Cliffhanger coach from The Italian Job ends its days in Fife
It was last seen on screen see-sawing over the edge of a mountain precipice at the end of The Italian Job.
Now 50 years after viewers were left wondering what became of the bus and its cargo of gold bullion, a new book has revealed how the vehicle spent its final days in Fife.
In the final scene of the 1969 crime caper starring Michael Caine, the gold bars slide towards the back of the bus, threatening to tip the balance and cause the vehicle to plummet.
The booty slipping further from Caine’s grasp, he turns to his gang and announces: “Hang on a minute lads, I’ve got a great idea.”
It was the ultimate cliffhanger, but with no sequel generations of cinema goers never discovered what happened next.
Matthew Field, author of The Self Preservation Society, 50 Years of The Italian Job, to be published on Monday, said: “The coach ended up in Scotland. Quite often when you make a movie you have more than one of each vehicle because you don’t know what’s going to happen to them and you need to prepare them for different scenes, but there was only ever one coach.
“It had been a passenger vehicle before the film and was transformed for everything they needed for the movie. It was dangled over the cliff – you see it balancing over the precipice – and then it came back to England for the interiors.
“After that, like all movies, you sell off assets that you don’t need anymore and this coach went back to being a passenger vehicle. Up until 1979 that’s what it did and it ended up in Anstruther.”
The coach was used by the Craw’s Nest Hotel, run by the family of radio and TV presenter Edith Bowman, and was driven by her grandfather.
Mr Field said: “I was working with Edith Bowman and telling her I was researching this book and she said ‘I’ve got a connection with The Italian Job’.
“She put me in touch with her mum, who ran the Craw’s Nest Hotel and sponsored an amateur race car team, who had the bus.
“So Edith Bowman’s grandad used to drive this bus and they’d use it for weddings and going on trips and things like that.
“They kind of knew it was from the film, but this was in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s when people didn’t realise the value of film props.
“This was the bus that was hanging over the cliff in Italy in those legendary scenes with Michael Caine. But it ended up being used to bus people around in Fife.”
After being converted back into a passenger vehicle, the bus operated in Blackpool, Liverpool and later Kirriemuir in Perthshire where it was used by local firm Meffan for school runs. It was later bought by racing driver Archie Cromar, in Anstruther, and converted — like in the film — into a transporter for his Formula Ford racing car.
Mr Cromar recalls in the book: “While I was converting it, I also negotiated with The Craw’s Nest Hotel for some racing sponsorship, so from the word go it had The Craw’s Nest logo on the side of it and we painted it white.”
The bus had another two owners before it was scrapped by Burnside Motors in Leven around 1990.
Mr Field said: “Unbelievably, her association with The Italian Job was well known when she was broken up.”