A FORMER Grey Cars coach of 1958 vintage has unexpectedly become available along with a number of other heritage buses and coaches.
The owner has agreed that the Devon General Society should have first refusal on it and funds are now needed to cover the asking price of £10,000.
The coach is a 1959 AEC Reliance with Willowbrook Viking 41-seat touring coachwork.
It is the last survivor of six such vehicles specially constructed to 7ft 6in width to enable it to cross narrow bridges on Dartmoor and Exmoor.
The coach is complete and generally in sound condition, hence the owner is seeking a sizeable price for it, much more than is affordable by local historic bus and coach preservationists who have already saved and restored many such vehicles of local origin and interest for the enjoyment of present and future generations.
Grey Cars was a pioneer in the Westcountry coach business, its first two charabancs commencing operating local tours out of Torquay as early as 1913 under the name The Grey Torpedo Cars.
The Torpedo was dropped at an early stage, possibly because of its association with the First World War.
After the war, the size of the fleet expanded rapidly and by 1921 18 charabancs were operated, many made by AEC.
Pneumatic tyres first appeared that year and from 1923 powerful Lancia charabancs on such tyres replaced the early fleet.
In 1928, the business was acquired by A Timpson & Sons, of London, who built a two-level garage at Torwood Street, Torquay (now a bowling alley) and replaced most of the Lancias with new AEC coaches.
In 1932 Timpsons sold the business to the Devon General Omnibus & Touring Co who continued and expanded the Grey Cars coach business, it becoming the principal coach company in the Torbay area.
Government nationalisation of the bus and coach industry in 1968 led to the demise of the original Grey Cars company in 1971, it being absorbed into the new National Bus Company.
Surviving coaches from the heyday of Grey Cars are few and far between and I have quickly registered an interest with the owner. I would be very pleased to hear from anyone interested in the rescue of this unique survivor and its return to the Westcountry.
■ Anyone who is interested in aiding the appeal in any way, through sponsorship or with a donation, can contact Philip Platt at 33 Broadview, Broadclyst, Exeter EX5 3HA, Tel. 01392 460172.