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More from year 2023
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In September 2023, it was announced that the 1972 Wings tour bus, which had been restored, was to be auctioned between November 16 and 18 by Julien’s Auction. However, it didn’t appear in the auction session, likely because the reserve price was not met by online pre-bidding (two bids were made, the top being $70,000).
An original, fully-restored 1953 Bristol KSW double-decker bus known as WNO 481 that was used by Paul McCartney and the band Wings in 1972 as the tour bus for the “Wings Over Europe” tour.
During Wings’ 1972 “Wings Over Europe” tour, this bus traveled over 7,500 miles (12,000 kilometers) through nine countries across Europe, including France, Germany, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
Paul McCartney stated in an interview, “We knew we were going to tour in Europe and that the weather would be nice, and the idea of being stuck in a bus all the time, going from city to city, hotel to hotel, wasn’t too appealing so we decided to travel around in an open-top bus and got some sunshine as we traveled from one place to another.”
Paul continued, “We painted the outside psychedelic, like a magic bus. If you look at it very straight, very conventionally, it was quite a mad thing to do, to put a playpen on the top deck of the bus and put all the children in there while driving around Europe. It was not what you’d expect from a normal band. But we weren’t a normal band.”
McCartney also stated, “If we are going to be in Europe in the summer going to places like the south of France it’s just silly to be in some little box all day gasping for air so we came up with this idea to have an open deck, upper deck kind of thing. We’ve got some mattresses up there so we can just cruise along, fantastic, lie around and get the sun.”
This bus played a vital part in the image of the new band, which consisted of Paul and Linda McCartney, Denny Laine, Henry McCullough, and Denny Seiwell. Denny Seiwell mentioned in an interview, “We had wives and kids with us, and an image of the Beatles. Nobody wanted to be drunk or high. We thought it was very important that we gave our best performances because we knew we were going to be judged based on the last time people saw the biggest band in the world.”
The original psychedelic artwork design seen on the sides of the bus was completed by renowned artist Geoffrey Cleghorn, who modeled its design after the styling of The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine album cover. Cleghorn was notable for his impressive work with bands such as The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, The Who, and others. This artwork was later recreated during WNO 481’s restoration process, bringing the iconic bus back to life.
The interior of the bus has been restored with painstaking detail to bring it back to the same condition it would have been in during the 1972 tour. The refinished interior is complimented by wooden bunk beds, which the band member’s children would have slept on, and an original Wings tour trunk that was donated to the project by Denny Weiwell. Around the perimeter of the lower cabin are bright yellow curtains that accent the psychedelic paint scheme of the exterior.
This 1953 Bristol KSW 5G ECW double-decker bus is equipped with a Gardner 5LW 7 liter diesel engine mated to a manual transmission. These engines were known for their dependability and fuel economy, and were commonly used in buses, work trucks, and marine applications. Eastern Coachworks in Lowestoft was responsible for fitting the KSW body to the chassis. Prior to being used as the primary tour bus for the band in 1972, this bus began its service on November 3, 1953 for Eastern National, where it served the areas of Colchester, Clacton, and Butlins.
By 1966 the bus began to look more recognizable when it was converted at the Chelmsford depot to an open top double-decker bus for coastal service in the areas of Clacton, Butlins, and Walton On The Naze. In 1968, the bus was transferred to The Eastern Counties Omnibus Co, Norwich.
After two changes of ownership in 1971, Paul McCartney hired the bus through Halls Valliant Silverline Coaches (who also provided the England team bus for the 1970 World Cup in Mexico). Halls provided the tour with two drivers and the option to customize the vehicle and provide ongoing maintenance throughout the tour.
Paul McCartney stated in an interview in regards to buses, “I went to school on a bus. I met George on a bus, I first saw John on a bus, George auditioned on a bus. Penny Lane was the bus depot. If I was visiting John, I could go from my place in Forthlin Road to Penny Lane, change and go up to his place in Menlove Avenue.”
On Twitter, Paul McCartney and his team wrote in 2017, “We’ve heard that the 1972 Wings Tour Bus is back on the road in the UK. Have info on this? Send us a DM!”
The bus was fully restored by a workshop in Thorpe le Soken, Essex, where after being discovered in Spain in a state of neglect, it could once again be in the spotlight. In an article by BBC News with the restorer, Brad Earl notes, “The hardest part was the windows.” Restoration efforts for this vehicle began in 2019, with bodywork completed in November 2022, and the running gear completed in June 2023.
Since its restoration, this bus has been exhibited at multiple venues and shows, drawing a large amount of attention, including at the NEC Classic Motor Show in Birmingham, United Kingdom. At this automobile show, bands lined up to perform on the refinished upper deck of the tour bus, including the legendary saxophonist, Howie Casey, who had previously performed with Wings. BBC News wrote, “But there are some changes, as the upper deck, which featured blankets, beanbags, mattresses and a playpen for the children – now folds down to become a mobile stage.”
As with John Lennon’s iconic psychedelic Rolls-Royce, and George Harrison’s psychedelic Mini, this bus represents a moment in time, offering the same message of peace and love. Frank Nash, a Beatles fan and owner of J P Fallon, who restored a recreation of the famous John Lennon Rolls-Royce Phantom said, “Well done! A real labour of love.”
Also included with this double-decker bus is a custom-built cover for the upper deck that displays the graphics “1972 Wings Tour Bus” on the roof. This was partly inspired by the three semi-trailer trucks seen in the music video for the hit song “Listen To What The Man Said” that read “Wings,” “Over,” and “America” on the top of the trailers.
Accompanied by a Letter of Provenance from Denny Seiwell for his personally-owned and donated Wings tour trunk. The letter reads, “Each Wings member was given a trunk at the onset of the Wings 1972 European Tour. They accompanied us throughout, and were always present in our arrival to our hotel rooms. The crew were always attentive to our needs.” He continues, “If those trunks could talk, OHHHHH! the stories they could tell. Since 1972, this trunk has been with me and my wife throughout our years together. It now needs to be retired and what a better way than to return to the UK and rejoin the ‘Wings Tour Bus’.”
Notice: The winning bidder is responsible for ensuring that proper vehicle transfer of ownership is completed in accordance with state and federal regulations. The winning bidder is additionally responsible for coordinating vehicle shipment and delivery. This vehicle is located in Essex, United Kingdom and shipping will need to be coordinated by the buyer for its transport. Julien’s Auctions will not be held liable for any money owed on a vehicle or fees associated with the vehicle’s ownership. Pre-sale condition reports are available upon request in writing via e-mail only.
Last updated on November 19, 2023