I was walking along a street in Launceston, Tasmania, when I came across this strange beast of a bus.
When I got home my friend Doug, who likes buses, helped me to track its provenance.
It’s a Flxible Clipper, an American design dating from 1937 that was imported to Australia in 1947 by Sir Reginald Ansett (1909-1981).
Reg Ansett was an inspired Australian entrepreneur: he began running buses and taxis between the towns of western Victoria, and then founded Ansett Airways in 1936. His airline became the basis for investment in hotels and television as well as interests in Diners’ Club and Bic pens.
This particular vehicle is the American original, from which Reg Ansett built a further 105 (or 131, depending on the source,) under licence. It now belongs to Ken Turnbull, who drove it in the 1950s, bought it in 1974 and restored it to original condition.
There are at least another sixteen Flxible Clippers on the road in Australia, but all the others are converted into motor homes: http://www.commercialmotor.com/big-lorry-blog/the-fabulous-flxible-clippera.
They are revered for their durability and speed and their inimitable style. In the USA they were known as “the DC3 of highway buses”: http://flxibleowners.org/breeds-of-flxibles.
A 1951 Australian model figures in this clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gw9BYu6BqJo.
Flxible, by the way, is pronounced “Flexible”: the vowel was dropped for trade-mark purposes in 1919.