Vintage R/V Conversion: 1948 GMC Silverside Bus

When old buses come up for grabs, most of them are candidates for an RV conversion – meaning the next owner not only has the challenge of storing it somewhere, but also undertaking the massive retrofit that needs to happen. Not so here, as this 1948 Silverside bus was professionally converted by Custom Coach of Pennsylvania at some point in its history. The exterior needs some work, but the cabin seems fairly turnkey. Find it here on craigslist with an $18,900 asking price.

I don’t know much about the conversion, or the company that did it, but the interior presents quite well for a project-grade bus. It all looks like the work was carried out to a high level, as the furniture seems to fit nicely and the storage cubbies up above don’t look like an afterthought. It’s hard to say for sure how old the accommodations are, but it’s still quite clean despite being less-than-fresh.

The seller says it runs and drives but still admits it needs restoration. On a vehicle this large, and sporting a custom cabin, that could mean so many things. For sure, it doesn’t look neglected – but the listing does show a picture of when it was much newer, and it sports a custom paint job. With the exterior currently stripped bare, it likely either sat outside for years or had a restoration started that later stalled out.

Still, with so many vintage buses having the gargantuan task of outfitting those expansive interiors – in addition to the mechanical refurb – this Silverside is a step ahead for someone seriously considering an RV conversion of a former people mover like this. Factor in it was done by a professional coachbuilder, and it looks even more compelling. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Angel for the find.

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Comments

  1. Chebby Staff

    This one looks pretty clean and more worthy than most, but old buses are a hard sell. They are surprisingly easy (and fun) to drive considering their age, but they’re total money pits. Plan on redoing all of the air lines and suspension bags, brakes, 2-4 industrial batteries, 6 new tires, etc etc. Then hope your Detroit doesn’t need a $10k rebuild.

    That 6-71 4-speed setup means roughly 15 / 26 / 40 / 62 mph in each gear. Pretty much any non-flat road will send you down a gear, and you’ll be in second over the Grapevine.

    Like 12
    • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

      Chebby, what period mods would be acceptable for this cool old beast to give it a little extra ummph?A few days ago Wayne reminded me that these were 2 stroke diesels and though very thirsty they’re also more efficient in power output than the 4 strokes of their time..

      Like 2
    • Rube Goldberg Member

      I don’t think these had air ride, I read that came out on the 1953 PD4104, but you’re right, these are a handful to restore. These did have a/c, but required it’s own small motor to turn the compressor.

      Like 1
    • Thad

      I’ve seen a propane assist to help with the hills and power steering is available donated from other GMC’s.

      Like 1
    • Dan

      Would love to find one of these. Any still out there?

  2. Winston

    I am not seeing what you are seeing. I see a really tired old vehicle with a super dated conversion from the 1970s. Would require a complete gut-job. How is this a $19k rv?

    Like 5
  3. Vegaman Dan

    Another challenge is that many RV parks you may visit in your highway adventure will turn you away in this bus as it is too old and unkempt. Even with the exterior fully restored, you will find it challenging to get a park to accept it.

    Like 5
    • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

      Good reminder Dan and Too true!

  4. h60memo

    BusGreaseMonkey on YouTube
    This thing is right up his alley

    Like 7
  5. Angel Member

    Heres one nicely done… Watch “1948 VINTAGE GMC “SILVERSIDES” MOTORHOME – Former Greyhound Bus” on YouTube
    https://youtu.be/lY7hW1n8Qm8

    Like 4
    • On and On On and On Member

      That was a great Youtube Angel, thank you.

  6. Martin

    We have never been turned away from a park in our 1981 Wanderlodge. I think that behaviour is reserved for parks that cater to full timers in million dollar Prevosts who put down roots for months at a time. They want nice late model neighbors. Your local KOA would be happy to have you and you would have more fun anyway.

