Ex East Kent Bristol VRT/SL3/6LXB 7980 (TFN980T)
Now owned by my good friend Bernard Sealy after being saved for preservation by Maurice Bean, this vary rare bus is now back on the road again after a few years away from the rally circuit. 7980 was new to East Kent in 1978 as part of several batches of Bristol VRT's with the boxy Willowbrook bodywork. East Kent took 28 in total with 29 going to Northern General and 26 going to City of Cardiff. Of all of the Willowbrook bodied Bristol VRT's built, 7980 is THE ONLY ROOFED ONE LEFT IN THE WORLD AND ONE OF ONLY TWO LEFT IN THE UK!
The Willowbrooks were mostly withdrawn from East Kent service in the early 1990's with some transferred down to Hastings for a while. Mst of the East Kent ones ended up at London Coaches on the Round London Sightseeing Tour where many were open topped. Prior to this, the only open top Willowbrook/Bristol VR had been East Kent RVB977S "The Pride of Thanet" which had collided with a low bridge when still quite new.
7980 avoided this fate, and passed to Riply (dealer) then Beeston (dealer) before taking up service with Altonian of Alton in May 1992. She stayed here until August 1996 before passing via another dealer to Classic Coaches of Booker in 1998. Later passing to yet another dealer, she was acquired by Maurice Bean in 2003. Bernard bought her fully restored in 2008.
Back in 2009, after hearing reports that 7980 was laying damaged in a yard near Sandwich, I contacted Bernard and offered him help to get 7980 back on the road which he gratefully accepted. She had collided with a badly placed bollard at the yard recieving nearside panel damage. With the help of Carl Underwood, all the accident damage was repaired and with a new set of batteries hooked up all of the niggly electrical problems sorted themselves out too. After a quick scrub down and a full service with Eclipse Recovery Services at Aylesham she was presented for MOT on 7th April 2010 and passed.
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