Rat Rod Or Restore? 1941 GMC Short Bus

This ’41 GMC bus has quite the story to it, although it’s hard to say whether it’s true. Given its condition and look, it’s a little tempting to modify it rather than restore it. The question is, what route do you go with it? Take a look at this Short Bus here on eBay in Beavercreek, Oregon. It already has a Ratty look to it, even riding at its stock height. Not every Rat Rod needs to be chopped and slammed to the ground, although it certainly doesn’t hurt when they are! What it will need though is some added power, but more on that below.

The seller states that this bus is powered by it’s an inline six paired to a 4-speed. That might have done the job back in the ’40s and ’50s, but that just won’t if you are going to drive it in modern traffic! With so much room under the body, you should be able to fit just about any modern engine you’d like. Might I suggest this Cummins 4BT as a suitable upgrade?

According to the seller, this short bus was a military surplus that was sold to Howard Hughes. It was then turned into a mobile changing room for movie stars. They don’t provide any documentation to prove that, so take it with a grain of salt. That’s alright though, this thing is so cool it really doesn’t matter who once owned it.

So, would you lower this shorty or leave it riding high? And is an engine swap in order or should the big inline six just be upgraded to give it more oomph? Or, does it deserve a complete restoration back to original? Let us know what you would do with this bus in the comments section.

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  1. Fred W

    I’d take that claim with more that just one grain of salt. Best I could determine, all Hughes’ entertainment endeavors were under the “RKO” brand, not “Select Film Productions”.

  2. Chebby Member

    Howard Hughes is still in it!

  3. Jack in NWPA Member

    I think it’s rare and complete enough to warrant a bone stock restoration. That would be cool in it’s own right.

  4. hatofpork

    Something something Ava Gardner….(ok-probably not that likely).

  5. Jimmy

    I don’t know what I would do with it but over time I’m sure I could come up with something, it has a cool factor to it, just my city code nannie would not be happy it sitting in front of my house until I could think of a use for it.

  6. jdjonesdr

    Definitely wasn’t a bus for kids, that’s for sure.

  7. Chris

    I’d make it a 4X4 with a Dually Frame…

    • Dean

      Then it would somewhat resemble the 4X4 short bus Dharma was driving around San Francisco..at least I think it was there.

    • Vintage Auto

      It is already a factory 4×4…did nobody notice this?…check out the ebay pics of the undercarriage

  8. geomechs geomechs Member

    Original, or close to it would be the order of the day. It’s too unique to do any butchering. As far as an engine transplant goes, the original engine will take it anywhere you want to go, as long as you’re not in a big hurry. You’re not going to gain a lot with that 3.9 Cummins, unless you wanted to swap out the gearcase and install an inline injection pump; an even then you’re going to be limited. Maybe if you wanted to shoehorn a 5.9 with an inline injection pump into that bay, you’d get something pretty stout, but you’d need a driveline to go with it. Nice unit.

  9. exartist

    Food truck!

    • Mark

      Absolutely! Lower it to make it customer friendly and convert to a rolling retro restaurant.

    • AMXBrian

      With a little paint it could be the Select F”ood” Productions, just add the kitchen inside!

  10. Saul

    There’s been more than one Hughes truck siting, this one was from the Hughes Aircraft Co. https://barnfinds.com/howard-hughes-1959-chevy-viking/

    And then there’s the rumor regarding him stashing Chevy Impalas.

  11. Uncle Bob

    Kenny Howard converted his old bus into a machine shop where he produced exquisite knives and guns. Some might know him as Von Dutch……

  12. Bill McCoskey

    I have a friend who has one of these. It was originally a US Army “in the field” mechanical repair facility, with a complete machine shop inside. This was not built as a school bus when new.

    And yes, all of Hughes films were products of RKO, as he owned the studio! I’m unable to find evidence of any company called “Select Film Productions”, so this may well have been used as a film prop.

  13. Rick

    I like the idea of the 4X4 dually frame, 400 hp LS, manual trans. and convert the interior to a motorhome!

  14. steve sammut

    Off to Iron Resurrection for a complete makeover….although I would leave the patina…

  15. Pontiactivist

    Modern motor home chassis swap. Thats what would do. Do the interior to fit personal taste or needs and drive the wheels off of it.

