Retired School Bus: 1986 Crown Supercoach

What do you do with a school bus once it’s been retired? Back in the day, a group of hippies would have turned a bus like this into a love wagon, live in it, and travel around preaching peace and togetherness. But in today’s world of social distancing, the options may have changed. At any rate, there are two of these buses (which appear to be virtually identical) located in Los Angeles, California, and available here on eBay. Apparently, the winner gets his choice of behemoths and the ad will no doubt be rerun to sell the other. Bidding is at $8,000, the reserve has not been met, but the Buy It Now Price is $17,000.

These magnificent beasts were the product of the Crown Coach Corporation (founded as the Crown Carriage Company for horse-drawn wagons), which is no longer in business. They opened their doors in 1904 and hung around until 1991. They are perhaps best known for their Supercoach range of yellow school buses and motor coaches, and to a lesser extent custom-built coach for fire-fighting. Crown ceased operations after 87 years due to a decline in demand for school buses (less decentralization of public schools?) Crown would often be a leader in the bus business, such as bringing out the first school bus with dual rear wheels and its first all-metal school bus body, with a 43-passenger capacity. Cab-forward buses came along next and they were dubbed Supercoaches. As demand started to level off, Crown began offering the Supercoach with a 20-year/100,000-mile warranty.

The seller has two of these units from 1986 and they look identical to me. One of them has a rear license plate and the other does not and that’s the only way I can tell them apart. We’re told that these buses have a passenger capacity of 90, although I found 84 to be the number elsewhere.  Either way, that’s a bunch of kids. From the photos provided, the bus (or buses) looks exceptionally clean and sound, having recently retired from local service in LA due to the pandemic. Given their retro looks, these would have been surprisingly cool buses to ride to school in. Chances are the kids that rode on these most recently were unaware of the fact that their school bus was over 30 years old and looked like it was built in the 1950s.

Mechanically speaking, these machines are powered by a Detroit 6v71 Turbo Diesel with five-speed manual transmission. They have three axles (one tandem) and roll on 10 wheels with air ride in the rear. The rear axle is just a tag axle, while the one in front of it does the work. The tires are good (12RX22.5) and none of the glass is cracked or broken. The four-red cross-over lights are still present and they may still function. To keep your passengers safe, all seats have seat belts.

Perhaps these buses could be pressed back into service. One odometer reading says 225,000 miles, but I don’t know if that’s low or high for a school bus. But I will circle back to my original point: if you were to buy one of these buses, what would you do with it? I’ve seen people yank out the seats and turn them into a poor man’s RV for the infield at NASCAR races. There are probably other applications I haven’t thought of. Let us know what you would do with yours.

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Comments

  1. Mitchell Gildea Member

    The practical thing to do is to restore it or convert it into a camper. The impractical but cool thing to do is to take it racing!

    Like 15
    • Stephen Miklos

      Take it racing with couple of Jet engines!😂

      Like 2
  2. Howard A Member

    Well, it would seem an RV would be attractive, however, outfitting it would cost a fortune. I say, with new Blue Bird school buses, a comparable unit, going for upwards of $60 grand today, it could be used for dozens of people hauling chores, for a fraction of the cost. I think it’s why our schools and municipalities are in such financial distress, so conditioned to buy new, and there’s nothing wrong with these. Detroit will run forever in this application, probably a Spicer box, best in the business. Biggest problem I see, is someone that actually knows how to drive it. We never saw Crown Coaches in the midwest, more of a west coast thing, but great finds.

    Like 20
    • DanaPointJohn

      All California school districts will be removing diesel buses from their fleets in the next few years. There are grants and purchase plans to go electric, whether that be hydrogen fuel cell or battery electric. So there is something “wrong” with these busses, in that they are heavy polluters and can not be modified to meet air quality codes. Maybe a school district that isn’t in one of the 16 states that have adopted California’s emission standards would buy these for their students. The states that have adopted the California standards are: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia.

      Like 18
      • Big_Fun Member

        This scares the poop out of me…how soon before this makes its way to classic vehicles.
        I understand forward thinking, less emissions, etc. Plus battery tech is getting better and better.
        I just don’t want a “shed full of beautiful 60’s automotive paperweights – or scrap”

        Like 15
      • Bill McCoskey

        Big_Fun,

        In Europe, the rules keep getting tighter & tighter against using vintage vehicles on public roads. I have a friend with an air cooled Tatra V8. He said that as part of the annual vehicle inspection, if ANY evidence of oil seepage can be seen, even if the seepage is considered typical for a car of it’s age, the car is required to wear a “diaper” under the place of seepage, because a single drop of oil might hit the ground. An air-cooled car from the 1930s DOES tend to seep miniscule amounts of lubricants due to the technology limitations of the time. His car has to wear a diaper.

        I have heard from many European car collectors who are very concerned that their cars could be banned from operating on public roads within 10 years, or could be very restricted as to the number of kilometers the cars can be driven each year.

