Dear readers, I have a confession to make. Even though I own a GM RTS bus, I’ve hardly cracked into my obsession with buses. I still have to get a GM New Look and I’ve more than once dreamed about owning the Flxible Clipper from the movie ‘RV.’ But I think I found the holy grail of buses and if you have enough cash, you can put in a bid to own it. Up for grabs at Bring a Trailer is a 1998 Mauck MSV 1120S, a super rare 1 of 100 bus, limousine, and motorhome sort of thing featuring towering windows and dihedral-hinged front doors. I’ve never wanted $30,000 more than I do right now.
The Mauck MSV 1120S also has a really special place in my heart. On October 28, 2020, an article about another Mauck MSV 1120S was my very first piece for Jalopnik. Writing about that bus kickstarted an adventure and an incredible journey that I’m still enjoying today. Yep, I’ve been writing about buses and campers from the very start! Even now, approaching three years into this, a Mauck MSV 1120S is sort of my white whale. I’ve never even seen one in real life, let alone driven one. And if today’s Bring a Trailer auction is any indication, it might be a while before I could seriously chase one down to add to my fleet. A lot of that has to do with the fact that just 100 of them are out there, so it’s rarer than many high-dollar supercars.
Mauck Special Vehicles
Defining exactly what a Mauck MSV 1120S is can be pretty difficult. It’s better equipped than a limo, but it’s also not quite a full motorhome or a bus, either. This vehicle sort of sits in its own gray area between different types of vehicles. As the Los Angeles Times writes, the Mauck MSV was the creation of Andrew Mauck, a self-taught engineer and car racer. Prior to starting Mauck Special Vehicles in 1996, Mauck designed and built fire engines. In a quote given to the LA Times, even Mauck notes that his creation straddles different kinds of vehicles at once, from the LA Times:
Mauck, of Columbus, Ohio, is projecting into the next millennium with a limousine-cum-condominium that he, reaching far with mixed icons, sees as “transportation combining the luxury and image of a Lear Jet with the aura and feel of a Ferrari.”
As Curbside Classic writes, Mauck first came up with this idea in the early 1990s after noticing that there really wasn’t a great way to carry around a bunch of corporate executives at once. Executives often got carted around in vehicles like the Lincoln Town Car, but those could carry only so many C-suite guys. If you wanted to carry a bunch of company employees with you, choices were largely limited to converted vans or other large vehicles. The MSV 1120S was designed as a solution to this problem by being able to carry 8 to 10 businesspeople in style.
For a price of around $150,000 to $200,000 or more, Mauck, through a partnership with Columbus, Ohio-based Custom Coach Corporation, was willing to build you an MSV 1120S into whatever you wanted it to be. By the time the LA Times wrote that article in 1997, eight MSVs were built and had gone on to serve a wide variety of roles:
Three have gone to nursing homes. Another has been shipped to Brunei and, of course, the royal family. The Columbus Zoo has bought an MSV and equipped it with cages for hauling animals to television appearances.
Mauck sees it as a movie director’s command post while on location. Maybe a racing team headquarters. Or a mobile newsroom with computer, sleeping, eating and photo facilities for newspaper teams covering breaking stories.
Basically, the Mauck MSV 1120S was built to be whatever the customer had in mind. Most Maucks were built into luxury limos and RVs. The company attracted some celebrity attention, too, and notable Mauck owners have been boxer George Foreman, singer Alan Jackson, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and NFL commentator John Madden. One MSV even appeared in Robin Williams movie Bicentennial Man as a delivery vehicle. Fitting, considering how futuristic the Mauck MSV 1120S looks.
The Mauck MSV 1120S
What makes these bus RV things so special is their unique design. This isn’t your typical RV or bus design, and certainly nothing like any other limousine. Custom Coach Corporation, a once prominent company offering conversions of commercial buses, constructed the Mauck MSV 1120S by hand, reportedly taking around 600 hours to complete each example.
The bus rides on a bespoke carbon steel spaceframe and the body consists of 37 custom fiberglass panels bracketed 13 laminated safety glass windows. Apparently, there are 20 panes of glass in total in this nearly 7-ton rig. Completed buses were 25 feet long, around 8 feet tall, 96 inches wide, and rode on an airbag suspension. Around 68 examples of the MSV 1120S came equipped with a tag axle.
When in operation, the tag axle drops down from its hidden area and provides additional load support for the vehicle, saving wear on suspension components. Such axles also provide better highway stability, especially in windy conditions.
Inside, each Mauck MSV 1120S is configured to the buyer’s tastes. I’ve seen a number of these for sale since first writing about one, and no two MSV 1120S seem to have the same interior.
That said, not everything is bespoke. The Mauck MSV 1120S is a parts bin special worthy of a Parts Bin Puzzle entry. Its headlights come from a Ford Aeromax, its taillights were nabbed from a Jeep Grand Cherokee, and its fog lights came from none other than the Dodge Viper. Even the windshield wipers come from a parts bin, those came from the Toyota Previa.
