Big Bad Bus: 1960 Mercury NAPCO 4×4 School Bus

030916 Barn Finds - 1960 Mercury NAPCO Bus 1

Thanks to Barn Finds reader Lance for the tip on this great bus! This rugged and rare 1960 Mercury NAPCO 4×4 school bus is here on eBay as we speak and it’s located down in Bogata, Texas, about halfway between Dallas and Texarkana in far NE Texas. The current bid price is a little over $2,500 with no buy-it-now price and few days left on the auction. This is one rare beast of a bus.

030916 Barn Finds - 1960 Mercury NAPCO Bus 2

NAPCO (Northwestern Auto Parts Company) was based in Minneapolis, MN. The company really took off during WWII when they started producing war-tested assemblies and they offered an add-on 4×4 kit for 2-wheel-drive trucks called the “Power-Pak”. For $995 a buyer could order the Power-Pak kits for Chevrolets and GMCs, but also for Fords and even Studebaker pickups. This custom Mercury bus must have been a Canadian vehicle – there’s a “Ford Motor Company of Canada Limited” tag shown among the photos in the auction. The mid-1950s was the golden era for NAPCO because when GM, their main client, added their own factory 4×4 system in 1960, they were stuck without a major customer and the end was near. They did continue on for a few years, mainly producing the Power-Pak kits for 1-1/2 ton and heavier trucks, like the big, bad, blue bus here.

030916 Barn Finds - 1960 Mercury NAPCO Bus 3

This is a three-window bus due to the number of operable windows on each side, although quite a few of the windows in general will need to be replaced. It shouldn’t be too tough to find those rear curved pieces since they literally made thousands and thousands of these bodies over several decades. This blue brute was originally school-bus-yellow in color, or colour, given its Canadian heritage. The bus body is from the famous Blue Bird Corporation, makers of buses since 1932. In 1958, Blue Bird Canada was started in Brantford, Ontario where this body was made. What an amazing conglomeration here, a Blue Bird Body and a Mercury front clip mounted on a NAPCO Power-Pak 4×4 system!

030916 Barn Finds - 1960 Mercury NAPCO Bus 7

Josh wrote about another “short bus” a few days ago, a really cool 1948 Chevy, but that one had a complete drivetrain and was really a short bus, being a two-window body. This big, bad, blue bus doesn’t have an engine or transmission, unfortunately. But, here’s your chance to drop in a Ford diesel and a nice 5-speed which should be more than enough power here; much more than this beast would have originally had for hauling little Canadian kids to school and back home again.

030916 Barn Finds - 1960 Mercury NAPCO Bus 9

This would be the perfect vehicle for, say, a roving architectural photographer who travels a couple of hundred days a year and spends $100 a night on hotel stays. A little sound-proofing and some nice upholstery and bedding and outlets and a little generator and, and.. Not to mention that it would be usable year-round the the 4×4 system, and with a Ford diesel in there it might actually get halfway decent mileage. Add a ladder on the back and it would turn the roof into an instant tripod platform. Hmm..

030916 Barn Finds - 1960 Mercury NAPCO Bus 8

No fancy airbags here, just steel and knobs and other things that would turn into projectiles in the event of a crash. No A/C here, either, but who needs that nonsense when there’s a fan like the one shown here. Of course, this thing could really be outfitted to perfection if a person were a Texas oil magnate and money was no object. I have all kinds of ideas of what I could do with this bus. I’m guessing that you’re probably talking about $50,000+ in restoration costs and that’s probably if you do a lot of the work yourself. But, it sure would be one big, bad ride when you were done; one of a kind, no question about it. What would you do with this big, bad, blue bus?

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Comments

  1. E.M.

    THAT would be a fun project! I bet the kids on that route hated it. So much for getting to stay home because of snow!

  2. Steve B

    Leave it as is, grow out a Charles Manson beard, play the White album in a loop and scare the crap out of your neighbors.