        Like 6
  3. qmmq

    Perfect for a church group. See old buses used for this all the time on the East Coast

    Like 10
  4. Bear

    These are THE DEFINITION of school bus to me, having ridden one of these to school during the late 60’s & all.most of the 70’s in a suburb school district on the San Francisco peninsula.
    They were built STOUT & most surely still have many many years of reliable service left in them.
    I wonder how much chewing gum is still stuck under the seats?!? :-P

    Like 23
    • AndyinMA

      All of it!

      Like 14
  5. Michael Keil

    As a school bus driver 200K miles is kinda high for a school bus, but Crowns were super heavy duty so I bet it’s could go another 200K miles with no sweat. However the seat belts had to be added after the purchase because at the time they were not required on buses (and in many states like mine they still are not) . I drive a new 2019 Thomas bus which I like a lot but I have always liked older buses. Like cars. This one is sure a blast from the past!

    Like 20
  6. Francisco

    This would make a good Chicken Bus in Guatamala:

    https://duckduckgo.com/?t=ffnt&q=chicken+bus&atb=v1-1&iax=images&ia=images

    Like 9
    • DayDreamBeliever Member

      They paint the busses wild like that in Puerto Rico as well, and some are wrapped with movie themes, like “Aquaman”.
      I took some photos, I think, will try to post one.

      Like 5
  7. AMCFAN

    The coolest refit of a school bus I saw was when I bought a an old car project out in Montana. It was non running and tool about 7 weeks. It was picked up and after a week a Bluebird school bus shows up. Seems the guy had just bought the bus at a public school auction and had it converted at an Amish welding shop in Indiana.

    They left the first two rows of seats and made like a giant El Camino of sorts. The guy hauls travel trailers/campers and dead heads hauling cars. He took it on a three week maiden voyage when he picked up my car. It was so new that it was still painted yellow (what was left) Which is a no no. He got pulled over in Atlanta and the cop wasn’t amused. Even though the rear section of the body was customized with a dovetail the front still yellow. Can’t impersonate a school bus.

    Which brings me to this. A beautiful specimen however you couldn’t drive it as is. Wouldn’t be cheap to color change. The best scenario would be a movie rental company like Cinema Vehicle service to add them to their inventory. They would fill for a vast number of years. Pretty sure they most likely have some already.

    Not sure what else to do with one. Making a camper and a DYI project may take years and most likely loose interest on this huge project.

    Like 5
    • DayDreamBeliever Member

      Another option for a conversion was done by a friend in Wisconsin, who cut up and reinforced the back end of a bus so that it opened like the front of a C5A transport plane. The only scary part was the lengths of the ramps needed to get a car from ground level to the floor of the bus. Strong supports, but I couldn’t watch him load his Neon racer.
      So it was an original toy-hauler, with the garage in the back, and pseudo-living quarters in the front.
      Painted white, with black spots in the style of Gary Larson.

      And Howard A, I’ve seen Skoolie conversions done pretty well on a reasonable budget. One enterprising young guy made a “Tiny Home” out of one (significantly smaller than this one) for use as living quarters in college. Once free from the Freshman dorm, he located a spot to park and live truly on the cheap, liberated from the crazy rental prices in college towns.

      Like 9
  8. Mr Dave

    I drive school bus and one of these would be AWESOME! The way the passenger count is figured, at least now, is 3 per seat. The seats are 33” wide, industry standard is allocating 11” per butt. So, if the bus has 30 bench seats, then it is a 90 passenger bus. I run 2 butts per seat generally, unless they are little butts, then no more than 3 per seat for the short ride.

    Like 11
  9. jeffro

    I grew up next to Fort Valley, Georgia, where they built Blue Bird buses. The Wanderlodge factory was across the street. Some buses were shipped across the street and had conversions. Anything is possible with enough patience, skill, and money.

    Like 6
  10. Poppapork

    All the people talking about RB conversions I need to ask you how would you increase the cruising speed? I I need my RV to go 70mph with low RPM, especially something like this two stroke needs some help with fuel consumption

    Like 3
  11. Mike

    This thing is insanely massive. 8 tire, double axle? Is that just to support the weight of the overbuilt bus, or is it to haul today’s overweight kids?

    Like 12
  12. Ben T.Spanner

    Use for retired school buses ? I’ve seen them used as junkyard privacy fencing.There is always a surplus of used buses. Decades ago gasoline versions were retired early mostly because of safety concerns. Same thing with the military; I doubt there are now any gasoline powered military vehicles.

    Now, for emission or political reasons, there will be a wave of diesel buses headed to the scrap yard.

    Like 3
  13. David Miraglia

    I’d keep it the way it is. Always wanted a Crown. Great buses.

    Like 6
  14. lbpa18

    What beautiful and classic lines.

    Like 5
  15. Comet

    Can someone notify Octomom?

  16. Charlie Member

    The CA standards do not permit ANY diesel engines built prior to 1993 unless driven fewer than 1000 miles a year. these were basically indestructible and cost 3x as much as a Bluebird, and so were no longer bought. And given air pollution regs that keep getting harder to meet, better to buy a short life vehicle.

