Towcester, Northamptonshire-based J.P. Humbert Auctioneers Ltd., dropped the hammer on Maggie Thatcher’s 17.6 tonne armour-plated Northern Ireland “battle bus” yesterday. First registered by Britain’s Metropolitan Police on July 1, 1983, the vehicle is said to have been used by Lady Thatcher on a whistle-stop tour of Northern Ireland during her lengthy premiership (1979 –1990). The heavyweight battle bus incorporates a blast proof floor, armour plated glass and run flat tyres and is one of only a handful of buses around the globe -- like Parliament’s Nuclear Proof Coach -- that was designed to protect occupants against a chemical, biological or nuclear attack.
Originally intended for use by the upper echelons of the British Military, the 27-seater bus was apparently registered via a dummy company as a civilian transport vehicle. With coachwork by Glover, Webb & Liversidge (acquired by GKN in 1994) and a chassis supplied by truck manufacturer Foden (a division of Paccar U.K. Ltd.), Maggie’s battle bus is powered by a 12-litre Rolls-Royce engine and once included its own auxiliary generator and air filtration system. Although the U.S. Secret Service never comment on the specification or equipment levels of vehicles used by the president it’s likely that an NBC system is also installed on the two Prevost XLII-based presidential tour buses.
The monster bus -- which only garnered a maximum bid of £4,000 when listed for sale on ebay last year -- certainly “isn’t a good-looking vehicle by any stretch of the imagination- but it is of social and historical interest. An irreplaceable one off,” said auctioneer, Jonathan Humbert. Offered with a guide price of £10,000-12,000, the vehicle easily beat its estimate, selling for a commendable £16,940.