Tuesday, 4 February 2014

28th March 2013

The madness started in March 2013. I was asked by Christine, my wife to search the internet for a grade 5 Alto Saxophone book for one of our twin boys. Quite a simple task for a woman but a guy with the entire internet at his fingertips, I don't think so!!!

So, 15 seconds into my intense search for the Saxophone book I clicked on Craigslist in the USA, just to see what interesting vehicles were out there while Amazon was loading. Not sure how long I was searching Craigslist but it was a lot longer than the 15 seconds I spent looking for the book. Craigslist then led me to Tincan Tourist and an advert for a 1947 Flxible Clipper RV. I had seen these buses before (I'm no stranger to wandering the internet, dreaming of owning a classic American Vehicle) and thought they were the coolest thing I had ever seen!!




This particular Flxible looked in OK shape from the outside but with only 2 photographs on the advert, it could have been a complete wreck for all I knew. The ad did say that the bus had been stood for over 25 years and made no claim to the bus actually running. The only inside picture on the ad showed the dash of the bus with the keys in the ignition so I guessed they had tried to start it and failed.

I eventually closed down the computer that night and when confronted about the purchase of the Saxophone book (forgot all about that), made some excuse about being out of stock (sorry Christine!!).



4th April 2013

Over the next few weeks I kept going back to the advert for the Flxible as it was re-listed several times with a part of me wishing the bus would sell so I could get this mad thought of me actually owning it, out of my head. In the end I decided to contact the seller by email with again part of me hoping the response would be "Bus sold, sorry".

The response was not that. In fact, of all the things the seller could have said, telling me it was his recently deceased grandfathers beloved bus and if it wasn't sold soon, the scrap metal guy was taking it to the crusher and that would devastate the family even further, was just the line to seal my fait. The problem the family had was the grandfathers house was sold and the bus was parked at the side of it with the new owners of the house demanding that the bus was removed.



12th April 2013

From an internet search, I found a restoration shop in California that was prepared to pick up the bus and take it to their shop. I paid my money to the seller and sat at home with everything crossed, praying that when the truck arrived at the grandfathers house, there would at least be something there for him to pick up.



26th April 2013

The first time I knew that my money wasn't in a Nigerian bank account was when I was sent an image of the bus being loaded onto the trailer.


The next thing to do was work out how to tell my wife what I'd done!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



27th April 2013

Once back at the restoration shop, the initial inspection was pretty good. The high California mountain desert had been kind to the bodywork at least. There was only one area on the whole bus where rust had gone through!!

The engine on the other hand was a different matter. I quickly came to realise why the bus had been stood for so long. The engine, transmission and axles needed major work and the advice from the restorer was to go for a complete re-power and transmission change using a late model diesel pusher RV set up that could be taken from an insurance loss vehicle. At $25,000 estimate, that was double what I had in savings and the realisation of what I'd taken on soon started to hit me!!
I phoned the bodyshop to discuss my predicament and the owner (Bob Rowsell) was fantastic. He agreed to try and get the engine working and also agreed that when the money ran out, he would either store the bus for a small fee until I could get more money or help me find a buyer - what a fantastic guy!!!!! He did warn me though that I might spend a heap of cash and still have to go right back to the beginning and finance a re-power. So the work to get the Detroit Diesel working began.

3rd July 2013
The cooling system including the radiator was falling apart and needed replacing completely. The engine though was giving good compression on test so wasn't a complete lost cause. Fuel lines, belts and just about everything else was changed or rebuilt and after weeks of agony, I got a call from the shop to say that the engine was running fairly good. Just the suspension, Axles, brakes and most other things to be either rebuilt or replaced then!


19th August 2013
The axles needed major work. I was begining to think I'd bought a very expensive mobile home and this bus was never going to move unless it was either involved in a landslide or The Worlds Strongest Man competition decided to use it in the rope pull event!!

However, after waiting for a loooong time, the restoration shop sent through a video of the bus moving under it's own power after more than 30 years stood in the California desert.





17th September 2013
With a little money spare, we decided to get the exterior sand blasted and at least primed before we put a stop to the project and worked to save extra money for the next phase of the restoration. It was about this time that Christine, my wife found out what I was doing. Thankfully, her voice got so high, only stray dogs could hear the terrible language that must have been erupting from her mouth!!

I had visions of all the dogs in the local park sitting down with their heads extended to the sky, howling in unison to the sound of Christines voice!! Of course, while this thought was going through my head, I was still mindful to keep my submissive pose, at least during the "Bulldog chewing a wasp" phase of Christines facial anger display!! Otherwise I could quite easily be taking nutrients through a straw for the next 12 months.

She did seem just as upset that I had failed to buy the Saxophone book I was tasked with doing in the first place.

I had been warned by the restoration shop that buses of this age are usually only held together by the lead paint so I was to prepare myself for the aftermath of a brutal sand blasting. Increadibly, the bodywork underneath was almost as good as the day it was made. I have since found out that even during it's working life, this bus had a fairly pampered existance. It was bought by the Utah Parks Company (part of Pacific Railroad) and spent it's life taking tourists around the National Parks.

The restoration shop also shot a video of the bus stripped and moving properly with all of the mechanical work complete.







7th November 2013

The next step was getting the bus primed and protected from the weather.

Following the priming of the Clipper, we were going to get the storage sorted and then take 6 months to save for the next part of the restoration but events took a terrible turn for the worse. Bob Rowsell, the guy who's restoration shop I'd found by chance and a real vintage RV enthusiast sadly died. I was devastated for his family and regretted not being able to meet him in person. I remember telling Christine of Bobs death and she cried. He was such a huge help and always gave me advice on how I could save money, having things done a little differently. It's amazing how you meet some people in life and don't seem to connect with them at all and others who you barely know, seem to spark something within you that you can't explain.

I think Bobs death certainly put things in perspective for me and what's really important in life. Since I was forced to retire from the fire service with a life changing back injury, I've had a "live for today" kind of attitude but even more so now!!

The restoration shop was looking to close down and I was faced with a decision - Sell the bus and at least cut my losses - or somehow find the money now and look to get the project completed before they closed the doors on Bobs shop for good ....................................................

Well, you only get one chance at this life so hold on to your hat and give it everything you have!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We decided to do Bob proud and carry on for as long as we could.



15th November 2013

Christine used to be a hair dresser when she left school so she has started to cut friends and neighbours hair, I've changed jobs for a slightly better salary, I've also taken a second job at weekends, we are selling everything we can at garage sales and on ebay (would never have dreamed of doing this before). And what really brought it home to me how the family has pulled together was at Christmas. Our twin boys asked everyone for money instead of presents (without us knowing) and then tried and give us their Christmas money which of course we refused but they put it in our bank anyway. Also, the twins are the most shy kids you could ever meet. They would never talk to anyone they didn't know or stand out in a crowd but at Christmas, they went to our local village, set up a CD player with backing music and played Christmas songs on their Saxophones in the freezing cold until they physically couldn't play anymore!!!! They got nearly £110 - about $150 that went straight into the bus fund - now that took guts to do that. We have also taken out the maximum loan the bank would allow us and common sense dictated we go for.

So we are all on a journey and I'm not sure if we'll get there but we are sure as hell going to try!!

Back to the restoration then. After the exterior was primed, we then had to look at the interior. Although the Clipper had been converted to an RV about 35 years ago, time had taken it's toll. I was desperate to at least keep some of the interior but on closer inspection, it was decided to start again.


The strip out was only meant to be the furniture and wall structures.


It was a good job that we decided to strip the bus interior because the restoration shop did find some rust on the inside. The strip out of the interior furniture then turned to a complete strip out of the furniture, walls and ceiling!! All metal work was then stripped, treated and primed just like the exterior. I now have a bucket of sand next to the computer that I regularly bury my head in when I'm checking for emails.



19th November 2013
I wanted the dash of the bus to be a simple, uncluttered affair with a cream finish and the original dials cleaned and polished. Again, everything stripped, treated and primed. I figure it would be nice to try and ensure this bus lives on well after I'm pushing up the daisies. I think with everything we're going through as a family, it's nice to think our boys can have something unique to hopefully pass on to their kids!!


17th December 2013
Some issues came up that needed addressing. The A/C unit in the roof and the water heater were not fitted correctly by the previous RV conversion builder. Both units had been fastened to the skin of the bus and could drop out at any time. The restoration shop fabricated frames and fastened them to the structure of the bus to make sure both units were fitted professionally.

At the same time I had the centre walkway in the bus widened BIG MISTAKE!!!! This involved altering the bus frame rails and that took over a week to get right (major expense).

Having a bucket of sand ready for when the invoices come in is a great help. If it's a big invoice and Christine sees it first, she normally says "Make like an Ostrich", then I know it's not going to be pretty.




