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Your Next Home? 1961 GM New Look ‘Fishbowl’ Bus

Nothing really truly defines the early 1960s and beyond in terms of public transport than the GM New Look bus. Its been featured as the background player in hundreds of films, TV series, magazines, and album covers. There are countless books, fan forums, and a dedicated following for the bus. It’s even the star of the show in the film ‘Speed’ featuring Keanu Reeves. Most have been retired from fleets – but only in the last few years, meaning that the original 1959 design has spanned almost 6 decades in continued use. With most of them now retired, it means they are available to snap up on the second-hand market like the one we have today from 1961, available in Savannah, Georgia for $12,000 and available on Craigslist here. Thanks to T.J. for this tip!

If you really want to delve deep into the tens of variants that were offered, a quick trip to Wikipedia will whet your appetite – there are rows and rows of various changes over the years to update to the latest safety regulations. Our model today is from the early days of production – just 2 years in – and so is one of the more classic New Look buses. The fishbowl name was from the original design which had 6 glass screens in the front, giving it a fishbowl appearance as you can see from the images. The good news continues as this bus is still running and all the electrics work.

The even better news is that the rear has been stripped out of all the seats so is a blank canvas for your next project. These are more and more popular with the modern RV crowd who want to build their own house on wheels, on a budget. The engine is a V8 Detroit Diesel with only 115,000 miles on the clock – which is not a lot for public transport. It’s hard to say what this bus was originally used for, but with so few miles, it was likely in a private bus fleet rather than public transportation.

For the next owner, the only thing limiting them is their imagination. The registration says this is already a mobile home, so this headache has been removed. It does need new tires and probably cannot be driven away as is unless you are very handy doing backyard mechanics and don’t live across the country. So where would your imagination take you with this bus – load her up with a bed and keep it simple, or go down the full-on mobile home route and spend a few years on the road?


  1. 8banger 8banger Member

    I love these too, but I can’t imagine what it would take to fill one of these up.

    Like 4
    • Terrry

      fill with what, furniture or diesel? These days the diesel would be almost as expensive.

      Like 1
  2. Fahrvergnugen Fahrvergnugen Member

    Who needs fuel?? I have the perfect spot for it, down by the river, under a bridge…

    Like 25
  3. Doone

    Van Life Large

    Like 10
  4. geezerglide85

    THe ad says it’s an automatic and most of them were, but I see a big stick shift there next to the driver seat, so this one might be one of the rare ones? I think that would be prefered for a motorhome conversion or maybe that’s just me.

    Like 12
    • Gary Gary Member

      In the actual description the seller notes: “- Manual transmission” Possibly Craigslist does not offer the ‘manual’ selection as one of the default choices available when posting a new listing? I don’t personally know.

      Like 0
    • jwaltb

      Says manual transmission in the Craigslist ad.

      Like 0
    • Terrry

      if it’s either a manual or automatic I’d hope it also had a two-speed rear end for highway use.

      Like 0
    • Charles Seaton

      You are right. This is a suburban with a four speed stick. If they got that wrong, it makes me wonder about the eight cylinder part.

      Like 0
  5. Grant

    Always wanted a bus, but this one lacks the obviously needed second floor.

    Like 2
  6. Jett

    I work in a 1967 version converted into a food truck. Would love to have one set up as an RV, but the money…wow.

    Like 0
  7. Johnnymopar

    I bought and destroyed hundreds of these for a metal recycler. They were still in service up to the early 2000’s. These were everywhere most of my life and I’ve ridden in many. Still have the sign that has a roll on it for the different stations.

    Like 0
  8. JustPassinThru

    I have driven the Fishbowls. They are great driver’s vehicles – combination of the command seating, the easy steering, the engine noise far removed. Most had two-speed transmissions…not Powerglide, something far different. A torque-converter, coupled to a reduction gear (1st) and then a shift to a direct-drive coupling, bypassing the converter. Rough shift, and then sluggish response on the oil pedal.

    It’s fully workable as a motorhome conversion, if your budget allows and if you can deal with the hostility you’ll face at commercial RV parks. Many of them have hard-and-fast rules about conversion buses and vans.

