Where old American school-buses go to die

I promised a few surprise posts this year. Here’s the first. A couple of years ago the City Council in Napier, New Zealand, decided to spend about $1.1 million on two old Thomas school-buses, which they had customised in California for that quintessential Flash Gordon look – specifically, streamline moderne.

Napier deco bus 'Belle' outside the former Hawke's Bay Museum and Art Gallery.
Napier deco bus ‘Belle’ outside the former Hawke’s Bay Museum and Art Gallery.

It was intended to match the city’s art deco theme, but the plan didn’t go well. The buses arrived in New Zealand in late 2012 and were declared un-roadworthy on inspection in Wellington. That cost $100,000 to rectify,  and then when they did hit Napier streets in April 2013 they netted a grand total of 11 paying passengers a day, for a dead loss to the Council of $58,000 through August. It was late 2013 before passenger numbers rose.

Napier deco bus 'Belle'.
Napier deco bus ‘Belle’.

My take? If you’re going to customise an American school bus, do this. I’d pay for a ride. You?

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2014

Coming up: Regular writing posts, science geekery and more.


6 thoughts on “Where old American school-buses go to die

  1. Thanks for the chuckle, Matthew. More than once, I have considered what it might be like to live in a converted school bus as from time to time, I see people driving converted buses. For all I know, they may use for living as they do have curtains! Of course, they are the traditional, non-Flash Gordon, art deco buses. Enjoyed the post.

    1. I could only see the funny side of the Napier City Council’s venture! The place is building a pretty vigorous life for itself as a resort town built around deco, which is a great idea, but I can’t help thinking the Flash Gordon bus idea was a bit OTT. House-buses are a neat concept. My cousin had a ‘house bus’ for a while, and when I was a teenager in the 1970s my family used to go on ‘bus holidays’ in a VW Type 2 microbus converted to camper – too small for actually living in, but kind of handy as mobile accommodation for a few days. In various places we met or stayed with people who had ‘house trucks’ that they generally lived in, often built up with scrounged house fittings.

  2. Ah, the best laid plans… I suppose there’s something appropriate about a deco machine. But it does help if the machine works. I see you’ve been pressed, Matthew! Congratulations!

    1. Thanks. Yes, I was ‘pressed’ via a rather whimsical geek post I wrote on last year’s Russian meteor – provoked a huge spike in readership, and kind of cool all round.

  3. When poor planning meets an open checkbook, financial disaster awaits. Cool look though. Hmmm, top fuel school bus drags. Now that’s an interesting class for the NHRA!

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