5th January 2014

One of the past jobs where corners have been cut relates to the windows in the bus. The previous RV conversion left all of the windows in place and simply boarded over the window on the inside where the shower was placed and covered the window with reflective film on other parts of the bus where appliances and cupboards were situated.

I didn't want to spoil the exterior look of the bus by having some windows skinned over properly with metal but the restoration shop pointed out that if a window was broken or leaking from the seal, anything behind the window may have to be ripped out to repair it. So the offending windows have been skinned over properly and the interior layout has been planned so none of the walls divide or encroach on a window. This has made things very difficult as far as planning the interior but I think will be well worth the effort once done.














11th January 2014
Insulation was the next thing to go in. Don't know if you folks have heard but it gets pretty cold and wet here in the UK. All of the interior has been well insulated. Although I want a retro feel to the bus, I do want to use the latest build methods and materials in the construction. There are some excellent, high tech products out there at the moment that are far more efficient than they used to be.



15th January 2014

The ceiling boards were a bit of a dilemma. I originally wanted a wood veneer but couldn't agree on a shade. I decided to let Gerry at the restoration shop decide, giving him an idea of what I was after if the material wasn't going to be wood. I'm glad I did 'cos he's got it spot on!!




20th January 2014
The restoration shop contacted me regarding the bathroom layout. The way the bus is laid out, there is a raised section at either side of the isle that runs the length of the bus. The last job the restoration shop did on the isle was to make it wider. This cost a heap of cash and I decided I would probably not mess with anything to do with the chassis geometry again. However!! the bathroom is situated on the raised part of the floor and as such is only 66 inches from floor to the highest part of the roof (the internal curve of the roof makes it even lower towards the outside wall of the bus). So I had to take the decision - do I leave the floor in the bathroom as it is and save the sale of my kidney for the exterior paint job - or do I get the floor lowered in the bathroom and gain 7 inches in headroom.

I went to bed with the scene in "Alice in Wonderland" where the large room suddenly gets smaller, going through my head and dreaming that I would turn into "Dobby", the elf character from Harry Potter, if I ever took a shower in such a small enclosure!!

The following day I got one of the twins to type a message to the restoration shop asking them to lower the floor. That way I could blame my son for ruining our lives and remove myself from all responsibility :-)

As expected, lowering the floor was a royal pain in the ar*e!!!!!!

One of the fuel tanks was right under the section of floor that needed to be lowered (why me).

I swear the only thing I can remember doing seriously wrong as a kid was putting mud in a shoe box, setting light to the lid and putting it on the front step of Mr McKenzie's house before knocking on his door and running away. Yes, he did come to the door and stamp on the lid to put the fire out. Yes, he did have his best slippers on and yes, at the time we couldn't breathe for laughing but COME ON!!!!!!!!! I think I've been punished enough already.

For the record Mr McKenzie was not a nice man. He would confiscate any item that found its way onto his lawn and take great pleasure in destroying it in front of you as a message to go and play somewhere else!

It has cost as much to lower the fuel tank, alter the floor in the bathroom and fabricate several frames to accommodate everything as it did to strip the whole bus of paint and have the exterior primed. I'm never watching Alice in Wonderland again and If I ever see the kid that played Harry Potter, I'm going to shove that wand so far up his ar*e, he'll be able to use it as a tooth pick!!!!!!!

This is the frame for the shower base to fit in to.

These are the wall panels that have been hand cut to fit the bathroom exactly.




27th January 2014

I also had a dilemma regarding a crease in the roof line of the bus just above one of the windows. The restoration shop pointed out that this kind of decision was a close call regarding getting it fixed. Some people expect "Battle scars" on vehicles this old and some can't live with their restoration having such a noticeable dent in it. It was my call at the end of the day so I decided to get it fixed even though it involved some major work (The restoration shop don't do "Bondo" repairs apparently - that was me shot down in flames then!!). I would hate to have said leave it and then when the bus is finished, regret not having it done.

This didn't go down well with Christine!! - "Note to self - have a stock of flowers,chocolates and a list of other people to blame for next time". The problem I have being a male, now that Christine doesn't really say much about the restoration any more is reading the signs of disapproval. Women are so bl**dy complicated, however!!! I think I've found a way to measure just how annoyed Christine is at any given time. I've figured out that the more annoyed she is, the further away she sleeps from me in the bed at night. At this moment she could give David Blaine a run for his money as I think she has actually learned to levitate!! There's no way our bed is that wide:0)

The pictures below show the crease and not only the window skinned over but the repair of the crease. I think they've done a great job and I'm glad I had it done.







7th February 2014
We are at that stage now where not a great deal seems to be happening but the bills are still coming in. I thought we had a sale for our old RV (Damon Daybreak) but the guy who wanted it is French and has found it almost impossible to get it registered over there. We have sold our family car though, even if I did take less than trade price to sell it quickly.
It seems like almost everything we own is on ebay at the moment. Books are not selling at all but clothes and shoes are doing OK. I've been amazed at how frivolous we've been in the past. We found a stack of clothes belonging to the twins that have never been worn. This whloe experience has been increadibly tough  but I think it has changed our family for the better. Even if we win the lottery one day, I think we will forever be a family that buys what they need and not what they desire!!

I'm currently waiting for the bill to cover the installation of the services and main electrics to land in my inbox. The sale of the family car will help with that bill.




Christine is sleeping a little closer to me at night. I'm not sure if that means she is coming to terms with the restoration project or she has gone into attack mode and is preparing to strike!

I think I'll continue to play it safe for now - avoid scented soaps, sleep down wind and wear camouflage pyjamas :-)



22nd February 2014


I haven't heard from the restoration shop in two weeks. I know that the phone lines to the business have been disconnected (it was always the plan after Bob Rowsell passed away to close the business down) and some people would be frantically trying to contact the guys that are left at the shop to see what has happened to their investment. For me, it's been the most stress free two weeks we've had as a family for a very long time. We once again got to experience what it was like before this madness started and although we haven't really done anything special in that time, I think it's almost felt like a holiday for us.


I read a blog recently from someone who was trying to get an old school bus converted to an RV. Their stress was probably just as intense as mine but for the completely opposite reason. The restoration shop they chose to do the work failed to complete anything on time or to the correct specification and that went on for nearly three years!! The problem I've had is finding the money to keep up with the almost industrial output being shown by Gerry and his team at HB (what an absolute shame that their business will close).


I realise now that as a child, our family had a similar dilemma when deciding to visit my Auntie Sharon as she always made a large dish of Corned Beef Hash whenever she had company. I remember my dad having to go shopping for her once when she wasn't well and he told my mum that although Auntie Sharon had hardly anything in the cupboards, the only thing she wanted from the supermarket was twelve large tins of dog food for her very small Chihuahua!! From that day, instead of going to Auntie Sharon's house every Saturday for a couple of hours, we went once every few months and stayed all day.


Looking at our situation, although it's certainly not pleasant, I would much prefer the Auntie Sharon route and get it over and done with in one short blast than let the agony drag on for years!


Our "holiday" appears to be at an end now with update images coming through by email. The restoration shop is in the process of putting in all of the carcase work for the bathroom, main bedroom and storage cupboards. The first fix electrical work is complete and because we have decided on low power consumption LED lighting, we can have as many as we like within reason.


Te fresh water tank will be ready next week so some of the plumbing work is on hold until that arrives. Also. I'll choose the finish and colour for the cupboards next week.


The image below shows the main storage carcase next to the kitchen (kitchen will be on the right and main bedroom on the left as you look at the picture)







Below is taken from the main bedroom and shows the back of the kitchen storage carcase. Splitting this space in two allows for a full length wardrobe in the bedroom as well as a shoe storage locker above.







At the left of the image below is the kitchen storage carcase. This image shows where the kitchen will be and also one of the settees which will sit over the wheel arch. The wires hanging down are for the LED lighting that will sit under a line of overhead lockers.







The large box below is the frame for the main bed at the rear of the bus. There will be storage underneath.











Very important for me as an ex fire fighter has been the inclusion of an emergency exit. The image below shows this in the rear bedroom and on sunny mornings can also be used as a patio door! Getting space around the bed was also important to make it easier for Christine to get up and make breakfast without having to wake me up (it's a good job she doesn't read this!!)







The image below is taken from outside the bus looking through the emergency exit. Plenty of space to move around.







26th February 2014
This day will go down as by far the most expensive invoice day to date (double the previous record). Covered the computer up with a table cloth, came back an hour later and the electronic copy of the invoice was still there. David Copperfield made Elephants and Las Vegas dissapear and I couldn't even manage 864KB of data!!

