Giant fire engine helped Stewart through bereavement and job loss

When mechanic Stewart Bannister lost his mum and his job within the space of a couple of weeks he knew he needed something to occupy his mind. So he went looking for a restoration project. What he wanted was a Dennis fire engine from the 1980s, the kind of machine that was stationed in many small towns.

What he ended up with was a 33-tonne Marlin airport fire truck, thought to be the only remaining example of the nine that were built and it came complete with a foam canon. Stewart’s mum Valerie died in September last year of bowel cancer, then two weeks after he returned to work on Dyson’s car project at Hullavington he was told it was over.

His other half Jo helped him through most of it, but he said. “I needed something to focus on.” As a child he obsessed with tractors but he always had a soft spot for a fire engine. “I’m a big kid like most men are to be honest, but we don’t like to admit it.” He saw the former Manchester Airport Marlin advertised online and went to look.

It was clear the task of saving it from the scrapyard and restoring it to something like its former glory would take years and at first he wasn’t sure he could find anywhere suitable to keep it. Finally it was transported to a friend’s farm not far from his Sherston home. It was then that the full scale of the work needed became apparent and expected cost rose from around GBP20,000 to the GBP60,000-mark.

Giant fire engine helped Stewart through bereavement and job loss But the challenge was just what he needed. “It allowed me to really throw myself into it, he said. “When I bought it I didn’t understand how unusual, how rare it was.

It was probably ground-breaking when it was built in 1989. It was extremely sophisticated and it is a real testament to the people who designed and built it.” Stewart, who now runs his own garden machinery maintenance business, is a heavy plant mechanic by trade.

But the Marlin, which last saw service at Bournemouth Airport, is still something of a mystery. The firm that built it went bust years ago and no plans seem to exist. He’s hoping someone somewhere has a copy of the electrical diagrams.

But he’s already had helpful information from firefighters that used the truck as well as people involved in the design and construction. Enthusiasts can learn more about the project and the restoration fund at projectmarlin.co.uk Giant fire engine helped Stewart through bereavement and job loss

The Marlin is powered by a 761BHP Detroit twin turbocharged diesel which gave it a top speed of 70mph. It is a permanent 6×6 with seven forward gears. The six Michelin tyres alone will cost GBP14,000 to replace.

Built by Northern Counties (Wigan) for Fire Trucks Ltd, it is fitted with ABS and had disc brakes all round. Giant fire engine helped Stewart through bereavement and job loss It is a massive 10.75m long, 3.1m wide and 4.2m high and is equipped with a 12,000l fibreglass water tank with a pump that can squirt 7,200l a minute.

Four of the nine Marlins were exported to Singapore Changi Airport, three went to Hong Kong and two to Manchester. But it is believed all apart from Stewart’s have been scrapped. The Marlin, which is thought to have been retired sometime between 2010 and 2014, is generally in working order although it needs most of the cab front and floor framework replacing.

Giant fire engine helped Stewart through bereavement and job loss The centre drive axle needs repair, a joystick foam monitor needs to be found and the bottom of the windscreen frame has disintegrated. It also needs a new coat of paint.

Technical documents that would help Stewart and his friends repair the truck are almost all missing, but a firefighter who was in the crew when it was at Manchester has unearthed a set of instructions for use.

A Go Fund Me appeal has been set up to help meet the cost of the restoration.

Visit gf.me/u/yyu9iz to donate.

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