Norma Wanderlust My 1955 International House Bus

See all 22 photos

Bus Dreams

Its quite a funny story how I wound up buying a 1955 International school bus. It involves many long miles traveling with three people and two dogs from Arizona to Montana via National Parks. It was a brilliant summer family adventure and I loved every minute of it. Except, we did this in a 1986 Ford Pickup, extended cab, literally truck camping across the country, and by day 10 I was feeling pretty claustrophobic. I am pretty sure this is where the bus dreams started. We would see other bus conversions and start talking about owning our own home on wheels. We got so excited and in depth that I am sure, as a family, we manifested this.

As soon as I arrived in Montana, I started searching craigslist, "ya know, just to price things out and see whats available." Wouldn't you know, I found Norma Wanderlust on my first search of craigslist. I instantly fell in love with her, and all her dilapidated glory, and I hadn't even even seen her in person yet. I just felt this odd connection immediately, kinda like the one I get when I find a lost puppy and feel the need to rescue it. I saw Norma all abandoned in a cold and rainy forest, busted up and left for dead and I just wanted to save her.

By the way, all the credit for these images contained here on this lens is mine.

Dilapidated Old School Bus - The Original Craigslist Pictures

Click thumbnail to view full-size
1955 School Bus ~ She looks like she is smiling and waivingVintage School Bus A beautiful piece of historyInside of the bus conversion ~ Someone actually lived in hereBeautiful Snowflake skylight in the bus. Its like a charming little log cabin in here.Old sink. Its huge and heavy.The loft ~ or the view from front to back.
1955 School Bus ~ She looks like she is smiling and waiving
See all 22 photos
1955 School Bus ~ She looks like she is smiling and waiving
Vintage School Bus A beautiful piece of history
See all 22 photos
Vintage School Bus A beautiful piece of history
Inside of the bus conversion ~ Someone actually lived in here
See all 22 photos
Inside of the bus conversion ~ Someone actually lived in here
Beautiful Snowflake skylight in the bus. Its like a charming little log cabin in here.
See all 22 photos
Beautiful Snowflake skylight in the bus. Its like a charming little log cabin in here.
Old sink. Its huge and heavy.
See all 22 photos
Old sink. Its huge and heavy.
The loft ~ or the view from front to back.
See all 22 photos
The loft ~ or the view from front to back.

Whats Your Initial Thought On The Above Pictures? - Just wondering how many people think I am crazy...

What is your initial thoughts on the above pictures of the bus

  • She is beautiful and I would save her too if I had the chance
  • Looks like a big cool project ~ good luck
  • You shoulda left her where you found her
  • Other response left in comments
See results without voting

Some Books That Are Going To Be Helpful - My Current Wishlist

Building up my bus book library is starting to get expensive...these are the books that are currently on my list.

Steps To Make A School Bus Conversion Roadworthy

I don't even know where to start...

Well first we had to move the bus which was quite a daunting task. This is where the tears and near death experiences that I mentioned earlier come into play. I wrote about the story on Norma's blog.

Once we got her home, we just wanted to make sure she was gonna run. Matt took to figuring out the engine, while I took to tearing out the insides for a remodel. I salvaged most everything, so it sounds much worse than it actually is. We will be re-purposing almost everything we took out of her in one way or anther, so as to keep her charm and memories alive.

Good news is she does run. Bad news is, she is not so good at stopping. So at the moment, we are at a stumped stand still as to how to continue. Apparently there may be something wrong with the master cylinder. I am tempted to just completely replace them. That is if we can find the parts.

**UPDATE: The Rear wheel cylinder has to be replaced. It took almost 2 weeks of searching, but we finally found the part.

Oh yea, as for sealing her up, the windshield glass should be done next week sometime. The rest of the poor broken out windows are just gonna have to suffice with being boarded up for the time being.

***UPDATE: We got glass! Norma finally has a shiny new windshield and we are now much closer to being able to register her!

The finishing touches will be making the inside suitable to be classed as an RV conversion so that we can register and insure her. Then she can hit the road.

Documenting Progress On The Bus - Its not as easy as it looks....

