AS big boys' toys go, they don't come much bigger - but somebody, somewhere, could soon be the owner of their very own fire engine.

The timing is entirely coincidental and has nothing to do with the current industrial dispute, but the shiny red tender is on the market for less than £3,000.

It's in full roadworthy condition and as well as the usual trappings, such as flashing blue lights and two-tone horns, boasts optional extras such as a CD auto-changer and digital radio.

And should it not be wanted to actually fight fires the vehicle, described as "easy to drive", can simply be used for fun.

The 8,000cc Dennis engine was first registered in April 1974 but since 1996 it has been owned and operated by Queen Ethelburga's, the private school near Boroughbridge.

There it has fulfilled a dual purpose, as a fire precaution capable of being operated by estate staff, and for the interest of the youngsters, taking them on rides round the grounds.

However, the school has now taken delivery of a replacement engine, so has put the old one on the market at an asking price of £2,750.

"We've never actually had to use it to fight a fire but it's certainly capable of doing so," said Zillah Watchman, personal assistant to the chairman.

"Everything works the way it is supposed to and the vehicle has been well-maintained over the years. I suppose for somebody it could be the ultimate big boy's toy."

But the question remains: Who would actually want a second-hand fire appliance? Plenty, it seems.

With more and more old appliances being pensioned off, there is a thriving market among collectors of veteran fire appliances.

And even if the school's engine isn't quite old enough to attract the interest of vintage collectors, Ms Watchman reckons it could be put to other uses.

After all, with eight seat belts the Dennis has more space than any other people carrier on the market and a far bigger boot.

And as the school's cheeky advert says: "You'll never get another parking ticket."

This isn't the first fire engine to come on the second- hand market.

In 2000, a fire appliance in full working order made more than £2,000 at auction.

The six-year-old Dodds appliance was put up for auction in Stokesley, North Yorkshire, by a collector who needed to find some more room in his garage.

In a previous life, the appliance had served with Manchester Fire Brigade and was later stationed at Winterton Hospital, in Sedgefield, County Durham.

When it was sold off by the hospital authorities, though, it only made £550.

* Interested in adding a piece of firefighting history to your collection? Then call the school on (01423) 333330.