Tow Cool for School: 1984 GMC School Bus Wrecker

Here’s something that you don’t see every day, a 1984 GMC Vandura 3500 School Bus Wrecker! This thing is old school cool! It’s listed on eBay with just over a day to get your bids in, and figure out how you’ll get it towed home from Garfield, Arkansas. The current bid price is under $400 and there is no reserve!

This is one of those creations that you probably would never have a use for but you’re glad that it exists, even if it’s in the woods of Arkansas. As you can see, it’s in fantastic condition and the seller says that there “is no rust anywhere, it is a good solid vehicle.” But, then they then they go on to throw down the most ironic line of 2017: “it will need to be towed or trailered.” You may have seen some other wacky creations using vans, and I think this one would have been much better as a tow vehicle with a regular box on the back and a regular hitch. I don’t see these sorts of tow trucks too often anymore, but they’re still out there.

Wouldn’t this be a head-turner, and a head-scratcher?! Imagine pulling this into a gas station with a ’65 Chevy II on the hook, or maybe a similar short bus? The towing mechanism looks legit here and the seller says that “the quality of the build is excellent.” I would 100% agree from looking at the photos. It’s super unfortunate that it happens to be sitting in the woods, it would have drawn more interest, and more bids, if it would have been in their driveway all washed up and cleaned out and polished. A few hours of elbow grease on a weekend would have done wonders here.

This is a third-generation GMC van, this one a VanDura 3500 one-ton chassis. You’ve seen school buses like this before, but maybe not one that has been shortened and with a tow hook on the rear. The seller says that they bought this rig in Dallas and drove it back to Arkansas and it worked perfectly. They used it for a while, towed a few cars, and then the reverse went out, the bands seized and the transmission will have to be rebuilt. Other than that, it reportedly works good. Or, it did when it was parked.

The interior will need some sprucing up. Hopefully rodents haven’t gotten in there but I’m not sure about that. You can track down some new seats fairly easily and clean up the rest of the interior and you’ll be set. There are no engine photos but the seller mentions that it has a 350 V8, although which version with how much horsepower it has is a mystery. And, whether it runs at all after being parked for a while is also a mystery. This whole rig is a mystery: why would someone use a school bus to make a wrecker? Why was it just parked after the transmission went out if everything worked great? What are the Three Rs? And, maybe the biggest mystery of all: what would you use this cool tow truck for?


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  1. Jay M

    Uh huh. Why, just…why?
    I’m guessing the designer rode the short bus, too.

    • Mike McCloud

      Maybe he put the hook on the ‘ bit-too-short’ chassis, so he could pick his butt up & drag it around?!

  2. gord

    reduce reuse recycle…. 3Rs still work for a s’cool bus

  3. JW

    It’s only about a day away from me and if the wife wouldn’t kill me I would bid but then if I won it I would remove the tow boom and put a fifth wheel hitch on it and tow a fifth wheel car trailer. I like the weird stuff.

    • Scotty Staff

      That’s exactly what I would do with it, JW.

  4. Woodie Man

    Wonder what tranny would swap in?

    Love to have it on the west Coast but probably give the Chippies fits…… would be like hanging a sign on the side that says: STOP ME!

    Institutionally, they lack a sense of humor!

    • Scotty Staff

      Ha! Ponch and Jon don’t have a sense of humor? They’re always joking around on tv.. (kidding)
      If it was a diesel it would be a great hauler but that would be major surgery.

  5. RichS

    Can’t tow anything modern with it – that boom would just wreck the front fascia of whatever you chained up to it.. If there was a school for tow truck drivers, this would belong out front!

  6. Howard A Member

    Man, this school bus covers all the bases. We’ll get you to school, if we have to tow mom’s Valiant to do so. Actually, this is a pretty cool rig, and not sure about Arkansas. but I think all “school bus” stuff has to be removed. Somebody did a lot of work here, why not paint it? Correction, $395 dollars.

    Like 1
    • JW

      Hi Howard, Here in Missouri we have a big car cruise in Independence every Saturday during the summer months, last year a guy showed up with a short bus hot rod with all the original equipment still on it, the only difference was he replaced SCHOOL BUS with KOOL BUS lettering / Chrome wheels / chromed dress up on the engine. Also been talking until I’m blue in the face to the wife to let me buy it but I got the look so guess not.

  7. Dave Wright

    This would get you a serious ticket in California…….only vehicles used as a school bus can have that color and markings. One of the reasons the military buses bring more money…….they don’t have to be painted.

