How to Tow A 1955 School Bus Coversion

Pulling A 1955 International School With A Dodge Truck
This is the story of Norma, a 1955 International School Bus Conversion. I bought her just over two months ago now, and getting her home was quite an adventure. As it turns out, getting a School Bus towed from Whitefish, MT was not going to be an easy task. The towing he had promised fell through several times. An axle had broken on his buddy's trailer, and the towing for 150 dollars was not panning out. After researching tow companies and getting a couple dozen different quotes, the average price to tow a 1955 International School Bus 150 miles was between 800 and 1000 dollars. The terrain between where I was located just outside of Missoula, and where Norma was stuck in Whitefish, is 150 miles of switchback mountains with some steep grades and serious turns, along with a couple of giant hills. I put out craigslist ads and calls for help to my friends. I had a trucker friend suggest a bidding company online, but no one would take on the haul.

 After a month and a half of almost patiently waiting, Matt and I decided that he was going to go to Whitefish and try to make Norma run, or tow it home himself. So Matt embarked on this weekend long adventure with his step father to make Norma run again. After days of trying and not succeeding, and a lot of wrong parts, they still couldn't get the spark Norma needed to run. At this point, exhausted and frustrated, Matt and his step dad, decided to tie Norma up to his step dad's Dodge, and pull her home. The above picture is after 20 miles, they made it into Kalispell, MT. They had to stop in this parking lot to cool off the brakes, and add more brake fluid. Apparently they were having problems with a cylinder. They said at this point, that they had many people pointing and shouting and taking pictures. They even had a sheriff come up behind them and just shake his head. If your wondering, they just have a 40 foot tow strap rigged up to pull the bus behind the dodge.

The rest of the trip was not easy going either. The brake cylinders gave out or blew up something, and they had to stop and compress them over and over. Matt was literally having to stop a 33 foot school bus with his own legs and an emergency brake. They had a lot of close calls. They pulled over in every town, considering whether they should just give up and drop the bus.  But they never did. They just kept on hauling. After the worst of the hills, and another close call, the brakes went out again. Matt was down to one back break and the emergency brake. The sun was going down and they had been in tow for over 6 hours already. They rigged up the brakes again and attempted the last leg of the journey down into Missoula. It was dark as they arrived into town. Wouldn't you know, that finally after 8 or 9 hours of towing, they got pulled over.

Matt said he had never looked so pathetic. He was covered in diesel soot (there is no windshield in the bus) sore and exhausted, he almost shed a tear to the Sheriff. The Sheriff was very understanding, and although he wouldn't let them tow it any further, he did allow him to call a friend to follow behind the bus with his hazards on for the rest of the 20 miles to where we live. The breaks went out altogether as he pulled into the yard to set her in her place. She also took out the fence on her way in. Poor Norma was as tired and sore as Matt.

Matt had to take two full days off of work to recover after literally being the brakes for the bus most of the way home. At least I know he is capable of stopping her if there is a complete brake failure. We have not fully assessed the damage of pulling Miss Norma yet either. I imagine, the brakes are going to be a doozy. We have pieces and parts that need to be exchanged, because some of the original parts that we got were for a 12 volt system rather than the original 6 volt system that is installed. There is a lot of questions we have about the motor itself. I do have some books on order, and hopefully a manual in the very near future...

So Norma made it home. Now the fun part begins. I am restoring a school bus. Its actually happening. I passed on the burn this year, in hopes that she will make it to her true home, next year. Next year was better anyways. )'(

Follow my blog to start seeing some before and after pictures of Norma. I would love to hear some feedback from you readers! If you have any good links, tips, suggestions or information for a 1955 International School Bus, I would love to see them. Thanks for reading.

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1 comment:

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