A question I often get asked by people is "why have you preserved a Dennis Dart?" Well the simple answer is, I was brought up on them and my memories are embedded in this very bus.
To explain a little further as to why I bought L116YVK. At the time of writing this article in early 2009. I am at the age of 23, born and bred in South London till I moved to the midlands a couple of years ago. So the dart had a large impact on me as well as MCW Metrobuses, Volvo B10M Citybuses, Leyland Olympians and of course, the Routemaster.
To me, the Dennis Dart is a modern classic. The chassis comes under a variety of body makes and designs. Different lengths are available to suite the different operators needs and it even progressed to a low floor design. It is a successful design where lots of operators, big and small have welcomed them into their fleets.
L116YVK is a Northern Counties Paladin 2, 9.0metre Dennis Dart which was new to Kentish Bus in 1994 as 116 in a plum and cream livery based at Lewisham garage. When Kentish Bus did not gain the next round of contracts, the fleet was distributed around the Arriva empire as it became with 116 going to Cambridge Heath then onto Enfield where it gained the fleet number of DRN116 and repainted into Arriva red with full cream front based on the standard livery across the country.
In late 2003, DRN116 came to Beddington Farm garage in Croydon for a short while on the new contract for route 410's increased frequency till the new DAF Wright Cadet's arrived. It was during this period I came across DRN116 as I used to travel on it all the time. DRN116 had just been repainted into Arriva red with cow horns before it started work on the 410. This wasn't the first time we had this batch of darts as we had some a few years previously in Londonlinks livery.
At the end of 2003, all the high floor darts at Beddington Farm, both
Plaxton and Northern Counties with the exception of one Plaxton bodied Dart
for a short while afterwards, were transferred from London.
Life in preservation
In early September 2008, I was showing a enthusiast around where one of my other buses was based when I came across L116YVK for sale of which I recognised the bus straight away and got quite excited! I paid the asking price, which I was happy with and set about restoring her back to how I remember her in London.
It was coincidental that on a bus group a few months earlier someone had posted a photo of one of the batch of which I said I would love to preserve one! At the time of writing this, L116YVK is the first and only one of its type in preservation.
First thing to go was the advertising frame on the offside which required drilling the rivets out and filling the holes in with body filler.
Some of the dents and damage was filled and sanded down by myself with the rest being carried out by the contractor who painted her for me. At the same time the reversing camera (which was fitted after it left London) was removed by them, which I never had any ladders tall enough to reach it safely. I decided to have her repainted into Arriva London red with cream cow horns as this how I remember and it is a livery Arriva are now dropping.
Just before DRN116 was sent for repaint, the seats were removed for re-padding the backs whilst being repainted as the foam had disintegrated over the years leaving a lack of padding. The seat bottoms were donated which sadly aren't in matching moquette but are still blue so don't stand out as much as the black ones at the back but will remain till I am able to get them in original style.
When it came back from painting, cleaning of the interior was carried out, as I like a clean bus as much as passengers do as well. The seats were beaten and hovered as well as cleaned with a upholstery cleaner. Its amazing the amount of dust that comes out of them, try to avoid doing this inside the bus as much as possible! The seats were fixed back in place.
Turning my attention to the exterior, I applied the transfers minus "ARRIVA" fleet names as the bus no longer belongs to Arriva I felt this wasn't appropriate, especially if DRN116 was to do any service work. I had to make sure all the legal lettering was present as DRN116 still has a class 6 mot so I went round photographing all the lettering such as the weight, pull to open etc as well as referring to past photographs which I passed onto the transfer suppliers to make for me.
At the beginning of 2009, DRN116 attended its first few rallies, which it seemed quite well received amongst people. It even made it from Stoke-On-Trent to Cobham and back in the same day with no problems although this meant doing 45mph all the way! Darts can do 55mph but you would end up blowing the engine and gearbox up doing this, as darts aren't designed for continuous, high-speed runs but for stop start town routes.
A friend of mine had suggested after traveling on my dart that I repainted
the handrails back to original red as it was showing through the yellow
plus the ones at the front were very worn.
The handrails were rubbed down with sandpaper, then a scouring pad and
then cleaned with thinners to eliminate dust and grease, which could cause
the paint not to adhere properly.
The front handrails had 3 coats applied as these are the ones that tend to get worn the most in my experience and the rest down the bus received 2 coats.Result? A almost new looking bus inside, it did require a lot of cleaning afterwards because of the dust created!
Overall I have enjoyed restoring and driving DRN116 and wouldn't give
it up for anything else.