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Old School: 1957 GMC School Bus

How much fun would this be as a converted motorhome or party bus?  This 1957 GMC bus looks like a very solid project.  For sale here on craigslist for $2,500 in Scottsdale, Arizona.  The ad doesn’t have too many pictures and not much information to go on, but if this bus has spent most of it’s life in Arizona, it should be a relatively rust-free project.  What color would you paint it?  I think I’d have to do something besides yellow.  How about you?

The engine bay looks fairly stock.  Obviously missing the battery and air filter.  The ad states it ran when parked 20 years ago.  I’m not sure what engine would have been standard in these buses?  Judging from the carburetor and valve covers, this looks like a stock General Motors V8.  The person restoring this bus would be well suited to upgrade to a 454 or Duramax for sure.  Maybe it’s the massive engine bay, but doesn’t the radiator look really small?  Especially for an Arizona vehicle?  Dual batteries and an upgraded cooling system should be on the list for the next owner as well.

This would certainly make a very fun project.  Whether you’re converting it into a fun family RV or restoring it to have fun road trips or nights on the town, this bus looks like a rewarding project.


  1. BronzeGiant

    This bus is newer than a 57. It looks to be a 61.


    Like 1
    • al8apex

      yup, quad headlights were a 58 and later thing

      but then it is nearly 60 years old, maybe the front end clip was changed at some time

      • Robert Cortes

        It’s a 1960.

    • Larry

      10-4 on more like 61 modle

    • Bill

      This is my 57 Gmc S 370 series

      Like 2
      • Douglas Gould Member

        curious to know where you had your replacement windshield done

  2. Terry J

    That body started in 1960. Second series of 1955 thro 1957, then to quad headlights on the same body style in ’58 & ’59, Then that new square style from 1960 to 1966. Chevy and GMC. I’ve had one or two of about all of those. :-) Terry J

    Like 1
  3. Pa Tina

    Partridge Family Theme song please. And an image of Susan Dey.

    Like 1
  4. CCFisher

    The cylinder bank angle appears to be narrower than a typical v-8. Could this be one of the commercial versions of GMC’s 60-degree V-6?

    • George

      it’s actually a pontiac 389. used in most 58-60 GMC trucks; especially over one ton

  5. jeff6599

    Well, the engine shown is correct for a 1957 or earlier GMC. It is a 347 Pontiac with a Carter AFB carburetor. This was the final year for using an engine from Pontiac. Just check under the hood of any 8 cylinder GMC from 55 thru 57 and you’ll find a Pontiac product. I cannot address the sheetmetal but 1 1/2 ton or larger trucks should be available in someone’s photo gallery to verify.

  6. geomechs geomechs Member

    That’s a ’60 or ’61. It originally came with a V-6, probably a 305 or 351 (V-6 badges are still on the fenders. Someone swapped in a Pontiac motor. GMC used the Pontiace based V-8 from ’55 to ’59 so this might’ve been salvaged from an older truck. I see it’s also running an alternator which didn’t come out until ’63. Definitely one of those ‘whaddya do with it?’ projects….

    Like 1
  7. James "Cousin Jim" Mitchell

    It’s either a 1960 or 1961 GMC. It may have some older replacement parts under the hood that have been installed over the years, though…

  8. LAB3

    If I where to swap engines it would definitely be a Duramax. A friend has a 3/4 ton Chevy pickup and we where traveling through Appalachia last fall in it pulling a 24 foot landscaping trailer with a pickup camper mounted to it and a Polaris RXR on it as well. Going through the hills on a four lane road we where passing cars like they where standing still and still getting 20 MPG! Impressive powerplant to say the least.

    • Steve

      I agree. My dad and I made a trip from Va last August in my 01 2500hd reg cab 2wd with a dmax, pulling my uncle’s 18 ft bumper pull car hauler with a 71 GTO Judge clone project. I used the bumper pull instead of my goose neck trailer, as I was also hauling an Industrial air compressor in the bed of the truck. Never missed a beat and average 20 mpg all the way back. You can keep the newer duramax engines with more power, but with DPF and other nonsense. I will keep my LB7. 298k miles and counting. (Granted there are a few newer iterations of the Dmax that still didn’t have DPF.)

  9. Dave Wright

    Montana…….to answer your question, it would be miserable…….low geared (slow) little power (really slow) incredibly thirsty, hot in the summer, cold in the winter. There is a reason most were melted down or relagated to the back of junkyards to store parts. You would be much better off to start with a diesel transit bus…..look up Jay Leno’s mechanics (can’t remember his name)bus. It is an incredible classic with 500 hp and magnificent build quality. A project like this can be very expensive… is best to have something useable when finished. Commercial vehicle parts can be very economically bought. Last year I bought a totally rebuilt 400 HP Detroit 8V92 from a collage diesel program for 1000.00 complete down to the alternator. It will run trouble free for another 300,000 miles.

    • Terry J

      Pretty much agree with Dave. In my opinion, if it was a 1957 then maybe, or a 1954. The older the more likely someone would take it on for a cool bus/camper/ rod run toy. I don’t think the 1960 – 1966s are there quite yet, but I guess it might be by the time you finished it. It actually seems like the 1967 – ’72s popularity have grown a lot through the years, but the ’60-’66s really haven’t kept pace, at least in Western Oregon. :-) Terry J

      • Dave Wright

        The newer ones got better with more modern mechanicals. But even an old transit bus is useable on the highway. The only place you really see this type bus being used today is in the river float trip industry, they use mostly ex Air Force busses so they don’t have to be painted…..(many states it is illegal to operate a school bus yellow without kids) and they are used on similar low speed, narrow roads for short trips up and down the rivers they were designed for only in the short season. The USAF busses also have different seats and sometimes rooflines better designed for adults. Western Oregon…….We are neighbors………

  10. Jeffro

    I look at this and think Woodstock! Crazy ass paint, hippies, and Canned Heat playing “Going up the Country…”! Stay away from the brown acid man!

