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by | The Lills, Vintage GM Bus Conversion

After days in the desert, working on getting our 1961 GM “New Look” bus running, the secondary fuel filter kept running dry. We took a closer look at the fuel system and began clearing all the fuel lines with an air compressor. One of the last return lines we cleared was full of gel, which got our hopes high, but to our dismay, the restriction fitting that connected to the clogged line, was bent in the removal process.

We scoured junkyards and diesel mechanic shops for a replacement fitting, but had no luck, so we tried fixing it ourselves. We filed the fitting down below the bent threads and it worked perfectly! With the blockages removed and the restriction fitting fixed, the bus turned over and idled beautifully!

There were several other issues we needed to address before trying to move the bus:

  • We replaced 2 leaking fuel lines.
  • We cleared the fuel pump and cleaned the fuel system, by adding Sea Foam to the tank and idling the engine for a few hours.
  • We drained the fuel tank and filled it up with fresh diesel.
  • The fuel tank drain plug was dripping, so we threaded it back in with sealant.
  • There was an air leak coming from a brittle air line going to the driver seat, so we made the quick fix with a new compression fitting.
  • We noticed the brake pedal was stuck because the air brake valve was completely locked up. Our efforts to find a replacement were hopeless, so we managed to free it up with PB Blaster and some percussive maintenance.
  • We changed out the old oil and oil filter.
  • The reverse solenoid was stuck, so we loosened it up.
  • We topped off the radiator with fresh water.
  • The oil bath air cleaners were filthy, so we cleaned them up.
  • Most of the bay doors were open and all the rubber hinges were super brittle, so we got the doors locked back in place.

1961 GM Fish Bowl New Look Bus Conversion | The Lills

Now that we had the fuel, air and brake systems working, it was time to move the bus. This was the first time its wheels would turn in over 10 years!

With excitement, we started it up, threw it in reverse and backed through the sandy terrain with a huge smile on our faces. We got him onto level ground and danced around in victory! After weeks in the hot, dry desert, we were finally on our way!

Then the unexpected happened. We received a phone call that would change everything. A family emergency forced us to head back east. We packed up our VW bus the same day and headed out with all our hard work behind us, not knowing if we’d ever see the bus again.

Our only option now, was to transport the bus 1,800 miles to the east coast. After many sleepless nights traveling the open road, making call after call to transportation companies, we finally got hold of someone who could ship the bus.

By the time we reached the southeast, the transporter had arrived in New Mexico, ready to pickup the bus. We were in shock when we started to receive texts and videos of the wrong trailer and our poor bus stuck on railroad ties after a improvised effort to load it.

The failed attempt had us disheartened, but we kept on searching for someone to do it right. We were assured by another company that they would provide the correct trailer. They too, brought the wrong trailer, with not enough clearance for the 40 foot vintage metro bus. We had also gotten word that the front tire had come off the rim, so it could not be loaded.

In the middle of the night, 20 miles north of the Mexico border, against all odds, miracles began to happen. We managed to contact a mobile tire service company (fittingly called “Angels”), who picked up a new tire for us from a nearby tire shop that was only still open because of a company meeting. With the new tire on, the transporter hired a wrecker to lift the back-end of the bus onto the trailer. A few hours later, the bus was loaded and on its way!

1961 GM New Look Bus Conversion

A few days later, the transporter arrived on the east coast and we greeted our beloved bus with so much excitement! The beginning of our new tiny home on wheels could now begin!

Click here to see RESCUING A 1961 GM NEW LOOK BUS – PART 3

Click here to see RESCUING A 1961 GM NEW LOOK BUS – PART 1


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