Home » This 1948 GM ‘Old Look’ Transit Bus Camper Is One Of The Coolest Vintage RV Conversions You’ll See

This 1948 GM ‘Old Look’ Transit Bus Camper Is One Of The Coolest Vintage RV Conversions You’ll See

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The life of a transit bus is often hard and a little sad. A bus may carry countless passengers for years, only for an unceremonious end at the scrapper. Some weird people, myself included, save these pieces of history. This 1948 GM TDH-3610 ‘Old Look’ bus is one of those rescued buses and it was given a second life through a camper conversion. It’s an awesome time capsule into what a good conversion looked like back in the 1960s. Check this rig out! This bus is one surviving example of around 38,000 “Old Look” buses produced by the GMC Truck and Coach Division. The very last Old Looks were produced in 1969, making the youngest bus a whole 54 years old; the oldest Old Looks came in 1940, so they’re 83 years old. It’s unknown how many of these beauties have survived, but unlike a classic muscle car, you won’t find people lining up to save an old bus. I mean, ignoring the fact that keeping a big vehicle alive isn’t for the faint of heart, a muscle car can be stored in a residential garage or in a driveway, whereas a bus cannot. So many historic buses reached a dark fate at the end of their service lives, but some do live on. This 1948 GM TDH-3610 is one of those rescued buses.
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The City of St. Petersburg, Florida retired this bus from its fleet in the 1960s, then someone bought it and converted it into a motorhome. Today, it’s a perfect time capsule for old-school RV conversions.

General Motors Used To Dominate The Bus Industry

Oldlook
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For decades, General Motors had a foothold in different categories in the bus industry. In the 1960s, you could ride in a GM “Buffalo” bus on routes between cities, then board a GM New Look transit bus to get around those cities. As Curbside Classic notes, General Motors was such a powerhouse that it dominated the urban bus industry for decades. The New York Times reminds us that General Motors wasn’t just a heavy hitter with cars and buses, but the manufacturer was also a leading player in locomotives.

This bus predates icons like the GM New Look and the Rapid Transit Series. However, like those buses, the Old Look was an icon in its own right. These buses delivered countless passengers to their destinations and each of those buses were ambassadors for their respective cities.
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As Ertel Publishing writes, the Old Look bus was introduced in 1940 by Yellow Coach. Back then, the bus wasn’t given a real model name, instead given a designation like Model TG-3201. The ‘Old Look’ name is unofficial and actually didn’t appear until far later after GM introduced the New Look bus in 1959. Old Look is a retronym applied to these older buses. Yellow Coach Manufacturing Company was opened in 1923 in Chicago by John D. Hertz. If that name sounds familiar, in 1923, Hertz bought out the Rent-A-Car rental company and changed its name to Hertz Drive-Ur-Self, which is today known simply as Hertz. That was hardly Hertz’s only business. In 1915, Hertz started the Yellow Cab Company in Chicago and also in 1923, Hertz started the Yellow Coach Manufacturing Company as a subsidiary of Yellow Cab. The coach arm of the business was responsible for the manufacture of buses. General Motors purchased a majority stake in the business just two years after its opening.
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At the time, most buses were built with a body-on-frame design. One of Yellow Coach’s innovations back then was a monocoque structure. It started in 1936 with the Model 719 highway bus, which featured a transversely-mounted diesel engine in the rear and an aluminum monocoque construction. In 1940, the bus that would become the Old Look would get the same technology. When the GMC Truck and Coach Division absorbed the rest of Yellow Coach in 1943, this basic design layout would continue to see use in the rest of GM’s bus legends. For example, my RTS bus was built out of five-foot sections of stainless steel unibody.
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Yellow’s developments made for durable coaches that were able to withstand the harsh abuses of transit services. That durability helped cement GM’s position as a leader as streetcars disappeared in favor of buses. The Old Look bus became so popular that when the New Look was replaced it in 1959, demand for the old buses was high enough to justify keeping them in production for another decade.

This 1948 GM TDH-3610 ‘Old Look’ Bus Conversion

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As I said before, many buses live an unceremonious life of hauling people before they’re sent off to a farm upstate. Some get to enjoy a second career living a far easier life as a motorhome. The seller says that St. Petersburg, Florida used this bus until the early 1960s. Then it ended up in private hands, where someone, or perhaps a company, converted it into a motorhome. The bus has remained mostly original ever since, so it functions as a sort of time capsule. But, it’s better than that because it’s a time capsule that still works! Starting with the exterior, you can see where the original folding doors were up front. Those have been replaced with a wall and a sliding window. The entrance door for this bus sits at the rear. Of course, the windows were changed to fit the RV interior and the quality of the work seems phenomenal. Remember, this bus was converted into a motorhome back in the 1960s! Yet, if you didn’t know any better, this could pass as a purpose-built RV. Also worth noting here is the condition of the body. I’ve seen a number of these Old Looks and aside from fresh restorations sitting in museums, I’m not sure I’ve seen one in better shape than this. 327741444 5791960914192730 34124 Before we move inside, you’re probably wondering what the heck “TDH-3610” even means. It’s not just an alphabet soup. In GM nomenclature, “T” translates to transit bus, “D” means it has a diesel engine, and “H” means it has an automatic transmission. As far as the numbers go, the “36” marks it as a 30-foot coach while “10” is the coach’s model number. In this case, power comes from a Detroit Diesel 4-71. It’s a 4.7-liter four-cylinder diesel making about 160 HP and 400 lb-ft torque. That’s backed by a Spicer angle-drive two-speed automatic. Stopping power is handled through air brakes and I hope your arms are pretty jacked because this bus has manual steering. I’ve watched a driver wrestle a vintage bus with manual steering before, there’s a ton of turning of the wheel and maybe a few audible grunts here and there. Gmtruckint Moving inside, the bus is a wonderful representation of a 1960s motorhome. The seller says that everything in here is original to the 1960s conversion. That’s impressive because the interior appears to have held up well. Equipment includes an oven and stove, a refrigerator, two propane heaters, and an 8-Track player. All of these are said to work, so you could camp in this bus right now and relive the ’60s. Also notable is the fact that the bus does have a bathroom and when you’re parked at a campsite, it can feed from shore power just like a factory-built RV. It would appear that an Onan generator and a 100-gallon fresh water tank were added, but neither has been hooked up yet. Gmtruckandcoachshow In terms of sleeping, there are four bunks in the rear as well as a dinette that transforms into a bed, very similar to a modern rig. One additional person could sleep on the couch in the living room. Something else I love is the fact that there are seats at the front of the bus. Many conversions sort of forget the fact that you might be traveling with your significant other and you’ll want to sit next to them. If you’re as stoked as I am about this bus, the seller wants $28,000 for it. The bus is currently registered as an RV, so you should be able to drive it home. If you’re short on cash, apparently, the seller will take a skid steer with low hours. 329253916 5619065841556054 71881 Overall, this bus looks rather fantastic and if I had the cash, I’d be on my way to East Greenville, Pennsylvania to pick it up. It’s not often you’re able to run into a piece of history like this that appears to be in such great condition. Props to the builders and whoever maintained this bus over about the past 60 or so years. It’s hard enough to keep a car looking good that long, let alone a converted bus. That alone is incredible. And while it’s not preserved as it was, a piece of transit history is still alive. Popular Stories