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Assessing the way outInternational R180Me and Norma~ The very first meetingSmile and waveWood panels reveal gross insulation.That is gonna be replacedDexter loves helping meMaking space to walk inHard at work planning out the shell
Assessing the way out
See all 22 photos
Assessing the way out
International R180
See all 22 photos
International R180
Me and Norma~ The very first meeting
See all 22 photos
Me and Norma~ The very first meeting
Smile and wave
See all 22 photos
Smile and wave
Wood panels reveal gross insulation.
See all 22 photos
Wood panels reveal gross insulation.
That is gonna be replaced
See all 22 photos
That is gonna be replaced
Dexter loves helping me
See all 22 photos
Dexter loves helping me
Making space to walk in
See all 22 photos
Making space to walk in
See all 22 photos
Hard at work planning out the shell
See all 22 photos
Hard at work planning out the shell
See all 22 photos
See all 22 photos
See all 22 photos
See all 22 photos
See all 22 photos

Some Turtles Have Nice Shells - Someday, Norma will have one too.

The thing about this book is, I really love turtles, and my man Matt and I have dreamed up this turtle-like bus house roof, so when I came across this book, it was clearly fate and I had to have it. There are no actual turtle shell roof top bus conversions in there, ours may very well be the first. None the less, this book has shown us that is completely possible and within our reach, and even for quite a bit less than we expected.

So Whatchya Gonna Do With That Thing?

Seriously, I dont know how many times I have said this in the past several months as a new bus owner, but when looking for anything related to the bus, in any topic of conversation, I get the question. Its entertaining at least, because of the varied reactions I have gotten so far, but that mostly from my small town folk friends, so I am just gonna let that slide by.

© 2013 Mandy Last updated on September 14, 2014

Useful Funny Awesome Beautiful Interesting 

Are You Bus Enthusiast too? - Leave me a comment I would love to hear your stories 33 comments

WendyArts profile image

WendyArts 14 months ago

Cool idea, not a bus enthusiast but love the idea of restoring this wonderful historical piece. Good luck with it.


GrammieOlivia profile image

GrammieOlivia 14 months ago from Toronto Level 6 Commenter

I don't know where I would put a Bus, so that is not on my list, but I have an old vette 1985 and she needs restoring, so I'm working on that! In the meantime, I'm lucky she's certified for driving still........


WriterJanis2 profile image

WriterJanis2 14 months ago Level 4 Commenter

What a fun and interesting project.


Aladdins Cave profile image

Aladdins Cave 13 months ago Level 2 Commenter

mmmmmm. I wanted to know more. Don't want to go to blog. Bummer.

Cheers from DOWNUNDER


MJ Martin profile image

MJ Martin 8 months ago from Washington State Level 3 Commenter

We haven't a bus but a cool old van that I'd like to do the same thing with. Lots of work you are doing, it will be so worth it, I am sure.


MJ Martin profile image

MJ Martin 8 months ago from Washington State Level 3 Commenter

Oh yea, congrats on Lotd, getting a purple star too, fun, creative read.


esmonaco profile image

esmonaco 8 months ago from Lakewood New York Level 6 Commenter

Congratulations on LOTD and a huge project, looks like a lot of work but fun to be creative :)


Dressage Husband profile image

Dressage Husband 8 months ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada Level 5 Commenter

I think you are crazy, but if you have the know how and determination only you know if it is worth it in the end! The bus is unique and modern ones are unlikely to survive everything that Norma has been through. Think of all the things she will have done in her life time and all of the people she has carried and protected in her time! Great LOTD and I for one want to see what you make her look like in her full glory again.


Diana Wenzel profile image

Diana Wenzel 8 months ago from Colorado Level 5 Commenter

Since I'm known as the "Do or Di" DIY gal, I would be right there helping you and Norma. She deserves to live and have some awesome adventures. It's fun to imagine the possibilities. Wishing you all the very best as you restore her vitality. Congrats on Lens of the Day!


OhMe profile image

OhMe 8 months ago from Pendleton, SC Level 5 Commenter

What fun. I can't wait to see Norma when she is finished.


GrammieOlivia profile image

GrammieOlivia 8 months ago from Toronto Level 6 Commenter

Hey there, glad to see this lens make LoTD! I liked it already so can't do that again, but loved going back over the story! Congratulations!


Faye Rutledge profile image

Faye Rutledge 8 months ago from Concord VA Level 4 Commenter

Thanks for sharing this interesting story! Great job restoring the bus. Congratulations on LotD!


thegembank 8 months ago

you seems so happy... so i feel you made a good decision. congrats on lens of the day!


