1972 Wings tour bus auctioned again

April 22 - 29, 2024


From 1953 Bristol KSW5G Paul McCartney and Wings 1972 ‘Wings Over Europe’ tour bus For Sale By Auction (carandclassic.com)

Seriously though, what is this thing worth? Apparently not much.

A good question which surprisingly few ask.

In researching the bus and its history, I’ve been (and remain) in contact with bus enthusiasts who know a thing or two about these vehicles, as a number of them still exist, including WNO 481 sister vehicles (479 and 482 for example). They reckon a reasonable value for it in its refurbished condition would probably be c£25,000, however I don’t think that accounts for its value as a unique piece of rock and roll memorabilia. So what would that make it worth?

Their suggested value is roughly one tenth of the value placed on the bus by public auctioneers last year, where $70,000 bids were rejected, and the owner subsequently put it up on eBay for £175,000, which was then reduced to £125,000. Clearly it did not sell at those asking prices.

The bidding (now at £8,000) is probably reflective of early ‘chancer’ bids testing the water (and perhaps without knowing about the prior attempts to sell it and the sums rejected), and more serious bids may yet come as the time runs down on the auction. Whether any such meets the unknown reserve price is another matter. Going by the previous auction & eBay listing, I suspect the owner’s reserve price may be £100,000 and I would be surprised if it was less. But it might be, as we are now at their third attempt to sell it, and that $70,000 bid last year is the highest bid I know of. There may have been other private bids.

It is not known how much the owner spent on the refurb and how much of it was actually their own money, as there was a fundraising group for that, but it seems clear that the owner is not inclined to part ways with it unless they get back a return of their investment, which to be fair, is likely to be tens of thousands of pounds.

Whilst one might appreciate that stance, I’m not sure that this is how this is likely to work.

It’s a 70 year-old open top double decker bus that requires a sizable parking space, that might hold a level of interest with the aforementioned bus enthusiasts and also vehicle museums, but who are not generally known as being able to afford these kind of sums.

The owner seems to be hoping a Paul McCartney and/or Wings fan might spend that on it, or that even McCartney himself might do that (he hasn’t done so, so far, so I don’t see that happening), or perhaps someone like former owner, John Palmer, who had his rock and roll cafe to park it outside of, even though that episode is what led to the bus being in the sorry state it was, prior to being renovated.

The real answer to the question is what it usually is in these types of situations. What the bus is worth is what someone is willing to pay for it. But so far, that value remains less than what the current owner thinks it should be.

From contributor Radio Jammor on Steve Hoffman Music Forums

From 1953 Bristol KSW5G Paul McCartney and Wings 1972 ‘Wings Over Europe’ tour bus For Sale By Auction (carandclassic.com):


  • Used by Paul McCartney and Wings 1972 for the 1972 ‘Wings Over Europe’ tour; 25 shows, 25 cities across 9 countries
  • Professionally restored to its 1972 specifications and completed in 2022
  • Exhibited and used as a live music stage at the 2022 NEC Classic Motor Show
  • The sale includes an original Wings tour trunk that was donated to the project by drummer Denny Seiwell
  • Geoffrey Cleghorn’s psychedelic artwork has been carefully recreated during the restoration
  • Offered in full working order, UK road registered and exempt from MOT testing/road tax
  • Licensed to display the artwork and band member’s names by Sir Paul McCartney’s company MPL

The Appeal

Paul McCartney formed the Anglo-American rock band ‘Wings’ in 1971, and was soon planning to return to touring – something he hadn’t done since the Beatles ceased to tour in 1966. Following a successful small-scale UK University tour in early 1972, the band prepared to take to the road across Europe, playing 25 shows in 25 cities across 9 European countries.

Rather than confine themselves to the rigours of the road, Wings, (who planned to take their families along), sourced a 1953 Bristol KSW5G open-topped double-decker bus, They entrusted renowned psychedelic artist Geoffrey Cleghorn, (known for his work with The Who, Pink Floyd and Rolling Stones), with devising suitably eye-catching artwork inspired by The Beatles’ ‘Yellow Submarine’ and ‘Magical Mystery Tour’.

The ‘Wings Over Europe’ tour was a commercial and critical success and the bus travelled with them the whole 7,500 miles, with an interior customised in order to be comfortable for the band and allow their children to play and sleep along the way.

McCartney said 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 get some sunshine as we travelled from one place to another.

After the tour was over, the bus, returned to service for several years before changing hands on several occasions and ending up on display outside a rock-themed café in Tenerife in its Wings livery once more. After languishing in a secure outside open storage areafor many years, it returned to the UK in 2017 for sale.