I think my stress levels are affecting Bingo, our Blue Fronted Amazon Parrot. The last time he got stressed was when we had guys in to decorate a couple of rooms, including his. Bingo decided that as we hadn't consulted him about the wallpaper choice, he would strip the entire room even before the decorators van had pulled off the driveway.


Now he thinks he's a bat. No matter how hard we try, Bingo refuses to stay upright. I think it's just attention seeking as there's lots going on but none of it is about him!!




I've asked the restoration shop for an estimate to finish the Clipper. I need to see light at the end of this very long tunnel. The whole atmospere in the house will lift if we know how much is left to do.

In the mean time I've chosen the style and colour of the cabinet doors. I originally wanted a shaker style door with a moulding in the centre panel. As the doors on the overhead lockers are very narrow, the moulding would look like a letter box so the centre panel is now plain. I'm going for Maple as the colour to keep the interior nice and bright (bottom picture).








14th March 2014
Living in Cheshire, UK makes it extremely difficult to manage this project effectively and there are times when I feel the project is not mine anymore. As the restorer can't simply pick up the phone and ask me to pop in, on occasion he has had to judge what I would want to do regarding a certain issue and make a call on that, even though he doesn't know me and has never met me.
I have been quite concerned at the amount of white painted plywood in the bus and the fact that it doesn't seem to be going away. I thought that these surfaces would be covered with a Maple veneer by now but the build seems to be progressing without anything being done about it. The restorer sent me an update email two days ago and I completely read it the wrong way!! I understood him to say that the white gloss walls were there to stay and just like a typical red blooded male idiot, I sent off a couple of emails back to him that were unwise to say the least.
After Christine read the restorers email and using a womans logic, told me what the restorer was actually referring to, I quickly sent another email begging for forgiveness. At least I got confirmation that all surfaces currently painted will be covered with a Maple veneer.
Progress has been slow as there are no true angles or uniform edges in a bus this old. All of the hand made cabinets have been dry fitted a dozen times to get them to fit before being fastened into place.
Below is the rear luggage compartment. The wall on the right will have all of the electronics fitted to it and a false wall placed in front to hide everything.



28th March 2014
After what seems like a very long time, some real progress on the restoration. All of the overhead cabinet carcasses are fixed into place. The couches and drivers chair have been placed into position to see how they fit and the roof outside has been painted.
The couches and drivers chair are a lot darker than I wanted with no ecplanation from the restorer. As it happens, I actually prefer the darker blue so no dramas there. Asking for the Flxible logo in the backs of the seating was inspired as they really look good. I wanted to keep the drivers chair in the style of the era so no fancy armchair but it does look a little uncomfortable.
The dash has been sprayed cream to match the tops of the seating and I think it looks simple but classy.
The outside will be painted next week so there should be a dramatic transformation regarding how the bus looks. I've made sure with the restorer that the outside colour will be exactly the shade of blue that I want.
Still haven't sold our Damon Daybreak RV but need to very soon if I'm to afford the shipping costs for the Flxible in order to get it to the UK.













1st April 2014
April Fools Day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I think Christine thinks it's been April Fools day, every day since I bought the Flxible!
So first thing on the agenda for today is to come up with a good "fake story". This year:
 
Government cuts bring havoc to Britain’s roads!!
  
The UK Government has been using recycled tarmac from other parts of the motorway network to re-surface damaged roads after the winter weather reduced some carriageways to a minefield of potholes.
However, this has confused vehicle satnav systems to such an extent that one unfortunate motorist who was trying to find his sister’s house in Glasgow, Scotland, followed his satnav instead which indicated he was actually on the M1 motorway just outside London. The poor motorist drove 269 miles in the wrong direction before running out of fuel.
More importantly, new images have come through of the restoration progress. I decided from a very early stage that the paint design on the bus when I bought it would stay. But, the main blue colour was of course a little washed out with years sat in the sun so I needed to try and find a suitable colour to hopefully reflect what the paint might have looked like when it was first painted.
A nice guy off one of the RV forums has a lovely Corvette and I figured the colour of this Corvette was just what I was looking for. The car is Nassau Blue or Bright Blue depending on which GM caltalogue you look in and seemed perfect.
As the images downloaded of the Flxible with the base coat of Nassau Blue, my first thought was - "$h*t, that's blue!!!" which of course it is.
My second thought, and this is where my Mancunian upbringing kicks in was "There's no way on this planet I'm going to just drive this past customs at the dock without any fuss"
I realise that the overspray on the windows and roof isn't helping and once the white stripes and bottom paint are added, the blue will be broken up.



Forgot to mention, I've started a facebook group and have been very honoured that people have taken the effort to join. If you like the blog and just want to find out a little more about Flxibles around the world then please join my group, you're very, very welcome.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/574246669324800/#!/groups/574246669324800/

Also, not sure if I've said this either but thank you to everyone who has taken time to read this blog so far, I find it very theraputic to be able to share our story. It doesn't take the guilt away for getting my family into this mess but for some reason, my whole family feel like we have people we've never even met, wishing us well.




6th April 2014

Didn't start well this morning, Sam left his dirty underwear outside Kieran's room knowing Kieran wouldn't even step over the offending garment in case Sam's germs launched themselves onto Kieran's flesh!!!!!!!!!!  In revenge, Kieran stuck the end of Sam's favourite pen in his own ear, having witnessed his brothers nasty habit of chewing on the end of his pens on many occasions. Again, the first we knew was the almighty row that ensued and all this before we've even had breakfast.

Opened up the emails when the kids had finally gone to school and Gerry the restorer had sent through three fresh images of the Flxible. These images are probably the first where I can actually see what the bus is going to look like and to say I'm pleased is an understatement!! Even Christine seemed to like the results (I'm basing that assumption on the fact that she didn't start the next sentence with "why didn't I listen to my bl**dy mother all those years ago...........................)

There is still a lot of work to do on the outside with the main thing being the dark blue pinstripe to match the original design. Money again is an issue with the very last and final loan running out quickly. On average now I'm sleeping about four hours each night and have started to have a re-occuring dream of having some kind of nasty animal (Crocodile, Wolf etc.) hunting me down and the whole dream is about me either trying to kill it or geting away from it!! I'm sure it means something but hopefully it will go away with time as I need some decent rest soon.




6th October 2014

Haven't added anything to the blog for 6 months (sorry). I just haven't been able to face even looking at images of this bus. The sense of guilt, every time I think of what a mess I've got my loving family into, churns my stomach. Nothing is happening with the restoration shop and everything has gone quiet. It's been impossible to get any information from the people left at the shop and although I have communications to suggest that the project is almost complete, I think the reality on the ground is very different.

I got a message from Lisa, Bob Rowsells daughter this week. I'm hoping that things will start to change but it's not looking very good at the moment. HOWEVER!!!, I've spent all of our life savings and got the family into more debt than we've ever been in, so until there is literally no way forward, I'll fight with everything I have to see this through.



29th November 2014

Our beloved Damon Daybreak RV has now sold so one of the two huge loans I have, has been paid off. This means that our bank account can finally break even each month with some careful management of the finances (obviously, Christine now looks after that side of things.......can't think why!)

Our family car has also gone and we've traded it in for a small Nissan which means less tax and insurance to pay. Sam and Kieran our saxophone playing twins, now busk every so often so they can buy themselves some of the stuff that teenagers want. This is showing them a great life lesson at the moment.......If you want something, go out and earn money to pay for it!! They are both turning out to be really great kids and we couldn't be more proud of them. The twins have realised that when it comes to entertaining, the more noticeable and outrageous you are, the greater the earning potential. This will explain the ridiculous onesie's at their latest Christmas busking session :-)




6th December 2014

Still nothing from the USA regarding the Flxible Clipper restoration. I'm not sure what the next step will be as there is no money to fund a trip over to the States. Plans for Christmas are going well and we are looking forward to spending time together as a family.

The New Year will see a more agressive "All or nothing" attitude to getting this mess sorted. I'm hoping for much better news next year and who knows, maybe the completion of the restoration!!!!!!  



1st May 2015

This entry has been a long time coming. There has been so much stress, heartache and upset over this bl**dy bus restoration that I haven't even been able to face looking at old images of the bus let alone writing about it. The thought of having to face any more financial problems has made me feel sick to my stomach. Just checking emails has taken an hour of preparation, just in case there was any more bad news. Days without any feedback turned into weeks and to tell you the truth, I was kind of getting used to the stress free silence. Although, the more time that passed, the more anxious I became thinking that the bad news hadn't gone away, it was just building into the worlds biggest sh*t storm!!!

So, at my very lowest point. A point where news that the bus had been destroyed by some apocalyptic event would have been the best news possible, several people contacted me over the course of a few weeks offering to help. I couldn't believe that complete strangers who I'd never met would reach out like that, but they did. Unfortunately, I would love to mention them all but some will have to remain annonymous as I don't want to publish their names without getting their permission.

