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The Ultimate Bus?

I fell in love with the idea of live-aboard wheeled land yachts many years ago - my first was a '59 VW microbus (what else?) back in 1970. The experience was bad, but I ended up trading it for a 48-passenger '53 International. This I built twice - the first time for 2 adults, 1 kid, a dog, and three cats to go looking for land in '72, and the second time for my bride and myself to go a baja-ing in '83. This had its interesting moments, but resulted in our building our '73 Ford, but you've already heard about _that._

During our years of live-aboard full-time bussing, we ran into many different kinds of other bus conversions, from the sublime to the ridiculous. The bottom end were pretty sad - schoolbusses " converted" by the addition of some baling wire and poles cut from the woods, scrounged plywood and cardboard, and a few 2 X 4's spiked together here and there, tastefully finished outside in the traditional school bus yellow, with all the lights still left in place, (and usually with a few letters painted over to make it say "Kool Bus."

We might think the "top end" would be the $300,000 Barth Factory Conversions, weighing in at the megaton rate, with 20KW gensets, which you had to have running in order to have hot water or use the stove (honest!.... we always called them "Barfs." But of course, what we found ourselves considering the ideal was somewhere in between these two extremes.

Radical Middle

Yass, my dears, there IS a middle road, in bus conversions,as well as in most other things. And the middle road in busses is there,if you look for it. The top of the middle, I would say, is somewhere aroundthe GMC 410x series - the Greyhounds of the 'early '60's. They're a littlebig for midground, but definitely In There. After that, they started toget pretty large for a one-family unit - and who want's busCondo's anyway?No, the larger MCI's, even before the tag axle over-the-top units, just seemed to us to be Too Much.

There are the flat-front, rear-engine Schoolies. These usually have quite a bit of basement bin storage, and have that deluxe look and feel that really makes a huge difference to resale value. Afterall, the Wanderlodge is just a flat-front Bluebird schoolie, built from the git-go at the factory as a motorhome, and they sell for outrageous bucks, new or used. So that's a good way to go if you want to do it deluxe, but aren't quite into taking on the care and feeding of a 410x or smaller MCI. And a good idea it is! But otoh, it isn't _really_ a motorcoach, now,is it? Not an ex-greyhound, an inter-city bus, a _Bad_ bus.

During our travels, we ran into lots of other kinds of live-aboards. The ones that really turned our cranks were the Flxibles.The first Highway Coaches. We hoped to find one some day, and we finally did, just this year. We don't need a bus anymore - Nelson hasn't been onthe road for 10 years, but we bought the Flxi anyway - couldn't stop myself. Needs repowering and complete interior rebuild, but It Followed Me Home - Can I Keep It?

The _Bad_ Bus

After all, picture a bus droning its way through a blizzard some cold winter night, out in the middle of nowhere - somewhere between Buttscrew, Nebraska, and Waco, Texas. What kind of bus _is_ that, protecting its occupants from the elements so well, headlights streaming out into the black lonely highway, with a half a million miles on it and begging for more? Is that a _Schoolbus?_ No, I don't think so! It's a Inter-City, A Greyhound, A _Highway_Bus, a _Bad_Bus!_

So, what's available in the line of a not-quite-gross Highway Bus? Right in the middle? The Original Family Motorcoach, that's what. Presenting ...... The Flxible Clipper:
Are These Things Cool, or What?
Originally built just before the war, by the Fxible Corporation, they really took off just after that conflict, being Just Right at the time for a highway bus. The last four or five feet of the interior was luggage compartment, and to the rear of that was the engine room, so engine noise was about unheard of. They pioneered using aircraft-style technology - ribs and frames, stressed skin, etc. - to build a really strong, quiet, and lightweight chassis. Originally powered by a 320Buick OHV 8 car engine (honest), they were the original postwar Inter-City Bus.I've heard various explanations for the choice of theword Flxible, but personally, I always thought it was because the powersetup is so completely, well, Flexible. (Turns out it's because they originally built "Flexible" sidecars for motorcycles - they leaned withthe bike due to a special flexible connection.

When you open the door in the back, there's the engine, bolted in back-to-front onto the b-t-f transmission. The radiator isn'teven in the way - it's up above the engine, in an airduct coming down from the scoop intake which reaches up over the back of the roof. This isn't just for the cool look; it's extreme engineering at it's finest. Changing an engine? Just open the door, unbolt the removable center section of the rear bumper, support engine with dolly, unbolt, and slide out. Or block it up and push bus ahead. Bolt on another, and carry on. To change transmission, do the same but do it deeper. It's a giant VW Van!

Interested? There are Flxi's around, and they're not getting that big a dollar. You might want to check out some of these:

Our Flxi's Own Web Page

TheFlexible Owner's International egroups site

The Flex Owner'sInternational Web Site

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