    • JW

      No offense intended Dave but that is exactly why I would never live in that social republic of a state. Here as long as the SCHOOL BUS lettering is changed or removed and the side flip out stop sign the rest can be left as is, I have seen a few short buses at car shows here in Missouri over the last 16 years. California over regulates everything. Like I said NO OFFENSE INTENDED to you !!!

      • Dave Wright

        I have nothing to do with California other than doing business there. I can however sympathize with first responders arriving at a bad crash site and having to look for kids when all that was involved was an old hippy bus. Off course, California has a lot of crazy laws but even a broken watch is right twice a day.

      • Dave Wright

        So…… sound like an expert… long did you live in California? The politics and many people are crazy but some things are under regulated compared with states like Oregon or New York…..gross generalizations seldom work.

  8. David Miraglia

    The worst school vans I ever drove in original condition. ArgH!

  9. boxdin

    The body was shortened, but the wheelbase looks like a lot of the same busses running around here.

  10. John Dragseth

    My farmer father made a similar mod to a full bus, then put a multi- hundred gallon tank on the bed and a 100 foot spray boom on the back to make a huge chemical sprayer. His previous field sprayer had been a 1950s Buick sedan modified the same way. The worked great.

  11. Bobby

    Was thinking of bidding on it till I read payment…… transfer to German bank only or something to that extent and says seller is from Germany….. but the van is in Arkansas. Strange

    • JW

      Wow didn’t even catch that, glad I didn’t bid, thanks to the wife.

      • D G

        This wife wishes your wife would have let you buy it! But there was nothing about Germany involved. Either that was misread, or eBay and Paypal threw in a monkeywrench. We are strictly Arkansans.

    • D G

      Nah. Strictly Arkansas, nothing about Germany should have been on the payment info!

  12. Scotty Staff

    Sold for $670! Was that a bargain or just the beginning?

    Like 1
    • Jesse

      i would have gave 700 still would

    • D G

      The buyer did not follow through. A non responsive eBay ‘buyer’. We still have it. 3 years later. Want it?

  13. JW

    Dave I’m no expert on politics but born and raised in the Midwest I’ve seen my share of things coming from California in to our political arena that most here don’t care for but our politicians are weenies and cave so we are stuck with it. Like I said my comment was not directed at you personally just my opinion of the nonsense of over regulation in California and the west coast in general. I apologize if it offended you. Now I will shut up.

    • Dave Wright

      No… didn’t offend me at all…..but I do business in many states and not all California laws are bad……I can get a title for any non stolen car with a simple lien sale process, trip permits for unlicensed vehicles are easy, I don’t have a problem making people paint old school buses so they look different, having turn on your headlights when using your windshield wipers is not a bad thing, even the smog laws are not all crazy….San Francisco has realitivley lax laws where Fresno has crazy laws because of the SF poultion being blown into the Central Valley………..I am sure there are more examples… course, many more crazy negative examples too. The moral is don’t believe everything you hear……good or bad.

  14. Nevis Beeman

    Maybe ….all you have to do is paint out the S and the H of “School” …!

  15. Keith

    If it’s anything like the ones I worked with (GMC/Blue Bird one-tons of same vintage), it’ll have a Turbo 400… and *really* low diff gears… dually with posi and 4.10s, anyone?

  16. Mark S

    One thing that needs mentioning is these GM fan body buses are unibody construction that require the body for ridgity. When they build one of these they start with a unibody floor that they add an extension to, that is quite flimsy without the body. They are prone to rust and I’ve seen these bussett’s where the floor rusts out and the body falls down past the add on extension. I sure wouldn’t be towing anything behind this for fear that the floor would tear out and the wrecker would fall off. I’d say if it was a Ford with a body on frame design then I’d be more inclined to say it is safe to use JMHO.

    • D G

      It has a good frame and isn’t rusty or flimsy. They wouldn’t haul kids around in an unsafe vehicle.

  17. MRE2ME

    Seen a few Short Buses in Ontario Canada privately owned with only the S & the H blacked out to say _C_OOL BUS. Maybe it was for legality not laughs?

  18. chad Member

    3rd door just 4 show (looks too tight to open)?

    • D G

      It opens! The towing winch is removable also.

  19. Dustin

    Well, that’s one way to repurpose an old bus.

  20. D G

    This is our tow bus!!! It is still for sale as of today.. The last comment about it being flimsy is not true for this vehicle. No, we are not from Germany. Nothing on the payment info should have said anything about Germany. Yes, the back door opens fine. The tow winch is removable. The bus is legal. The S was blocked out to make it read chool bus. There were some squirrels inside. I hope this answered some of the questions hete. Mostly I am shocked as can be to have been searching for my ad on Marketplace and running across my photos, which lead to this article featuring our bus!!! Someone needs to buy and restore this!

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