As an example of what people have done for us, Laurie a bus collector from Australia was in California buying a vintage RV. At his own expense, he travelled to the storage yard where my bus was and not only inspected it to assess how much was yet to be done, but collected all of the glass and other bits that were lying around the yard and made sure they were put safely on the bus. Dan drove some distance down to the yard, just to make sure the bus was still there and not being vandalised and many more acts of kindness that I would love to mention and one day I hope I can.

All I can say is that this incredible generosity and kindness has given us a second wind to pick ourselves up and carry on. 


17th May 2015

In the last 3 years, I've seen human behavour from either end of the spectrum!! Confiding in certain people that I retired from the fire service with a serious back injury and now have a "live for the moment" attitude, should have told them that my desire to get this bus restored was genuine and a kind of rehabilitation exercise. Unfortunately, those individuals saw it as opportunity to take me for every penny I had in the belief that I must have received a large payout from the fire service (They clearly don't know just how good big industry lawers are in the UK).

Well, I've now experienced the complete oposite in human nature to those low life reptiles. There is a husband and wife, living in California who decided that enough was enough and took it upon themselves to rescue the bus, at their own expense. They have shipped the bus to a new yard where they are sure I will be well looked after and my dream of restoring this bus will become a reality. They refuse to take any payment from me and what makes this so remarkable is that they are complete strangers to me and my family. If it were not for their wishes to remain annonymous, I would be shouting their names from every roof top. The only thing I can do is hope they read this blog one day and see just how grateful we are for their extraordinary kindness!!!!


18th May 2015

The bus is now at the new yard and being finished by Rod Lingren (At last, someone's name I can actually mention !!). Rod comes very highly recommended and has vast experience with vehicles of all shapes and sizes going back a long way. Despite paying people a hefty kings ransom in the past to get the bus finished, there is still masses of work to either put right that has been poorly done or start work that was paid for and should have been done, but wasn't.

First job has been to make a cover for the bus to protect the unfinished paint job from the California sun.


 20th May 2015

The bus looks a complete mess inside with items thrown all over the floor. Of course, with 15 year old twin boys, it's going to look like that many times over but it would be nice to see it decluttered and tidy just for a short time :-)


We should really think about giving the bus a name but I'm not sure what name to give it. I've asked Bingo our parrot and he said "Bingo" . But he said the same thing when I asked him where the keys to the car were yesterday and again last week he answered "Bingo" when I asked him who was at the door, so I don't think he's taking this seriously!!

 22th May 2015

Although the settee's in the front of the bus initially looked good, it was pointed out that the seat backs were far too high and came over the top of the window line. Also, Rod the guy who is finishing the restoration, found that the seat backs were far too upright even after the back was lowered and needed altering.
Now they look much better !!

 


22th May 2015

THAT BL**DY PARROT!!!!!!!!
Every day that bird gets the very best food that money can buy. Frest fruit in the morning including kiwi, grapes, plums etc. Seed and dry chilli mix through the day and steamed fish and veg in the evening.

Of course, most pets would be more than satisfied with that selection but not our psychopathic lunatic of a parrot. He likes to finish off a hearty meal with an expensive piece of electronics. This time......................the keyboard from our desktop computer.



As usual, my ranting didn't get any sympathy from my family. From my wife - "Perhaps we're not giving him enough P's" and from our twins - "Dad, next time Bingo has a sh*t, it will spell disaster"

As far as the Flxible goes, things are progressing nicely. Rod has started to get the window glass and surrounds cleaned. No room for error here as any breakages would be very difficult to replace.


18th July 2015 

Sorry I haven't been keeping up with the blog. Not a great deal has happened with the bus recently but in the last week, work has started on getting the underside cleaned and treated to protect the Flxible from the UK weather (when it eventually gets over here). Rod is using a high performance enamel to treat the metal work and timber but it must be a very messy job to do. 



 26th July 2015
The day started so well. I didn't wake up with any bruises which means my recent bout of snoring had stopped and Bingo, our parrot didn't wake us up with his latest trick - shouting at the top of his voice "DON'T SHOOT, YOU B*STARD" then lifting the fresh water bowl out of its holder and smashing it on his cage floor. Only one person can be responsible for teaching him that, my good mate Darren!!!
However, that good start wasn't to last long. Our very large, very heavy driveway gate went faulty and looked like it could be expensive. Back in the day when we had some money, I splashed out on a fancy driveway and electric gate. Of course, the electric gate f*ck up fairy isn't going to do anything while you have spare cash. She isn't even going to do anything when you have no cash. She's going to wait....................................................wait until you think you've turned the corner and are just getting back on your feet. That's the time to strike and get maximum effect!!!!!!!!!! 
Christine called a gate guy out and without even thinking about it, he went straight for the jugular............."about £1,400 quid luv". Christine didn't hold back and Sam, one of our twins quickly tried to man handle his mother back into the house while she shouted "IF YOU THINK WE'RE GOING TO PAY THAT YOU AR*E HOLE, YOU'VE GOT ANOTHER THING......." This was quickly interupted by the parrot "DON'T SHOOT, YOU B*STARD" . 
As I turned around to talk to the gate guy, he was already in his van and reversing away from the house!! Guess we'll have to manage manually pulling the gate closed for now. At least until we find another gate guy.

 6th August 2015

Can't believe we are on a summer holiday in Spain. Didn't spend anything on the faulty driveway gate so we still have spending money saved and this feels just how it used to be, normal!!!! Watching Christine and the twins around the pool reminds me of our pre-bus days when the last thing we needed to worry about was money.

I used to be the tallest and strongest in the house but the balance of power is changing. Although i've been in denial, Sam and Kieran  overtook me in the growth arms race some time ago. Official weigh in was just before we came away and i've shrunk by almost a inch to 5'11", Sam is 184.2cm (6'1/2") and Kieran is 184cm (6'). I suppose all parents feel the same about their children but I just can't tell you how proud I am that our boys are growing up into really decent human beings (if a bit too tall).

The day has been great and really relaxed but back in the apartment in the evening, the atmosphere just didn't seem right. Through social media, Sam found out that his girlfriend had dumped him, waiting until he was out of the country (God it's tough being a parent sometimes). Sam hasn't taken the news well at all. Although they had only been seeing  each other for a few months, Sam was crazy about her. I hate it when you're not in control of the situation or able to just make it right!!

Rightly or wrongly, we've decided to let Sam sort this out. He has to be able to deal with this in his own way even if we disagree with how he goes about it.

  
8th August 2015

It's been a rough couple of days but Sam seems to have sorted things out with his girlfriend (for now anyway). His mood has picked up and we're going down to the beach.

Rod sent through more images of the underside of the bus painted. Second invoice coming through but that's OK as we've got it saved. Rod seems to sense the pace at which I need to go and up until now, things seem to be working out OK. Still thinking about what to do regarding the previous restoration shop and all my money they have for work that hasn't been done. I'm sure I'll find a way to legally get back at them but for now, I'll just have to wait. 


11th August 2015
 
Since the age of 12 years old, our twins have been getting into fast food, especially Chinese salt & pepper chips and fried chicken. This wasn't really a problem at first but over the years, they have not only been spending most of their money on fast food, their health has begun to suffer. On top of that, we have lost evening meal time, especially at weekends. 

We have tried everything to get the boys eating healthy meals again but peer pressure together with the costant advertising of fast food on TV seems to be winning the war. I decided a few months ago that if we couldn't beat the fast food shops, we'd join them. I've been researching the most popular fast food meals and developing recipe's for the spice blends and also how to replicate the food at home.

Our first success was Chinese Salt & Pepper Spice Mix and made a portion of salt & pepper chips. The reaction from the twins and their friends to our efforts told me straight away we were on to a winner. Over time we have been developing more amd more spice blends and even making free samples for friends and family who's teenage children have fallen into a similar fast food trap. During a recent BBQ, we had so many bags of free spice blends for people to take away with them, a friend stated that we had a great business idea and should think seriously about turning our spice blends into a business.

I've had an idea to start a very small company for some time. After selling most of our stuff on eBay to pay for the bus, I got the bug for running a small business from home. I think both Christine and I were surprised just how easy ot was to sell the item on eBay, pack it and ship it out the next day. Unfortunately, we hadn't really got a clue what type of business we wanted until the spice company idea was put in our head.

It would help a lot if we had a separate, small income coming in as well as my salary. That second big loan could eventually be paid off early.


15th August 2015

Coming to the end of our Spanish holiday. We have had such a normal, relatively drama free holiday that I think it's the best one we've ever had. Deep down I know it's just been a fairly plain, simple break but to see my family chilled out every day, doing whatever they want has put the biggest smile on my face. I am without a doubt the proudest father and husband in the world right now.


