The Iron Lady's iconic 1980's election battle bus is now on the market
AN armoured coach used by ‘Iron Lady’ Margaret Thatcher as her ‘battle bus’ has been put up for sale as campaigning for next month’s General Election kicks into gear. The 18-tonne, bomb-proof vehicle was built in 1983 and is believed to have been used for the former Prime Minister’s Northern Ireland tour. Current owner military vehicle dealer Nick Mead is seeking £25,000 for the bus.
Current owner Nick Mead with the Battle Bus
He said: “It’s a unique piece of social and political history. “It’s still in working order and, although it’s not exactly looking its best these days, someone who wanted to would be able to restore it to a good standard pretty easily. “I bought it in 2012 because it was a fascinating vehicle, but it’s big, ugly and it’s in the way now so I’m keen to send it to a good home. Given the American fascination with Maggie Thatcher, it may sell well over there but I’d prefer for it to stay in the UK. “The bus is just as it was in period; we even found a ladies’ umbrella on board – whether it’s Margaret Thatcher’s or not I don’t know, but we like to think it might be.”
The cockpit of the Battle Bus
The bus was built by military vehicle specialist Glover Webb and is based on Foden running gear. It is powered by a 12-litre, supercharged V12 Rolls Royce diesel engine that can propel the coach to a top speed of 80mph. The windows are made of two-inch thick, bullet-proof glass, while the two-foot thick, honeycomb macrolite floor is capable of withstanding a landmine blast.
Drivers control panel in the Battle Bus
With seating for 36 people and space at the rear for an office desk, the coach even had its own auxiliary, roof-mounted motor that could pump clean, carbonised air to the sealed cabin in the event of a chemical, biological or nuclear weapon being deployed. With just 14,000 miles on the clock, the bus was used to ferry passengers on the dangerous Derry Airport – Belfast route during the 1980s. It was also previously owned by the Met Police, used as transport for the Royal Marines band and as a viewing platform at an MoD research facility.
The interior of the Battle Bus
Margaret Thatcher wasn’t the only political leader to become synonymous with a particular vehicle – battle buses have been a part of election campaigns since the 1940s. Politicians have generally used vehicles as part of an image, whether part of the campaign trail like Mrs Thatcher, or on a general basis. During New Labour’s time in power, Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, was well-known as ‘Two Jags’ due to the fact that he owned one himself and had access to a ministerial motor as well. Lib Dem Chris Huhne was often spotted arriving in a hybrid Toyota Prius, which suited his environment portfolio down to the ground.
Back on the buses, this year, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has been touring the country in a bright yellow bus covered in the party’s logos, while Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron is in a blue one with a Union Jack motif; UKIP has a bright purple offering.
Labour’s is, surprisingly, not as red as you’d expect – it’s silver with red writing.