This is my bus, AKA "Super Silver Turbo Twinky"
PGA3301-428 #428 off the line
There were 840 of these PGA-3301 buses built by GM from September 1951 thru April of 1952 exclusively for the US Army. An 8 month production run.
Twinky bus was taken out of service sometime in the mid 1960s then ended up finding a home with a family in Bellingham, WA who's business was converting buses to Motor Coaches.... they converted the Twinky and kept him for their personal coach in the same family for 30 years. A drunken neighbor backed into the bus in the driveway and the insurance company totalled it for sheetmetal /steering arm support damage...
I bought my Twinky bus on eBay from a fellow who buys large lots of hi-end wrecked coaches from insurance companies and he didn't want it near his fleet.. I bought it sight unseen inside @ abit of a risk. It's very well professionally converted and everything was done with quality in mind even the dated gold shag.
The PGA-3301 fired up immediatly and after replacing a cracked fuel line from the injector pump, I drove it home to Kansas City from Seattle. It ran 60-70 mph and got 10-11 mpg Powered by a 6.9 Ford/IH diesel /C6 auto it runs very well.... original power was a 6 cyl. gas engine around 500 CID./ manual 4 spd transmission. In the 1970s a 460 Ford/C6 was the power.
THE TRIP HOME... It's a long story. I understand if it's not printed.
A missing $10 part caused alot of trouble.
My friend John and I took a flight out to Seattle... Checked out the rig as good as novice fellows can... then fired up the Twinky and drove it south then west to a ferry over to Vancouver Island... I needed to winterize my old wood fishboat, Vesta, while in the neighborhood.
Upon arrival in Cowichan Bay we lost all gears including reverse in the tranny except low one(1st). A local good soul offered a 20' tow in reverse so we could get out of the parking lot. A 25,000 lb ,35 ft mammoth minus reverse with snail gear makes one choose destinations and entries with extreme caution.
After a few calls that yielded outragous rates and quotes.. I called a local auto parts store and asked if there were any "shade tree mechanics" who where good.. I got the name of a local fellow named Brent Love... One call later, Brent said to swing by next day. He had a nice shop in the country and his wife, Kathy was a sweetheart.
For $100 Brent leased me all the tools in his shop and a couple days to pull the tranny and get it back in. He knew a good guy who could get the tranny rebuilt and back in a day.. I had him add a Transgo shift kit to the rebuild and the whole job cost $250... Next day the tranny was back & in, we decided that heat must have been the culprit as the tranny fluid was burnt. Brent took us to a local salvage yard and we found a large tranny cooler and a dual fan setup off an import... We added an oil temp gauge to keep on top of it and launched the next day. All went well and the new tranny shifted crisp and smooth.
The return Border crossing was not so smooth... they, "the American's" had a big problem with bringing back a vehicle not titled to us back to the US.. after an hour or so they were bored and told us to get temp tags next day or face the wrath of the highway patrol and sent us cruising....... we decided to follow their advice,...opted to find a local pub.. get drunk and find the license bureau LATE next morning.
All went well for the next 280 miles,. we headed east thru Washington State into the mountains. Around one AM we were tired and heading up a pass in heavy snow when the Twinky bus got slower and slower.. the dash lights didn't work at the time so a red laser light was our means every once in a while to check the gauges.
John was driving and commented on the slow going so I tossed the light on the gauges only to find the tranny temp totally buried in the burn zone....
We pulled to the shoulder and parked...gauge said "toast". I asked John to try drive?... nothing, 2nd?... nothing.... reverse? ...nothing...1st?....got it! ....DAMN.. Same thing again.
It was 10 miles to Pinehurst, the next exit.... we tossed it in low and creeped @ 10 on the shoulder to town... there was only one store open,... a gas station so I bought all 20 qts of auto tranny fluid they had. We found a supermarket parking lot and crashed for the evening... it was around 16 degrees so we left the Twinky bus running all nite like a semitruck.
Next morning after good donuts and bad coffee we shut down Twinky bus ... drained all 15 qts and refilled with new fluid.... decision time.
It was 120 miles and 3 mountain passes back (the wrong way) thru snow to the next town of any size or 150 miles ahead thru snow and 2 mountain passes to Missoula, Montana ..the right way... we opted for the latter.
It was a loooong day... 10 hours of 15 mph in 1st gear, half on the road half on the shoulder when traffic approached,... where the grating makes tires sound like snair drums. In a metal bus it's like being INSIDE the snair drum!...Luckily, I had some pot and John had some earplugs... a long day.
Upon arrival in Missoula.... (very much anticipated @ 15mph), we entered a large truckstop and parked in the outer corner away from anyone who might corner us and force the need for dreaded REVERSE!!!
We were glad to be SOMEWHERE... a large cup of coffee and the girl at the counter asked why we parked so far out.. we explained our spot and she instantly said "you need to see Curley, he works on old weird stuff like that.. fixed my old car in a day" a few minutes late 'Curley' was on the phone saying " you got a WHAT, with a WHAT and it's doin What?...Yea I can fix that but not till Monday.. gotta tow a mobile this weekend"
Our fate was sealed and what a place to be... it was way below freezing, but the Twinky was warm if running and we were in the largest truck plaza around with everything a fellow needs to live ,...prepackaged deathfood galore, coffee, beer, showers toilets, penthouse and ooogles of magazines... we suffered for 2.5 days.