 I know that things will take a few years to get back to normal but once the loan is paid off, I really think we can re-group  and plan for the future. I don't think there is anthing that can upset me at the moment.


18th August 2015

Back in the UK now. When the taxi pulled up outside the house, everything looked OK. One of the twins opened the porch door and the smell hit you like a freight train. It was the smell of damp and that wasn't good. Infact my heart sunk but no one else seemed to notice the smell or at least they didn't say anything.

We opened the inner front door and the smell just got worse. Everyone noticed it now and an"Oh my god" from Christine when she stepped into the kitchen, confirmed my worse fears, we had a leak while we were away. What did I say about nothing being able to upset me!!

Part of the ceiling had come down and parts of the wall was saturated with water. Even worse news was yet to come - the leak was right under the newly tiled and fitted bathroom floor that had taken me  weeks to finish.


First the electric gate and now a burst pipe, I'm having doubts that we will ever get straight and have the finances to finish the bus.
 
22nd August 2015 

It's my Birthday!!!!!!!!!!! 
Because of the leak, a surprise birthday party for me was cancelled. Never mind, just spending the day with the family would be enough. Unfortunately, our children are teenagers and keeping a tyrannosaurus rex confined to the house would be easier than keeping the kids from seeing their mates!
We did make one of our favourite takeaway meals for us all in the evening and that was great. I even managed to enforce a NO PHONES rule while we had our meal but only just. 

 29th August 2015 

We've decided to give the spice blends and BBQ meat rubs business a go. Why? well, I've been interested in cooking since I was a little kid and with my father being a military man all of his life, I've travelled quite a bit and sampled lots of different cuisines. For a few years now I've been making my own spice mixes and turning that passion into a commercial venture just seems a really natural thing to do.
When I was about 7 years old, a family came to live on our street and one of the kids in the family, Darren, became my best friend and he's still my best friend today!! For some unknown reason, when we first met, he thought I was Italian and insisted on calling me Da Malat. The more annoyed I got, the more he called it me and as with most things, the name stuck even though it's nothing like my real surname. So, I've decided to call the spice company - DA MALAT - even though my wife hates it. I've already ordered foil packs, a heat sealing machine, plenty of spices and labels. 
Over the next few weeks I'm going to work on improving the take away spice blends we already make and hopefully have at least 6 different recipes to package and sell. First thing is to design a logo and maybe this venture might be the break we're waiting for.
 10th September 2015

Our Spice and meat rub company is starting to take shape. I've already perfected a couple of spice blends and three BBQ meat rubs. Most have been taken from traditional recipes that go back over 100 years. The company logo has been done and I like it a lot!!

 I also want to provide cooking equipment as well to enhance the appeal of the business. Spice shakers have been really difficult to source as I wanted the ones with air tight lids as spices quickly lose their flavour if exposed to the air for any length of time. I'm also learning new skills like producing water slide decals for the spice shakers and waterproof product labels for the foil packs. Everything will have the DA MALAT logo on it if possible.

 All of this driven by an overwhelming desire to get our bus finished. We will do whatever it takes now and even with the flooding set back, it just makes more determined to try even harder!!

 5th October 2015

Just found out that there are quite a few bits missing from the bus including the rear bumper!! Everything was there when the bus was delivered to the first restorer so that means they have either sold the bits or threw them away. This is a real problem as parts are really hard to come by. Also, I paid the previous restorer $1,000 to get the exterior light fittings, side mirrors and bumpers re-chromed but none of this work has been done. Those people owe me thousands of dollars but I've got no way of getting it back at the moment. I won't let this drop though, I can't afford to.

Rod, the new restorer is working on all of these issues to try and get them resolved. He's finished cleaning the window surrounds now and is working on the exterior lights.

  
22nd October 2015

We've had some serious problems at school with the twins. Both Sam and Kieran have been bullied at school in the past but as they get older, the level of violence and threats of more violence are getting to the point where we need to involve the police. I blame us as parents for putting them in the spotlight with their music. We have always encouraged them to do well with their saxophone playing, even pushing them to perform in front of the school at talent shows and Christmas. This appears to have given them a reputation as "teachers pets" and the idiots have singled them out as targets.  

As a dad I feel helpless and want to sort these kids out but I'm the only bread winner in the family and these idiots know that I can't touch them without finding myself in jail. However, if I feel that my kids are in real danger, I'll do something about it and to hell with what might follow. I'm starting the twins at my local gym to build up their strength so at least they can defend themselves long enough to get away is anything should happen. Sam and Kieran don't want to go out anymore due to the bullying but I'm hoping this is only temporary. Not sure what the police can do but we've had no choice but to get them involved.

4th November 2015

Some of the most hard to get parts on the bus are probably beyond saving so I'll be spending the next few weeks trying to source them from anywhere I can. The "Ray gun" lights as I call them will definitely need replacing so if you're reading this and know where I might find some then please leave a message, I'll be extremely grateful for the help!!






19th November 2015

The plumbing lines are being put into the bus while spare parts for the lights are being sourced. Rod is using a product called PEX as it's a lot more versatile than conventional plumbing materials and gives a certain amount of insulation to the pipe work. Although I'd already paid the previous restoration shop for this work, I'm going to have to count this as a loss along with lots of other jobs I'd paid for but haven't been done.







1st December 2015

Rod has sent over a rough sketch of the plumbing layout for the bus. Due to the lack of room under these vintage machines, the space for the fresh water tank and black water tank is really tight. Hopefully everything is going to fit OK.
15th December 2015 

As the bills roll in for the bus, the urgency to get the spices company venture underway increases. As I've stated earlier in the blog, my idea is to run a small family business from home to try and part finance the bus project. The spice company idea fits well with me as we've managed to get our twins and their friends away from constant take away meals by replicating the most popular menu's at home. If we can do this for our kids then why not others. We also appreciate the fact that we have our boys (and quite a few of their friends) here at meal times again and that time is so important to any family, otherwise you just drift apart. food and especially herb and spice blends is one of my passions and I think that things always work out better when you have a passion for it.

I've been testing different blends on friends and family and also talking to suppliers. I've also passed a food hygiene exam and carried out some product testing. One of the main tests has been to pack the spice blends in their foil packs and place them in a chinese steamer over a low heat. I have been looking to see if the packages let in any moisture but all passed with flying colours.

I've also compacted the foil pack overnight using weights to see if the contents pack down or still run free. I refuse to use nasty stuff like anti-caking agents used by large volume manufacturers and so this has been a concern. What I found was that spice blends with a high sugar content such as some USA BBQ rub recipes did compact together so I've abandoned those recipes and to tell you the truth, I'm much happier putting less sugar in anyway.

The website isn't perfect but for a novice website builder, I think I've done OK for a first try:  http://damalatspices.wix.com/damalat-spice-blends


Let me know what you think!! Just got to get the eBay shop sorted.

20th December 2015

We don't have any wiring diagrams for the bus. This hasn't been such a problem up until now but I'd love for the original buttons and dials to work but there are so many of them!! Again, a search is underway to see if we can locate a user manual for the Flxible.





  
22nd December 2015

This is probably the last update from Rod before Christmas. The kitchen unit was made all wrong by the original restorer but Rod has managed to work with the carcass at least and has now fitted the oven and hob in place. I think he's done a really great job with what he had to work with.


24th December 2015

 Well, it's Christmas Eve and work has stopped on the bus for this year. We've managed to keep it together over the last 12 months and even found a liitle spare cash to get the twins a couple of presents. To be fair, they hadn't even asked for anything this year.

We received requests to make up Christmas gift hampers for the spice blends and that has kept us busy and brought in some much needed revenue. I've recieved a lot of offers of money donations to help us with the bus from around the world but I'd never dream of taking a penny from anyone. The spice company lets me raise much needed cash through some honest hard work and that makes me feel a million times better. As I've said before "I got us into this mess so I'll get us out of it"




 1st January 2016

Happy New Year!!!

I'd love to say that I have a really good feeling about this year but I think I said that at the start of 2015 and look what happened there. All I know is that I'm going to fight for everything and never give up on our dreams. It's the twins exam year and their last at secondary school so all our efforts are going into making sure they study hard and get the best results they can. 

As far as the bus goes, I'm hoping that a lot of progress is made and if the spices venture does well, we'll have extra revenue to get the bus finished sooner.    


19th January 2016 

Some really good progress to report on the bus!!

All of the window surrounds have been cleaned and polished. The windows have been assembled using new rubber and all back in place on the bus. Rod has done a great job and it's that kind of detailed work that will make all the difference to the finished project.








22nd January 2016 

We are planning a car boot sale in a couple of weeks to raise cash for the restoration. Funds are low so there's a big drive to get extra cash into the piggy bank.

