And so the day arrived.
Looking back, I suspect I didn't quite comprehend just how significant today would be in the scheme of things. As someone who has very little mechanical know-how and someone who never dreamed he'd own his own bus, let alone one that was so significant to his childhood, I would today be the very proud owner of a piece of British engineering that was built before I was born and is still in great condition.
The trip to Chesterfield was straightforward enough. I'd come prepared with my driving licence, my cover note for GCT 113 and had the DVLA website on my phone so that I could tax the bus before driving her away. Such is the trust that Stagecoach had in me that there were no checks whatsoever and I was able to simply take the vehicle away at my leisure. Ironically, those in the Visitor Reception (traffic office) were more concerned my comrade and I signed the visitor book than anything else.
We departed The Stonegravels Depot, Sheffield Road, Chesterfield at 1230 precisely and headed out of town via the route of a number of Stagecoach in Chesterfield services. Plenty of drivers put their hand up to me as I drove GCT 113 away, possibly unaware this would be the last time she would be a member of their fleet.
Progress was no slower than I recalled from times past: 40mph max. We stopped at a lay-by near Whitwell for photos and resumed our journey at 1322.
Naturally, GCT 113 performed fantastically well. The engine purred and she didn't put a foot wrong. The gears are well suited to urban operation - the bus was keen to be in fourth gear as early as 25mph.
Once we joined the motorway, progress became comparatively less speedy. Literally everything overtook me, though to be perfectly honest, I couldn't care less. I was causing no obstruction to any other road users, what with there being two other lanes from which to choose. While driving this Grimsby stalwart, so many possibilities were going through my mind, from GCT 113's first rally to how soon I could take her around Grimsby and Cleethorpes in one of her more appropriate liveries, inviting as many friends and former drivers of the bus as possible.
We stopped at motorway services for lunch and enjoyed a particularly expensive Greggs on the top deck. It was most convivial. The sun was shining, there was no wind and the temperature was in excess of 20C.
During the limited number of occasions I've caught up with GCT 113 over the past twelve years, I'd been aware that a number of original signs and notices are still evident inside the bus. These were still in good condition. The upper saloon vinyl seating had been patched up a little more than I remember, and some Formica was missing from the seat backs, but these problems are not insurmountable.
They lend themselves to give the bus an operational feel while in preservation. As time permits I will attempt to make things look a little neater. The first acton will be to remove the assault screen from the cab door and to paint the steering wheel back to cream/off-white. Number and destination blinds are on order and pretty soon, save the livery, GCT 113 will start to resemble her old self.
The DVSA has told me that I can disconnect the analogue tachograph and reconnect the 40-year-old Leyland speedometer and odometer, both of which are currently time capsules of their status when the tachograph was connected. Removing this large, black, obtrusive item from the dashboard would immediately make a very big improvement.