As a new Century dawned, the Falcon 282 Group members braved the freezing conditions and continued their regular treks to deepest Northamptonshire.
January 2000 saw members still addressing the problem of removing the kingpins. Bill Wilkinson, our local welder, came to weld the body support spring cups into the new front cross member. With his welding torch applied to the surrounds in the ends of the axle beam, some plumbers freeze on the kingpins and assistance from a very large hammer wielded by Bill, the old kingpins eventually came out. It is possible that they were the originals put in during manufacture at Guildford. In February, following on from this success, we examined the condition of the pins and bushes in the swinging shackles at the rear end of each front spring. The amount of free movement indicated that they would also need to come out and be replaced. We started with the nearside ones. The top pin was absolutely solid in the chassis and the bottom pin so loose that it had been rotating in the spring housing. Again much persuasion with heat and hammer was necessary. Like the kingpins their shape was very similar to a traditional Coca Cola bottle, "waisted".
We discovered that the lower pin had worn completely through the bush on one side. Malcolm Spalding knew of a small engineering firm in Kent who were able to turn up new kingpins and swinging shackle pins from tool steel, using our old ones as patterns and also produce new brass bushes. The new kingpins took some persuading but eventually went in. With these back in place the brake units could be re-assembled and the front wheels went back on. We were then able to check the steering linkage for any play. The offside swinging shackle pins and bushes were removed at this time. Fortunately they came out more easily than their nearside cousins, or was it that we had discovered the correct technique ?
Throughout the early part of the year paint removal continued, mainly on the roof and rear dome, using wire wool and stripping chemicals. This process continued through the spring working days until the whole body was back to bare shining aluminium. At the same time the remaining sections of chassis were cleaned off and painted. The rear offside corner panel had previously been damaged at its lower end. With a sheet of the correct gauge aluminium we tried to replace this by rolling around a simple curve. It was only then that we discovered that these corner panels actually have a compound curve at the bottom, bending around the corner of the body but also outwards at the base. Therefore the old panel was taken to Rawls Engineering who cut away the damaged area, stitched a new section on and rolled it to the correct profile.
Both front dampers had been removed as they were so obviously well beyond their prime. We had believed that these would have been simple items to replace. However, after several abortive enquiries with commercial motor factors we were faced with the possibility of having to have the old dampers completely overhauled or rebuilt by a specialist firm. Either way, the old units had to be taken apart. As the firm started to dismantle the first one they discovered a number on the inside of the badly corroded dust shield. Reference through several parts books led to the current equivalent number and Hey Presto, two new front dampers were available straight off of the shelf. The new shackle pins and bushes went in much more easily than they had come out and, with the pins and bushes all replaced and the new dampers fitted, the front running gear was now essentially complete.
As spring gave way to early summer we started putting body panels back onto the vehicle. The repaired rear offside corner panel went on first and at last the rear end started to look normal again. All remaining side panels were re-fitted except the battery box cover which needed a new hinge along its top edge. We took the opportunity to loosely replace the re-built wing sections to check for clearances and fit.
With all panels back in place and rubbed down, now began a long period of filling and sanding down. During its working life 282 had received many knocks and dents including one enormous one in the nearside roof panel mid way along the vehicle. This alone took four working days to fill progressively and sand to the correct profile. Although in A & D service 282 did not have flashing indicators, I of M Road Services had fitted them. We had decided on a cleaner approach so the units fitted to the sides, by the drivers window and beside the sliding door, had to go. This left two large holes in the respective panels that required aluminium mesh and filler to cover. Much fine grade filler and rubbing down was then needed to get a smooth finish and lose any trace of the offending apertures.
To protect the now bare aluminium body from oxidisation, a thin coat of etching primer was applied. This was preceded by a final all-over rub down with fine grade wet and dry and a complete wash off to remove any remaining grease and dust. Fine, warm summer weather helped the drying process. 282 now appeared in a pale grey/green coat, but this did have the benefit of showing up the knocks and dents more clearly, ready for fine filler to be applied.
