Before the Routemaster: The legendary AEC Regent III RT and RF buses

Incredible history records of the RT fleet i.e. snapshot ofRT3251 LLU 610

This bus started life in July 1950 making its final service run April 1979.

It is incredible these machines have been kept and a testament to those that continue to maintain them, the London Bus Museum. 

RT buse in the garage
RT buse in the garage

Did you used to work on these beautiful machines? Check out the comments below from those who did, and join the conversation

Introduction to the RT and RF bus

In the mid-20th century, the Regent III RT and RF buses were some of the most popular and recognisable public transport vehicles operating in the United Kingdom. The Regent III bus was introduced in 1947 and quickly became a familiar sight on the streets of London and other major cities. It was known for its reliability and versatility and was used for both urban and suburban routes.

The Regent III RT was the first of the two models to be introduced, and it quickly became the standard bus for the London Transport Executive. It was a double-decker bus that featured a distinctive curved roof and an open platform at the rear. The bus was powered by a Leyland 0.600 engine, which provided ample power for its size. The RT was designed to carry up to 56 passengers, with 27 seated on the upper deck and 29 on the lower deck.

two red RT buses
two red RT buses

One of the key features of the Regent III RT was its ability to operate on a wide range of routes. It was equally at home on busy city streets and suburban routes and could handle both flat and hilly terrain with ease. The bus was also known for its smooth ride and quiet operation, making it a popular choice for both drivers and passengers. Though modern-day passengers may have a different view, why not watch our video below and make up your own mind, about these find buses in operation!

The Regent III RF (Regal IV Front)

In 1950, the Regent III RF was introduced as a variant of the RT. The Regent III RF (Regal IV Front) was a single-decker bus that was also produced by AEC. It was introduced in 1952 and was primarily used in suburban areas outside of London. The RF was smaller than the RT, but it had a similar design, with a rounded front end and aluminum body.

The RF was designed for use on rural routes and featured a higher ground clearance, a larger fuel tank, and improved suspension. The RF was also equipped with a Leyland O.600 engine, but it was detuned to provide better fuel economy.

Like the RT, the RF was a double-decker bus with a curved roof and an open platform at the rear. It could carry up to 56 passengers, with 27 seated on the upper deck and 29 on the lower deck. The RF was designed to operate on long-distance routes and was used primarily in rural areas outside of London.

Bus upgrades and Lower Emissions – even then!

The Regent III buses were in service for several decades, and they underwent several changes and upgrades during their lifetimes. In the 1960s, for example, many of the RT buses were converted to run on compressed natural gas (CNG) to reduce emissions.

Today, the Regent III RT and RF buses are remembered as icons of mid-20th-century British transportation. They are still celebrated by enthusiasts and collectors, who work to preserve and restore these classic vehicles for future generations to enjoy.

RT buses lined up part of the rt80
RT buses lined up part of the rt80

Phasing out of the RT and RF bus

Despite its many advantages, the Regent III RT and RF were eventually phased out of service in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The buses were replaced by newer, more modern designs that were better suited to the changing needs of public transport. The last RT bus was retired from service in London in 2005, and the last RF bus was retired in the early 1980s. However, the Regent III RT and RF will forever remain an important part of British transport history and are fondly remembered by many who rode on them during their heyday.

The early design story of the AEC Regent III RT bus

This magnificent bus was designed in Great Britain in the 1930s by the British vehicle manufacturer Associated Equipment Company (AEC), who built trucks and buses from 1912 to 1979.  The AEC Regent III RT prototype hit the road in 1938, named aptly as London Transport RT 1.

London Transport in this pre-war period ordered 338 of the bus type which shrank to 150 as the dark skies of world war 2 overshadowed London and the rest of the world.

The cost of a brand new Regent III RT bus: Price tag of £4000 pounds including the seats and AEC engine.

The very first pre-war RT went into service in 1939 and the last (RT624) came out of London Transport service in 1979. Built with an ACE engine that lasted 40 years of driving.

In total, London transport received 4,674 war RT class buses built in the space of 7 years from 1947 to 1954. The very last RT, now it is preserved by Ensignbus used to operate on route 62 for Barking garage on the 7th of April 1979.

RT Buses on the big screen

No Black and white movie showing London is complete without an appearance of an AEC RT Regent bus. 