RinchenChodron 8 months ago

Well I do love to camp and sleep in a Bed! I have a 1986 Toyota panel van with a bed in it. No "facilities" tho. I love her - she's also good on gas. I am proud of you for taking on Norma and wish you lots of fun adventures.


GoldenRod LM profile image

GoldenRod LM 8 months ago from Superior, Arizona USA

Love the wood inside. Great reading adventure, and good luck to you. Thanks for sharing.


CampingmanNW profile image

CampingmanNW 8 months ago Level 3 Commenter

You just gotta love a project. Good luck and congratulations on being awarded the Purple Star and Lens of the Day. Cheers


PAINTDRIPS profile image

PAINTDRIPS 8 months ago from Fresno CA Level 4 Commenter

My hubby and I have often dreamed of hitting the road but just haven't the gumption to do it. What we need is an old bus... haha. This looks loads of fun and heartache. Hopefully more of the former than the latter. Congrats on Lens of the Day.


anonymous 8 months ago

Very cool project. I'm wondering if you could convert a bus that old to natural gas. I know, one more BIG thing to do but I'll bet you could get the $$$$ through crowdfunding. It would legitimately have real positive environmental impact and possibly become a template for others. Just a random thought. Congratulations on getting the Purple Star and LotD!


blackflamingo777 profile image

blackflamingo777 8 months ago

This is such a wonderful project! My mom dreamed of renovating an RV and hitting the road full time for as long as I can remember. Now, I can't wait to get my hands on one. I will be stalking your progress with this beauty! For some reason, the first thing that came to mind when on saw your bus was 'The Magic Schoolbus' which is a good sign I think. Congrats on getting LotD!


Sir Daniel UK profile image

Sir Daniel UK 8 months ago from Northampton

I've only ever seen these old buses in American movies. I reckon De Niro drove one in 'A Bronx Tale'.

Really good lens, this. Loved it.

Oh and please don't pimp that bus too much; restore to original where possible. Want lose its character then.


lazywrites profile image

lazywrites 8 months ago from Philippines

She's a real beauty... I've always wanted to live on the road and have my own RV but that's next to impossible here in my country. Very good lens, I'm excited to see her transformation. Btw, my mom's name is Norma too and was born three years ahead of your baby- that's a cute coincidence :)


writerkath profile image

writerkath 8 months ago Level 2 Commenter

I think that this is an awesome project! You have me yearning for a road trip now. Wonderful! Congrats on LotD, and I hope you get Norma up & running soon!


Ibidii profile image

Ibidii 8 months ago from Northern California Level 6 Commenter

Congrats on LotD! Great lens on a cool Bus! I would love to see how Norma looks when you are all done! :)


delia-delia profile image

delia-delia 8 months ago Level 4 Commenter

Congratulations on LOTD! What an interesting project! Since I watch the shows on flipping or restoring vehicles, I can see there is a lot to it...oh and the money. I like the patina on the bus, it gives it even more character.


DebMartin profile image

DebMartin 8 months ago Level 2 Commenter

This is an amazing project. I just don't know enough about engines to attach my home to one. I can get into pulling a home but not brave enough to actually attach it to the engine I'm dependent on. I love your energy and enthusiasm. And, of course, as a boomer, I've just got to love an old bus!


niclacoste 8 months ago

Wow that truck reminds me of the movie Into the Wild, what a cool story!


Arachnea profile image

Arachnea 8 months ago from Texas USA

though i'm not a "bus" enthusiast, i enjoyed following your project's story. great lens and congrats on lotd.


Johanna Eisler profile image

Johanna Eisler 8 months ago Level 2 Commenter

Sorry, no. But it'll be very interesting to see how everything works out!


blue22d profile image

blue22d 8 months ago

Great idea and great lens. Enjoyed my visit.


Tahli0 8 months ago

The magic school bus :D


Heidi Vincent profile image

Heidi Vincent 8 months ago from GRENADA Level 6 Commenter

I am dying to see the finished product!


flinnie lm profile image

flinnie lm 8 months ago from Alabama USA Level 3 Commenter

I so want your dream bus to come alive. I would love to have one of my own. Wishing you all the luck in the world.


Spirality profile image

Spirality 7 months ago Level 2 Commenter

It has great head height. Cool project.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages account.

    8192 characters left.
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your Hubs or other sites.


    sulcatamandy profile image

    (sulcatamandy),
    HubPages AuthorSeptember 14, 2014

    Click to Rate This Article
    Please wait working