Malta's First Chinese Built Buses

From China With Love - 1970s Style ...

What we know so far ...

Photographs of the buses

Think of Chinese-built buses in Malta and the two generations of King Longs will come to mind - the first dating from 2002-2004 and the "Arriva" era examples dating from 2011. However the first generation of Chinese-built buses pre-date these by almost 30 years ...

In the early 1970s the Chinese won the contract to build the new "Dock 6" drydock. A number of Chinese workers came over to Malta as part of the project, and five buses cam with them to transport them around as needed.

The first to arrive was a minibus which was released by Malta Customs in June 1973. It was a “Light Duty Cross Country automobile Peking BJ212” minibus. The chassis number was 30345, and it had a 70hp petrol engine numbered 7211795. It was green, seated 5, allocated registration 61882, and was new in November 1972. It was owned by the Chinese Technical Team based at Tigne Barracks, who were overseeing the construction of the new Dry Dock. It passed to the Maltese Government Public Works Department in January 1981. In October 1985 new registration M-1729 was allocated (having at some point been allocated Z-1133). A document dated June 1990 records that the bus had been with the Kalaxlokk Company Ltd since date unknown. By this date it had been written off and the plates returned. 

Three Shanghai Passenger Bus (model SK641A - or maybe SK640L) arrived in Malta in 1974. These were larger vehicles, seating 30 passengers, and were fitted with 95hp petrol engines. 

Chassis Number                        Registration Sequence
022                                                 71729 - Z-1130 - M-1732
023                                                 70897 - Z-1131 - M-1728
024                                                 69302 - Z-1132 - M-1733

Also owned by the Chinese Technical Team based at Tigne Barracks, they passed to the Maltese Government in January 1981 and were allocated to the Public Works Department. Their use and history witht the PWD is not known, nor is the date of their withdrawal and disposal.

According to Thomas Knowles' "derelicts" database, two were noted in Kasparell’s scrapyard on Triq il-Brolli, Birzebbuga in the 1990s. M-1728 (70897) was first noted in May 1993 and was in a white and green livery (believed to have been the colour scheme the buses arrived in China in), whilst M-1732 (71729) was first noted there in April 1994 in the Public Works Department yellow and white livery. M-1728 (70897) was last noted in April 2000, whilst M-1732 (71729) was last noted in November 1998. What happened to M-1733 (69302) is not currently known, but it probably ended up in the same scrapyard at some point. 

The fifth bus was another minibus. Other than it initially was registered 75906, and appears to be similar in size to 61882, nothing further is known.

NOTE - all five buses were left-hand drive.

A comment from Oliver Caruana on the "Malta Nostalgia" Facebook page is that he remembers the Chinese drivers wearing white gloves when driving the buses. 


  • Can you supply any photographs of these buses ? - especially colour iamges !

  • Do you have any memories about the buses, where they could be seen running, the Chinese staff ? Please get in touch using the "Contact Us" button.

Photographs of these buses are few and far between.

UK-based transport photographer, Roger de Boer, frequently visited Malta in the late 1970s and the 1980s, mostly taking black and white images. He managed to take three images of two of the larger buses, and they appear here -

No colour "in service" images are currently known of for these buses.

However, James Schembri did take this image looking towards the Kasperall scrapyard site in 2010, and it appears to show the rear end of one of the Chinese buses - possibly M-1732 (71729) as it is looks to be in PWD yellow and white. The area has since been cleared, but the image is shown here for reference.

Of the minibuses, Mike Fenton took a black and white photograph of 75906 in 1979. We do not currently have permission to post this image online. No images of 61882 are currently known of.

Contact Us