Being a lover of transit buses is much like having a curse. Unlike my tiny cars, it’s not easy finding a place just to store the things. Yet, it can be hard to resist the call of retired public transportation. This GM S6H-4503A transit bus for sale is an example of one of GM’s greatest buses and it can be had for just $4,950.
General Motors has a rich and dominating bus history going all the way back to the 1940s. The company has made a lot of greats through that time, including the RTS that sits in a parking spot near my home. But one bus stands out to many as GM’s absolute best, the transit icon GM New Look bus. According to the bus aficionados of the Canadian Public Transit Discussion Board, over 44,000 of them were produced.
Sadly, like other vehicles designed to serve the public, so many transit buses end their careers at the scrapper. It is hard enough finding running and driving RTS buses; finding any decent New Look for sale is a challenge. I’ve long wanted to write about one of these, and I’ve only now caught one still for sale that could probably be driven home.
The GM New Look series of buses began production in 1959 with Washington D.C. getting the first deliveries. The New Look’s design ushered transit buses into a new era with lots of visibility and a look that remains identifiable to this day. Most will likely point out a New Look (also called the Fishbowl) from its appearance in Speed.
Longevity has a lot to do with its nearly 40-year production run. When the RTS released in 1977 they were reported to have a number of problems. Canada had a lukewarm response to the RTS and instead kept producing the New Look all the way to 1997. Amazingly, as of 2018 one New Look was in regular service for Société de transport de l’Outaouais in Canada.
Here in the States, Amtran of Altoona, Pennsylvania had nine of them until they were retired in 2018.
The seller of this New Look says that it’s a 1959, but I think it’s a decade newer. Run the blurry manufacturing plate through a photo editor and you can make 4503 A out of it. Deciphering that, 45 is its seating capacity and means that it’s 35 feet long, exactly as the seller says. The letter “A” means that it has air-conditioning.
Looking around the bus, you can see that the perimeter lights aren’t the bullet style found on earlier models. It also has three clearance lights up at top, also not found on earlier models. That should make it a third-generation bus. Inside, the floor is higher than the aisle.
That suggests it’s a Suburban model as Suburban New Looks had elevated floors to account for under-seat storage.
It adds up to S6H, with “S” being for Suburban, “6" for the engine and “H” for the hydraulic Allison automatic transmission. The serial S6H-4503A would give it a year range of 1968 to 1971.
The bus is complete, with metalwork and paint appearing in good condition. The interior was renovated at some point to become what appears to be a party bus. That just makes things easier as you use it as a blank slate.
Even the helm looks pretty great.
Out back is a Detroit Diesel 6V71N 7.0-liter V6 two-stroke diesel. It’s good for 228 HP and 600 lb-ft torque.
Sadly, there’s a reason why it’s so cheap. The seller says that it hasn’t run in 18 months.
The last time it ran it drove 400 miles before encountering a transmission issue in a mountain pass, necessitating this heavy tow truck:
The seller only says that the driveshaft needs replacement.
If that’s it, then the price is a deal. I’m tempted to buy this thing, but I have no need and no real desire to take care of two buses. It would make a great rolling restaurant or even RV. Whatever you do, please buy it for $4,950 on Craigslist, then tell me how awesome it is.