    Like 3
    • Howard A Member

      Thanks Charlie, I’m still active in trucking ( on my computer,,HA! Eat your hearts out drivers, I put in my time,,,ahem, sorry) and I read 2 stroke Detroits were not allowed in Cal. anymore, except like you say, as an exhibition deal, which, I’m sure is why these must go. Cops have been enforcing “leakers” for years. 20 years ago in Illinois, I had to open the hood on my semi to show it wasn’t leaking anything, and on a diesel, especially on a “ring ding” Detroit that’s extremely difficult..

      Like 3
  17. charlie Member

    Even in NH and CA a leak/drip of any kind can flunk your inspection, not just Europe. These being the two states my ’93 Allante failed – the gasket between the oil pan and the oil level sender, both times. And, interestingly, my ’39 MG originally had an oil level sender, as does my ’14 Audi, both to be read when the engine is at rest.

    Like 3
  18. PJH

    Great aerodynamic design.
    Luv the RR style hoods over the flashers.
    Could be real cool as is or the typical conversion to an RV of some sort.
    What’s the fuel mileage on a big beast like this?
    Could it go cross country on the open road regularly?

    Like 2
  19. Hank Johnson

    I’ll take it and I’ll go on trips on it and football games

  20. Fish

    I would deffinetly build a custom motorhome..reminds me of my trucking days..long and slow

  21. CharlesS

    My dad and I converted a couple of busses into motorhomes. A 1974 Thomas coach was the last one we built. We completed the conversion in 1993. Dad had a dream of my mom and him taking a trip to Alaska, however mom got sick and died in 94. They did get to make a trip through the Smoky Mountains and through the midwest before she passed. Dad and his second wife traveled some but finally tired of traveling and parked the rig. Later he gave to my step brother shortly before he died at age 81. My stepbrother got it running again, but suffered a massive heart attack and died unexpectedly a few months later. His widow gave the bus to my youngest son who has six children, so looks like the old conversion will be on the road a few more years.

    The interesting thing about the bus was that my father wanted everything perfect. He told mom that it would cost 10K to do the conversion. I kept telling him, that the costs would easily triple that amount, but he wouldn’t believe me. Dad removed all of the interior panels, and insulated the bus. We ran all of the wiring inside of the walls and ceiling. We installed two 13,500 BTU rooftop A/C units with heat strips. Dad made all of the cabinets out of oak. The shower stall had fiberglass walls, and a stainless steel floor pan. It had a 200 gallon holding tank, and a 200 gallon grey water tank, and a 300 gallon fresh water tank made out of heliarc welded aluminum. We installed all RV appliances, with an overhead microwave, and a large gas/electric fridge. There was a 40K BTU RV furnace ducted throughout. 12 volt lighting with a power converter. An Onan 6500 watt generator that runs on propane. A 21 foot RV awning. Hardwood floors, and Flexsteel RV furniture. For running gear mods, a two speed differential, and a Jake-Brake for crawling down those steep mountain grades with ease. The outside got treated to a custom paint job. We did 95% of the work ourselves. The costs ended up topping 150K. Of course when Bluebird ceased production of the Wanderlodge, many of those coaches were selling for 1.5 million and up. The old coach that we built is still in decent shape, espically since it has gone through periods of disuse and neglect. This Crown bus will be an ideal candidate for a conversion. I’d love to do one myself, but my pockets aren’t deep enough!

    Like 2
    • DayDreamBeliever Member

      HUGE tanks!

      Filling the fresh water means taking on a lot of weight.

      Great history on a bus conversion, thanks for sharing.

      Like 2
      • Ed P

        Water is 8.3 lbs per gallon. 300 gallons would be about 2500 lbs.

        Like 1
  22. CharlesS

    That’s correct. It was designed to live off of the grid for weeks for the Alaska trip.

    Like 1
  23. CharlesS

    Dad went overboard on everything! I tried to talk him into sizing things in moderation, but it fell of deaf ears. At the time I worked for a large RV manufacturer as the warranty go to guy, so he always asked for my assistance with the build, but insisted on oversizing everything! The craziest part was when he ordered a car trailer to haul his motorcycle and car. He ordered a Pace American Shadow fully finished on the inside. In the front he built a rack to haul the largest Kawasaki touring bike built in the day. The car was a 1986 Ford Country Squire wagon. By the time the bike and car were inside of the trailer it was pretty heavy. He hitched it to the bus and off they went. 52 MPH top speed on the Interstate! He returned disgusted. The next time they pulled out they hauled a Dodge Omni on an open double axle trailer. The bus would cruise at 72 MPH on flat ground.

    Like 1
  24. BR

    These were the best built school buses by far. Better than Wayne, Superior, Bluebird or Carpenter. I have driven these. I won a school bus rodeo in Chico, CA driving one. These will take their rightful notoriety place along with the Greyhound “Silversides”.

    Like 1
  25. John Turner

    I am looking to buy a 3 axle crown bus. Can anyone help.

  26. Amber Lynn Williams

    I will take that bus to semi truck shows and proud in keep it in the garage kept keeping way it is with the sits inside clean and the outside

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