Please help us add this unique Devon General bus to our collection
The opportunity has arisen for the Trust to acquire DR705, a ‘Light Six’ AEC Rebuild, which combines pre-war AEC Regal running units, a pre-war AEC Regent chassis and a 1953 Saunders-Roe body.
Will you please help us by donating to our DR705 Fundraising Appeal?
DR705 (ETT 995) is a truly unique vehicle, being the only one of the 20 Light Six rebuilds to have a Saunders-Roe body – the rest were bodied by Weymann. It’s also the only Light Six based on a Devon General AEC Regent chassis – the other 19 used reconditioned chassis bought from ACV Sales. It has been expertly restored and is roadworthy.
The Light Sixes arose from Devon General’s need for additional double deckers in the boom time of the early 1950s. The company’s workshops married mechanical running units from some of its pre-war AEC Regal single deckers with reconditioned AEC Regent chassis and sent them off to have new, modern lightweight bodies fitted. It was the buses’ unladen weight of around 6 tons which gave rise to the term ‘Light Six’.
DR705 used the running units from 1938 AEC Regal XR403 (ETT 995) and the chassis of 1937 AEC Regent DR234 (DTT 47) and was fitted with a lightweight Saunders-Roe 56-seat body. In all the bus weighed just 5 tons 19 cwt. It was delivered with the registration NUO 981 (DR981) but this was changed to that of donor vehicle XR403 – ETT 995 – and the bus entered service in March 1953 with fleet number DR705.
DR705 was used for a number of trials in its early days. It proved to have better fuel consumption than the recently-delivered AEC Regent III DR679 with the prototype Weymann Aurora body and this encouraged the company to see through the Light Six programme during 1953/54. It was even experimentally fitted with single rear wheels at Weymanns in an attempt to save more weight. With some stabilisation modifications it passed the required test, but never ran in service this way. Like the other Light Sixes, it spent most of its time running on Service 12, Newton Abbot – Torquay – Paignton – Brixham, until replaced by Leyland Atlanteans. It was based at Torquay depot for most of its career, with short spells at Brixham and Newton Abbot depots. DR705 was withdrawn in March 1963 and sold to a building contractor in Tilbury, Essex, who used it for staff transport. In 1968 it was acquired for preservation by the West of England Transport Collection and spent many years stored at Winkleigh.
Restoration work didn’t begin in earnest on DR705 until after the present owner, Steve Cope, bought the bus in 2004. It was moved to Knowstone, where a thorough mechanical and bodywork restoration took place, using the skills of Sam Merrifield, Phillip Platt and others. No expense was spared to reinstate original features, including completely new upholstery to the original design. DR705’s rally debut was at the Trust’s Exeter Spring Running Day in March 2017, and it also appeared at the DG100 rally at Newton Abbot Racecourse in August 2019.
DR705 is a great example of Devon General’s in-house engineering expertise and the company’s can-do attitude at a time when it needed extra double deckers but had to keep an eye on economy. It is a unique vehicle and with its pre-war mechanical units and chassis it will complement the existing vehicles in our collection, which date from the 1950s and 1960s.
We are very grateful to Steve Cope for the opportunity to purchase DR705 for a price less than its full commercial value. Steve is keen to see his bus remain in Devon and he sees us as appropriate custodians to look after DR705 in the long term. The Trust has funds it will use towards the purchase price, but if we are to acquire this unique vehicle we will need to attract several thousand pounds from our supporters.
WILL YOU HELP US, PLEASE? We offer several convenient ways to donate – please see our Support Us page.