Photographed and Reviewed by Peter Brown
Just released by SunStar in a new livery, this Double-Decker London Bus is a 1946 RT-7 model FXT-182—not the prettiest of names perhaps, but a memorable design. It displays new advertising and markings for the Route 28 line from Wandsworth to High St. in Kensington, for all you Anglophiles out there. For me it brings back fond memories of London, but that's mainly attributable to the fine detail, finish, and build quality of this remarkable model.
It comes packed securely in a Styrofoam shell, inside a sturdy and beautifully decorated cardboard box, showing it's many features. This mint-type packaging means no screws in the bottom of the bus holding it down (hooray!) which is, after-all, more befitting a 1:24 scale model with over 300 parts. Two of those parts, the side-view mirrors, are packed separately to be attached for display, which seems a wise precaution. This model is issued in a limited edition of just 628 pieces, and includes a serially numbered certificate. Prices are in the $150 range.
Starting on the outside, one can't help but admire the smooth red paint job with black fenders and gold accent stripes. The black bar extending below each side of the bus was probably there to prevent people or baggage from rolling underneath, but these were never meant to support the weight of the vehicle. In scale, this could present a hazard if one were not careful picking the model up. The tires (tandem in the rear) look just fine on the shelf, but they reveal little in the way of sidewall detail and look less like rubber than plastic. Tire patterns varied and can be difficult to verify, and on this model your eye isn't drawn to the tires anyway, so I'll give them a passing grade.
Non-functional opening body panels (emergency exits) front and rear are complete with release levers inside and out, and have a rubber seal detail around their outer edges. The advertising and other graphics are crisp and perfectly applied, and appear to be protected by a clear coat. Every rivet head and seam on this massive body has been reproduced, and the windows are clear and relatively distortion-free. The front and side passenger windows slide open and shut vertically with their bright "metal" (silver painted) frames, just like the 1:1, and the inside cranks, while obviously non-functioning, are nicely replicated in chrome.
Details abound on the interior, with colorful striped seat coverings, and tons of chrome hardware from the seatback grab-bars to the vertical rails lining the center isle. Other nice touches include the replication of interior lights along the top of each side wall, a fully-finished painted ceiling, and a sign painted at the front of the isle above the windows which reads: DO NOT SPIT - PENALTY £5.
Down the wood-looking winding stairs, grasping the chrome handrails to either side, we come to the rear entrance/exit platform with its chrome and white grab rails and "USED TICKETS" box. More finely-scaled signage and notices grace this area, and through the doorway you can just see the end of the driver's side (on the right in the UK) ceiling grab rail, nicely done in chrome against the arched, painted ceiling. That was a nice, aesthetic feature of these buses (and the model), making the lower level look more like a conventional single-decker, and therefore less like a "bottom bunk." Below the stairs is a small luggage compartment.
Despite all the windows it's hard to get a good look inside the driver's compartment, but what you can see looks great. The outside door slides open and shut, and inside you'll find a fire extinguisher, readable gauges, and all the pedals, levers, and cranks right where they belong. The steering wheel, though hard to reach, moves with the posable front wheels. The hood has latches in chrome and black, and is supported by an articulated metal bracket when opened. This reveals some radiator bracing and a nicely plumbed and wired engine. Out front, a photo-etched mesh screen over cross bracing, and an emblem, adorn the radiator shell. Headlights and markers are nicely patterned and happily have no visible mounting posts. Chassis detail is a bit above the norm, with wiring included for added realism.
All in all I found this to be a very impressive model, with enough operating features to satisfy most collectors, and the high level of detail we've come to expect in this scale. If the size troubles you—it's about 14 inches long, seven inches tall, and weighs more than seven pounds—bear in mind that unlike most car models, you could probably dust this one without breakage. I have mine displayed on a covered shelf next to my glass-enclosed cases, and it looks great and makes a wonderful conversation piece. Like FM's taxi cab, this model comes right out of our collective subconscious, and will add variety and realism to any 1:24 collection. I strongly recommend it.