Few vehicles are as symbolic of a country the way a Bristol is for Britain. The iconic double-decker buses scream of the “British invasion” of legendary bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones because of the buses’ popularity around England during the 1960s.
The reliability of the Bristol FLF Lodekka Bus, however, also made it popular around the world. The name Bristol comes from the Bristol Commercial Vehicles manufacturer. The FLF stands for Flat-floor, Long, Forward entrance. Lodekka, by the way, sounds like “low decker,” which describes the design. Clever Brits.
The Lodekka was an innovation of its day, taking the basic double-decker design from passenger rail cars that are still in use. While two-floor buses had been used at the turn of the 20th century, Lodekka crafted technically sophisticated buses that offered more comfort and head room than other models by keeping the running gears lower to the chassis, which created space for passengers. The bus had 38 seats on the upper deck and 32 seats on the lower deck.
The Lodekka was never sold to the public and sold only to transit companies around the world, but their popularity has led to many either still in use around the world or in collections after they are “retired from service.”
The bus in the LeMay collection was built in October 1965, specifically for Western National Omnibus Co. that served between Cheltenham and Penzance in Southwest England. It was then sold in 1978 and exported to Mobile, Ala. before being brought to Tacoma by the late Harold LeMay. His widow donated the bus to the namesake museum in 2005.