For almost 50 years one of the main events on the UK bus rally calendar has been the ‘SHOWBUS’ event, which between 1982 and 2015, except for 2013, was held at either Woburn Abbey or the Imperial War Museum at Duxford. These years were to see major changes in the UK bus and coach industry, which was reflected in the vehicles attending the event. With the early years featuring many new Leyland Bus for National Bus both were major businesses that would not survive the new deregulated post 1986 era, along with other names such as Bedford and Ford or even London Buses in the same format as 1982.

What had begun life as a Bristol LH with ECW body, Hants & Dorset 3516 (NLJ 516M) had been transformed in 1982 into a somewhat oversized charabanc for the Shamrock & Rambler fleet in Bournemouth. In 1984 it had made the trip to a sunny Woburn Abbey, where it is seen arriving, followed by a former Southend Leyland Titan. (Showbus, Amberley Publishing)

Stagecoach was mostly a long distant coach operator in Scotland, Grey-Green that would become Arriva were more concerned with coaching work based in London, and National Express were only operating express coaching, with the Go-Ahead and First branding still years away. The event grew year-on-year and while Woburn was perhaps the ideal site on a dry day it would become a nightmare once the rain appeared, which was all too often it seemed.

A new location was found for 1993 at Duxford across the border in Cambridgeshire attracting 300 plus entries, which included much more hard standing in the event of rain, as well as the added attraction of the historical Aircraft Museum, entries grew and were attracted from further afield including new buses on delivery to Hong Kong as well as ones brought over to the event from Holland. Sponsorship from within the trade from 1994 from EFE with its large display of model buses added to the event.

The only RT to be painted for the 2002 Golden Jubilee was RT4712 (NXP 997), which had been new in 1954 and is now part of the London Transport Museum fleet, allocated to the Arriva London fleet but not used in normal service. The livery was retained after the event, as seen on RT4712’s arrival at Duxford in 2003. (Showbus, Amberley Publishing)

2001 would prove a difficult year with the foot and mouth outbreak influencing farms where many preserved buses were kept, a Tanker Drivers strike a few weeks before the event and the terror attacks in New York shortly before the event, but still the event went ahead. 2002 saw over 400 vehicles attend the event a new record, with a Gold Run celebrating the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. By 2008 the event had reached 500 vehicles on display which included vehicles from Eire, France and Belgium attending, the event continued to be popular with enthusiasts giving Duxford their largest crowds apart from Air-show days, but issues saw the event move in 2013 to a site near Stratford-upon-Avon. Before returning to Duxford in 2014 but an agreement could not be reached over various factors and so this would be the last year the event would be held here.

For 2015 Showbus would return to Woburn was announced, with what can only be described as a superb list of vintage vehicles the scene was set for a great day, but sadly things beyond the organiser’s control were to turn the event sour, with long delays getting into the site, partly caused by a coach getting stuck in soft ground and partly by traffic issues in Woburn Village.

Former London STL1470 (CXX 457), a 1936 AEC Regent with Weymann body, was converted at Aldenham in 1953 into a tree lopper with a fold-down door to aid with removal of cuttings. (Showbus, Amberley Publishing)

This book looks back at some of the vehicles that were part of these events, not every year is covered and some are covered in more detail than others. In true Showbus style they are grouped together with common themes, some perhaps easy to work out some may take a bit more thinking, but that’s for the reader to decide. With such vehicles as Stagecoach Megadekka, with East Midland, a Routemaster converted for use in China, two Q Plated ECW bodied Leyland buses and a trio of odd rebuilds featured along with vehicles long forgotten, as well as a few that were new after the 1982 event that have now entered the ranks of preserved vehicles.

A special thanks to Martin Isles and his team for organising this popular event over the years.

Gary Seamarks's book Showbus: The Woburn and Duxford Years is available for purchase now.