John Dennis Coachbuilders is a modern day “phoenix rising from the ashes”. In 1985 Hestair Dennis was having troubled times and made deep cuts in its activities to just a core business which excluded coachbuilding. A triumvirate of Bill Gunner, Bert Forrest and John Dennis (grandson of one of the original Dennis brothers) headed a group of a dozen ex-employees who pooled their redundancy money to set up a new company, John Dennis Coachbuilders.
Their first customer was Staffordshire Fire Brigade which had faith in the fledgling company. The small garage in Merrow was a far cry from the acres of the Dennisville plant on the other side of Guildford, with its own sports ground and rail sidings.
As with the original Dennis Brothers’ burgeoning growth, within five years the enterprise had outgrown Merrow and moved to the current purpose-built factory north of Guildford. Customers now included Essex, Devon, Cleveland, Staffordshire, Hereford and Worcester, Cambridge and Surrey. By 1995, the centenary year of the founding of Dennis Brothers, its scion had become UK market leader.
The original “Dirty Dozen” were becoming more mature and in 2001 a management buy-in by Alan McClafferty ensured the succession of a strong management team. To supplement the static fire market, the company tendered for and won a four-year contract to manufacture up to two thousand USAR modules in 2003 for the New Dimension project of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. This was followed by the community bus launch in 2005. The acreage of the factory has now doubled and the original building has also been increased to more than double the area.
The company has continued to make steady growth year after year and the wind is set fair for further products and expansion in the years to come.