The Mauck MSV 1120S was available with a couple of powertrain choices. Buyers opting for a gas engine got a General Motors 454 cubic-inch Vortec V8 backed by a 4L80E. That’s situated in the rear in a T-drive configuration and delivers power to the wheels through a Ford nine-inch differential.
Those looking for diesel power found a Cummins 5.9-liter straight-six and an Allison automatic back there. Opting for the GM powertrain also meant getting a GM instrument cluster.
If you’re curious, the 1120S name does have some meaning. The 1 is the model number, 12 represents the vehicle’s wheelbase in feet, and the final number denoted option packages. It’s unclear what the S was supposed to mean.
This 1998 Mauck MSV 1120S is currently on the Bring a Trailer auction block in Cleveland, Ohio with five days to go in its auction. Bidding is currently at $32,000, or a fraction of what its original owner paid. The Mauck is currently owned by the Western Reserve Historical Society and the seller’s employer, the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum of the Western Reserve Historical Society, feels the Mauck is ready to find a new home.
This one appears to present in excellent condition with its black paint still shining. I love the 16-inch MHT tri-spoke wheels. Everything looks cooler with three-spoke wheels! The seller notes that this one comes with the GM gas engine powertrain and the aforementioned tag axle. It also has a four-wheel disc brake system also sourced from GM.
The Mauck MSV 1120S up for grabs here is a true museum piece with just 7,000 miles on its odometer. At least to my eyes, it’s a perfect example of one of the weirdest buses (or limo, or RV) to exist. If you take a look at the interior pictures, you’ll see what I mean when I say it’s not exactly a bus, limo, or RV.
The listing states that this Mauck has wood paneling, plaid accent upholstery, carpet, and 6 feet, 5 inches of headroom. Sharp eyes will spot some comfy chairs plus a couple of benches. You’ll also find a low floor, window shades, residential electrical outlets, telephones, and a wet bar in there. Right, so that’s more than just a regular bus and more than a limo. However, it doesn’t have a kitchen, proper beds, or a bathroom of any kind…so it’s not really an RV either. Or at least, it wouldn’t be a good motorhome.
Still, I don’t care if the Mauck MSV has an identity crisis going on, I adore these things. Again, what other buses have gullwing doors?
Mauck Also Tried Its Hands At A Transit Bus
In 1998 after slow sales, Mauck Special Vehicles was sold to a group of investors, who renamed the company Advanced Bus Industries. Those investors saw a greater future for the MSV 1120S than being just a super expensive limo bus. ABI saw the basic MSV design as being great for a transit bus. Thus, ABI made some changes to the design and developed the MSV into the TSV 25 and a longer 30-foot unit called the TSV 30. These midsize transit buses looked just like the luxury RVs from before, but they were now configured to carry a couple of dozen passengers.
The biggest change to the TSV models was under the fiberglass. Partnering up with the Lincoln Electric Company, ABI changed out the carbon steel spaceframe for one made entirely out of stainless steel. This made the new TSVs far more corrosion-resistant but required the development of a new welding process that reduced spatter and distortion.
Unfortunately, it was found that the transit bus versions of the MSV weren’t really fit for the abuses of mass transportation. The Pennsylvania Transportation Institute tested the ABI TSV buses for durability. During the tests, the test bus suffered from a lower control arm fracture and a fractured wheel knuckle on a different wheel. Those were just the worst failures.
PennState College Of Engineering has an entire library of bus torture tests and they’re all a fantastic read if you have the time.
In the real world, just five cities opted to buy just a handful of ABI TSVs, and one of them was hometown Columbus. ABI found out the hard way that the midsize bus market was hot with tons of competition. As Curbside Classic notes, operators found out that turning a limo RV thing into a transit bus may result in unintended results. Columbus reportedly had to constantly replace shattered windshields and apparently, most of the TSV units were retired after just five years. Typical transit buses see service lives far longer than that. My own RTS bus served Texas A&M University for a whole 20 years.
Some of these MSV/TSV units have been overhauled over the years. One particularly expensive example (above) saw an MSV get headlights from a Ram truck and a supercharged 8.1-liter V8 crate engine shoved in the back. That MSV apparently cost $800,000 to modernize.
As for Andy Mauck, his latest designs are less ambitious but still sort of oddball luxury custom coaches riding on Mercedes-Benz Sprinter cutaway-chassis vans. These are called the Mauck 2. As I said before, between 1996 and 1999, just 100 examples of the MSV 1120S were built. The ABI TSV was marketed until 2002, but it’s unclear how many of those were built.
No matter how you slice it, this 1998 Mauck MSV 1120S is a fascinating and incredibly rare piece of transit, RV, and I suppose limo history. Sadly, this wonderful creation will remain a white whale for me. But if you have the lettuce, $32,000 would net you this near-perfect example from Bring a Trailer.
(Photos: Bring a Trailer seller, unless otherwise noted.)
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