I’ve come across an old bus that has blown me away in how good it looks. Despite about 82 years on this planet, this 1941 Flxible Clipper looks like it rolled right out of a museum. Even better, someone converted it into an RV and gave it modern diesel power. This piece of transit history needs a new home and it’s not even that expensive.
If you haven’t noticed, lately I’ve been on a search for my unicorn: a GM New Look bus. I wrote about a ridiculously cheap New Look at the lighting site and I really think that I should have bought it. Since then, the ones that I’ve found for sale were either rustbuckets, non-operational projects, or just outrageously expensive. But that hasn’t stopped a girl from dreaming. I’ve been striking out on New Look finds and instead I’ve been finding other pieces of history, like that low-floor coach.
I’ve also found another Flxible bus. We’ve featured old Flxible Visicoaches a couple of times before, but neither of those presented in the condition that you’re about to see today with this Clipper. Just hook your peepers onto this beauty.
Sidecars To Buses
Flxible, which you’d say like “flexible,” started life in the early 1910s by Hugo H. Young in Mansfield, Ohio. Young owned a Harley-Davidson dealership and invented a flexible sidecar coupling that allows the attached motorcycle to lean into turns. When Young tried to trademark the company name, he apparently learned that he couldn’t patent a word like flexible. The company got creative and dropped the first “e,” finding itself able to trademark the resulting name, “Flxible.”
Sidecar production lasted until the early 1920s, when the company’s expensive sidecars couldn’t compete with Ford’s budget-minded Model T. Eventually, Flxible left the sidecar business, shifting its main products to catering to the burgeoning bus market.
Flxible’s first bus was a 12-passenger Studebaker sedan built in 1924. As it grew, Flxible built intercity coaches, as well as bus-based ambulances and hearses.
Over the decades, Flxible would be known for building buses that were as much functional as they were pieces of art. In 1937, Flxible introduced the Clipper, a bus that measured 28 feet long, seated 25 passengers, and was driven by an engine mounted up front.
Passenger baggage rode on the roof and the body was supported by a wooden frame. This design lasted for just one year and in 1938, the Clipper saw major upgrades. Now it used a full-steel unitized construction and the engine was moved to the rear. The new Clipper also saw the removal of mounted fenders, and instead, Flxible sometimes painted the buses in a two-tone scheme that resembled fenders.
Flxible Owners International explains that in the early 1940s, these buses saw gradual changes throughout their production. Passenger capacity rose to 29 and baggage was moved off of the roof and into a compartment. Windshields became curved for more visibility and rectangular side windows became stylish parallelograms. The owners site also notes that these early buses also had sightseeing versions with glass roof panels. A later Flxible Clipper was a prominent vehicle in the movie RV, and I’m stoked to have finally found a Clipper that hasn’t been mostly returned to the Earth.
The seller of this 1941 Flxible Clipper doesn’t give us much information about its history. According to the bus lovers of the Canadian Public Transport Discussion Board, these were in use with at least two dozen bus lines in the United States alone, with more going to Canada. This unit has been repainted and after a lot of searching, I’m not sure if it’s based on any real livery.
The seller does say that the bus has been refurbished in a tasteful manner that maintains the integrity of the unit. The exterior certainly looks the part and the interior is just as good.
This interior isn’t modern like yesterday’s Champion Ultrastar, but that may be a benefit here. Remember, this bus is a whole 82 years old. Making it look like a luxury hotel might make it jarring.
No details are given about the camper conversion, but you can spot a three-burner stove, refrigerator, and microwave. The bus also has running water and what appears to be a full bathroom.
I really like how the kitchen is done. It’s dated, sure, but it appears to be in good condition and of decent quality. You get plenty of seating and counter surfaces, too. Looking around the back, the unit appears to have an air-conditioner, a tow package, and an older backup camera.
From the factory, these buses often came equipped with a 320 cubic inch Buick straight-eight gasoline engine. However, this one has been given a new diesel engine.
The seller doesn’t say what this engine is, but it’s paired with an automatic transmission. I’ve seen old buses upgraded to Detroit Diesel or Cummins power, so I’d expect something like that. I’ve reached out to the seller for more information and will update when I hear back.
