It was a surprise and a pleasure to rediscover a long lost friend on a recent trip to
this week, in the form of Bristol VRT AFJ 760T. I have had the thrill of being
behind the wheel of 38760, or, if you prefer 1153 in old money several times
whilst she was in preservation with Jon Harris at Winkleigh. I had also been
involved in the restoration of her, although after a change in circumstances
1153 was stuck in a corner and slowly but surely forgotten about, with mold
encroaching over her latter day First Western National livery, eventually
ending up looking quite sorry for herself. Croyde Bay
She was later offered back to her original savior from the scrapman, Steve Cocks, but because her condition had deteriorated to such an extent, the offer was rejected, and hence she ended up with David Hoare at Chepstow Classic Buses in May of last year.
Thankfully, this has actually ended up being her saving grace, with restoration having taken place to bring her back up to scratch for her new role as a surfing school in Croyde Bay, painted in a very attractive light blue advertising livery. The lower saloon appears to have been converted for storage, whereas the upper saloon has had the original seat frames re-positioned to face inwards right the way round, presumably now used as a teaching space.
It is a shame in one sense to know that she came so near to being loved and cherished by enthusiasts throughout the South West, with plans to repaint her into the green and cream Western National/Plymouth Citybus livery of the mid/late 80s; an accolade relatively few buses could justifiably be painted into. But on the other hand, she is still one of the lucky ones who dodged the cutters torch to continue living on in the South West, and is certainly now being put to good use; although I'd presume it will be quite a while before she turns a wheel again. Who knows, maybe in 10 years time she could be saved for preservation once again, and the life she always deserved may still be in reach. Only time will tell!