ABC (Australia) - - BUS BUSI­NESS -

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”.


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 Denex 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.


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 ‘ofce’ 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

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