Un Autobus Loco! 1973 Flxible El Chico Party Bus

You could probably make the argument that there are more Mexican restaurants in the United States than there are in Mexico.  Americans are madly and deeply in love with this cuisine.  Who doesn’t like Mexican food?  If you are one of those people that have to take their passions to the next level, then reader Chuck F. has found the perfect vehicle for you to have a fiesta in.  Take a look at this 1973 Flxible bus for sale on craigslist in Edmund, Oklahoma.  Is the $1,700 asking price for this El Chico Restaurant decorated bus a bargain you cannot resist?  What would you do with it if it were yours?

Using an old vehicle as an additional form of advertising is a time-honored tradition.  While signs and billboards are often expensive and subject to zoning laws and restrictions, painting up an old vehicle to draw attention to your business can be a cheap and effective way to spread your message.  For example, Truley Nolen Pest Control littered Central Florida with older cars painted in the company colors and logo for years.  Zoning finally got involved in many areas, but this form of advertising helped them become one of the largest pest control companies in the state.

The Flxible bus we see here was likely out of service for a long time before El Chico purchased it.  El Chico is a restaurant chain that has locations in the states of Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas.  They even have a few locations in Abu Dhabi.  Having been around since 1940 pretty much guarantees that their Tex-Mex food is pretty good.  Any readers who are fans are asked to tell us about the restaurant in the comments to make the rest of us without a local El Chico jealous.

Looking at the clues, we are led to believe that this bus was purchased to advertise one of the Oklahoma locations.  It was then painted in what could charitably be called a folk-art paint job and had some logos slapped on.  Having served its purpose for multiple years, as evidenced by the fading paint, the bus is now being sold on craigslist.

The ad tells us that the bus is a 1973 Flxible sitting on a Ford M500 chassis.  It is powered by a 390 cubic inch V-8 with a C6 automatic transmission.  What is confusing is that we are told the aluminum body made by Southern.  Perhaps a reader can explain this, as one would assume a Flxible bus would have a body by Flxible.  At any rate, the aluminum construction probably helped keep this bus around for such a long time.  A steel body would have likely rusted to the ground from the roof down.

The picture above shows what one of the cylinder bores looks like.  The ad tells us that the engine has been bored out .040 and that comes with “C4 AE 1965” heads.  Looking at the cylinder bores would lead us to believe that chips and salsa were used to lubricate the cylinder hone.  Obviously, this is not a running engine, but at least there is something to start with here.  The question is what would a prospective owner do with this bus?  While it would be cool to imagine this being a party bus filled with queso, chips, tacos, and other goodies, there may be a more practical use for it.

My thought is that this would be the perfect start for an RV project.  The interior is the right height, and the length and width dimensions are ample enough.  The rest of the bus is repairable, but it might be easier to just do a transplant on the drivetrain.  There are a number of F-series trucks in the junkyard that could be used as donor vehicles.  This would also give you a more interstate friendly transmission and rear end set up.  Find a wrecked RV to get the appliances, tanks, plumbing, and propane set ups from and you would be on your way.  Painting the exterior would be optional, of course.

What would you do with the El Chico Party Bus?  Let us know your muy loco plan in the comments.


  1. Rw

    Not PC .

    Like 2
  2. Slantasaurus

    Im not sure why you think “chips and salsa were used to lubricate the cylinder hone”. THat crosshatch pattern is exactly what you would want to see on a fresh cylinder wall, but Im guessing you’ve never rebuilt an engine in your life and wouldn’t know that.

    Like 13
  3. JustPassinThru

    The Flxible Company bought the Southern Coach Company in the 1960s, before they themselves became a takeover target and subsidy.

    It was the Southern operation, in Alabama, that made these short buses. Few were sold and nothing replaced them when the New Look was phased out in 1977 in favor of what became the Grumman 870, later renamed the Flxible Metro.

    Flxible went through ownership by Rohr, then Grumman, and then was the target of a leveraged buy-out, that left the company short on capital.

    Like 4
  4. Troy

    Not every old vehicle is a rescue candidate, I say scrap it

    Like 2
    • Clinton

      No way! If I was closer to this I’d be dragging this back to the shop guaranteed. I think this would be an excellent and fun project. I love it.

      Like 4
      • Troy

        uShip.com is a site where you can have shippers give you a direct quote so you can have a winter project

        Like 1
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      I’m with you, Troy,
      Looks like it has been sitting in a junkyard after it’s restaurant life was over. I say throw it one last Fiesta as it heads to the crusher.

      Like 2
  5. Rustydust

    I agree on the RV.
    This is van life heaven.
    Just the purchase and transport home videos on Youtube would pay for it.

    Like 2
  6. Kenneth Carney

    I’ve eaten at El Chico in Melbourne Florida and man, the food was great!
    They have an all you can eat lunchtime special that will knock your socks off! You pick the platter you want. And when it’s empty, they bring
    you another one til you tell them to
    stop. It was one of Mom’s favorite
    places to go before she got too sick
    to go anywhere. As for the bus, if I
    were still playing music, I’d turn it into
    a small tour bus. Just right for a 2 person band to travel around Florida
    making music. In fact, my FBIL and I
    were talking about doing just that. Too bad I can’t buy this one. And Truly Nolan, they parked several of their antique cars at the Winter Haven
    Taco Bell where I worked. Couldn’t
    wait to see what they’d bring next!

  7. GregM

    Perfect size and proportions for van life…

    Like 2
  8. HiWatt Wyatt

    This is my bus and it is in great shape. It sat outside of El Chico on May Ave in Okla City for years.
    I decided not to sell because it’s to cool to part with.
    I am putting line locks on the front brakes and turning it into a drag/burnout bus.
    Farmtruck n AZN have the Green Lizard Okla State prison bus that I rode to Macalister State Pen in Aug 1984 for a marijuana conviction.
    The plan is to kick the Green Lizards butt at a local dragstrip.
    I pulled the heads to check condition and will have it running soon.
    Party On
    HiWatt Wyatt

    Like 1

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