    Like 1
  3. bob

    Put the best snow tires made, insulate it, put double pane windows and return it to the North. With that ground clearance it will be unstoppable.

  4. JW

    Now this Bus would look awesome in a Mad Max theme, but please no Horny Mike theme.

  5. JW454

    If the owner doesn’t have them, replacing those two rear curved glass pieces will be difficult.

  6. Ceezy

    It would be cool to leave the out side like it is but I think it’s too much rust. Put a diesel in it and have a one of a kind ride.

  7. grenade

    Diesel 4×4. YES. Play with it. Not real nice, just something to bark, make smoke and haul motocross bikes to the track. Somebody drop that off in Cleveland Ohio and I’ll give him 2500… What a race rig it could be!

  8. Alan (Michigan)

    Bug-Out machine.

    Room to carry enough fuel to get anywhere, and enough supplies to stay there for a long time.

    • Andy

      Great minds think alike!!! I was thinking also along the lines of mad max, complete with some armor plating all around. Have enough room to be able to live out of it, plus still have room to store your necessities…

  9. Tommy

    Must have been from Canada ,eh? never saw a Mercury truck in the USA

  10. Jim

    A few thoughts, I’ve never seen a Mercury truck bigger than a pickup and its a bus and its a Napco conversion. Yes with a 7.3l diesel, overdrive trans, a/c and finish the interior also a ladder and platform on the roof it would be a hell of a unique tow rig to go to the track with. Dam bad weather, it’s a 6,000lb 4×4. Very cool.

  11. geomechs geomechs Member

    I read that the larger and specialized Mercury trucks/buses were actually assembled in the states. According to my information all the Mercury Super Duty M-7/700/750s, M-8/800/850s and the like, and they were all built stateside. The M-6 on down were built in Canada. However, I kind of wonder about specialized vehicles like this one. I would think that it was built on the Canadian assembly line then shipped stateside for the 4×4 conversion.

    That said, the diesel idea sounds OK but I’d definitely go for a 5.9 Cummins with the P-7100 inline injection pump or try to find an 8.3, which should still fit under that hood. Do NOT even consider a motor out of a ’93 or earlier Dodge because you’re limited to 180 hp, unless you want to ruin that small distributor pump from within (internal components can’t stand the extra pressure exerted from the higher fuel requirements and will disintegrate into a sickly metallic paste, regardless what the skuttlebutt online tells you). A manual transmission would also be required. This looks like it’s still sporting the transfer case which would be harder to come up with than the winning lottery (you all know which one) number; the transfer case (I’d suspect it to be a Rockwell) might seem rather crude but I don’t think the average driver could break it. Of course there’s a strong chance you’ll twist off some driveshafts. Use a Cummins; why bother trying to wire in a complete computerized set up?

    Otherwise, if the budget was tight, I’d tend to source out a good FE or maybe a 460. They’re fairly easy to get parts for and they’re a heck of a lot cheaper to fix than a diesel. If you’re worried about fuel economy, you’ll likely want to pass this one up…

  12. Chebby Staff

    Holy high center of gravity, Batman.

  13. Clint

    School buses were orange in NC until the early 70’s. Not sure about elsewhere.

  14. Jord

    How do we know that someone did not just put in a Mercury front grill? The front of the 60 Mercury is the same as on the ford 1960 bus. If the hood was replaced by a Ford Hood, Then maybe the grill was simply swapped too? Just thinking why would there be only one Mercury Bus known? And the tag says M-F450 was his standin for Mercury? Thoughts …..?

  15. Jim

    The Ford produced Ford trucks only had F-xxx on the vin tag to denote the manufacturer. The Mercury trucks produced by Ford to sell under the Mercury flag had the model stamped exactly like this M-F-xxx. I’m sure the vin could be researched also to trace the lineage. This was produced as an incomplete veh, the vin tag on say a pickup would look different. Mercury sold medium and heavy trucks in Canada up until the early 60’s I believe. The vin tags then didn’t use unique rivets that came later, what is there looks correct.

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