Heritage operator expanding

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A former assistant operations manager with Go-Ahead London who owns a heritage bus operation and classic vehicle restoration firm says business is expanding on all fronts, reports Nick Larkin

James Thorpe bought the Vintage Red Bus company in 2017, followed by Ward Jones of High Wycombe last year. “I’d grown up with buses and coaches – and always had an interest in older vehicles,” James explained. He bought 1953 former London Transport AEC RF512 (registration MXX489) in 2013 with the intention of hiring the vehicle out.

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Now the Vintage Red Bus Company fleet also includes AEC Routemasters, RML883, RML2335, RML2386 and RML2508. Now the High Wycombe-based Vintage Red Bus Company operates in an area from Central London to Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Surrey and beyond. As well as weddings and civil partnerships, the operator’s vehicles are available for parties, corporate work, proms and film, TV and advertising.

“We have a diverse range of work, and we’re getting more and more enquiries,” said James.

The decision to acquire Ward Jones, which had been in business for some 40 years, has also led to expansion. “We were customers of Ward Jones Commercials and always very impressed by the standards of his work,” James explained. “When we heard that the business was for sale we decided to buy it. From a couple of people working there when we acquired Ward Jones there are now seven mechanics.”

Major projects currently underway at Ward Jones include full restoration of 1962 new to Hebble Northern Counties AEC Regent V RCP237 as well as MCR21, an 1963 Comer ex-BBC broadcasting vehicle, which has its own website at mcr21.org.uk

As well as being to able to tackle any aspect of heritage vehicle maintenance and restoration Ward Jones also works on more modern machinery including inspections, servicing and repairs.

James’s grandfather Frank set up renowned London operator Thorpes in 1968, which became a substantial contractor for Transport for London services in the 1990s before the business was purchased by Comfort DelGro in August 2004 and incorporated into Metroline.

AECs for sale
Two examples of legendary London Transport AEC types are for sale via James Thorpe with heritage operation in mind.

AEC RF530 (MLL948), dating from 1952 was bought in 2014 and is being used as part of the Vintage Red Bus fleet. Work has included fitting a tachograph, new tyres, replacement unloader valve and fuel tank along with work on the panels, floor and seats. The bus has been subject to regular six-weekly inspections.

Meanwhile Ward Jones Commercials has been asked to find a good home for a Routemaster RMC coach. Originally RMC1500 but, after its original registration number couldn’t be found, assumed the identity of RMC1486. The owner of vehicle is selling it due to health issues.

The now RMC1486 is said to be in excellent cosmetic and mechanic condition with a Class V MOT. RMCs differed from standard Routemasters by having platform doors, deeper seats and twin headlamps.

Offers around £49,950 are invited for the RMC and £22,500 for the RF. Anyone interested in purchasing the vehicles should contact 01494 711 510

The Vintage Red Bus Company: www.thevintageredbuscompany.co.uk 0333 240 7508
Ward Jones Commercials: 01494 711510