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AEC Regent

Birmingham AEC Regent Appeal - May 2017

As predicted in my previous article, panels on the exterior of the vehicle are now being permanently affixed. Around the upper deck, Saul Woods has been busy fitting the panel-work and associated fittings meaning that the outside of the bus from the mid-deck level upwards has been completed ready for painting. Panels were cut to size and had joggled edges formed before a trial fit, incorporating new vertical panel straps. The wider 1.1/4inch horizontal straps at top and bottom of the panels beneath the upper saloon windows are the originals that somehow survived to be renovated and reunited with the bus. Many of these had been removed from 486 during dismantling forty or more years ago.

The very characteristic piano front panel, which as mentioned last time had been adjusted to fit onto repaired ash framework, was also trial fitted before removal for one last time to have its much oxidised inner surface cleaned up by Will Letts. This panel, along with all the newly made ones, has now been protected on the rear surface with bitumastic paint to prevent corrosion. The destination blind box, which is integral to the piano front panel, has also been renovated and painted white prior to the whole ensemble finally being screwed and sealed in place.

Before the side panels could finally be fitted, the remaining tasks inside the upper saloon requiring access from the outside were completed. This included securing in place the small coach bolts which project through the waist-level polished wood fascia panels to take supporting brackets for the top of each seat back. The original design was beefed up by Ian who welded a small plate to the head of each bolt. This plate was then screwed to the back of the wooden panel to guarantee that the bolt will never turn. Ian also procured a supply of the correct chrome plated dome nuts which will hold the brackets in place against the fascia panels.

With all the upper deck panelling and straps sealed on, and all the glazing installed, the drip rails and rain deflectors that fit over the windows were permanently fitted, but not before their inner faces were painted up to a final coat of gloss cream. This was necessary because now they are in place it is impossible to get a paintbrush into the tight space behind them whilst still achieving a good standard of finish.

At the rear of the upper saloon, the emergency exit door is fully installed with its original catch mechanism refurbished and re-chromed. As you will have seen from the pictures in this edition, it looks magnificent from inside with all its polished wood finish and German silver handrail.

I am now busily building up coats of paint over all the exterior of the upper deck so that within a few weeks, on top of the self-etch primer applied before the panels were fitted, it will have received two undercoats, a 50/50 undercoat and gloss mix, a coat of gloss and a 50/50 gloss and varnish mix. Once this is completed, we will no longer be reliant for access on the wooden staging surrounding the bus so the staging can be dismantled, enabling 486 to be moved across the workshop for completion of lower bodywork repairs and painting at that level. However, this move will not occur until Ian has finished rebuilding the offside front wheelarch and cab side. The wing panel for this has been made and work is in progress on making adjustments so that the various curves align with the existing structure and all the new material blends nicely to recreate the desired shape.

With the exception of some cab glass, the remaining glazing for the lower deck is on order, but the non-opening windows in the main part of the saloon have already arrived and have been installed. The exterior panels for the lower deck are now being manufactured and trial fitting will start soon. This will obviously be less straightforward than the upper panels due to the compound curves involved around the offside rear corner and the various cut outs in other areas for such things as ventilators, wheelarches, access flaps, the tool locker and so on.

Turning to the interior, the upper saloon is now virtually complete in readiness for fitting of seats and stanchion poles. Lino has just been laid and final sections of leathercloth are being applied. The repaired stairwell partition was re-covered in leathercloth and installed once the lino was in place. I have some final painting to complete on floor-level fittings and in due course transfers will need to be applied, but otherwise the remaining area for attention as far as the upper deck is concerned will be on the production of the seating. It is hoped to get a grant for this, so work cannot commence until we have an answer to our application.

However, in order to get accurate costings, a prototype replica seat frame has been fabricated, modelled on the sole original double seat we were very fortunate to have. A single seat version is also available for us to copy, as, remarkably, BCT Daimler COG5 1107 has one from a Regent in its upper saloon. Work is also proceeding on obtaining the correct pattern moquette (for downstairs) and leather hide (for upstairs) with Museum member and bus bodywork expert Bob Scott taking the lead on procuring the various materials, including seat springs and stuffing.

In the lower saloon, most decorative wood cappings and fascias are in place with a few sections still in my care for completion of varnishing. The pull-open vents at the top nearside of the front bulkhead have been returned to their original appearance with glazed rather than wooden panels and following re-varnishing of the frames they have been installed with their spring stay struts.

The internal surfaces of the compartments surrounding the rear wheelarches have been painted up to a gloss brown finish, the offside one acting as the battery box. The staircase will be removed again in the near-future in order for the leathercloth to be applied to the panelling behind it and also to allow the offside glazing to be fitted. On these early Metro-Cammell bodies, the windows run the full length of the lower deck on the offside with no panelling to coincide with the staircase. The inner face of the glass adjacent to the stairs will be painted black. Renovation of the staircase itself will then be finished prior to final installation.

In readiness for completion of the cab, Will Letts stripped the old paint off the adjustable carriage for the driver's seat. The operating mechanism was seized up so, with a bit of assistance from a blow torch, it was dismantled, overhauled and the frame was then repainted in semi-gloss black. This is now reassembled and united with the seat frame which has also been painted ready for fitting, this part being gloss brown.

The steering wheel has been fully renovated and it looks and feels superb. Drivers of 486 should find it very reassuring to hold on to!

Beneath the lower saloon floor, Andy Baxter has fitted the petrol tank after some alterations were made to the bottoms of the adjacent pillars to prevent any chance of them rubbing against the tank. It was also necessary to manufacture new support brackets and Andy painted the tank and undertray in gloss black prior to fitting. The exhaust silencer has been repaired and re-fitted along with a replacement tailpipe. The electrical regulator box is now installed in the cab and the renovated dynamo has been fitted to the engine. In order to permanently install the autovac tank, it was necessary for me to finish paint the forward face of the lower deck front bulkhead onto which the tank is fixed. The rear of the tank and its pipework have also been finished in their final gloss blue. With the mechanical and electrical overhaul close to completion, I hope that by the time of my next report there will be news of at least one major milestone being passed in the Regent's revival.

Watch this space!

Rob Handford




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