Bingo, the parrot has started to get aggressive again. This happens every year now during January - March and I think it's his hormones. Normally he'll sit on my shoulder for quite a while but it's just too dangerous when he's like this. Had a nasty nip on my ear this morning which could have been a lot worse........Why oh why didn't we just get a dog or a cat like normal people do!!!!


                                                         

26th January 2016

Car boot sale went well with £68 raised for the bus. The Parrot is getting worse. Flew onto our bed the other day, Christine managed to dive under the covers but he followed her like a possessed lunatic. Didn't manage to bite her but Christine's language was something else!! In typical Bingo style he just laughed and kept shouting "No Bingo" at the top of his voice. A pet that not only does bad things but manages to chastise itself as well.

Found an image of the old Flxible factory on the net. This shows the diversity of vehicles that the company produced. The ones on the right are either funeral hearse or ambulances.





3rd February 2016

The "Lost" Irish Flxible!!

I've been in Ireland for the last few days on business. A couple of years ago, I became aware of a Flxible Visicoach that had been imported into the UK and then transported to Ireland. The story was that the owner had used a local landowners barn to store the bus in and was slowly doing up the Flxible over a number of years. Unfortunately, the owner has not been near the bus for about 5 years (or could be longer) and has not paid any storage in that time. I presume, the barn owner has no way of contacting him.

So, I set out on a mission to try and find the "Lost" Flxible. This involved getting in touch with the National Farmers Union who put a bulletin out to all it's members (nothing came back) and I used Google Maps to search the countryside on satellite view to try and find the barn. As you can imagine, that was a waste of time (needle in a haystack). 

Then, a very clever man called Ben asked if I had any images of the "Lost" Flxible. I emailed an image that someone in Ireland had very kindly sent me of the bus, sat in the barn in Ireland and Ben managed to get the GPS co-ordinates off the image (don't even ask me how he did it, haven't got a clue). Just want to thank the person in Ireland that helped by sending me images of the bus (see them below), they were a great help.

I've wanted to find this bus for so long but never thought I would. Of course, I didn't think it would still be there but that didn't stop me going to where the sat nav directed me to. Driving down a single track country lane didn't fill me with confidence as I thought that it would have been impossible to get a low loader and 35ft bus down there. I decided to look for a place to turn the car around and give up the search but as a drove around a sharp right hand corner, there in front of me was a metal shed and the "Lost" Flxible bus  sitting there waiting for me :-)

I have to admit, it's not in the best shape but just to see one of these buses in the flesh was enough reward for the long difficult drive to find it. I'm going to write to the houses surrounding the barn to try and find out who owns the property. From there I'm hoping to find the owner of the bus and hopefully find out his/ her plans for it...........................I'll keep you posted!!





 
 


18th April 2016

Rod, the restoration guy is working out how to build an extractor system into the kitchen of the Flxible. Low headroom and curved ceiling make a conventional system a bit impractical. Going to use the space below the cooker hob to extract out under the kitchen unit. 






21st April 2016

Things seem to be going OK with the restoration. Rod, the restoration guy is keeping me up to date with everything and the pace of the restoration suits our financial situation at the moment. Of course I wish I could invest more to hurry the project closer to completion but I'm not sure we could deal with that stress again.

I've been in a reflective mood recently and I'm trying to see if the nightmare of the last few years regarding the bus restoration has actually done me or the family any good or just harm? It would be easy to say that this episode of our lives has been disastrous but I'm not sure (or I just don't want to accept it). I made a list of some positive things that have happened:
  • The twins went out in the freezing cold to busk and earn their first pay cheque !!  Still can't believe they did this. It definitely showed maturity beyond their years.
  • Christine didn't divorce me (can't believe that either)
  • We learned how to sell on eBay, even if it was almost everything we own.
  • We really appreciate the simple things in life and don't buy anything now just because we desire it. That has to be a massive plus for us.
  • Bingo, our psychotic parrot finally realises  that he doesn't have to be the centre of attention all the time.
  • Although we were close anyway, I feel the bond between Christine and myself has become a hell of a lot stronger. Things got so bad at one point, our marriage could have easily fell apart very quickly. Instead, this extremely stressful and very dark episode in our lives made us close ranks and feed off each others support. Don't get me wrong though, I certainly know just how lucky I've been. When I read about families splitting due to stress, I know full well it could have easily been us in the same situation.
  • We've got to know some incredible people during this journey. I've lost count the number of people who have offered their support and even send financial help !!! Even just taking the time to read this blog has lifted our spirits during times when we had almost given up. I have never met a lot of these wonderful people but I'm hoping that I will before I die.
  • We have a new business !!! Not sure our dream of starting a family business would ever have got off the ground if it wasn't through financial desperation.
All in all, yes, I am looking at this through rose tinted glasses and the extreme stress we've gone through greatly out ways the positives but I'll cling to those positives if you don't mind. At least for a little while anyway !!
We are of course still on this mad journey and at the moment, things do look brighter.


     
23rd April 2016

Our twins are growing up far quicker than we can keep pace with and I don't just mean how tall they're getting. Sam came to me a couple of weeks ago and asked if I could make a dessert for him and his girlfriend, Lucy as he was making an anniversay meal. "Anniversay meal", "what the heck are you celebrating, the loss of your last milk tooth?" 



Apparently, they have been "going out" for twelve months. At Sam's age, the only anniversary I celebrated was my Birthday!! Anyway, I agreed to make the dessert and allowed my softer side to make an appearance with a butterfly theme for the tart (dessert, not Sam's girlfriend). So, I made a vanilla tart with strawberries and kiwi and was sworn to secrecy as Sam told Lucy he made it.





   
Unfortunately, despite putting some effort into the success of Sam's evening, I was excluded from the dining room and forbidden from taking photo's of the happy couple having a candle lit dinner. I do however have a recent picture of Sam and Kieran with their "wives" at a family wedding. Contrast that with the image below that of how Christine and I still view them !!!!



Can someone PLEASE invent a machine that will slow down time. It's beyond scary !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  

 25th April 2016

Got an email from Rod this week regarding the paintwork on the bus. Like quite a lot of other jobs I'd paid the last restoration shop to do, the paintwork on the bus is incomplete. Namely the front passenger door hasn't been done. Rod thinks it was painted but got damaged somehow and had to be stripped. You can see in the image below, taken after the bus was rescued from the last shop.


The painter is based in Alpine which isn't too far from Rod's place. I would like the dark pinstripe doing between the white and blue as well so Rod will get a price for all of the work.


30th April 2016

I thought I'd update on the spice blends and meat rubs business. As stated earlier in this blog, my plan to get finances for the bus restoration could only come from us. Guilt is a very destructive emotion and although I could have easily raised the funds through pledges alone, it would have been the end of me. My self inflicted punishment for dragging my family to the point of bankruptcy has been to work hard to raise the funds myself.

That self inflicted punishment has resulted in our first family run business, DA MALAT Spice Blends & Meat Rubs. It isn't turning a profit yet if you count the stock I've had to purchase but every single order that we receive puts the biggest smile on my face that you could imagine. What makes me even more proud is the way all of the family have got behind it and chip in where needed.

I phoned home the other day from a business trip to Scotland and Christine told me that Kieran had come in from school and insisted on packing an order and taking the package to the post office for delivery to the customer. He even came back and filled in the ebay feedback form for the customer. We now have 9 spice blends on our private ebay account and would like to open an ebay shop in the next couple of months. We could start a shop now but I insist on trying out all of the spice blends we sell using various cooking methods and that takes time. 

At the moment we have the following blends:

Chinese Salt & Pepper Spice Mix




Texas Ranch BBQ Rib & Steak Rub


American Diner Spice Mix


 Carolina Slow Roast Rub


Doner Kebab Spice Mix


Memphis Dust


New Orleans Tasso Rub


Southern Fried Chicken Spice Mix


Tandoori Masala Barbecue Spice Mix



By far the most popular is Chinese Salt & Pepper Spice Mix, the kids are addicted to it !!



27th August 2016

Sorry it's been so long since I updated the Blog. The DA MALAT business venture has taken up so much of our time recently and we've actually been able to go on a family holiday.

Firstly, thank you to everyone who has supported this project through their kind comments, reading the blog and of course, those who have been able to buy some of our spice blends.

The restoration project is very slow going due to finances but Rod has managed to make progress which I should be able to report on with images very soon. The main work has been to get the passenger door sprayed, some of the wiring sorted and additional work on the plumbing and kitchen.

In the next couple of weeks the diesel guy (yes, that's his name) is coming over to check the bus out before Rod tries to start it again. 