Half way thru day one John was geting anxious,...and I was getting annoyed. John is very deaf and plays cards solo (a retired fireman). I was a fireman but wasn't deaf... just annoyed @ hearing cards flip. He was 10 days in to a 5 day trip and no end in site... I was bumbed he wanted to bale but understood as he tried to find a flight home to KC.... turns out you can't get there from here.. at least under a grand... John stayed.
Next day, Sunday, a fellow cruised by slowly on a BMW... checking out the Twinky bus as an oddity ( they always do, she draws a crowd), Johns a BMW rider too and waved him down.... A bit later we drove Twinky bus to his house and parked in front.... We had a nice evening with our new friend Dave who was in need of a story for his college course in Journalism.... We were the subject...Adventures of the Super Silver Turbo Twinky in full print,... well thats what I called it anyway.
Next morning we set off for Curley's Shop.. turns out it was just across the street from the Truck Plaza....Curley welcomed us with wide eyes and ushered us into his temple of repair... after greetings... we opened the hatch for inspection.. His first words word were..." Where's the vacume modulator?".. the what?... he repeated it.." it goes right here next to the throttle, thats what killed the tranny... it looks like this" he went to a pile of scrap rummaged abit then grabbed a piece of something! Swinging it as if a prize ...AHH HAA!
Turns out when th 60 k ford/IH 6.9 diesel was installed, it came from a PU that had a manual tranny... the part was not on the motor. When the new, factory ordered C6 was installed the mechanics had hooked up the vacume hose from the vacume pump straight to the tranny ... not thru the "vacume modulator" .. this tells the tranny when to shift depending on loads.... since Twinky bus had only been running the coast there was never really any major loads put on it... untill WE took HIM to the mountains of BC and Washington State... My first tranny man never saw the motor as the tranny was delivered to him,.. and we had no idea a part was missing...
A day later the tranny was done... again @ $350 including a used "vacume modulator" and the test run was tried...NO GO,.. the Twinky bus wouldn't shift right.... Curley said it was about 1 in 100 that had an accumulator problem and with no extra charge he pulled the valve body out and went thru it again.
Turns out that Curley wasn't just your run of the mill tranny guru... He was chief mechanic on AIRFORCE ONE... for President Nixon... and his wife, probably 30 years his junior, chewed more tobacco than most guys I know and could probably kick more ass too.
We left Missoula the NEXT morning following a good test run and headed east. Curley said there was just ONE more pass and it was down hill from there.. we were happy,...rrr cautiously!
About 30 minutes later and half way up the 'last' pass the Twinky bus started running hot....... I was fumed... pissed .... peaved ....determined to find the problem.. This was the engine NOT the tranny running hot and I wanted an answer NOW... we stopped and yakked for abit thinking what would make the engine run hot..... what had we NOT checked?
We decided to remove the massive aircan cover inside the engine room. It was a huge cannister that took 10-20 screws to get apart...which is why it never got checked... after pulling the lid off I found our culprit.... the entire center of the filter was filled with leaves... dead, dry,old leaves packed like crackers in a vacume bag... then I remembered where the Twinky bus was parked.... under an empty branched tree in a corner of the lot.... There is a huge airscoop on the back of the Twinky to cool the beast.
With the leaves all gone the Twinky bus sprang to life. It pulled hills w/o effort, we cruised 1800 miles home back to Kansas City without a single incident.
The Twinky drives straight as a pin and there is really no need or worry about no power steering. The 6.9 Ford/IH diesel is a great engine for this rig and is very acceptable for power, plus most parts can be bought at the local auto parts store vs a truck dealership.
I live in the Twinky Bus while in Kansas City,.. it is parked in my hangar at a small country airport south of Liberty. The brakes have been updated to the type that lock when low on air and the tires are about 90%. They thump for a bit till warm as they are bias plies but till they die... they will stay.
Some may find the Twinky too old or too slow but it has way more character than any of the new plastic RV things out there... it takes a certain type of person to appreciate an old quality rig like this and the great lines. People come over to ask and look everywhere the rig goes...I never see anyone approaching a new $1/4 million landyacht and starting up a yak.
I have thought of selling the Twinky several times but never did. I plan to switch the main 80 gallon fuel tank to a "veggie oil tank and have a smaller "starter" diesel tank. I am into the sheetmetal work this month. ... I love this bus,.. its super cool and I intend to run him on mostly recycled cooking oil...
Kevin in Kansas City
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Jeff | Oct 03, 2010 | 10:17 am
Thanks for the story man that was a good read. and another for the old bus thats cool. I would like to find somthing like that to fix on a while be for I retire I only have 15 years till retirment. seeya Kevin again good crusin in your old bus
kevin hueser | May 16, 2011 | 1:51 pm
Thats my bus in the above pics and story, I am thinking of selling her now.
I took her for a spin around the block this weekend and she runs great.
All lights work, brakes,most instruments and all her go go stuff, tires are up she would probably make a trip most anywhere.
I have since removed the damage area on the front but have yet to actually repair it, although this may come soon.
I'm working on both east and west coasts on boats now and have little time to dedicate to it however I do have a great spot for her to "rest" till I do,... so I have not completely committed to selling her by any means.
If you are interested in this coach you might shoot me an email or a call/text or lv message 816-590-8601
T. Olding | Jul 06, 2012 | 11:42 pm
Is this bus still for sale?
Mike Hoffman | Feb 09, 2013 | 1:57 pm
Have a converted 1950 PGA3301-1329. power from a Detroit 6V53 and a Allison 6 speed auto. Am interested in selling it. Too much to list here. can be reached @ 520-440-6867