Van Life Candidate: Abandoned City Bus

Occasionally, you find solid gold in Facebook Marketplace, both in terms of forgotten projects and the wild descriptions that follow them. This name-less bus is an example of both as the seller clearly has no interest in something he just dug out of his property, where it’s clearly been hiding behind the trees and weeds for quite some time. I always wonder how exactly a machine this big ends up in the extreme reaches of a property  where it would have been forced to trace through the woods before reaching its final resting place. There’s no engine, and the seller offered to deliver it for $40 million. Find it here on Facebook Marketplace with an asking price of $500.

I’m sure one of you can instantly identify the make and model of this vintage city bus, but I’ll leave it those experts before I stop lobbing guesses. The engine is long gone and it looks like the engine bay itself has been cavernous expanse for years, with the engine covers missing and plenty of undergrowth taking up residence where a powerplant once resided. The glass looks like it’s there in some places and not in others, and I doubt that you can still walk down to the glass shop and pick up replacement glazing. The seller is asking very little for this project bus, so it has that going for it – unless he decides to turn it into an outdoor kitchen, as he suggests in his Marketplace listing.

Wow – look at all that room! Camper conversion, party bus, gardening shack, food truck – the possibilities are endless. The floors look quite nice here, and most of the glass does appear to be intact. You’re likely looking at a full gut of the cabin if you want to build a motorhome, but fortunately, there’s not much to gut. There’s no plumbing or HVAC equipment, so that will have to be added, too. The seller will help you load it, and he’s hoping to at least get scrap value for it. Would you pay $500 for a rig like this if you had place to store it?

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  1. Howard A Member

    Cool GM “Old Look” bus. I believe the official name was TG-3201 series, 1st built by Yellow Coach in 1940. They were Detroit diesel powered. This is the last bus I remember riding on as a kid with my grandma in Milwaukee.The driver would call out the cross street names,”BURLEIGH”,,,”LOCUST”, “NORTH”,( Aves) and that wire that rang a buzzer indicating you wanted to get off. If it’s dry, make a dandy storage unit, or maybe even live in it. You’d be surprised what these tree-huggers here live in.

    Like 19
  2. geomechs geomechs Member

    I sure do remember when these buses ruled the city streets. The stories they could tell. It’s really sad that the engine is long gone. It would be a lot of work just to find the missing components, and repowering it with something else would be more work yet. Not sure what a person could do with this. Storage, maybe. Parts bus for another project. You would need one heck of a sizeable storage facility to house this thing. Good luck…

    Like 9
  3. Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

    This is most likely a mid 50’s TDH-5105. It would be great if someone would bring this old girl back to her glory, but unfortunately, I don’t see that happening. She simply has sat too long. But if someone were to take on this project, I have an early 60’s DD 6-71 I would be willing to part with :-). I usually don’t say this too often, but the asking price on this is not only fair, but unbelievably low. The roof lights alone are worth more than the ask. Hopefully someone will rescue her for parts for a restoration project.

    Like 18
  4. Dave

    I have to do it…

    I don’t want to cause no fuss..
    (Too much, Magic Bus)
    But can I buy your Magic Bus!
    (Too much, Magic Bus)

    Like 15
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      Okay, now I have to tell a story related to this song.

      I’m a big Who fan, and almost a lifetime ago, I got a DWI and had to go to alcohol education class. The instructor was an ex-hippie and she said that the lyrics to this song were about doing pills, she was sure of it.

      Now, every time I hear the song, I can’t help but remember this. Thanks, crazy hippie lady.

      Like 2
  5. Chas358 Chas358 Member

    I remember these in Detroit when I was a kid.

    Like 5
  6. Sam61

    Cool…I’m thinking more like “tiny house” park model cabin…add a spiral staircase for a rooftop deck…patio/outdoor flatscreen and kitchen.

    Could be interesting…not quite the same cache as Benson Ford shiphouse at Put-in Bay.

    Like 4
  7. Big Len

    20 more and they would make a nice ocean reef.

    Like 8
  8. Kenneth Carney

    Boy! Just think of all the folks we could’ve picked up for Church on Sunday! Beats that ’55 Chevy bus we
    had by a mile! If wed’ve had one of
    these, there would’ve been a full house
    every Sunday. Don’t think I could’ve
    worked on it being it’s a deisel though.
    That’s the only saving grace that Chevy
    had–it was gas powered and I knew just
    to do to keep it running. As for what I’d
    do with this bus, I dunno, but we had ’em
    in Bloomington too until well into the 70s.

    Like 2
  9. Spud

    There is a large and dedicated community around old buses. e.g., . But I fear that this one may be too far gone. Too bad.

    Like 2
  10. boxdin

    Great way to make a small fortune… out of a large one. Albuquerque used the short wheel base versions of these and I was always amazed at how they climbed a steep hill in my neighborhood and shifted into second in the middle of the hill.