    Like 9
  7. JBP

    use it as guest house. or something like it. as driving RV i cant see any value…

    Like 1
  8. Rube Goldberg Member

    This is pretty cool. I don’t mean to upstage Jeff, but I read, these were considered the 1st “modern ” bus. They were powered by the (in)famous 6-71 2 cycle in-line 6 cylinder, Detroit motor, about 240 hp, 4 speed non-syncro on the column, and a unique V drive as the motor is sideways in the back. Actually, these delivered about 12 mpg ( and probably 50 mpg of oil) but much better than the gas jobs that were probably half that, and at the time, diesel was cheaper. I’d shine it up nice, and if some campground didn’t want their place looking better because of this, I’d move on anyway, their loss, these campsites aren’t cheap anymore. If, as a truck driver all my life, I wasn’t so burnt out on driving, THIS is what I’d do,,heck, I might even keep the “fuel converter” motor ( converts diesel fuel into noise), it’s 30 feet away and you’re not sitting on top of it, so it might be ok.

    Like 4
    • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

      Rube-how is a “fuel converter” used? And what period power mods were used if any to post the “ummph”?

      • BR

        Stewart & Stevenson and Johnson & Towers both sold 450 / 500 hp DDA 6-71’s.

        Like 1
      • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

        Thank you, BR.
        That must’ve made them fly in their time, comparatively!

      • Rube Goldberg Member

        A fuel converter required you to take a brick with you for the throttle. It was one of the many negative monikers assigned to those motors. You were supposed to slam your finger in the door, to get in the right frame of mind. Drive it like you were mad at it. Eat a live frog, you get the idea. I’ve driven a lot of trucks with a lot of different motors, and the 238 Detroit ranks as one of the most worthless motors, for pulling any kind of weight, anyway. In a bus like this, I suppose they would be ok. You could get a lot of miles out of those motors, it’s why they were so popular with buses.

        Like 2
  9. Ken Carney

    I played music with a gentleman who owned one similar to this one. Seeing the
    pictures of this bus reminded me of how
    comfy these things were on a long road
    trip. I can see myself sitting on one of
    those front couches sipping a 32-ounce
    bourbon and coke as the miles rolled by.
    Worked with him about two years or so
    before I quit drinking and got my life straight. Yeah, it was tough to walk away
    from the party cilture–espevially all those
    wild ass parties we had on our bus, but
    the alcohol problem got a lot bigger than
    I thought it would. By the time I got clean, the Midwest tour I worked was
    pretty much gone so I played locally until
    I retired in 1990. Watch the film Honey-
    suckle Rose with Willie Nelson and Dyan
    Cannon and you’ll see a very close depiction of what life was like playing
    music over the road and how physically
    demanding it was. Looking back, it’s no
    small wonder how I survived it! Thanks
    for the great write-up and the memories
    too.

    Like 10
  10. pixelpusher

    It’s got an 8-track in the dash, but unfortunately, no A/C… deal breaker for me!

    Like 1
  11. Wayne Van Dyk

    After a quick google search on this model bus, I found this article describing the current owners acquisition of this very bus. I would love to have one of these, but parking would be an issue in town, lol.

    https://vintagemachinerylovers.com/2017/03/09/silversides-a-shining-example-of-american-spirit/

    Like 4
    • Bob McK Member

      Wayne, thanks for sharing. That was really interesting. I can’t even imagine taking on a project this big. It would make a nice lake home.

      Like 1
  12. Phil Tenney Member

    I had a 61 model 4106 with the 8V71 in it and it would go 78 mph pulling my race car trailer or without it behind. It was converted by an outfit in Minesota and was a good coach. I changed the old time power steering to a more modern one and It made it handle like a dream. I could drive it with one hand and it didn’t wander at all. I loved that coach and should have never sold it. Mine also had a air assisted clutch that made it much easier to push the clutch in. Low to second gear was was most of the time shifted without clutch and so was second to third but 3rd to forth I usually used the clutch.

    Like 1
  13. Mike

    Ray Kroc of Mcdonalds fame had a few built to travel the country and visit his stores.

  14. Noah Brunty

    They were great to ride. Had two cross country rides from Williamson, West Virginia to Boise, Idaho.

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