  16. lowbusman

    what he said

  17. Wayne

    First of all. It is a GMC so the upgrade should be a DuraMax with an Allison. Second, lowbusman, that is really cool! How about more info and pictures?
    Third, the food truck idea is quite a good idea. As it would get a lot of attention.
    This is just too cool to not persue for someone.
    Forth, commercial GMC trucks will soon be a thing of the past. As GM is cutting GMC out of the commercial end of the business. There will only be Chevrolet commercial vehicles in the very near soon. ( Too many Chevy dealers complaining about the competition from GMC. Plus Chevy wants to be able to say that they are number one in sales instead of Ford. As GM does sell more trucks than Ford. But only with Chevy and GMC combined. )
    GMC dealers do not get the new C4500, 5500, 6500 that is due out in January.
    Plus GMC dealers are already aced out of the ISUZU low cab forward trucks now. It is also possible that the GMC dealers will not get the new cargo van due out soon. So will GMC trucks became collectors items?

    • Ken Member

      No. GMC sells tons of vehicles. They’re not going anywhere anytime soon.

  18. Dave Wright

    We use short buses here in Idaho to move rafters up and down river back roads. The 4X4 would be mostly unnecessary and it looks a bit top heavy but it would look great pulling a trailer full of rafts and filled with eager river runners. Off course, it would require a modern drive train and safety equipment but wouldn’t have to be too fast to get the job done either.

    • Alexander

      That’s not exactly what they do around here (Tennessee). All transport vehicles I’ve been in for rafting, kayaking and canoeing have typically been gutless and glass-less Suburbans sporting wooden benches instead of upholstered bench seats, or old school buses with a rack on top or trailer hitches.

  19. David Miraglia

    Allison definitely like the PT200 transmission hooked up to a Cat C7, 3116, 3126 or a Cummins ISB and or a IC Dt466. I mean this is a school bus at heart. So it should get a school bus layout on the transmission and engine.

  20. Wrong way

    I would leave the height alone! Whatever you do with it a person could put nice size fresh water tan,and grey and black water tank under it just fine!

  21. Jeff

    Supposedly Hughes built eight (8) of these buses with mahogany interiors, see attached link:


    • Saul

      I looked at the link, didn’t see any photos of the interior, under hood, or under carriage. This one sold for $16k, and verified as an HH vehicle. I wonder if the Barn Find seller expected a bigger end price because they “THINK” it may have also been used by the studios as a changing room.

    • Dan Pinschmidt

      I used to own this exact bus. I have had it over the continental divide 6 times and all over Calif. Going up a steep grade in granny takes for ever, but it still goes(5 mph). Breaks are marginal for the 16k gvw, so granny going down hill is recommended. We did a lot of period mods to the bus to keep it fashionable and functional. Not having the wherewithal to keep it in the family, my Dad sold it for $1,000 to Funky Junk Farms back in the early 90’s. They stripped most of the cool stuff from her. Her name was “Shasta”. Shasta have brakes, tires, oil, gas….. I think you get the idea. She needs a lot to bring her back to glory so a $10,000 price is just plain ridicules. I’d like it back in the family but any price over $5,000 is throwing away money; it needs way more than that just in materials. When you add labor cost… well, it’s just not in the cards. Maybe some Enron stock would be smarter.

  22. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Ended: Oct 16, 2018 , 10:19PM
    Current bid:US $9,200.00
    Reserve not met
    [ 15 bids ]

    • Vintage Auto

      It has now been relisted again on Ebay with a Buy it Now of $11500 usd

  23. Wayne

    GMC is not being discontinued. Just the commercial side is being eliminated. GMC dealers will not have anything to sell over a 3500 series truck ( 1 ton ) Read the writing on the wall, GMC dealers did not get the smaller cargo van the Chevy got. They did not get the low cab forward ISUZU truck. Nor did they get the new C4500, 5500, or 6500 due out in 2019. They also don’t get the police package Tahoes ( Yukon) nor do they get the “1 ton Suburban ” (Yukon XL) that is only sold for municipal, government or armoring specifications. At a GM ( dual Chevrolet and GMC) commercial meeting in Dallas Texas in 2010 we were told that GMC will never get anymore new commercial product. This years commercial meetings were only for Chevrolet dealers. GMC was not invited. So, at this time they are living up to their statement from 2010.

  24. James Martin

    So ugly it’s cool.

  25. C C

    The owner doesn’t think anything about raising the price for the Howard Hughes story just passing on what previous owner passed along. So much guessing and suggesting on this site it laughable!!! It’s like your very own fantasy football but barnfinds.

  26. Rick Sementi

    I’d convert it into an RV Van with all the modern touches that you see in the “Living Vehicle” RV.

  27. RD DeSoto

    Just saw it on AMERICAN PICKERS…Jan.21,2019…Owner has it in a abandoned military base / Junk Yard…in NEBRASKA…he’s asking $40,000.00 !!!! Thx. RD…

    • Dan Pinschmidt

      Are talking about the Howard Hughes Bus/RV I used to own?

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