    Like 3
  11. AZVanMan

    For me, there is something so special about cab-overs of every kind, but it is all based on my love for cab-over buses. Growing up in the CA suburbs in the 60s-70s, I only had a few opportunities to ride the old AC Transit buses in the bay area but that was enough to hook me for life. Throwing the oil-burning beast around a city street corner and cranking that giant flat wheel, while coming inches from the oncoming traffic on one end and impatient pedestrians on the other. I don’t know if I loved the look before I rode in one or not, but the 2 have morphed into one huge life-long auto-crush. Wish I had room, maybe one of my brother’s will see it! GLWTS!

    Like 4
  12. bobhess bobhess Member


    Like 1
  13. misterlou Member

    Sometimes the wheels on the bus don’t go round and round.

    Like 9
  14. William Fox

    Seems most here missed the seller’s remark about delivery of this hot mess: $40M!! In other words, it’s up to you to ‘unearth’ it. Goooood luck…..

    Like 2
  15. Maverick

    Scrap isn’t that high. Good luck.

    Like 4
    • Don P

      I just got $300 for a stripped down Nuffield 10/60 farm tractor, no back wheels, cylinder head, pistons and bodywork not on it. This bus would get $600+.

      Like 1
  16. Brakeservo

    I wonder if any lost hikers have died in it? If so. Get Jon Krakauer to write about it and then you’ll have hordes clamoring for it.

    Like 1
  17. Gator Member

    Looks like a good candidate for a chicken coop.

    Like 1
  18. rodknee

    Im one of the few idiots who actually bought an old GMC ‘Fishbowl’ transit bus, the generation just a little newer than this, and converted it to an RV.
    Never again.
    I thought it would take me about 6 months max working on it. It took 18 months and that was full time, 8 to 10 hours a day to get it done.
    I did everything, installing a generator, rewiring it all, putting a full hot and cold water system, septic system, full kitchen setup, seating, even a TV and game station, bathroom, toilet, the whole enchilada.
    My conclusion is this – unless you’re a complete sucker for torture, just go buy an older RV and with 1/4 the work you can renovate it to a much more practical unit without dealing with 50 years of dust and rusty and corroded parts, plus driveline items that are long past their best before date :)
    But 30 yr old me was younger and stupid. lol

    Like 13
  19. David Miraglia

    I would buy it to restore it to its former glory. converting it into a mobile home is not practical. Better to get a similar PD 4104 or 4106 motor coaches instead.

    Like 3
  20. Maestro1

    I’m with rodknee. This isn’t anything to be considered.

  21. Mark Evans

    Remember as a 4 year old riding in these & found them claustrophobia inducing. As an adult drove the fishbowls before they were retired by the Toronto Transit. Rodknee seems to know from experience. I’d still rather have the Fishbowl.

    Like 2
  22. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    The buses in the video game Fallout 4 – takes place 200 years after a nuclear holocaust in Boston, MA and suburbs – are in better condition than this pile.

    Like 1
    • Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

      I just played Fallout 4 last night because of your comment. Lol, that is a great game.

      Like 1
  23. BR

    It had the old 2 valve Detroit. Used to be dime-a-dozen. What’s really gold here is the V-drive, (automatic?) transmission, and differential. If it still has them. And it’s true about those clearance lights – big bucks, but I don’t see evidence of the three-light ICC clusters. Gone already? This is likely a TGH-3102. Could have had the GM 302 gas engine too. I drove a school bus like that.

    • Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

      The GM T Series buses were never available with a gas engine. From 1940 -1959 the only options were the Detroit diesel 4-71 and 6-71. I am not saying that someone may not have done an engine swap somewhere along the line, but it never left GM like that.

      • BR

        Back to school for you buddy. I drove a school bus with gas power, I should know.

      • BR

        You can see and count the spark plugs in the brochure, so tell me that isn’t a six cylinder gas engine.

      • Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

        Back to school for you! This is not a 3102, it is a 5105. You can clearly see the air vents in front and the aluminum trim below the windshield. Not the same bus! As I said before, this bus only had a Detroit diesel 4-71 and 6-71 option.

      • BR

        You haven’t graduated from school yet. You said:
        “The GM T Series buses were never available with a gas engine.” You made an untrue blanket statement.
        Here, you can duke it out with Wikipedia. Now sit down and shut up.

      • Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

        First of all, please don’t be rude, it simply shows your immaturity! Second, the link that you added for Wiki proves that I am right and you are wrong, I added a picture in case you missed it.

      • BR

        My apologies for offending you so easily. Too bad we can’t delete the part where it says they come with gas engines, but it is what it is. Please stop trying to re-write history.

        Like 1
      • Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

        I never said that some GM buses did not have gas engines, I said that this model did not…. Please READ the Wiki page, or at least look at the pictures, that YOU included in your previous post.. Also, I have no intentions of “re-righting history”, I’m just proving you wrong. The TDH-5105, the bus featured in this article, never had a GAS engine installed at the factory. Period. LOL LOL LOL LOL!!!!