The vendor acquired it in 2019 and the restoration was completed in 2022. The newly restored bus was unveiled at the November 2022 NEC Classic Motor Show on the Federation Village stand of The Federation Of British Historic Vehicle Clubs (FBHVC) where it would be not only on display as a static exhibit but also, inspired by The Beatles’ 1969 Rooftop Concert, used as “The McCartney Stage” for several bands to perform atop its open upper deck. This included Wings’ legendary saxophone player Howie Casey who was “amazed” at the restoration.

Now this piece of rock ‘n’ roll history awaits a new custodian. As one of just three Beatles-related, custom-painted vehicles alongside John Lennon’s psychedelic Rolls-Royce and George Harrison’s similarly decorated Mini, this Bristol KSW5G is incredibly special and moreover has been restored to a fantastic standard. Wings’ drummer Denny Seiwell has even donated his 1972 Wings touring trunk which accompanies the bus, which has been returned to the correct 1972 touring specifications during the restoration.

The bus has received numerous enquiries and invitations to appear at major events and these are notified on the website which is included in the sale along with print-ready 3D models on Sketchfab, the online Flickr photo album with over 1,300 photos and the Facebook page with its 5,000 Followers.

The bus is reportedly in full running and driving order, so for those wishing to embark upon their own ‘Magical Mystery Tour’, or if you simply want a ‘Day Tripper’ with amazing connections to music legend Sir Paul McCartney, Wings and even The Beatles here’s your ‘Ticket to Ride’.

The History and Paperwork

  • KSW5G chassis constructed in 1953 by Bristol Commercials
  • Bodywork by Eastern Coachworks
  • Originally a closed upper deck and registered with the DVLA from November 1953 to Eastern National
  • Initially based in Chelmsford, Essex for local bus routes
  • Converted to an open-top bus in 1966 to bring holiday-makers in and out of Butlins, Clacton in its heyday.
  • Bought by Eastern Counties for service in Norfolk and Suffolk throughout the late 1960s
  • In 1972, it was chosen by Paul McCartney to be the 1972 Wings Tour Bus complete with 2 drivers and full service back-up
  • Toured Europe in the summer of 1972 for the ‘Wings Over Europe’ tour across 9 countries, covering 7,500 miles
  • Returned to service following the tour (with the psychedelic paint scheme removed and standard seating re-instated)
  • Out of service by 1980
  • Saved from the scrapheap in 1982 by Roger White who spared no expense restoring the bus including the Wings Livery
  • Acquired by a new private buyer and displayed outside a rock cafe in Tenerife during the 1990s as a tourist attraction
  • Returned to the UK in 2017 after being rediscovered in an open secure storage area c.2009
  • Acquired by the vendor in 2019
  • Entrusted to two specialists for restoration: David Hoare of Chepstow Classic Buses and Bradley Earl of Simon Morris Thorpe Ltd in Essex
  • Retains its ‘WNO 481’ UK road registration
  • Historic Vehicle Status: Exempt from road tax and MOT testing
  • Licensed by Sir Paul McCartney’s company MPL to display the artwork, logos, band member’s names and personal photos
  • The bus features in numerous interviews and photographs with McCartney, Wings and even Princess Anne
  • Numerous articles have been published about the bus and it is well-known the world over
  • Wings recorded the Bond theme “Live and Let Die” shortly after the tour and so are said to have worked on the song while travelling on the bus

The Condition

  • The psychedelic artwork has been replicated to a high standard following painstaking restoration of the bodywork
  • The bus’ interior has been returned to how it was on the Wings tour, with bespoke decor and seats cleared from the upper deck
  • The body is straight and free from notable imperfections
  • We’re informed that the chassis is in very good order, straight and with no structural corrosion
  • Inside, the upholstery fixtures and fittings look to be in impeccable order
  • Re-wired completely
  • The upper deck floor has been completely replaced with best marine ply and new covering laid
  • Includes an original touring trunk donated by drummer Denny Seiwell

To preserve this bus’ rich history, a great deal of attention was paid to ensuring it was restored to its 1972 specifications.

The original brief issued by Paul McCartney was as follows:

“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.

When it came to its appearance, Denny Seiwell added:

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 Mechanics

  • 6,975 cc Gardner 5LW NA five-cylinder diesel engine
  • Four-speed manual gearbox
  • Well-presented engine compartment
  • Reportedly in very good running order
  • New Tyres
  • New batteries

Covering an immense 7,500 miles on the 1972 ‘Wings Over Europe’ tour, this bus relied upon its sturdy Gardner mechanicals which are still going strong to this day thanks to the recent restoration. 

The vendor has demonstrated that the engine runs well and the bus drives as originally intended, having just completed The Magical History Tour of Famous Beatles-McCartney London Locations with Hard Rock Cafe following the completion of the restoration work. […]

From 1953 Bristol KSW5G Paul McCartney and Wings 1972 ‘Wings Over Europe’ tour bus For Sale By Auction (carandclassic.com)

Last updated on April 30, 2024


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