A rare mobile cinema has been listed on eBay for £120,000.00.
The vehicle is the sole survivor of a fleet of seven commissioned for the Ministry of Technology department of the UK government in the late sixties.
The fleet were originally created to tour the country, promoting modern production techniques to the British industry.
The seven Bedfords were operated by PERA, formally the Production Engineering Research Association.
Films would be played within the cinema, with supporting displays shown in the trailer that accompanied the towing unit as they toured the nation’s factories.
Remote control projection equipment was placed in the steel framed, Perspex-glazed dome above the cab, whilst the Bedford SB chassis was fitted with coachwork by Coventry Steel Caravans, utilising cabs supplied by Plaxtons.
However in 1974 the Government sold off the mobile cinemas, this being the sole surviving vehicle.
After several owners failed to restore the vehicle, it eventually came to be owned by Devon-based Oliver Halls, who totally restored the bus inside and out.
Oliver notes that “the projection kit installed is all of a high modern standard with full HD and 7.1 Dolby surround sound, complimented by sound proofing fitted to limit external disturbances. There is also a Dometic climate control unit installed which delivers piped hot or cold blown air into the theatre space for the comfort of the audience.
“The Bell and Howell 16mm projector housed in the original cab mount is a direct replacement for the original, which was missing when we purchased the cinema. It’s a functioning machine but not currently connected to our digital AV equipment.”
For the past five years the vehicle has been used as a touring cinema following its full restoration between the years 2005-2010.
It comes complete with the exact trailer it was built to tow, “which is the last of its kind as the other six are also believed to have disappeared forever,” says Oliver.
Due to it being so rare, the mobile cinema has appeared on numerous television programmes over the years, including co-starring with Melvyn Bragg on The Reel History of Britain series on BBC 2, George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces, and has featured on various local and national news programmes such as BBC Breakfast and Inside Out.
“Its popularity has never waned since we launched and we have picked up business with a wide range of clients; from small local events, to large film/cultural festivals,” says Oliver.
“This is an important piece of transport and cinema history that would suit purchase by a either a collector or someone seeking an incredibly unique and fun lifestyle business. The sale will include the logo, image rights, goodwill of the business and all website, social media accounts,” he clarifies.
The cinema is built on a Bedford SB3 chassis and has a Plaxton Panorama cab with a custom swing passenger door to replace the standard sliding door fitted to the coaches of this era.
The body (including Luton/dome) was built by the high-end vehicle body manufacturers Coventry Steel Caravans and is constructed of lightweight extruded aluminium panels, giving excellent strength and durability.
The chassis manufacturer for the trailer is unknown, but the body was also built by Coventry Steel Caravans and features a full wrap over perspex roof in the mid third of the body.
Oliver assumes that this was presumably to echo the dome of the cinema, creating useful backlighting for displaying blueprints in the trailer’s exhibition space.
The cinema has always been stored undercover and the pair of vehicles come with a collection of spares.
“It’s been a marvellous 10 years restoring and touring the old girl and we’ve had the pleasure of meeting and entertaining so many wonderful people, but the time has come for pastures new.
“Please share this as far and wide as possible so we can have the best chance to find a new, loving home for one of Britain’s more iconic historic vehicles.”
Anyone with a serious interest in the mobile cinema should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.