The RT buses (when they were retired) were brought back for film and tv work. In the Harry Potter movie, the designers created the RT bus into a triple-decker bus known as the Knight Bus (in the Movie Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)

Another example was when the RT bus was featured in the James bond movie (live and let die) and probably the best of all known RT buses, Cliff Richard dives an RT bus in the 1963 comedy movie ‘Summer holidays’

Before the Routemaster: The legendary AEC Regent III RT and RF buses 3

RT buses outside of London 

London Transport was not the only recipient of RT buses, during the 1940s and 1950s RT chassis where sold to Glasgow , Rhonda, Aberdeen, West Riding, Halifax, Grimsby, Birmingham, Devon, Coventry and St Helens. Between 1946 to 1951 some 101 RT chassis were delivered to 10 other operators

The Glasgow Corporation, single RT bus; reg: DGB 371, was meant to appear at the commercial vehicle show of 1939, but unfortunately the show got cancelled due to the outbreak of world war 2.

The RT buses outside of London, not only carried different liveries but also carried different designed bodies, from coach works such as, Weymann, Roe, Northern Counties, Park Royal and Metro-Cammell.

For more research and photographs on this particular topic, please take a look at this site RT Buses outside London

What is the difference between AEC Regent III RT bus and the New Route Master bus in Numbers

  • Engine Capacity:

    • RT Bus 9.6 Litres,
    • New Route master 4.5 Litres plus 18kw hybrid electric motor
  • Length:

    • RT Bus 26ft 
    • New Route master 36ft
  • Width:

    • RT Bus 7ft 6
    • New Route master  8ft 3 
  • Height:

    • RT Bus 14ft 5
    • New Route master 14ft 4
  • Seating Capacity

    • RT Bus 56 (how many could stand?)
    • New Route master  80 (includes 25 standing)

Filming of RT and RF buses through the streets of Barking, RT80 anniversary

Take a peek inside the world of vintage RT London Buses, entered service 80 years ago this year. To celebrate the last journey in Barking 40 years ago in 1979, the finest collection of RT buses in the world, were driving again through the streets of Barking. 30th March 2019. Courtesy of the London Bus Museum.
RT green bus side
RT green bus side
A gold RT with a queue of passengers
A gold RT with a queue of passengers
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Paul Russell
7 months ago

What was the bus that preceded the RT in London and the Bristol Lodekka in Essex?

Duncan Kirkwood
1 year ago

I worked on RT and RF buses in 1969/71 when employed as Acting Night Chargehand Bus Mechanic at Leatherhead London Country Bus Co. Garage … can someone please remind what types of nuts / bolts were used … would they have been UNF or Whitworth? … Unlikely they were AF. I was issued with a standard tool kit comprising: hammer, brake adjuster socket (used frequently) two screwdrivers (one small one large), three open ended spanners, two ring spanners and a couple of box spanners with a bar … these few tools enabled completion of most maintenance tasks … most mechanics gradually bought their own socket sets which were very expensive … in those days there were no quality Taiwanese / Chinese tools … all socket sets on sale were of UK or European manufacture.

Henry Harwood
2 years ago

I notice in all historic reference to the RT, no one has ever made reference to the experimental derivative; the RTC 1. This was an experimental Greenline Coach version, that did not, for whatever reason, prove successful.
It was after trials, allocated to Leatherhead Garage and worked Route 468, from Chessington Zoo to Bookham or Effingham, I can’t remember which, via Epsom, for many years from 1948.
Does anyone know more about this?

1 year ago
Reply to  Henry Harwood
Jeff White
2 years ago

Drove RTs for the first 7 years on this job, last one was RT 2541 a sub on route 180 in August 1978. Now driving hybrids on night buses out of Plumstead. I have always harboured an ambition to drive a pre-war example.
Jeff White

David simpson
2 years ago

Great bus the RT drove one 163 from new cross I was 21 they had just drop the she requirement from 25 parliament hill to plumstead common with my conductor Newley arrived Kiefe Cave from Barbadious (I’ll have a barley wine ) we used to split up the spare change he couldn’t count to well and have a pint at both ends where we had our break quite often in the pub ??

2 years ago

great times working on these as a mechanic during the 1960,s at Ponders End ,and Palmers Green

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