Even with the lack of information on this unit, color me impressed. It’s not a walk in the park keeping a giant bus in good shape, so I’m not surprised that many of these old rigs are rusty with peeling paint. This bus is in such good shape that its paint shines.
I have no doubt that this is in better condition than some of the new RVs that I’ve seen and way better than one of my parents’ travel trailers. And at $27,500 from the seller in North Branch, Michigan, it isn’t a huge price of entry for an old bus that at least on the surface, won’t need a major overhaul right after purchase.
On that note, if you happen to know of any vintage buses for sale like a GM New Look or more obscure buses, drop them in my inbox at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to see them!
Support our mission of championing car culture by becoming an Official Autopian Member.
The Bowlus Heritage Edition Camper Is Nicer Than Your House And Probably Cheaper
A Home Builder Tried To Solve The Problem Of Motorhomes Being Too Tall
This Flxible Visicoach Used To Be An Airport Bus, Now It’s A Steal Of A Motorhome Deal
This ‘Flxible Visicoach’ Used To Tour Mount Rainier National Park, Now It’s An Incredible RV Conversion
Extra brownie point for installing the separate amber-coloured turn signal indicators in the rear.
Feast your eyes on the RV converted Flxible from only a few days ago at the VW “VDub Getaway” show in Brandon FL. Fun fact: our 1949 Beetle won Best Aircooled too!
I’m not generally a vintage RV fan or a motorhome fan, but you have found some serious gems that fit both categories lately!
This bus reminds me of a split window VW bus. These old streamliners have a lot of style but I would definitely want a restomod with upgraded brakes and suspension and a modern engine and transmission.
Wow, that really looks great! When 82 years old I reach, look as good I will not. :-O
Fun (?) facts: Mansfield, OH is very close to the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course; it is also the location of the prison used for the exterior shots in ‘Shawshank Redemption’.
Flxibles rule! Worked for a school that ran a beautifully maintained 1958 Flxible Clipper as an activity bus. What a sweetheart it was to drive.
Some problems with Visicoaches
1) first bus with air brakes – no redundancy of failure. retrofitting proper brakes is not simple and should be mandatory for modern driving.
2) Some states require CDL for vehicles with air brakes.
3) Flxible community is great and strong. Support and advice is numerous, but sometimes comes from the most cantankerous people.
^Most of these problems are offset by the shear style of these machines.
That one’s a gem. And a better investment than a $20k tagalong trailer built to the cheapest possible standards.
Everything in RVs and overlanding is a compromise.
The downsides to an A-class RV are the costs of maintenance, storage, fuel and insurance. When we owned an A, the end result of every trip was something needing repair either in the house or the chassis. It was an ongoing joke in our family, “What’s going to break this time?” I cannot imagine the punchlist that would follow a trip in something that belongs in a museum.
What I just wrote can be true for travel trailers, but with fewer parts to fail the number of failures will be fewer — hopefully.
BTW SquareTaillight2002, I’ve been meaning to comment on your screenname. For five years or so my DD was a 1973 2002. Still might have it had a box-truck driver not obliterated it, “because it was too small to see.”
All of this is true, but tell me more about this Sprinter!
Our Sprinter is, at the moment, an incomplete shade-tree project. I work on it when the weather is nice, which we have not seen in our area since October.
The electrical is installed, as is insulation, heater, walls, bed, fridge and temporary cabinetry. The gating item is a shower. I need to build the walls for the shower, and the plan is to sheet the shower in either copper, aluminum or stainless. A shower is a non-negotiable item, according to Mrs. OverlandingSprinter. Everything else — most of it in boxes in our garage — will fall into place once the shower is done.
I’m basing the “design” on what I learned owning A and C class RVs, and rebuilding a 1966 Shasta trailer that we used as our shelter at Burning Man for many years. To the extent possible, major components are/will be field serviceable as we plan to use it to travel the Pan America Highway. It’s completed enough for short trips into BLM land and serve as our house at Burning Man last year.
Our Sprinter is a long-wheelbase 4WD, which is factory lifted. It’s not as agile as our TJ, but what is? Still, we’ve taken it on quite a few tricky trails where I wished the departure angle on this thing was greater.
I could go on, and bet you regret asking. 🙂