    • Terry J

      Believe this or not as you wish, but in my old Eastern Oregon ’60s there was a guy around that was associated with the Grateful Dead. One night we all piled into Virgil’s brand new ’67 Mustang GTA fast back and drove to Eugene to spend the day on Kesey’s farm. Nice sunny mellow day, sitting in the bus and by the pond, listening to “Boris the Spider” wafting out from the sound room. That was a COOL bus. Very very nice folks. :-) Terry J

    • Eddie

      You’re Right Jeffro So Funny !!! Fun ???????

    • Eddie

      You’re Right Jeffro So Funny !!! Fun ??????? Woodstock

  11. geomechs geomechs Member

    One thing i’ll say to the positive on this unit is that it will have an incredible ride for a big truck. From ’60 to ’62 GM medium trucks had independent front suspension with torsion bars. I remember the ’61 GMC 3-ton that we had; it glided across the stubble field while the old ’57 Binder crashed and jarred its way. When you weren’t taking grain from the combine on the go, you spent your time digging your teeth out of the steering wheel. The downside was having to align the front end. There was a good guy down in Great Falls and another guy up in Canada that knew those front ends really well.

    • Terry J

      Another well unknown fact from Geomechs. Circa 1971 I was looking for something to make a trailer out of, and when I first saw the 1960 1 Ton Chevy it was sitting derelict with no engine or tranny. I though somebody musta taken the front coil springs until I realized those big tubes were torsion bars. Never knew GM did that until that moment. Interesting. :-) Terry J

  12. Todd Rouch

    I was a school bus driver right out of the Army in 1995, and in the fleet, we had a ’64 Chevrolet, automatic transmission, gas engine, it was fun to drive, no air brakes. Very basic school bus transportation, tube steel low back bench seats.

    Like 1
  13. Howard A Member

    Last summer, while riding through the Catskills, I came across this at an antique store.×450.jpg
    I hit the brakes, ah HA! The famous Partridge Family Bus finally found,,,wait,,,aw, darn, just a copy. Old school buses make great view blockers, so the old lady can’t see how big your junk yard has gotten. “Honest, honey, it’s just for parts storage”,,,

    Like 1
    • Bill B

      Could you post a picture?..The link you posted is gone.

  14. Steve

    This listing makes me think of my latest pipe dream; to take a modern diesel school bus, but remove the modern front clip and install an older clip for the vitange “look”. I know where there are several “abandoned/ neglected” vintage 1-12 to 2 ton grain trucks of varying years that would make great donors of their front clips.

    Like 1
    • Danny74

      Steve can I give you my email address and you let me know where that junk yard is?

  15. Eddie

    A Lot Of Work To Get This Bus Running !!

  16. EmmyJ

    “Ran when parked 20 years ago” is about as meaningful as “was in mint condition when it left the factory.”

    Like 1
    • streamliner

      Bang on EmmyJ! Well said. Say Amen Somebody. Claiming a vehicle “…ran when parked…” many years ago is completely meaningless. Is that supposed to be a selling point? I guess it’s too easy to also note the seller doesn’t even know what year it is. Details, details. In this case, the GMC chassis is a 1960-61, not a “1957”. Or the fact the seller doesn’t know what year the vehicle is. A simple Google search taking all of a few minutes would quickly tell you what year it is. I agree with the others who’ve posted Comments here — this bus has a 1960 GMC 2 ton chassis. 222″ wb. That could make it listed on a title as a 1960 or 1961, depending on when the school bus coach maker made the finished product. This bus looks solid and is mostly complete. Too bad it’s not old enough to be a classic from 1950s, nor short enough to be made into a rat rod.

      Like 1
      • Terry J

        Good point Streamliner. I have a Class A Motorhome, a 1991 Allegro and it is so titled, but the Chevy chassis it’s on was built in 1990. Both years show up on different paper work. :-) Terry J

      • LAB3

        Ran when parked can give you some insight on the condition of the engines internal parts, if you get lucky cleaning out the fuel system and going over the ignition may be all that’s required to get it running.

        Like 1
  17. Danny74

    So, you’re all saying the buss does not look correct for the year stated in the ad. Some have suggested that maybe the front end has been replaced at one point in its lifetime, for some reason or another . What I want to know is can the whole front clip be swapped out for another year, and what year would you swap it out to for the best Aesthetics?

    • Terry J

      Well Danny 74, Anything is possible. This truck came to the “Bus Body” manufacturer from GMC as a bare running chassis with the front clip installed, that’s it. The bus body was built on that starting point. Since the bus body starts pretty flat, one clip could be removed and another modified to mount on there. It would be a project, but many folks reading (and contributing) to Barn Finds have done a lot harder fabrication jobs than that. In this case, the bus sure appears to be intact from it’s original (2) manufacturers. :-) Terry J

  18. Dustin

    The front end is DEFINITELY not a 1957! 1960-1966 GMC. I would do a RV conversion with a period-correct school bus paint job. In my opinion, GMCs have better styling than Chevys.

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