1939 AEC Regent III prototype bus – RT1

RT1 at Putney Common. © Michael Wickham

Date built: 1939 (body), 1949 (chassis)
Registration: EYK 396
Acquired by Museum: 2010
Current State: Completely restored and operational

The famous RT1 is to London bus enthusiasts what Flying Scotsman is to the world of steam locomotives; RT1 was built in 1939 and was the forerunner of nearly 7,000 buses of its type which dominated the streets of London in the 1950s and 1960s. Regarded by many as an icon, the RT-type bus was way ahead of its time to the extent that the last of them was not withdrawn from front-line service until 1979.

RT1 itself is a remarkable survivor; after WW2, with two chassis changes, the bus became, firstly, a test-bed and then a mobile instruction unit, remaining with London Transport until 1978. Initially acquired for preservation, it then became commercially-owned and ended up in the USA, where it almost met its end in a scrapyard.

Brought back to the UK by some dedicated enthusiasts in the 1980s, it was eventually acquired by a private collector and subjected to a complete “nut and bolt” restoration, being returned to the condition in which it first appeared from London Transport’s Chiswick works in 1939.

This restoration was lengthy and cost over £200,000. Despite an offer from abroad for the fully rebuilt bus, the Museum was offered first refusal to purchase the vehicle and keep it in the UK permanently and was given 12 months to raise the purchase price of £150,000.

As RT1 is such an iconic and important vehicle in the developmental story of the London Bus, and despite the fact that such a large sum of money had never been raised for a bus before, it was decided to launch an appeal fund in 2009 and, through the generosity and support of many donors, RT1 was successfully acquired by the Museum in 2010.

RT1 now has a secure future within the Museum’s Collection and represents a fine example of London Transport’s pre-WW2 design, innovation and engineering excellence at its best.

Chassis: AEC Regent III
Body: London Transport 56-seat, rear entrance, open platform
Engine: AEC 9.6 litre type A185.
Gearbox: Four speed, air operated pre-selective.
Date into service: August 1939
Date of withdrawal: 1978

Read a brief history of The RT family