It was built to carry the public and it carried millions of unimportant people to hundreds of unimportant places.
Forty-six years ago, La Brugeoise in Belgium built this quality Eagle bus and shipped it to Galveston, Texas, for final assembly for Continental Trailways.
Its history after Continental Trailways ownership is not clear, but when Concord resident Gary Murphy bought it for $11,000 in 1991 from a Sacramento drum and bugle corps, the bus had traveled over one million miles.
Murphy's talent for detail would please the most particular individual, but the scope of his project almost defies comprehension. One would never guess the 40-foot motor home or house car Murphy has built was ever a bus.
The old bus became a skeleton. Taking about four years, he literally built or modified everything.
"We stripped it all down and raised the roof by 7 inches. We took away the old front and the old back and were able buy later model fiberglass caps for the top of the vehicle. This makes the bus look like a '90s model instead of a '60s model," Murphy said. "I was able to get newer style bumpers, headlights and taillights which add to the late model look."
The exterior of the vehicle is all new. Cargo doors that opened from the bottom up as a bus now open from the center like a cabinet. The single entry door opens and closes like a car door.
"The bus came with a stick shift and a Detroit V-8 diesel engine that produced about 280 HP," he said. "I drove it with that combination for years. We traveled with friends in other motor homes, and when we would get into the hills, they liked to run away from me. One friend in particular liked to rub it in."
Murphy wanted to change that situation so he bought a used 2003 Series 60 Detroit diesel engine, which produces 500 HP. He paid $7,500 for the engine that had run 200,000 miles (which is low miles for a truck engine) and would cost $40,000 if new. That solved the run-away problem.
Murphy has driven his motor home 45,000 miles with his new engine and says that when cruising at 60-62 mph he can get about 10 mpg.
The engine is mounted on rails, so it is fairly easy (for someone who knows what they are doing) to slide out an old engine to repair or replace it. Murphy added an Allison four-speed automatic transmission. He acquired that by buying a used AC Transit bus for $2,500, took the transmission out and scrapped the rest.
Inside the 50-foot garage Murphy built for his house car, he showed me some of the features he has built into it. There are two diesel storage tanks: one holds 150 gallons to power the motor home, and the other holds 55 gallons to run the generator that powers the necessities of a comfortable life. There are four air conditioners, a furnace, a hot water heater, two TVs, a complete kitchen with Corian countertops, a microwave, stove, oven and a double-wide refrigerator.
There is a complete tile bathroom with a stand-up shower. The owner said "the master bedroom has a queen-size bed over the engine that can be lifted up to get to the top of the engine, if necessary."
The bedroom even has a ceiling fan. There is a stylish white leather sofa that converts into a queen-size bed and the white leather driver and passenger seats are better than flying first class.
Pulling a tow car with a 40-foot vehicle makes Murphy's unit about 65 feet long and not a chore for the faint of heart. He has all the tools to make the task as easy as possible. Among the gadgets he installed is a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, a GPS, a backup camera, power front sun visors and a satellite dish as well as a cable hookup for use in an RV park.
He designed and built the dashboard so he has all the controls at his fingertips. He minimizes the difficulty of driving his house car -- "you just have to learn to use the mirrors," he said.
His total investment is unknown, but Murphy would guess somewhere between $80,000 and $90,000, not counting his sweat equity. The vehicle has been appraised at $140,000, and the owner has been told, and I certainly believe, it is one of the nicest motor homes around.
Murphy's wife, Barbara, shares the pleasure of having this beautiful house car. Laughing she said, "This is my idea of camping. Give me a tile shower and a microwave, and I'll go anywhere."
This is not a recently acquired interest for Murphy. "I've had a love for buses since I was a young kid," he said.
Speaking of his completed house car project, he said, "For a lot of guys, it's a dream to do this. I just made the dream come true."
Have an interesting vehicle? Contact David Krumboltz at firstname.lastname@example.org.