Beaulieu’s movie-star bus celebrates an anniversary

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The Beaulieu bus carries visitors on the museum grounds | Museum photos

Beaulieu, England’s National Motor Museum, is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the movie debut of its Veteran Bus, which has carried thousands of museum visitors around the grounds since appearing in the film, The Thirty Nine Steps.

The open-top double-decker was commissioned by Edward, Lord Montagu, in 1973 to carry visitors between the then-new National Motor Museum and the Palace House. It was one of six museum vehicles featured in the 1978 film in which Richard Hannay (Robert Powell) works to foil the assassination attempt of a foreign leader by secret agents in the days leading to World War I. 

In one famed scene, Powell hangs from the hands of Big Ben while the bus arrives so its passengers can watch the drama unfold.

The bus also appeared in the 1975 television drama, Love Among the Ruins, starring Katharine Hepburn and Laurence Olivier.

Lord Montagu and his bus in the 1970s

The bus was built over a Ford K Series tipper truck chassis and its 6.0-liter, 6-cylinder diesel engine. That engine was replaced in 1995 with a NOS (new old stock) unit that had been earmarked to provide power to a generator. 

The original B-type London bus replaced horse-drawn buses on London streets and more than 2,500 examples were produced. More than 1,000 of those buses were used to transport troops to the front lines during World War I.

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The Beaulieu bus was built by SJ Mitchell Limited of Biggleswade, which also did for the museum a replica of a 1909 Humber 8hp driven by Truly Scrumptious in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Lady Penelope’s Rolls-Royce “Fab 1” for the Thunderbirds, and a life-sized replica of the Apollo 8 space capsule.

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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