1946 Cheverolet schoolbus conversion to a medicine show gypsy wagon
I found the bus in a junk
yard in the early 1970's ... took me three days to decide to buy it ... offered too much
.... drove it to a mechanic's on two cylinders ... he rebuilt the engine
while I worked on the wiring.
It is 25', bumper to bumper, parks in
a normal parking space ... the interior is 16' from driver's seat to
back door. It had been gutted of all seats, had a wooden kitchen chair
for a driver's seat and a plywood board stretched across the back door
for a bed. It had been used as a fishing shack.
After driving around Colorado,
including most mountain passes ... Berthoud Pass was interesting ... I
decided on a simple floor plan and began the reconstruction.
I removed the old roof and temporarily
skinned it with heavy weight gold canvas, did more passes and a trip to
St. Louis delivering sculpture on what became known as the
"Grandmother" trip ... mine lived in Jefferson City, Mo, my
accomplice's in St. Louis.
I then began welding the new roof by raising the four
existing roof ribs 12'' and fabricating the back, skinning it with
the outer and inner sheetmetal panels, scrounging for the rest.
The center vista cruise window over the cab was a back hatch out of
some scrapped vehicle ... fit fine ... no glass, used Lexan which has
fogged over the years ... the two side arcs came from the back windows'
inner sheetmetal, again fitting just right.
I drove it to Corpus
Christi, Texas and lived out of it while working there ... I wrote a
song while living between the Naval Air Station and the biker bars
called "Flower Bluff Blues" ... the intro is: "Something in my solar
plexus wants to get me out of Texas".
The interior is fully insulated and finished with aspen bead board trimmed with redwood,
stainless steel behind the woodstove from a catering truck or roach
coach. The skylight is the old rear exit door window, and the new rear
door came from the T-spoon ranch outside of Guffey, CO.
I've lived in the bus several times
over the years while caretaking ranches, the longest now being five
years ... and she still makes me smile. I still need to put a rear deck
on it this summer ... a
platform for musical events and theatrical perfomances and snake oil
... and exterior bodywork and
paint ... keeping in the Gypsy or Circus Wagon motif, and would love to
find a diesel engine for a multi-fuel conversion. If it comes down to it,
I'll hook a single tree to the front and pull it with mules to keep it
And yes, I'm back living in the bus again with a cat named Hopper.