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Willie Nelson Connection: 1952 Flxible Flyer Visicoach

If I weren’t into vintage European cars and Japanese SUVs, I’m fairly certain I’d want to own a Flxible touring bus of some kind. Flxible Flyers sported some of the best art-deco styling to ever grace a transportation vessel, and many of them seem to be languishing in the backyards of people who had big dreams but small budgets. It’s a shame, as we’ll likely never again make anything like this 1952 model here on craigslist, which is claimed to be a former tour bus belonging to none other than Willie Nelson.

The Flyers signature rounded hump on the rear of the bus is unmistakable, and makes me chuckle imagining there’s a full-size bathroom back there in contrast to the contortionist-friendly closets that now pass for relief receptacles on buses and airplanes. Of course, if this was converted to a tour bus for the likes of Willie Nelson, I’m guessing there’s a full-on powder room for the lady-folks to freshen up and musicians to, uh…sharpen their senses.

There’s no engine with this Flxible, but I’d love to keep it original and find a Buick straight-eight motor to drop in. One of my favorite features of these early buses is the way the motor could be swung out for service or replacement, thanks to a cradle system that made removal easier. There is a transmission, but I’d just do a full mechanical gut and refresh anyway. Jay Leon’s “Big Dog Garage” restored one of these for a Flxible pilgrimage to the bus’ birthplace in Ohio; it’s worth a watch here.

There are no pictures of the interior, which I’m dying to see. I’m sure it’s a mess, but still – assuming it’s been converted to living quarters and not just rows of bus seats, it’d be a sight to see. The asking price is steep at $8K, and there’s no big financial reward at the end of the restoration. Finding space to store one of these can be a challenge, and a lifestyle that supports long-distance cruising would make the investment more worthwhile. Should this Flxible be restored back to new?

Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    Mmm, Willie Nelson? Maybe, but this site showed many bands that used Flxible buses, including B.B. King, and Whoopee Johns Polka band, but nothing on Willie Nelson. You’d think someone like Willie would have been mentioned. Definitely worth saving, but no Buick straight 8, sorry. Modern diesel all the way.
    https://aussiestarliner.weebly.com/music-to-my-ears.html

    Like 8
    • leiniedude leiniedude Member

      Great link, thanks Howard. Pretty sure Willie’s bus was named Honeysuckle Rose. Guitar was Trigger. Willie has been around forever, I guess someone could twist one up and go ask him if this was his. Maybe take Toby Keith along. Take care, Mike.

      Like 11
    • canadainmarkseh

      Hi Howard I have a flexible story of my own, back in the 90’s I worked for a school and charter bus company in the Calgary area that was founded in the late 40’s. ( Cardinal coach lines ) when I was there as one of the mechanics they decided to purchase a 49 flexible and restore it to look like their original bus. Shortly after it was finished the company founder passed away and the bus was first used at his funeral. After that in 1996 I left the company but always half wondered what ever became of the bus. Back in August of this year a freind of mine also a former Cardinal employee ( mechanic ) and I went to the Renalds museum in central Alberta, we went on a special tour of vehicles in a warehouse not on display. While we were going through this display we came apon the cardinal flexible bus safely tucked inside this heated warehouse museum now owned by the Alberta government. It’s now used for special events and is considered an Alberta heritage artifact. You know your starting to get old when vehicles you’ve worked on start to show up in museums.

      Like 39
      • Howard A Member

        Wow! You had no idea it was there? What are the chances, hey?

        Like 5
      • canadainmarkseh

        Howard we looked at each other and started to laugh, the other people on the tour had funny looks on there faces so I had to explain our connection to the bus and the fact that we both had had a hand in it restoration and maintenance.

        Like 12
      • geomechs geomechs Member

        Hi, Mark. I took a restoration course at the Reynolds museum back 10 years ago (hard to believe it was 10 years). We toured the warehouses and saw some neat things (like the 2nd oldest Chevrolet car) but I must have been looking the other way, as I don’t recall seeing the bus (unless that bus wasn’t there yet). It would’ve been worth seeing. It must give you quite a boost to see something you once had a hand in, on display in front of God and everybody. I might add that the museum is really worth seeing.

        Like 4
      • canadainmarkseh

        I don’t know when it got there it was just this past August that I saw it there.

  2. newfieldscarnut

    Imagine the stories this old bus could tell …

    Like 3
  3. Dirk

    Gee, do ya think this Flxible is fxible?

    Like 14
  4. Classic Steel

    Keep drug sniffing dogs away.

    Like 5
  5. KawiVulc

    Not a selling point… now if it was Waylon’s…

    Like 5
  6. David Miraglia

    Always been a Flxible fan and Clippers are in my top list. Would love to get a hold of this one and put in a Series 40 or another small bus engine like the
    cummins ISB or the DT466 to get it running.

    Like 3
  7. Kenneth Carney

    Neahhhhh, could be! I’d have to see some paperwork to verify the seller’s
    claims. Wish our bus was that nice.
    The group I worked with at the time
    had an old school bus they refurbished
    into a tour bus of sorts. It slept four
    people on bunks and two or three others
    on couches placed near the driver. It
    wasn’t the best looking bus on the road
    but it got us to the show on time. The
    only time we really ever slept on the bus
    was when we had to drive overnight to
    rush to a job in the next town. Other
    than that, we mostly stayed at motels
    where you could get a hot shower and
    good food. Our equipment was carried
    in a two axle trailer that was towed along
    behind the bus. As for Tobey Keith, he
    said he’d never get high with Willie
    again! Cool bus though.

