There was some surprise amongst our followers that the livery on WNO 481 had changed at all since the 1972 “Wings Over Europe” tour.

We are compiling a comprehensive history that will be published here in due course. We thought however, in the meantime, that we could give a bit more information on these liveries and post a few more pictures.

The Eastern Bus Liveries

WNO 481 was built and registered in 1953 as a standard double-decker. It has a Bristol KSW5G chassis from Bristol Commercial Vehicles and a body from the Eastern Coach Works, Lowestoft. The bus first entered service with Eastern National Omnibus Company Limited, Chelmsford, with a plain green livery.

Here’s a video of a preserved Bristol KSW5G (VNO 859) to indicate what our bus would have looked like in its early days.

WNO 481 was Converted to an open-top in 1966. It was given a cream livery, with a green trim, including around the wheels and engine. Below is an image of WNO 479, appearing in Eastern National colours. WNO 479 has an identical open-top conversion to WNO 481.

Photo from Wikipedia, uploaded by Dave Catchpole.

Our bus changed hands in 1968 and moved to Eastern Counties Omnibus Company Limited, Norwich. Here, it’s green trim was exchanged for a maroon red.

WNO 481 at The Epsom Derby,  29 May, 1968. Photo by Paul Bateson, used with permission.

Silverline and the Wings Tour

Our bus was sold on to a dealer in July 1971. Late in that year it was acquired by Halls Coaches, trading as (T/A) Silverline Tours.

Halls had, not long before this, acquired Valliant Cronshaw, another coach firm. Their combined vehicles utilised Valliant’s red and grey liveries and used the name “Valliant Silverline”. WNO 481 had such a livery and was seen at Epsom with it, on Derby Day, 1972.

WNO 481 at The Epsom Derby,  7 June, 1972. You can just make out “Valliant Silverline” on its left side. Photo by Paul Bateson, used with permission.

The Wings livery was applied shortly before the tour, probably in July, given accounts of the time.

We are not sure how long the Wings livery stayed in place but we do know it was still there in January 1973. This is when WNO 481 attended the Brunel University Bus Rally that became ShowBus.

The Ownership Passes to Tricentrol

Halls, T/A Silverline, was acquired by Tricentrol in or about August 1973. In 1975, WNO 481 was moved to Dunstable, which is where we believe it acquired the mustard-gold Tricentrol livery that would stay in place until at least 1982.

WNO 481 at the ShowBus Rally, Thorpe Park, 7 September 1980. Photo by David Mant. Used with permission.

This may be a good point to note a correction to the previous post. The pictures taken of WNO 481 in Tricentrol’s livery in Volendam and Amsterdam were of a one-off Bus Rally, not the actual Tulip Rally. The British contingent called it their version of that rally at the time, “The Tulip Bus Rally”. Our thanks to Frans Angevaare for pointing this out.

The St Albans Saviour

Tricentrol had slated WNO 481 to be scrapped when it was acquired in 1982 by Roger White of St Albans. We believe, from his family’s recollections, that the bus was repainted with its Wings livery after that. This was until 1989, when, assisted by Godfrey Davis, the bus was given the red/white livery it sported for the BAFTA London – Cannes Rally of that year.

The livery for the London-Cannes Great British Film Rally, circa May 1989. Photo from the Roger White Collection, courtesy of Greg White.

Our previous post asked about a picture of WNO 481 in the above livery. We have now confirmed that it was taken at the Southend Bus Rally of 1989.

We are not entirely sure, but we believe the red/white livery was retained for a few years until shortly before the bus was auctioned by Sotheby’s, in August 1993.

WNO 481 back with its Wings. This photo is believed to be from just prior to it attending a Beatles convention in Amsterdam on 10 April 1993 (see flyer). Photo from the Roger White Collection, courtesy of Greg White.

When the Wings livery was reapplied before the auction, it was, to the best of our knowledge, the third time it had been painted onto WNO 481. It is also the one that remains on our bus to this day.

If you have any photos, memories or stories about The 1972 Wings Tour Bus, whether it was in its Wings livery, or at any time before or since then, do please get in touch. We’d love to hear from you!

We’d also like to hear from anyone who worked for Hall Coaches/Silverline Tours and Tricentrol that had any involvement in WNO 481, or if you know someone who did.