The Denning Story

Born on the 13th of February 1930, Alan B Denning left school at the young age of 14, to pursue a career in sheet metal work. Gaining employment at the Archerfield Airport, during world war II, one of his duties included repairs to combat planes.

 

Transferring to Coachcraft when the war ended, Alan established his own panel beating company in 1950, on the corner of Ross Street & Annerley Road Woolloongabba, and in 1956 “A.B Denning & Co” was formed. The business commenced building buses, the first of which being a Ford, built for Millers Coaches out of Brisbane. After several “Side Loader” style buses predominately on International chassis, some of the early builds included a Bonneted Dodge, a Bedford SB3, & several Bedford J-Series buses, leading to the first conventional bus being built in 1959.

 

 

From 1960-1963 the factory was based on Fairfield Road, Yeerongpilly, and between 1960 & 1961 the first Coach was born. It was a rear engine conversion of a Bedford SB3 Chassis.

 

 

The “Highway Traveller” coach was released in 1962, the first of these being Denning body number 12, built for Greyhound Coaches, on a Commer Avenger chassis. It featured a monocoque frame design (Of which the monocoque frame of today has derived from), as well as a list of innovative finishes which were light years ahead of their time.

 

 

Due to further growth, in 1963 the company relocated to Rayneham Street, Salisbury.

In 1966 competitor, (PMC) “Pressed Metal Corporation” & Part of Leyland Australia, (To be sold in 1999 to the consortium of CCMC, Custom Coaches Manufacturing Company), purchased a majority share of Denning, resulting in Alan B Denning becoming the Managing Director of both companies. With the need for a larger plant, the business moved to Landseer Street, Acacia Ridge & it was at this plant that the “Denning Monocoach” was released. This was a raised deck, 41 seat bus powered by a GM Engine.

 

(Build 142 for Grenda’s Coach Services)

 

The year also saw the release of Prototype Bus Number 10, which was an Australian produced rear engine city bus, and the first of what would become a 400 x bus order to replace the trams for Brisbane City Council.

Brisbane City Council placed a further order for supply of 136 bodies in 1968, to be built on Leyland Panther Chassis. This further increase in demand led to a second manufacturing plant being built in Adelaide, South Australia. Known as Denning SA, it was established out of necessity to support a contract for supply of 291 AEC Swift 691 Buses to the Adelaide Metropolitan Transport Trust, with all of the buses delivered between 1971 & 1973.

 

(291 AEC Swift 691 city bus – Built by Denning SA)

 

The end of 1969 also brought about the end of a legacy with Alan selling his shares to Leyland, and in 1971, Alan B Denning parted ways with Leyland, citing “disagreements” with Leyland management as the motivation for his departure, only to return to the company in 1973. It was at this time that Denning Launched the new 40 foot Monocoach, which quickly became the benchmark for tag axle coaches.

 

(Build No. 383 – The 2nd three-axle Denning Monocoach)

 

The SA Plant was shut down in 1974 & by February 1976 Alan again resigned from his position and left the business, never to return.

 

After his departure from A.B Denning, Alan paired up with long-time friend Athol McKinnon, creating a new business, “Denning McKinnon & Co”. The pair went on to design a new version of the integral Monocoach, branded “Denmak”.

 

One year later, the business was sold to Domino industries with the “Denmak” coach being renamed, “Domino Tourmaster”. In years to come, the “Domino Tourmaster” would be renamed “Austral Tourmaster” and would be replaced at a later date by the “Highlander” after the Denning / Austral Merger.

 

(Domino Tourmaster)

 

In 1978 Alan B Denning and Son Boyd Denning, established Konvekta air conditioning.
Rebranded in 1982 to Coachair, they quickly captured the market for supply of Coach Air Conditioning, with the business selling in 1991.

 

The Denning “DenAir” model with full airbag suspension was launched in 1979, which was accompanied by the release of the “DenFlex”, a new lighter “chassis only” option, which was available for build with other body suppliers.
The “DenAir” continued production till 1984 when it was replaced by the even more popular, “Landseer”, which is now recognised as one of the most iconic, Australian Coach designs.

 

1984 Saw a change in direction, with the company dropping the A.B Denning name, & rebranding itself “Denning”, which by this time was also under the ownership of JRA, (Jaguar Rover Australia).
Shortly after, the “Majestic” body design was released for use on foreign chassis.

 

Purchasing Denning’s biggest competitor “Austral”, in 1988, JRA Limited made the decision to close the Acacia Ridge plant, & after its closure at the end of 1990, Denning was relocated to the Austral plant in Geebung. The business was rebranded “Austral-Denning”, and out of this partnership the “Highlander” was produced with the intention of it becoming the “Landseer’s” successor. It was at this time that Production of Double Deck Coaches commenced for supply to Deluxe Coachlines, AAT Kings, & Australian Pacific.

 

In 1994 “Alan B Denning Co” was established, & with sons Boyd & Wade joining the business, Alan commenced designing modified versions of the Denning product in kit form for supply to the Asian Market.
1995 saw the Denning family re-enter the Australian market under the banner of Alan B. Denning & Associates, releasing the originally “Asian Bound” bus kit design for supply to the Australian Market.

 

A new factory was sourced, located at 22 Colebard Street, Acacia Ridge, and after completing a number of full-size buses, the mid-size bus market skyrocketed & the Corsair was created, which included some 4wd variations & the development of the Vario Mini Bus.

In 1996 JRA sold the business to the Clifford Corporation & the company was rebranded “Austral Pacific Group”, but this was short lived, as the Clifford Corporation collapsed in 1998. The PMC arm of the business was purchased however, by the consortium of CCMC (Custom Coaches Manufacturing Company), the Bosnjak Group & Dr John Hewson (Former Liberal Party Leader).

 

Alan B Denning Co was placed in administration in 2003 & purchased by a group of successful businessmen, re-naming the business “Denning Manufacturing”.

 

The business was successfully operated up until its sale to the Dunn Group, in October 2019.

 

In 2020, the Dunn Group made the bold decision to release the Denning Phoenix product to market for supply on OEM Chassis, & has commenced designing and manufacturing a new age Electric bus for release in September 2020.