        Like 3
  24. W.C. Shook

    If someone could get in the front door, on the right side of the stairwell entrance, there is a builders plate. It will have GM on it and two spaces. One will be stamp with a model number, ex. TDH-3l02 and in the other space will be the serial number. There is a record at Ohio Transportation Museum that has where that model number, serial number, manufacture date (month/year) agency assigned number and who was the first owner. Using as an example only: TDG-3102 SN 0950 Montgomery (Al) City Transit #57 9/54.

    Like 1
    • Stan Marks

      Tell the seller to supply a pic of the plate.

  25. Stan Marks

    This is a ’55/’56 GMC city bus

    Like 1
    • Stan Marks

      Hey Bluetec, Enough already… Let it go.
      Besides, no one is perfect.
      BTW…. The word is re-write. Not re-right.


      Like 1
      • Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

        Point taken on re-write. I would have let it go a long time ago if I had not been told to “sit down and shut up”….

        Like 4
  26. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    Judging by the faded graphic stripe painted around the sides, my guess is this was still in service up through the early 1970s. Those colors scream Brady Bunch, white/yellow/orange. And I’m sure that interior is the common puke-green as seen in many school and city buses through the same timeframe.

    Like 1
  27. Stan Marks

    Not a problem, Bluetec.
    We all have our own opinions. At the same time, we should respect each others, even though we don’t agree, or we think the other person is wrong.

    The important thing is, we must all get along. Life is too short to quibble. Especially in a public forum.

    This is a great site, with good & helpful people. Getting into a pissing contest doesn’t prove anything, my friend.

  28. Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

    You should be talking to BR, not me. Sorry, but I will always stand my ground when someone is rude to me, whether it be in a public forum or in person.

    Like 2
    • BR

      Again, I apologize for upsetting Bluetec (guess he missed the first one, but it’s still there). (Is that a two valve or four valve Detroit that you have?) Just count the windows (two panes per window unit), that’s the easiest way to tell which model it is, less any optional equipment. And so I’ll end with this quote from Wikipedia (I think you missed it).

      “Most “old-look” buses were powered with the Detroit Diesel 6-71 inline six-cylinder diesel engine, the exceptions being the shorter models that were powered by the four-cylinder version of the same diesel engine, and buses that were equipped with gasoline engines.”

      Apologizing again.

      • Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

        Quoting Stan Marks “The important thing is, we must all get along. Life is too short to quibble. Especially in a public forum.

        This is a great site, with good & helpful people. Getting into a pissing contest doesn’t prove anything, my friend”

        Like 1
      • Stan Marks

        BR, I read your apology. It takes a big person to apologize, It also takes a big person to forgive, too.

      • Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

        Seriously Stan??

        Like 2
  29. Stan Marks

    Sorry Bluetec. This was basically for all, including BR. Not targeted for you alone.
    I’ve seen many disagreement, on BF, that doesn’t solve anything.
    On a personal note… . Sometimes we’re better off ignoring someone, instead of continuing the negative comments. JMHO

    Like 1
  30. Stan Marks

    Look what I found. There may be some answers to your comments & questions. Just trying to help….

  31. Carlos

    Who remembers the bus from the movie Speed? Seems like it sold for near nothing a time or two.

    Like 1
    • Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

      Just so you know, I may be corrected by BR or Stan Marks on this, but the bus in the movie speed was a 1966 GM 5303. It was the second generation “new look” bus also known as the “fishbowl”. It would have been powered by a Detroit Diesel engine. That was a great movie!

      Like 2
      • Stan Marks

        You’re correct, Bluetec.
        The 1966 General Motors TDH-5303, auctioned for $102,000.
        They used a dozen buses, for various shots. Blow-up, interior shots, highway driving, jumping the ramp, etc…

      • Carlos

        The Speed bus was retired from San Diego Transit, and sat at Kramer’s Junction for a while before sold off. Seems like they used more than one to make the movie.

        Like 1
      • rodknee

        Yup, that the make and model I had and the same year, if I recall correctly. The 6V71 was getting a tad tired and we ran it in the deep of a Canadian winter at -30c, so starting was a chore. I would stand at the back and use the rear starter switch, open the little shot port and spray in far too much starter fluid. Most engines a 1 second shot would do it – not that beast. Sometimes she wouldnt even cough with that. There were days it was a full 5 seconds of fluid, then I reached for the switch and prayed that an exploding head wasnt going to decapitate me. It never did, it would just splutter and slowly wake up with a helluva lot of smoke. Fortunately it was usually dark outside, so the neighbors didnt call the fire department :)
        When the engine finally tuckered out on us we were fortunate to find a couple of mechanics at the city bus yard who were willing to swap in another one at no cost as they missed working on the old buses. The engine is only attached in a few places and they bragged that back in the day the had it down to 40 minutes for a swap. Pretty impressive.

        Like 2
    • Ed P

      In the 40’s Baltimore ran “trackless trolleys”. They looked like the Brill trolley bus in the videos. They were out of service by the mid 50’s.

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