London Airport

There was quite a discussion on the Riley RM Club forum about the last post. One of the interesting things to come out of it was that someone dated the photo by the TWA flight bag one of the men was holding, which was only available from 1957 to 1962. Here’s another postcard with an aviation theme from roughly the same era, when Heathrow was called London Airport.

For car spotters there are so many gems in the car park. I was hoping to find a Riley RM, but I don’t think there is one.

What strikes me is how large some of those cars are. The Jaguar Mk VII (nearest us in the middle row) was 16 ft 5 in long. That’s an inch longer than the new Range Rover. Next to it is a Humber Pullman. I thought it was a Humber Super Snipe Mk VI, but that was the same length as the Jag and this looks longer, so it must be the Pullman at 17 ft 8 inches. Maybe that’s a regular 16 ft 5 inch Super Snipe one along from it.

But it’s the next car that intrigues me. The one with the roof rack, split screen, very raked windscreen, quarter lights, long pointy bonnet and sloping radiator. What’s that?

I don’t normally comment on buses or coaches (because I don’t know anything about them really) but these coaches looked very interesting so I did some research.

They are AEC Regal Mk IVs and they were built in 1952 and 1953 specially for BEA (British European Airways) with taller bodies because the airline needed to transport its passengers between its Central London Check-in in Kensington and London Airport. Their unusual height was to allow more luggage space beneath the seating deck. I found a picture of a restored one at the London Bus Museum.

However, of much more interest is a British Pathe film I found on Youtube, which must have been made at about the same time as the photo was taken for the postcard, though obviously in a different season, there being no snow on the ground in the film. Did you notice the snow in the postcard?

Here we can see that the coaches were grey. It seems odd that the restored bus is light blue or turquoise and while this is not explained, it is acknowledged on The Country Bus website – “MLL740, preserved by Donald Allmey, gives a good impression of the majesty of the BEA RFs, even if the livery worn in preservation does not match with any of the schemes it wore in service.”

Many of the cars in the British Pathe film seem to be the exact same ones as in the postcard. There’s that split screen, raked windscreen one again! What is it? Someone put me out of my misery!

Here’s the video in full. Oh look, you can see an AEC Regal Mk IV! I’m a bus expert now.

Go on, leave a comment!