Custom Bus Group History

Stanley James Hilsdon began his career in 1911, manufacturing bicycle’s. A competitor in bicycle racing himself, after joining brother Walter Hillsdon at “Hillsdon Brothers”, the business quickly became a leading Bicycle manufacturer, and the Cycle of choice for racing professionals, but in 1927 Walter left the business, moving on to concentrate on a car sales business.


In 1929, The great depression brought on a great need for economical transport, & bicycles were the perfect choice, hence bicycle sales flourished.


With a need for a new site, Stanley Hillsdon & his wife opened a shop at a garage in Marion St, Guildford, & founded “Cycle Component Manufacturing Company’ in 1935. The shop specialised in tube bending, & aided by their new specialised metal plating techniques, they quickly expanded to manufacturing toys, desks, seats, furniture & of course, Bicycles. CCMC became a major provider for plated metal materials using Chrome Molybdenum.


(Image of the type of toy car made by CCMC)


The Company was awarded a contract in 1946 to develop and manufacture reversible seats for the Sydney Tram System. This led to a large influx of ongoing work such as, manufacturing tubular seat frames for supply to Commonwealth Engineering for the manufacture of government buses.


In 1955, CCMC (Cycle Component Manufacturing Company) successfully tendered to supply bodies for 125 single deck Leyland Royal Tiger Worldmaster buses for delivery to the NSW Department of Government Transport. These buses were known as “Standees” or “Leyland Worldmaster” Buses for short. The name “Standees” derived from the simple fact that for the first time, Sydney commuters standing in the aisle, could see out of small fixed windows mounted above the seated passenger “main” windows, and in order to meet the delivery deadlines, Hillsdon contracted Commonwealth Engineering to assist with the builds.


(First of 124 Bus Bodies on Leyland Worldmaster Chassis for NSW Department of Government Transport)


(Leyland Royal Tiger Worldmaster. Image courtesy of Ian N. Lynas.)


(Leyland Royal Tiger Worldmaster. Image courtesy of Ian N. Lynas)


Jack Violet (Hillsdons nephew by marriage), was employed by CCMC in 1956 as Operations Manager for the Bus division and was instrumental in the production of the first “private” operator purchase, this bus being a Leyland Comet for Rowes Bus Service, delivered in 1958.


In 1962 Stanley Hillsdon handed full control of the company to Jack Violet, and at around the same time, the company was rebranded, “Custom Coaches Manufacturing Company.”


Between 1967 & 1972, CCMC strategically entered into agreements with three companies for the ongoing supply of seats, frames, and other body components. The first of these deals was struck with Melbourne Body builder, “WA Newnham & Sons” followed by Brisbane body builder “Watt Brothers”, and finally with Perth based transport equipment builder, “Howard Porter” in 1972.


By 1981 the business was booming leading to CCMC purchasing the Bosnjak owned business, “Smithfield Bus & Coach works”, followed by the acquisition of WA Newnham & Sons in 1988, with that arm of the business renamed to “Newnham Custom”.


With the business growing at a rapid pace, Queensland was seen as an area of opportunity with the establishment of a new purpose built plant in Arundel, QLD.


After an almost 37 year absence, in 1998 Custom Coaches rekindled it relationship with the NSW State Transit Authority, and by 2013 had built close to 1300 bus bodies for the government department. After the collapse of the “Clifford Corporation” in 1998, a Consortium consisting of CCMC, Bosnjak Group, & Dr John Hewson (Former leader of the Liberal Party), purchased the “PMC Australia” sector of the Clifford Corporation in 1999, and in the following year Australian Bus Manufacturing in Adelaide was purchased by CCMC. At the time, “Australian Bus Manufacturing” had the largest bus body manufacturing plant in Australia. This purchase, and for commercial reasons, prompted the closure of “Newnham Custom” Victoria, with the business relocating to the Adelaide plant in 2001.


2001 also saw the establishment of “Custom Care”, the After sales arm of the business, and although it was originally intended to support the business from an after sales perspective, it quickly gained traction in the refurbishment & accident repair market, and still continues today under the Dunn Group.


In 2002, Mark Burgess (Great Nephew of Hillsdon by marriage) was promoted to CEO of CCMC.


Australian Bus Manufacturing is rebranded as Custom Coaches in 2004, the whole group falling under the Custom Coaches Banner, and in 2005, Brothers Mark & Paul Burgess with long term business partner Chris Absalom, purchased the business from Jack Violet & continued as Custom Coaches.


The business operated out of the Smithfield site until 2010, when the plant was relocated to a new premises at Villawood, and just 2 years later in 2012, was purchased by British bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis.


In May of 2014 Custom Coaches was placed into administration by “Alexander Dennis”, and in August 2014, Mark Burgess with the financial backing of Allegro, repurchased the company, and it was renamed “Custom Bus Australia”. Just one month later in September 2014, the South Australian plant in Royal Park was shut down.


In February of 2018, Custom Bus Australia again found itself placed into voluntary administration, and by March of 2018, just one month later, the business was purchased by the Dunn Group and renamed “Custom Bus Group”.


October of 2019, the Dunn Group purchased “Denning Manufacturing”, bringing two of Australia’s most iconic brands together under one banner, with big plans for the future.