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before but I've decided on a name for the bus. I'm not really into giving vehicles names other than "START YOU PIECE OF $H*T" but we are going to make an exception with the Flxible. To honour Christine's late mother and my late mother, we are going to call the bus "Lily Joan". I think we will have the name sign written on the front inthe same blue as the main colour. Just have to make sure we have enough room to fit the Flxible name plate back on. This is how I think it will look:



3rd September 2016

For some reason, the bus passenger door was never painted. This has meant that Rod needed to get in touch with a paint shop and arrange for the door to be done. Yesterday Rod sent through pictures of the completed door back on the bus. Unfortunately, the paint match which is difficult at the best of times, isn't quite right.

The blue on the door is slightly darker than the rest of the bus. I think the painter will be able to blend it in but we might just get the original paint job scanned in order to try and get an exact match.








30th October 2016

Rod who is restoring my bus in the USA normally rebuilds and restores vintage race cars. His attention to detail has been quite impressive but also highlights how much I was taken for a ride by the last restoration shop. 

He contacted me last week to inform that the drip rails and exterior trim was not sealed before the bus was sprayed. This would result in the body quickly developing surface rust behind the rails from static water build up. He's now sealed the entire bus. Wouldn't have even noticed myself 





9th November 2016

At the moment, the bus heating system is being worked on. Anything where water has been sat for over 30 years is basically ruined and the heater core is no different. Rod has had a specialist inspect the core and the verdict is bad!!

Although it appears that the core could be flushed out and cleaned, the rust has taken it's toll so the only thing to do is replace it altogether. $459 worth of replacing that is. 



20th November 2016
More work found that the last bunch of crooks were paid for but is damn right dangerous. The drivers seat base plate and post are in a very poor condition. The ply floor is sub standard and any force from even a low impact crash would see me through the windscreen. The pedals need work as well.

Rod has set about rectifying these issues and they should be complete before Christmas.







27th November 2016

It's a big moment for the bus as Rod prepares to get the motor running again. The bus has been sat for some time now so there's a bit of work to do. First is to make sure the emergency engine cut off works correctly. These diesels can run away uncontrollably and need a way to shut off the engine if this happens.

Once that has been sorted, the fluids will need checking. Rod is bringing in a diesel expert to do the work.


12th December 2016

Almost all of the exterior lights have been refurbished and are now back on the bus. Certainly gives a good impression of what the bus will look like when finished. Some of the original lenses couldn't be saved but Rod found some replacement on the internet.










4th March 2017

Hasn't been a great deal going on with the bus over Christmas but Rod has got quite a bit completed in the last few weeks. A lot of the old heating pipework needs to be repaired or replaced and that has been the main focus recently. 






12th March 2017

The spice company had it's best month for sales in February. It's still only making small profits but everything seems to be going in the right direction. We have been asked by a customer to produce a turmeric based spice blend that is said to have significant health benefits. Apparently turmeric is an ancient remedy to combat the onset of some forms of cancer?? We've blended turmeric with garlic powder, onion powder, ginger and black pepper. Even if doesn't actually have any health benefits, it tastes great and is selling OK (we don't make any medical claims when selling it).

Our twins have started to get more involved in the spice business which is great. Hopefully, one day it may even turn over enough money to give them a salary (and make them less financially dependent on us!!).

 


25th March 2017 

Rod is doing a great job with the restoration and getting to grips with the wiring. His attention to detail is impressive and he has already unearthed quite a few problems that the last bunch of crooks let go. Some of the wiring is just crumbling when handled and some is bare with no insulation at all protecting it. Rod is having to go through it metre by metre and replace wiring where needed.








31st March 2017

The heating system still has some work to complete with pipework either beibg replaced or refurbished. Also, Some of the panels around the drivers compartment nedd replacing. Rod is either cleaning up and painting the good panels or using the rotten ones to make templates for new pieces to be fabricated.














1st April 2017 

As it's April Fools day, the twins and I have put some bogus adverts on eBay and on the local for sale pages on Facebook:

Box of 500 condoms for sale, slight seconds
New arrival forces very reluctant sale !!

Extra long bungy rope for sale
Only used once, will swap for evening suit to fit 3ft 6" adult

Very spoilt child for sale
Needs urgent attention hence £50

Archery set for sale
Slight bow so open to offers


Incredibly people replied to the ads as I got a phone call from my mate Darren (we used his telephone number on the adverts) - "what the f*ck are all these prank calls". He wasn't happy. "500 condoms for sale!! and then asked me was it a boy or a girl we were having". "Then got some woman telling me I can't sell children and it might be acceptable in my culture but not in England". He really wasn't happy. "told her to %*&$*£...............well you can imagine the rest. I couldn't talk for laughing. Sweet revenge for Darren teaching Bingo the parrot to say:

"HELLO MIKE" 
and
"CHRISTINE, MIKE'S HERE" 

Haven't got a clue who Mike is, probably a name Darren picked out of thin air !

Rear lights are being refurbished or replaced where spares can be found. A really time consuming job but Rod has great attention to detail.













22nd May 2017

I just want to talk about Rod Lingren, the guy who has taken on the restoration of the bus. I'm not sure I've seen such attention to detail before. He has a clear plan and nothing will shift him from completing every within that plan. I think his attention to detail comes from his love of art and you can see this in the superb paintings he produces. Please check his website out when you have time:

http://rodlingren.com/




28th May 2017

Rod has now removed the wet and dry air tanks and fully refurbished them. Both are in good condition thankfully. Typical of Rod's work, he's made a form and custom brackets for the tanks instead of just using the old brackets so the tanks are more secure and can be easily removed in the future. he has also taken advantage of the tanks being removed to clean and seal the area where they will be refitted.










16th June 2017

The kitchen is having work one to it. Rod's unique extractor fan looks great (sends cooking fumes and steam out under the bus rather than have to make a hole in the bus skin above the cooker). Rod sanded the face frames with 180 and 220 and put 4 coats of Varathane Diamond hard Floor Urethane on both cabinets. Then he lightly sanded them with 320 and sprayed , from a spray can a final coat of satin



2nd July 2017

Air tanks have been fully refurbished. Inside each tank has also bee epoxy resin coated so should last another 70 years !!



18th July 2017
 
Plumbing jobs are ongoing. This is a commercial vacuum breaker so we don’t have to run vents through the sealing, they only work when vacuum occurs so no odors from the tanks will be in the cabin. The last image is the PEX adaptor for the sink (faucet if you're from the USA)
 



 
 
1st August 2017
 
Our house is up for sale !! We really don't want to move but with all of the gang problems our twins have had to face (all stems from bullying at school), I think we need a clean break so the boys can dissapear from the house without fear of being attacked. Also, I look after my eldest brother who is severely disabled and has learning difficulties. At the moment he lives a fairly independent life in his own home but Christine and I look after him on a daily basis (clean, cook etc.) and it's taking it's toll.
The plan is to move to a larger house and use part of the house as a separate annex so my brother is just on the door step but has his own space (and we have ours).
 




41 comments:

  1. Hi Kerry great blog, just read it thru", getting close now... : ) Is the cheapest shipper well insured ? Seams very, almost too cheap and, as I"ve found sometimes, you get what you pay for. I"m sure they"re fine, just sayin". Take care, Paul, aka, PabloH at RVOC.

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  2. Hi Paul, the shipper has been used by a few people and I've only seen good reports about them. When I first contacted them, they came back straight away with advice on how to reduce the shipping costs and things I needed to do to the bus to get it onto the ship (LPG purge certificate etc), none of the other companies I contacted did anything like this.
    There is a guy in Cheshire who has imported 12 vehicles from the USA including 4 CAT diggers and he thinks the company in Hull is the best he's used.
    I'll update the blog this weekend.

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  3. Hello Kerry,

    great blog of a fabulous bus! I stumbled across your project after looking admiringly at these buses online. they are awesome looking vehicles and I'm sure it will make a fabulous motorhome. The standard of work being done looks really good. I saw your comments regarding the vehicle shipping company in Hull - is this Kingstown Shipping? If so, to reassure you, my Brother-in-Law speaks highly of them, he has used them to import a couple of VW campers from the US and was pleased with their work and knowledge etc.

    I was surprised at first to see that you were in the UK, and intending to import the bus here when its done, but then I was astounded to realise we are near neighbours! (I live off Brooklands Road in Sale). I hope the rest of the build goes to plan, and will keep a watch on your blog for further updates...

    A bit forward of me to suggest at this stage, as we've never met, but I would love the opportunity to see your bus "in the flesh" when its safely arrived at these shores.

    Best Wishes,
    Peter.

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  4. Hi Peter,

    Thanks for the comments, much appreciated. There is no movement at the moment on the restoration due to re-structuring at the restoration shop in the USA. I'm hoping work will start again in the near future. You're more than welcome to come over and view the bus, either drop in if you see it parked up or contact me nearer the time and I'll let you know where it will be.

