwed to a lump of wood on the underside of the cab floor as had originally been the case. This fitting had looked like a war-time make-do-and-mend type arrangement!
On the engine front, the crank, con-rods and pistons are all now installed and the sump fitted. The flywheel has been balanced after much work by the engineering company that took on the job. To rectify the loss of metal caused by corrosion, over one pound in weight had to be added to one side to get it to run smoothly.
A new petrol tank has been manufactured in stainless steel, incorporating all its original fittings, including the magnificent magnetically operated fuel gauge which has been restored by Roger Stagg. The braking system is now complete after fitting of brake ribbons which had been refurbished by Adwin Spring Co of Great Bridge. The other installation Andy has been busy doing under the bus is the cabling for batteries and jumper socket. This has all been neatly installed in steel conduit tubes and period-style flexible cable ducting.
Finally, my main contribution in recent weeks has been putting wet paint all over the place where various people (including me) can finish up with it on their hands/clothes/hair! Amongst places this has been possible have been the roof, platform ceiling and partition (all in undercoat cream), cab (gloss cream and brown), stairwell and driver's seat frame (undercoat and gloss brown), engine bay (undercoat and gloss black) and lower saloon ceiling (gloss white). My paintbrushes will be well used in the coming months as I gradually transform all the magnificent structures created by Ian and team into the colours familiar to admirers of BCT's fleet.