Priscilla bus found
3 min read

Get ready to dust off your platforms and dig out your feather boas, because Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’s iconic bus, is finally coming home!

After years lost and presumed gone, the beloved “old bus and chain” is set for a grand restoration, thanks to a collaborative effort between the South Australian government, the History Trust, and a stroke of incredible luck.

This isn’t just any bus; it’s a national treasure. The 1994 film, “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” became a global phenomenon, sparking conversations about LGBTQ+ acceptance and propelling careers of actors like Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce.


The vibrant bus, which was half painted pink for part of the trip, carrying the drag queens Mitzi Del Bra, Felicia Jollygoodfellow, and transgender woman Bernadette Bassenger across the harsh Australian landscape, became a powerful symbol of resilience, self-expression, and the quintessential Aussie larrikin spirit.

Priscilla bus

But after filming wrapped, Priscilla vanished. For years, rumours swirled – sightings, claims of ownership, dead ends. It became a white whale for the curators at the National Motor Museum in Birdwood, South Australia, who dreamed of adding her to their collection of iconic vehicles.

Donate to help with restoration here

Enter Michael Mahon. In 2019, Mahon contacted the History Trust, claiming a rusty bus on his Ewingar, NSW property was none other than Priscilla. Initial scepticism quickly turned into frantic verification. The number plates, animal print interior, and a crucial detail – a scrap of lingering pink paint under a hinge – all matched.

Turns out, after the shoot, the bus changed hands a few times, eventually ending up abandoned on Mahon’s property. It had survived not only years of neglect but also multiple bushfires and floods. One fire even came within centimetres, saved only by a lucky water bomb. It was truly a case of Priscilla defying the odds, just like the film’s characters.

With legal ownership established, the bus was finally transported to Queensland for restoration. The goal? To return her to her former glory, reflecting her on-screen state in the film. But Priscilla isn’t getting a complete makeover. The wear and tear, a testament to her survival story, will be preserved.

This grand homecoming, however, comes with a price tag. The South Australian History Trust aims to raise a staggering A$2.2 million. Part of this will go towards the restoration itself, with the possibility of making Priscilla roadworthy again.

The rest? Building a dazzling, immersive exhibition worthy of a queen at the National Motor Museum. The South Australian government has already pledged its support with a $100,000 AUD contribution.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert film director Stephan Elliott said they had heard so many rumours about where she had ended up and had given up hope of finding her again.

“I really want to thank the History Trust for making this amazing discovery and bringing Priscilla back to life,” Elliot said.

“The film seems to carry through generations, and this is a chance for possibly many more generations to feel its message of love, tolerance and living your true self every day.”

This is more than just a bus restoration; it’s a celebration of Australian film history, LGBTQ+ culture, and the enduring spirit of Priscilla.

History Trust chief executive Greg Mackie said Priscilla still had an important story to tell Australians and international visitors.

“It was first released into a world still grappling with the impact of HIV/AIDS, and it immediately became a symbol of survival, the importance of love and respect, and of embracing of difference,” he said.

“The History Trust of South Australia intends to restore Priscilla to roadworthy condition for special outings, and to authentically render to its interior the glamorous over-the-top camp of the 1994 movie.”

The campaign hopes to tap into this national affection, seeking contributions from around the world. After all, Priscilla’s story is one of resilience, acceptance, and the power of a good road trip.

So, dust off your glitter, open up your wallets and support the restoration efforts here.

Last Updated on Apr 12, 2024

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