Back in 2016, a gearhead and Porsche fan saved an old 1963 Gillig Model 590H from a sad life of neglect and rot. It took five years, but the bus is back as a fantastic replica of Porsche’s famous race car transporter, “Buster.” The Gillig is one of the coolest bus conversions you’ll see, and it can be yours. You’ll just need to bring at least six figures of cash with you.
Jerry Peters is the car enthusiast many of us would be if we had the money. He’s a collector with a knack for Porsches. Peters has owned 40 of the things over the years, and as Classic Motorsports notes, he likes everything with a Porsche badge. Like any gearhead with a strong affiliation for a brand, Peters wanted a hauler for his toys. But he wasn’t going to get just any old truck; he wanted to build a replica of Porsche’s factory transporters.
And in doing so, he saved an awesome Gillig bus that you can buy at Bring a Trailer.
Gillig’s history goes back to 1890, when the Gillig brothers started a carriage and wagon shop in San Francisco. Their company — aptly named Gillig Brothers — expanded quickly into car bodies and various commercial vehicles. The company even built a top that enclosed a convertible in minutes.
Gillig Brothers diversified its line when released its first school bus in 1932. Since Gillig’s other products weren’t performing well at the time the company shifted its focus to transit. The company would continue to build all sorts of buses all of the way to today, long after its founders’ deaths.
In 1950, Gillig released the Model 590.
The name relates to the massive 9.7-liter Hall-Scott inline-six gasoline engine powering the bus. And because I know that you’re curious, this thing made just 245 horsepower. The Pacific Schoolcoach Online Museum says that this engine was the largest ever fitted to a school bus at the time.
Peters says that the 1963 Gillig 590H that he found started life hauling the President’s limousine for the Secret Service.
However, he couldn’t confirm the bus’ history. Likewise, I’ve also found no confirmation of such past. What we do know is that the bus was in such bad condition that it required two extra donor buses to put it back on the road. The Hall-Scott engine was still onboard when he got the bus and Peters said that it got abysmal fuel economy. How bad? One mile per gallon.
Thankfully, the donor buses had something way better: A 7.0-liter Detroit Diesel 6-71T. These two-stroke diesels have not just a turbocharger but a blower, too. These are good for up to 285 HP and 801 lb-ft torque. And specific for this build, a 6-71T fits into the compact compartment in the middle of the bus where the 590 used to be.
Apparently, even the donor buses were piles of junk, and as the Classic Motorsports feature notes, one of the buses burned and leaked more oil on the way home to Georgia from Texas than it consumed diesel. Thankfully, one of the engines was given a complete overhaul and the bus now not only runs strong, but gets a solid eight mpg doing it.
The rest of the bus got its own incredible overhaul.
The body was reskinned in fresh metal, the clearance lights came from a Porsche 356, and the whole rig was painted up like Porsche’s “Buster” Mercedes-Benz race car transporter.
Here’s the Mercedes-Benz for comparison.
A similar level of detail was done inside, where the driver gets to command the vehicle from a comfy chair.
The whole bus is insulated, and you get comforts like a generator and two air-conditioners. And your pride and joy sits secured on a floor of black walnut.
Peters provides receipts for everything, totaling over $100,000. Reading through them, it looks like less of a refurbishment and almost like they built a whole new bus.
This is a seriously cool and seriously expensive build. As such, I’m not at all surprised that it’s sitting at $150,911 with 10 days to go on Bring a Trailer. Hopefully this thing goes into another enthusiast’s hands and travels the country.