    Like 2
  9. Howard A Member

    “One of these days, Alice, POW, right to the moon”, which was later dismissed as violence against women. I barely remember riding on “Ralphs” bus, an old look, but just about everyone here has some memory of riding on these. To get us to the Jewish Center on the east side, or that slot car track on the southside, places too far in a big city to ride the bike, the bus was it. I remember, for a quarter, you could ride the bus all afternoon, just don’t forget the “transfer” that allowed that. I don’t know what to do with it now. Used to be, you’d park a bus out back so the old lady couldn’t see the “collection” you amassed. Today, it’s basically just a big POS that will take a ton of room and resources to make anything out of it. Yank the motor and up on blocks for a nifty storage shed. That “tattletale”, aka, “the pimp”, or more accurately, the speedograph on the dash, is sure stirring up some ghosts for me.

    Like 3
  10. Clarke morris

    On Craigslist it says manual transmission which would be preferrable to me. The passenger side floor was professionly lowered so the ad says, the exterior all professionally redone and engine inspected by detroit diesel mechanic/engineer according to the ad. Going to give some thought to this one. Only has about 115,000 miles on it and these busses easily can see over a million before they are put out to pasture.

    Like 0
  11. Troy

    Wait until mid winter when the country is deeper into the recession that the white House says isn’t happening and RV’s aren’t selling your $12k will buy you a really nice one that’s ready to use instead of having to drop another $50k into it

    Like 4
  12. SG

    15-20 years ago my uncle bought two of these as surplus from Dayton, Ohios RTA fleet. They weren’t in bad shape at all but he knew nothing about diesel buses! They ended up being parked at my grandmothers farm for years and eventually disappeared.

    He was infamous for having an exotic animal collection and I think he secretly planned on using the buses to ferry folks from the city to the farm for a “lion country safari” kind of thing.

    I thought they were junk back then, but now I own a 1951 GMC bus myself, so maybe insanity runs in the family…

    Like 1
  13. S

    When I was in college, which was in the mid-90s, these were the buses they used to transport students between campuses. They had been old city transit buses that the college had purchased. One was definitely a 1961 and another a 1962 model. The others were from the 1970s and had “GMC” written on the front instead of “GM” like this one does. They were all automatics, but the 61 and the 62 had manual steering. There were signs letting the drivers know this. This was not usually a problem unless the driver had to back the bus up and had to travel at a slow speed. I remember being impressed that these 30+ year old vehicles were still good enough to be transporting students around.

    Like 1
  14. S

    It’s not looking like my first post went through – we rode on these at my college in the mid 1990s, and one of the buses was definitely a 1961 model. When Speed came out in 1994, we went to the theater to see it. And what was the star of the show but one of these new look buses? I couldn’t believe that one of the 30+ year old buses we rode on in college was being used in a movie at the same time we rode on them daily.

    Like 0
  15. wcshook

    I was raised around these buses, when they first came out. Dad drove for Knoxville Transit Lines (Tn) and I well remember their first one. I am not the final expert on them, but a couple of things. That 115,000 miles I seriously question. IF, in fact, it is accurate, it most likely had some very serious problems. This is not your typical city bus. It has only the front entrance door, not a rear exiting door. It is a stick shift, as noted by another poster. If the manufacture tag is still on, the right as you enter the coach, you will see the model number and serial number. The model number can be traced to the original purchaser. This is what became known as a Suburban. With the stick shift it was mechanically set up for highway travel. Meaning it could easily run at highway speeds, vs a city coach which would top out at 45 or 50 and the engine screaming. Some had underfloor storage, like the Parlor Coaches, but I can’t tell from the pictures about this one. Good to see one in as good a shape as this one.

    Like 3
  16. chrlsful

    12v & alison R 1st. Then a buncha panels over most the windows. Some
    kinda ramp somewhere to roll the goodies up’n in (motor/non bikes, 4 wheelers, boasts’n sno sleds, ad infinitum). They’s take up more space than I.

    3 burner, 9 cu ft fridge, tub sink kitchen, stand up 35 inch sq shower, separate toilet & room for 3 or 4 to sleep (pipe berths R fine really need only 1). Lill ‘office’ area can B combined w/sleep or lounge.

    Like 1
  17. Bick Banter

    AirBnB it.

    Like 0
  18. Terrry

    I remember these when they were plying their trade as city buses. So many of them and I can still hear the sound of their Detroit diesels. I believe they were the best looking buses ever made.

    Like 0
  19. Charles Strunk

    Final scene from LA Confidential!

    Like 0
  20. Mike

    I worked on a lot of these with 6V71’s and VH automatic transmissions in a city transit bus co, the good old days!

    Like 0
  21. Mike

    I worked on a lot of these with 6V71’s and VH automatic transmissions in a transit bus co, the good old days! Easy to work on and no emissions

    Like 0

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