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Leo T.
Leo T.
11 months ago

I’d want an actual OTH coach for an interstate cruiser RV conversion. I can already hear this picture (Detroit two strokes will whirr until next eternity)

Last edited 11 months ago by Leo T.
Ron888
Ron888
11 months ago

They’re getting 160 HP out of a 4/71?? That’s so hard to believe i had to look it up.Interesting trivia- the 6/71 has only 10hp more.

Chronometric
Chronometric
11 months ago

I knew a guy with a green one of these that used it to camp during vintage racing weekends. It was the hit of the paddock.

Lew Schiller
Lew Schiller
11 months ago

I have a vivid memory of the introduction of the New Look busses. I was a child in Milwaukee. Old Look busses were what I knew. Then one day a new episode of Twilight Zone was on – the one with Lee Marvin and Battling Maxo the B2 boxing robot – and it was set in the future. In the first scene a New Look Bus pulls up and discharges Marvin and the Robot. Holy Crap! What’s that bus? I’d never seen one on the street.

DONALD FOLEY
DONALD FOLEY
11 months ago

TransitDieselHydraulictransmission-36passenger10thvariation.

notoriousDUG
notoriousDUG
11 months ago

The gearing on that has to be terrible. Every time I see one of those old bus conversions I love it and then remember it probably tops out at like 55…

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
11 months ago

Sorry i am for rving these old buses but has to have those extra top windows. But need a good design that you can do it sell and repeat. Just offering 1 off custom isnt saving or profitable.

Gary Lynch
Gary Lynch
1 year ago

Brings back memories. Back when I was a teen in ‘69, my aunt from CA came to visit us in Michigan. Brought her new hubby George. Worked for BART, driving a bus across the Bay bridge in Oakland. My dad had some connections at GM, so for something to do, we tried to get a tour through the Pontiac plant. Well, it was down for the summer. How about GMC? Ok. We went, and they gave us a tour of the GMC truck and coach plant. Coach side. This may have been the happiest day of George’s life. At the end they even had a few buses under construction tagged for BART. While “just coaches” – not buses, buses are build on truck chassis- was a great experience.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
1 year ago

I’d love to know more about that blue woody in the parking lot picture!

Hangover Grenade
Hangover Grenade
1 year ago

That kind of power would be sad in a 70’s Cadillac. Wonder how slow this thing is. I bet it weighs 20,000 pounds.

Speedway Sammy
Speedway Sammy
1 year ago

Back in Cleveland in the 60s I rode on these buses to Catholic high school, on a public transit route, not a school bus. I remember the single shift from low to high gear was very abrupt.

Chris Stevenson
Chris Stevenson
1 year ago

So what I’ve learned about bus conversions the past few weeks is to start with a former transit bus, not a school bus.

Theotherotter
Theotherotter
1 year ago

I’m curious about the windshield design on these buses – why a sloped windshield set back within a vertical aperture? Why the odd corner cutoff on the curbside glass?

Theotherotter
Theotherotter
11 months ago
Reply to  Theotherotter

Self edit! One of the TTAC articles explained it.

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
1 year ago

Nothing screams 60s more than an avocado colored sink LOL

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
1 year ago

To use a technical term, this thing is adorable as fuck.

Aceto Balsamico
Aceto Balsamico
1 year ago

Looks are on point for this one

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
1 year ago

For 28k, you still throw 50k at it and still have a good motorhome. Mostly modernize/blend in items. Like a set of cameras, modern radio with GPS, AC unit(s), upgrade power, etc.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
11 months ago
Reply to  Arrest-me Red

Yeah, the big speaker boxes and dark paneling in the 2nd interior shot caught my eye-and the green headrest area of the seats. I rode plenty of busses in the 70s, so sort of involuntarily flinched away from that (from memory) nasty, tacky, vinyl.

But, it’s a solid platform unlike most RVs: imo, it would be worth upgrading to accommodate modern highway speeds. And power steering!

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
11 months ago
Reply to  Arrest-me Red

Power steering 1st…can’t imagine steering as is unless you wanted to get strong arms!

Andrew Wyman
Andrew Wyman
1 year ago

It’s beautiful inside and out, but that manual steering/air brakes might be things I would want to upgrade.

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