Project Vivat! Recreating Television History

MCR23 as found
Inside a 1950s vehicle
Roving Reporter cut-away

More information will be posted on this site as the project develops. If you are interested in what we are trying to achieve, you can contact us at:

Pictured left, a 1950s Marconi-built BBC OB truck as depicted in the ‘Eagle’ 1961. In the absence of full plans and documentation this cut-away drawing is as close to a general assembly view as we currently have.

Below are pictures from the actual coronation.

OB trucks

Left: Outside broadcast trucks outside the Marconi New Street works in the mid 1950s. A BBC truck is second from the right. Below: a typical mobile control room from the 1950’s

Queen Elizabeth II Coronation
BBC Camera coronation procession

Above: Pre-restoration photograph. Click on the photo to see more original images.

Above: This is what it looks like now! Click on the Photo to see the latest news!

See our “Latest News” page for an overview of how we are getting on! Each entry contains a description of the work and more photographs.

Not one example of a 1950s BBC television outside broadcast unit survives, despite the 50s being such an important decade for the new medium of TV. This project sets out to redress that lack by recreating a representative operational unit. It is based on a very similar early 1960s vehicle (MCR 23, registration number 390 EXH) but fitted out with original early 1950s equipment.

The early 1950s was a very significant decade in the development of broadcast television, especially with regard to outside broadcasts. Whilst such broadcasts had been a reality since before the war, it was the prospect of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 which really made the whole idea a big success and really launched television for the masses in the UK. The Queen’s Coronation was viewed by at least 20 million people in Britain and another 200 million people across the planet, (via live relays and tele-recordings).

These days, that 220 million figure doesn’t seem too large in light of ‘Live Aid’ and the Beijing Olympics (to name but two), but back in 1953 there were no satellites and only the beginnings of the Eurovision network. For North American audiences, the Coronation broadcast was seen via tele-recordings delivered by the RAF using three flights of Canberra jet bombers. This ‘coming of age’ of television in 1953 heralded a great decade of innovation and technical development throughout the 1950s. The advent of ITV in 1955 was another huge stimulus and outside broadcasts became a popular and regular part of the daily television fare.

With no complete 1950s outside broadcast unit surviving in the UK, a hazy idea of building a ‘replacement’ began to take shape amongst a group of like-minded engineers. It would be a recreation of an early 50s BBC ‘Scanner’, similar to a type used at the Coronation, but based on a near-derelict early 60s BBC vehicle (MCR 23, registration number 390 EXH), using accumulated Marconi MkII and MkIII series equipment.

For various reasons the project has only progressed in fits and starts, but finally, the whole assembly of vehicle and operational broadcast television equipment is at last coming together. Upon acquisition of the vehicle, it was immediately obvious that a lot of vehicle work, both inside and out, would be necessary. That has taken a lot of time and money but finally fitting-out and testing of the television equipment has now begun in earnest. There’s still a lot to do, but at long last it’s beginning to look like a complete outside broadcast unit. What should our first programme be?

MCR23 current photo

Project Vivat is part of the Broadcast Engineering Conservation Group. Visit the site for more projects and articles.

Internal video cabling sponsored by Bryant Unlimited.

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