    Like 5
  8. Robert White

    This bus would actually be cheaper than a divorce, eh. Just bring this eyesight home to the yard and wife files for divorce the following week. Faster than a lawyer too.

    Bob

    Like 4
  9. Charles Gould

    Beautiful old Flxible (no “E”) bus. Flxible made some incredible busses with loads of art deco style including that bulbous curvaceous rear end and those flowing stainless steel side flank pieces. Flxible made several models of these great busses including the Airporter, Clipper, Visicoach, Fageolcoach models. As far as I know Flxible never made a Flxible Flyer Model. The Flexible Flyer was an old fashioned snow sled that we all used as kids.
    We found and purchased a 1948 Flxible Clipper 30 foot bus that had been converted into a camper. It was purchased new by Frank Wojnowski and his Orchestra, which was a Polish Polka band shortly after he signed his first record deal in 1948. It had later been purchased by a man named Bud Stone who founded the International Motorcoach Association and he painted “The Rolling Stones“ on the marquee above the drivers windshield and wherever he went people presumed that the British rock band was in town. That bus had been driver over 5,000,000 miles before we acquired it and Bud told us that he had replaced the engine four times, once with the original Buick Straight Eight, once with a LaSalle engine and later with a Cadillac V8, and finally with the Chevy 350 attached to an automatic transmission which is how it was configured when we purchased it. It has since been sold to the owner of a bus company in Australia who intends to restore it as Flxible busses were also manufactured and sold in Australia under license as the Ansair bus.

    Like 5
    • scottymac

      How many of your microcars could you stuff in the bus, Charles?

      Like 1
  10. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    seen many with just a sbc in them….made a big difference…..

  11. David Zornig

    I posted it to Willie’s official Facebook page.
    We’ll see if they respond.

    Like 4
  12. KawiVulc

    Looking over this one again as it’s such a cool looking old thing… Jeff makes a good point, you could fit a pretty nicely appointed john in that rear end. Reminded me of my own one & only encounter with a more modern bus lav on the return ride of our senior class trip to Busch Gardens in 1981. I’ll just say something I ate that day did not agree with me at all and leave it at that.

    Like 3
  13. Mountainwoodie

    On The Road Again…….https://youtu.be/dBN86y30Ufc

    Like 4
  14. irocrobb

    Looks like a better deal than American Pickers guys paying 20,000? for the old Aerosmith tour van.

    Like 2
  15. Rick Norcross

    Thanks to Charles for pointing out that a Flexible Flyer is a SLED. This is a Flxible Clipper. While he was listing the various models, he forgot to mention The Starliner. I have a 1957 Starliner that has been my tour bus for Rick & The All-Star Ramblers for 20 years, performing around northern New England during the Summer fair and festival season (www.rickandtheramblers.com). Known around Vermont as “The Mighty Pickle,” thanks to the Green Mountain Green paint scheme. She’s a beauty and fun to drive! Go to the Flxible Owners International web site for a detailed look. Love your Barn Finds posts!

    Like 8
    • Charles Gould

      I certainly did forget the Starliner and the Visicoach, which is probably one of the most beautiful Flxibles, with the huge panaramic rooftop viewing windows!
      Also, our Flx was also green and it was named the “Kosher Polish Polka Dill Pickle Bus” because of its affiliation with Frank Wojarnowski’s Polka Band!

      Like 2
  16. cyclemikey

    I’d love to flx my financial muscles and buy/restore this, but I just don’t have the storage-space flxibility to do it.

    Like 2
  17. Ian

    Wanna see a Flix. Watch the movie “RV”. There are two of them. In LA now. Buses restored in Vancouver.

    Like 3
  18. Richard Love

    Back in the early 60s I was a member of our college basketball team. We traveled all over New England in one of these during Winter. Back to Maine after a game in Connecticut arriving back on campus in the wee hours of the morning. Had a couple of breakdowns over 4 years. This bus brings back some great memories.

    Like 4
  19. Lance Nord

    I wonder how difficult it would be to modify that bus so that it has expansion sliders like the new RV’s…

  20. chad

    “…sported some of the best art-deco styling to ever grace a transportation vessel…”
    If U like the Fixable U should C the 20 + restored buses the local line (Peter Pan Co) brings out frm ’20s – ’50s for occasional events: ’38 GarWood EFS (Ford/Hudson), ’39 GM Futureliner, ’41 Ford Western Flyer, ’47 Fixable Stirliner’n others frm the heyday of bus competition for passengers (Zeppelin busses any1?). I think each co tried to top the others to get the lines to buy frm them…

    I don’t know if Peter Pan owns them or just has the strings to pull to get them out but any parade they’re in has folks w/jaw on chest for 20 – 30 min as they roll by. The Zeppelin looks like some1 (in the 30s?) tried to show an airborne zeppelin could drive the road!

    Like 2
  21. CJ

    Would be great once restored; but that would require a lot of money and time!

    Like 1
  22. Larry Sherer

    I was able to inspect this bus on Saturday. It is an interesting project that has been buried in a salvage yard for many years. It will take lots of time and money to bring it back to life. The stories concerning Willie Nelson are not documented and may just be small town heresay. The bus itself is cool.

  23. Larry Sherer

    Also the rear of the bus is not a bathroom. It’s the storage area for luggage and the engine and transmission. The bathroom area is a small closet in the center area of the bus. There is an Oklahoma license tag in the rear of the bus that shows it was last tagged in 1986 as a motorhome. This is a Flixible Visicoach which was purchased new by Transit Airlines, Inc. of St. Louis, Missouri on September 21, 1951. I am trying to verify additional owners of the bus.

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