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Topdeck celebrates 40 years

November 22, 2013 Wholesaler No Comments Email Email

With just £400 to his name, a young Aussie vet in London stumbled across an old double-decker bus in a paddock and with a flash of inspiration, a plan to explore Morocco and some makeshift bunk beds, Topdeck was born.

(left to right) Topdeck founders Bill James, Mike Carroll and Graham ‘Skroo’ Turner share tales about Topdeck’s colourful past at the 40th anniversary ball in London.

(left to right) Topdeck founders Bill James, Mike Carroll and Graham ‘Skroo’ Turner share tales about Topdeck’s colourful past at the 40th anniversary ball in London.

With that original bus now a fleet of over 100 and more than a million passengers later, Topdeck is proudly celebrating 40 years of taking young explorers around the world.

Topdeck founders including Graham ‘Skroo’ Turner, Mike Carroll and Bill James – who was also Topdeck’s very first passenger, were among 275 guests who recently celebrated the milestone birthday at a gala ball in London where it all began.

Other guests included passengers who took that first trip from London to Morocco in 1973, four generations of current and ex staff from around the world, board members and UK and European suppliers.

One of Topdeck’s first buses – a 1958 Bristol Lodekka called ‘Tadpoles’ – was taken out of retirement from the Bus and Coach Museum in the Isle of White to transport the original passengers to the event.

Graham Turner (front left) and Bill James (back right) pictured with some of the passengers who joined Topdeck’s first trip from London to Morocco in 1973.

Graham Turner (front left) and Bill James (back right) pictured with some of the passengers who joined Topdeck’s first trip from London to Morocco in 1973.

“The night captured the true spirit of Topdeck,” Topdeck managing director James Nathan said.

“After 40 years our family culture is as strong as ever with the first Topdeck passengers flying from far and wide including Australia and Mexico to help celebrate. How many other tour companies would have such passenger loyalty?

“The night was about celebrating all things Topdeck and to have four generations of Topdeckers join in the celebrations was also a highlight.

“Although our passengers and operating environment have changed, the DNA of Topdeck hasn’t – we’re still a family company delivering life-changing holiday experiences to young people.”

The ball was held at The Tower Hotel overlooking the Tower Bridge.

One of Topdeck’s original double-deckers, a 1958 Bristol Lodekka called ‘Tadpoles’, was brought out of retirement to help celebrate the company’s 40th birthday.

One of Topdeck’s original double-deckers, a 1958 Bristol Lodekka called ‘Tadpoles’, was brought out of retirement to help celebrate the company’s 40th birthday.

Topdeck began in 1973 when Graham Turner, working in the countryside of northern England, saw an old double decker bus in a used coach lot.

He decided to buy it to drive to Morocco with a couple of friends. Originally called ‘Argus Persicus Travel’ (named after an Australian cattle tick), the first tour of Morocco was advertised in an Earls Court pub.

It quickly filled and ‘Top Deck’ was born.

Demand became hard to contain and within a few years it was operating a fleet of 25 buses and coaches on European tours.

Ball guests explore original Topdeck bus ‘Tadpoles’.

Ball guests explore original Topdeck bus ‘Tadpoles’.

The company amazed both the coach and adventure tours industry by successfully running “impossible” overland tours from London to Kathmandu by double-decker bus.

Topdeck now has different ownership and takes young explorers not only around Europe, but Africa, the Middle East, North America, Australia and New Zealand.

“From the Baby Boomers to Gen Ys and Zs, Topdeck has created memories fondly remembered by many,” Mr Nathan said.

“We’ve had a successful and colourful history and we have a great future to look forward to.”

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