Catching the Bus
Originally posted 12/6/2012
While doing my usual Walk For Health stroll, I caught sight of a superb 1950 Flxible bus that has been converted into a motorhome. It’s plain to see from the photos that this is one RV that merits a little attention, and a wonderfully logical and useful way to keep some fine old iron rolling.
Dan and Sally were in repose at a small table set just outside the entry door, and they were more than willing to answer my questions and watch me drool with envy. Dan’s cousin had owned it, and as Dan put it, “It was getting down a little bit.” I’m sure that’s a nice way of saying that it was weathered and worn out. Dan and his brother owned a hot-rodded pickup truck, and it worked into a trade for the bus.
The original Detroit engine and transmission were quickly swapped out for a new Cat assembly. “Just a small V-8 Cat with an Allison transmission,” Dan told me. Such a swap would normally be out of anyone’s abilities, but Dan has been a heavy-duty highway equipment mechanic for 35 years, so he had a very good idea of what he would need going in. “It went in slicker than a whistle, anyway,” he said, “I just put it on a forklift and slid it right in the back, and the transmission mounts – I didn’t have to change anything. They fit. It was really a fun project.” He claims that the driveshaft output was all that had to be fabricated, but I’m sure he considers the shift linkage, throttle linkage, cooling lines and electrical stuff to be not worth mentioning. “Some projects just kind of work good,” he said, “This went really smooth. Didn’t have to fight it too bad.”
Naturally, I wondered how long this home on wheels had been on the road, and found that they got it about three years ago. “We had it all painted and fired up last year, and I took it up to Rhode Island for her maiden voyage.” They stayed two months on that trip, and expect to stay in the Quartzsite area until March, when they will head back to Oregon. They’re considering adding solar panels to power their 55W TV and satellite dish system, but it’s just an idea they’re mulling over since they now use a small Honda 1000W generator to recharge their deep cycle batteries. “It runs about 8 hours on a gallon and a half of fuel, so it works pretty well,” Dan said, “But it would be nice to not have to use it at all.”
“It’s just been a good old rig to play with. We’re not really high-roller enough to get one of those fancy motorhomes,” Dan told me, “but you paint this yourself, and you work on it, and it’s fun! You have to have something to do! And this thing hasn’t
given us one ounce of problem. We’ve put 20,000 miles on it, and since we worked on it, we kind of know what to look for. These things were manufactured to run hundreds of thousands of miles on the road, and that’s what they did. Motorhomes aren’t really made to go that many miles. They’re nice and everything, but they’re not really built to go two or three hundred thousand miles.”
All in all, this 1950 Flxible makes a great long-term platform for an RV, and one which you can outfit just about anyway you’d like. And, let’s face it – you’re not going to get this look anywhere else at any price. What a ride!