The new front to rear wiring loom was fitted along the chassis ready to be connected up to a new fuse box. All interior lighting units and bell pushes were also removed for cleaning and overhaul ready to be re-fitted later.
The years work saw 282 with all of its wheels, suspension and steering gear back in place. It had been completely stripped back to bare metal, had a coat of primer applied, many dents filled and at last had both front wings back on, neatly finished in dark green undercoat. The group could at least feel as though they were now moving on.
We moved into 2001 with a very positive feel on how the restoration was progressing. January and February working days were spent with more filling and sanding and further un-fitting, adjustment and re-fitting of the front wing sections. We also re-fitted the front bumper supports, towing eye and throttle linkage unit.
Then came our biggest bombshell, the Foot and Mouth crisis hit !
Being in a barn on a working sheep farm we suddenly found that we had no access to 282. Nothing and nobody could enter or leave the infected area. There was at one point genuine concern that 282 and all of the other vehicles and farm equipment residing in the barn might be ordered to be taken out and burnt by the Ministry officials. Thankfully it didnt come to that but we later discovered that all of the vehicles had been very liberally sprayed all over with strong disinfectant. We eventually were able to visit again on the last weekend of April. A new fuse box had been obtained, (from Belgium !), and the wiring loom was connected up to it. Wiring was then fed to the front wings ready for the lights and to the rear lights.
Back in 1999, through Tim Stubbs and Malcolm Spalding, we had been made aware of the proposed Medstead Depot Omnibus Group project to build a suitable bus storage and restoration facility at Medstead. The group had previously been actively seeking suitable accommodation in the south but to no avail. We wanted 282 back in A & D territory and to be closer for most members to continue the restoration.
As 282 had spent much of her working life at the old Alton garage and had covered the rural routes it was only appropriate that we seek to secure a space at Medstead, which we were able to do. As work on the building was nearing completion, we had to decide upon a date for moving 282 from Northamptonshire to Medstead. This was set for 3rd June 2001. With the loss of two months working days, May 2001 saw some frantic additional working days to get 282 ready for the move. First we had to temporarily re-fit the windscreen surrounds and glass for legality and protection. All suspension and steering gear nuts and bolts had to be re-checked for tightness, the wings bolted securely and all cables beneath the vehicle tied up. Parts of the cab floor had to be replaced, again for the steersmans safety. Finally, we had many parts and boxes of spares within the bus which had to be secured safely on the floor and seats.
On Sunday 3rd June 2001, Phil Jacob and Malcolm Spading made an early start from Aldershot to Northamptonshire to meet with Bob Smith and his faithful towing wagon. Final preparations involved putting the spare gearbox into the rear of the bus, topping up the rear axle oil, greasing the steering and suspension nipples and securing the prop shaft up to the chassis. Bob appeared mid-morning and securely hitched 282 up for a straight bar tow. Phil and Malcolm finally bade farewell to our genial and helpful landlord of the previous three years. (The group extends it thanks to Bill Capple of Monastery Farm, Shutlanger near Towcester for his help and friendship during 282s time there).
In fine sunny weather and with Malcolm acting as steersman 282 took to the narrow lanes of rural Northamptonshire behind Bob Smiths Leyland. Our route took us out onto the A5, through Towcester town, onto the A43 through Silverstone and down to the M40. 282s progress caused much head turning and friendly waving from passing motorists. Along the M40 Phil, following behind, could see the rear of 282 bouncing somewhat on its rear springs, a fairly sure sign that the rear dampers were also past their prime, another job to be done! After a rest break north of Oxford, it was A34 all the way back to Winchester and onto the A31 to Medstead. We arrived there mid-afternoon, by which time Malcolm was nearly deaf from the clattering of loose parts inside the bus that we obviously hadnt secured as well as we thought.
Another chapter in 282s history was about to begin.