I HEART YELLOW – One Man’s Bus is Another Person’s Story

Words by Toby Walker & Photos by Dan Du Cross

I love a VW that clearly has a story to tell. I mean I know everyone feels like their car has its own story and it does, to a degree, but some vehicles so obviously have more to reveal than others – embracing their previous ownership and showing visual clues of this. It could be in the form of bullet holes, crazy home-brew inventions. Or like Graham’s Bus, traces of its former life that can be seen in a previous company livery. 

Sign-written vehicles at least give you a head-start to connecting with their history, as more often than not the company name is visible and if you’re lucky, that company is either still on the go or with a bit of internet digging you can find some reference to that company or its story. I was lucky enough to find a bill receipt in one of my old Buses, I sent a letter to the address and found out the dude scrapped it about 18-years before I got my grubby little mitts on it. But probably one of my favourite sign writing stories is Clive’s double logo’d Shuvarda Bus we featured back in 2016. Starting life as an electricians bus then becoming a traveling magician who later fell on hard times and ended up getting sent down by the Australian D.E.A!

In Grahams case, it was clear this Bus had been used at some point in its life as a school bus. The yellow paint and big red bus lights with painted-on pass arrows give that part away, we will dive a little deeper into the Buses history a little later on once we have got to know how this amazing vehicle ended up in his ownership.

Graham is a plumber from Bletchley. He initially got into the VW thing with an introduction to Watercooled models first. As a young lad, his dad owned a Scirocco GT and his cousin owned a MK1 Golf GTI and that naturally rubbed off on him with his first car being a 1983 MK1 Golf. Later, he moved on to Aircooled vehicles when he bought a Right Hand Drive ’66 Beetle which he painted satin black, slammed and narrowed then slapped on a set of Randars. A pretty cool first air-cooled car TBF.

In 2013 Graham was contacted by Mark of MCJ Imports (www.mcjproducts.com) as a year previous to this, Graham had asked if he had any Buses for sale. A few weeks later Graham received a text with some photos of a somewhat pale-yellow Bus found in central California sunk up to its drums in dirt and looking rather sorry for itself with a door and windows missing etc. But, Graham saw the potential and with the bus having promises of faded sign-writing it was a deal. Plus the Bus never made it onto the website, so no one had seen it yet – another bonus. With two options available, buy as a project or as an MOT’d on-the-road driving bus, MCJ were offering a good deal so he opted for the latter and almost a year later, Graham collected the bus sitting at stock height and looking a bit brighter than the first photo he saw. Just in time for its maiden voyage to Ninove, Belgium a week later.

This didn’t quite go to plan. After he cooked the engine, he bought and replaced a second engine that was fitted in a carpark in Ninove. But, a carb spacer was needed and after trying to get two inlet manifold gaskets to seal to no avail, it ended up being recovered back to the UK where it sat in a tent on his drive until the Winter of 2014.

The one thing all VW enthusiast have – a good bunch of likeminded mates who are always there to lend a helping hand, and this is where the transformation of the School Bus really came into its own. As we mentioned the Bus had been sitting in a tent on the drive all summer. Under this tent – Graham, Craig and the gang set about finishing the build. Obviously this Bus was destined to be lowered – so an Airevalley 4.5” narrow adjustable beam, dropped spindles and a Transporterhaus straight axle kit were fitted. Also a set of front tubs were welded to get that little bit lower and the Bus was also treated to a steering box raise. Friend, and gang member, Rich Darcey gave the paintwork a good mop & polish bringing the original paint back to that lovely deep egg yolk yellow ready for Dr Tricky to re-apply the sign-writing. Luckily you could still see the original outlines nice and clear on the cab doors and tailgate. Brian Galpin built up a new engine including electronic ignition, Dellorto 36 DRLA carbs, balanced crank, flywheel, Engle 100 cam & full flow filter and she was ready to try Ninove for a second time. Unfortunately a couple of teething problems put paid to that trip so the deadline was moved for a week later and the Bus made it to the VolksWorld show at Sandown Park with Graham sleeping in the back on a lump of foam. As we all know, if we don’t sell our VW’s they just continue to evolve. So, the following year, before a trip to Spa Graham & Craig Petty built a budget interior from ply loosely based on a Devon set up, the door panels were fitted with birch ply and black and white check vinyl tiles were laid on the cargo floor. The Bus ran like this for a year or so then was sent off to Edmonds Classic Restos for rear tubs, cradle shave and rear shock mounts to help get the rear end down more. While it was in, the Bus received a few body repairs and some paint blending to match that original bright yellow. Recently, Graham has just had Waboo (www.wabooautomotive.co.uk) trim the interior and man does it look good! That subtle grey cloth tuck and roll interior with vinyl skirts really compliments the wooden interior panels. I didn’t think this Bus could get any cooler but this latest addition has just completed it for me. And its obvious this Bus is doing it for other folks as its already snapped up three trophies including Raddest Bus at RSVP BBQ, Conqueror of the Car Park at Dubaid, and Waboo Choice at Viva Skeg Vegas.

 OK, so let’s drop back into that vehicle history thing for a minute. While researching the company name that was originally painted on the doors, Graham decided to search the internet as ‘Turnbull & Turnbull’ is not a company any of us will be familiar with over here in the UK. Graham, while trawling through the internet, found an obituary of Reba A. Turnbull.

Now, check this out for a cool part of history! The obituary reads:

“Reba had a daughter who was diagnosed with Polio Encephalitis. While pursuing educational opportunities for her daughter, she discovered there was no transportation for the special needs person to attend their educational programs. Reba had a station wagon that she transported her daughter in. Soon, she was transporting other special needs students. The parents would pay what they could afford or nothing at all. When there were more students than the station wagon could hold, Reba went to the County School Superintendent and requested funds to transport the special needs students. The County Special Education Director and Reba went to Sacramento to request funding. Funding was approved, and Turnbull & Turnbull Transportation evolved. The first ever of its kind in San Joaquin County. Reba attended the California Highway Patrol Academy for State School Bus Instructor Course and a First Aid Instructor Course to train the drivers. Reba had the funding and the verbal contract, but no funds for the vehicles. So she contacted the Volkswagen Dealership in Stockton and secured a verbal contract for 66 plus vehicles on a will and a promise. During the time when there were riots in Stockton, Reba was respected by the people rioting, the rioters would escort Reba’s buses through the troubled areas. “

Pretty damn cool eh? Graham also found a lawsuit against another company that later started up and tried to under cut Turnbull & Turnbull.

Graham wanted to give 100% thanks to all of the OGB, and ” to Zoe – for living with the forensic tent on the drive, roughing it in the bus, and for the lonely nights while I play VW’s.”

I Heart Yellow - Full Gallery