    Regards,

    Kerry.

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  5. I was looking over your bus today. You need a bit of work to finish it but you will be extremely happy with your decision to get a Flxi. You were lucky to find a bus that was so complete. A bit of plumbing and electrical will see her done.

    Bill

    bill@rwshepard.com

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  6. Your bus is beautiful! Best of luck seeing the project to completion. I also enjoyed your writing, and hope you have the opportunity to write about your travels in the Flxible in the near future.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Rob,

      Thanks for the kind words. The project is not looking good at the moment but I'm determined to see it through.

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  7. Kerry,
    I flew A-10s at RAF Alconbury (near Huntingdon, Cambs) in the 90's, so I'm a bit familiar with the UK. Not sure how you're going to drive that enormous Yank Tank on the UK roads! But it looks beautiful so far.

    If you need help getting the bus from California to the port in Texas, we'd be happy to help if possible. We live in Arizona now, so we're not too far from where the restoration is ongoing. When it's all done, if you need help...
    Dave Carroll
    zogf15e@gmail.com

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  8. Hi Dave,

    We've had a Damon Daybreak RV for the last few years over here in the UK and that's wider than the Flxible so I think I should be OK. I think the plan will be for the family to travel over to the USA and have a road trip in the bus across to Texas (that's the plan anyway). Thanks for the offer though, much appreciated.

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  9. Hi Kerry

    Like others I stumbled on your blog by accident as I reseached Flixble Clippers as I am in the late stages of buying one here in Northern Ireland of all places. I well remember the pain of ever growing costs of a restoration as I restored my current 65 VW Splitscreen a few years ago and indeed this may account for me having two X wives and a multitude of X girlfriends. Would love to have a chat with you both to ask a few other questions to support my planning althouigh its not my intention to put it on the road rather its going to be a cool extension to my house for my daughter and I. My email addresses are - glenndpthomas@yahoo.co.uk or thomasglenn@belfastcity.gov.uk (the council I work for) and if you get in contact I wioll happily share my mobile number etc. Kind regards Glenn Thomas

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  10. Hi Glenn, thanks for getting in touch. I will email you later this evening.

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  11. I also stubbled across your blog by accident, I will follow with anticipation , and hope you have a good outcome.
    Chill over xmas and look forward to a new year.

    colin

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    Replies
    1. Hi Colin, Thanks for the comments. I'm not getting any response from the restoration shop and things don't look good. I'll never give up on this project and will keep the blog updates if there is any progress.

      Delete
  12. Greetings,
    Thanks for having the blog. Hope all goes well with your restoration. If there is a chance that you may know, or someone reading your blog may know, if there is someone else willing to take on the endeavor of restoring another of these buses. My father bought one many moons ago with that in mind and never got to it. Now we have to remove it and I would rather see it go to someone rather than get scrapped. The model number is 29 B1 47, Frame number 7961. There is a post on craigslist - http://losangeles.craigslist.org/sgv/cto/4835479664.html as well. I can be emailed at erare1@yahoo.com. Good luck.

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    Replies
    1. Hi, thanks for the comments. I started a facebook page some time ago in order to help people just like you to sell their Flxible vehicles. It's completely free of charge to advertise your vehicle and I'll do whatever I can to help. Seach facebook for - flxible owners club europe - and request to join the group. In the mean time I'll post the craigslist advert on there ASAP.

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    2. Just looked on my facebook page and we have already listed your bus on the site. I'll bump the advert to the top !!

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  13. Kerry any news buddy, i keep looking in?

    Colin

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  14. Hi Colin,

    Yes, just updated the blog. I'm hoping to update regularly from now. As you will read, just looking at pictures of the bus over the past few months, made me ill with worry so have kept away.

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  15. Wow ,kerry after all the stres n strain all i can say is wow. We were befreinded after a minor accident in florida ,and have become such good freinds that they organise our villas nd dates and all they ask in rtn is our thanks. We just wish we could aford to spend more time with them.
    Good luck buddy and i hope you get to see it in person soon

    Colin

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  16. I may have a wiring diagram in a copy of a Flxible Manual that I have. I will have to figure out how to scan it, or may be able to take a picture of it.

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  17. Hi Odie, that would be a massive help thanks!!

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  18. Wow that irish one looks lovely, cant find any info on rego or family motor coach ass number. Well its coming along buddy, do you think it will get to the y-uk this year?

    Colin

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    Replies
    1. Looking like next year now. Finances are dictating the speed of the build so a bit slow going at the moment.

      Delete
  19. I am looking at buying one. Can you shoot me a line as I am wanting to know the cost you have put into the bus.

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  20. My costs are not very realistic as I've had difficulties with work not being done or done poorly that have probably doubled the amount I should have spent. If I was to do this again, I'd pick a running bus that was in great external and mechanical shape but needed an internal re-fit. There is one being advertised at the moment that should have a total purchase and re-fit cost of no more than $50,000. Dan Gant picked up a superb, fully restored bus for under $80,000.

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  21. Interesting blog. Can't wait to read stories about your life on the road with her. Hang in there!

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  22. Interesting blog. Can't wait to read stories about your life on the road with her. Hang in there!

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  23. Looking good buddy, i look in from time to time, there have been some improvements and some repairs that have been carried out poorly by the previous erm cowboys. Do you think you will get it to the y-uk this year?

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    Replies
    1. Not this year mate. Rod the restoration guy thinks March/ April next year so probably book flights for August 2018 and drive it to Texas for the RoRO fery home.

      Delete
  24. Hey there Billy here from Eagle Colorado I read your whole story which I can totally relate to it you made mw laugh and almost made me cry in 99' I bought a 1983 Apollo Sceptre then 2 years later a 1973 MCI MC7Combo comes up, so i bought that I sold the Apollo and carried it then in 08 the economy crashes i buy it back with the idea I would spruce it up and sell it. Well I started working on it one thing led to another7 years later i had rebuilt the whole thing several things 2or 3 times. last summer it burned to the ground the Nightmare was finally over with I put a all tile bathroom in it that was the only wall still standing. I had # 4 of 42 built between 82 and 85 still have the MCI it is the best

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    Replies
    1. Wow Bill and I thought I had problems!! I know what you mean about doing things several times over. We are about to overhaul the motor again as it's been stood for so long. Do you have a build diary or blog for the MCI?

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  25. What's the latest news, as it seems to be going quite well now? I have a similarly challenging project in the U.K. with no less than 4 ex-Bournemouth Corporation Transport vintage buses. I must have been afflicted by the same madness that overcame you when you bought the Flxible. I love the American Greyhound type buses and a Scenicruiser would be great for me!

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  26. Hi Nick. Progress has been slow over Christmas but is picking up now. Lots of pipework being repaired or replaced at the moment. I managed to find a taker for the Flxible in Ireland and that's now on the mainland in the UK and restoration has already started. I pass the old station house on the A49 near Onibury and the guy there must have 3 or 4 buses !!

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  27. Really enjoyed reading your blog! I grew up close to where the Flxible was built and my dad and another gentleman that fathered a couple of my best friends growing up worked there during the summer. I'm a big fan of the generation of Flxible you have (late 40's - early 50's). You have a beautiful bus. I hope your rub business gives you pleasure as well as fortunes for your Flxible and family. Hopefully your parrot has mellowed out. Your April fool's joke was hilarious. Hehehe
    Also you might find many Flxible parts on the US ebay website. This website might be helpful as well....

    www.sellabus.com/flxible.html

    By the way if you would ever make it to the US in the town where the Flxible was made (Loudonville, Ohio) on even years in the summer they have a Flxible drive in where Flxibles from around the country come and camp and they have a parade (can be seen on YouTube). Obviously the next will be in 2018.
    Unfortunately the factory where your Flxible was made was eventually turned into a parts warehouse and last year all remaining inventory was sold. :( The Flxible factory put Loudonville on the map and was it's bread and butter for many years.

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  29. Hi Brian, thanks for the comments and advice, much appreciated. Hopefully, my bus will be finished next year and I'll probably do a road trip with the family from El Cajon to Texas in order to get the bus onto a ship and sent over to the UK.

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  30. Found your blog looking around online trying to find more reasons to ignore this old bus I pass all the time. https://www.instagram.com/p/pKDDh2Cx3p/

    If I had the money and some help, I'd gut the insides, put in hardwood flooring and veneers, and turn it into a rolling art space. I've read your entire blog to knock some sense into myself, lol.

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    Replies
    1. It's something that if you are going to do it, only do it once. If I could rewind the clock, would I do it again knowing what we have gone through - NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS !!!!!! I have tried to make the blog as positive as possible but I can't tell you how dark things became. There are things that for legal reasons I can't put in the blog but we nearly lost everything and I would never risk that again.

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