president of the QOCS, gave historical presentations that were split into morning and afternoon sessions. Their slides showed many photos that had probably not previously been seen at a public function.
Wade’s morning session covered his father’s early years, while his afternoon session gave the story of Alan’s activities after he left the company that he founded.
Some of the activities included designing and building boats and motorhomes, supplying coach airconditioning systems and consulting to chassis suppliers on body designs for overseas markets – often building prototypes in a very short timeframe.
Nick covered the company history, largely related to the buses produced, and was split into the early years and the 1975-1990 history.
The picture was brought up to date with a brief talk by Michael Dempsey, general manager of Denning Manufacturing.
While this business started in 2003 and has no direct connection to the original company, it operates out of former Alan B. Denning premises in Colebard Street, Acacia Ridge, which was the site of Alan’s last bus building venture.
Interspersed with these formal talks were memories from people at the tables, selected by Dick White.
Rod Hood drew on an extensive library of past magazines to provide date references for key milestones.
The real connection is one of maintaining the values of the Denning brand in building a premium product based on a chassis designed and built in Australia using an all-American drivetrain.
While this means that it has a premium price tag, it is one the market has shown it is prepared to pay.
Perhaps it is the enduring relevance of the Denning values such as quality, support and teamwork as much as anything else that saw more than 150 people prepared to spend a day and night together celebrating, as the icing on the anniversary cake so eloquently stated: “Denning: The Man, The Name, The Legacy”.
SNAPSHOTS OF HISTORY
The Denning history is a little like a grandfather’s axe: one of fractured continuity. As a 20-year-old in 1950, Alan Denning started in smash repair at Wollongabba, later diversifying into body building with ambulances, hearses, motorhomes and utility bodies. This led to a request to build a bus: a 22-seat side-loader completed in 1957. This escalated, and milestones included: • First forward-control bus in 1959 • First rear-engine bus (owner did the rear
engine conversion) in 1960 • A.B. Denning & Co Pty Ltd registered
in 1962 • In-house re-engineering division started in 1963 to meet the demand for rearengine coaches • First rear-engine city bus (Leyland
Panther) for Brisbane Council in 1966 • Monocoach released with a high frame
for luggage capacity • Denning SA opened 1970-75 to service order for government AEC Swift buses, followed by some private coaches
• First 3-axle coach in 1971 • Company rebranded as Denning
in 1977 • First bogie drive coach in the
world in 1977 • First fully air-suspended coach in
1978 (Den-Air) • First Denex combination route
and school bus in 1980 • F series introduced for non
Denning chassis in 1983 • First Landseer in 1984 • First double decker in 1988.
The growth that led to so many milestones saw moves to progressively larger premises at Yeerongpilly (1961 – at which time non-bus activities ceased), Salisbury (1964 – rst owned premises), and Landseer Street, Acacia Ridge in 1967 (yes, the bus model was named after the street).
The growth also led to ownership changes. Pressed Metal Corporation (PMC) bought 51 per cent in 1965, while Jaguar Rover Australia (JRA) bought PMC and its Denning subsidiary in 1968, when Alan Denning became managing director of both companies.
JRA bought Austral Bus & Coach in 1989, and the writing was on the wall with production moving to Austral’s Geebung factory in 1990. The service department followed in 1992, a year in which the last of the iconic Landseers was produced.
Denning gave birth to other brands: GBW, when Leigh Gamer, Dudley Brewer and Charlie Winter left in 1971; and Dennmak, when Alan Denning, Athol McKinnon, Eddie Wechner and Jim Harwood left to form Denning, McKinnon & Co. This was a result of senior JRA management vetoing development of air suspension to persist with leaf springs.
HOW IT ALL HAPPENED
Dick White would regularly make comments about the need for a Denning reunion.
People who had an association with A.B. Denning remained in irregular contact, and there was the suggestion of having a get-together before too many disappeared.
QOCS president Nick Wilson, who works with Dick at Dick’s son Pete’s business Bus Stop Brisbane, was at the Acacia Ridge Motel on one of the occasions when Dick mentioned the need for a reunion, and commented that Dick needed to stop talking and do something.
Dick then booked that motel as the venue, and the mad rush to ll the gaps in between began.
While Dick was chief organiser, Lorraine Douglas-Smith looked after the ‘ofce’ side of registrations and payment, Nick ran the website for the reunion and worked with Dick’s son, Pete, to help with overall management.
Stan Biega and Graham Bristow managed the vehicle display, and Graham Kircher was a late recruit to assist on the day with the PA system, queries, etc.
The smooth running of the day and the success of the occasion is a tribute to the tireless efforts of those concerned.
The Denning history is a little like a grandfather’s axe: one of fractured continuity
A small sample of the memorabilia on show Opposite page clockwise from top left: Neil and Col Dyson; (L-R) Keith Melville, Ted Rolls, Tony McCafferty, Rod Hood; Boots Beutel; Jo and Peter Cavanagh with their distinctively liveried Landseer coach