Every May the Historic Commercial Vehicle Society organises the London to Brighton run for historic commercial vehicles. This year FA1075 took the trophies for the best open cabbed fire engine and the best Dennis on the run.
FA1075 is a 1921 Dennis 'N' Type pump escape. It is fitted with a 60HP White and Poppe 4 cylinder engine coupled to a Dennis 4 speed gearbox via a two Power Take Off drives. The first PTO is for the main Gywnne 1000gpm pump. It is a 3 stage turbine pump with a twin piston exhauster for priming. The second PTO is for the hose reel pump which can be supplied from the internal 50 gallon tank. Although the engine is very powerful, the braking system is rather rudimentary. There are no brakes on the front wheels, and only cam operated brakes on the back wheels. No friction material is used, just cast iron against cast iron. These brakes are only operated by a lever located alongside the gear change lever to the right of the driver. There is an additional foot operated transmission brake which is for emergency use only.
This appliance was supplied new to the BASS Brewery at Burton on Trent and remained with them until the late '60's. After the second world war it was fitted with pneumatic tyres and then finally restored back onto 'solids' in 1995. This machine has many interesting features but the starting system is the one feature which seems to attract the most attention. There is of course no electric starter, and the starting sequence is commenced by injecting petrol directly into the inlet manifold by using a hand pump located on the scuttle. This is followed by rotating the engine over four times, pausing, and then switching on the trembler coil which provides a continuous stream of sparks to the spark plugs. You then hope that one of the cylinders will go 'bang' and this imparts momentum into the engine. The magneto ignition is then switched on and the tremblers coils turned off and then away you go! This machine requires a lot of routine maintenance (oiling and greasing) prior to each run out and this is perhaps reflected in that there are only 2 other Dennis's of this type which take regular sorties out on the road.
In the above picture FA1075 stands outside the Brewery Fire Station sometime after 1945. The solid rubber tyred wheels have been replaced by new Dunlop pneumatics. This gives the machine a very modern appearance, compared with a similar photograph of FA1075 in 1921 shortly after delivery.
On September 6th. 1963 FA1075 lies abandoned in a scrap yard at Langley Mill awaiting the scrap mans cutting torch. (Photograph courtesy of B.S. Watson, taken from 'Classic Commercials in Colour', published by Ian Allan 2000, ISBN 0-7110-2704-8).
However almost 40 years later in 2001 FA1075 returned to the Bass Brewery at Burton on Trent. The old fire station had long been demolished, but FA1075 had been restored to its former magnificence.