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Norma Wanderlust My 1955 International House Bus

Updated on September 14, 2014

Bus Dreams

Its quite a funny story how I wound up buying a 1955 International school bus. It involves many long miles traveling with three people and two dogs from Arizona to Montana via National Parks. It was a brilliant summer family adventure and I loved every minute of it. Except, we did this in a 1986 Ford Pickup, extended cab, literally truck camping across the country, and by day 10 I was feeling pretty claustrophobic. I am pretty sure this is where the bus dreams started. We would see other bus conversions and start talking about owning our own home on wheels. We got so excited and in depth that I am sure, as a family, we manifested this.

As soon as I arrived in Montana, I started searching craigslist, "ya know, just to price things out and see what's available." Wouldn't you know, I found Norma Wanderlust on my first search of craigslist. I instantly fell in love with her, and all her dilapidated glory, and I hadn't even even seen her in person yet. I just felt this odd connection immediately, kinda like the one I get when I find a lost puppy and feel the need to rescue it. I saw Norma all abandoned in a cold and rainy forest, busted up and left for dead and I just wanted to save her.

By the way, all the credit for these images contained here on this lens is mine.

Dilapidated Old School Bus - The Original Craigslist Pictures

Click thumbnail to view full-size
1955 School Bus ~ She looks like she is smiling and waivingVintage School Bus A beautiful piece of historyInside of the bus conversion ~ Someone actually lived in hereBeautiful Snowflake skylight in the bus. Its like a charming little log cabin in here.Old sink. Its huge and heavy.The loft ~ or the view from front to back.
1955 School Bus ~ She looks like she is smiling and waiving
1955 School Bus ~ She looks like she is smiling and waiving
Vintage School Bus A beautiful piece of history
Vintage School Bus A beautiful piece of history
Inside of the bus conversion ~ Someone actually lived in here
Inside of the bus conversion ~ Someone actually lived in here
Beautiful Snowflake skylight in the bus. Its like a charming little log cabin in here.
Beautiful Snowflake skylight in the bus. Its like a charming little log cabin in here.
Old sink. Its huge and heavy.
Old sink. Its huge and heavy.
The loft ~ or the view from front to back.
The loft ~ or the view from front to back.

What's Your Initial Thought On The Above Pictures? - Just wondering how many people think I am crazy...

What is your initial thoughts on the above pictures of the bus

See results

Some Books That Are Going To Be Helpful - My Current Wishlist

Building up my bus book library is starting to get expensive...these are the books that are currently on my list.

Steps To Make A School Bus Conversion Roadworthy

I don't even know where to start...

Well first we had to move the bus which was quite a daunting task. This is where the tears and near death experiences that I mentioned earlier come into play. I wrote about the story on Norma's blog.

Once we got her home, we just wanted to make sure she was gonna run. Matt took to figuring out the engine, while I took to tearing out the insides for a remodel. I salvaged most everything, so it sounds much worse than it actually is. We will be re-purposing almost everything we took out of her in one way or anther, so as to keep her charm and memories alive.

Good news is she does run. Bad news is, she is not so good at stopping. So at the moment, we are at a stumped stand still as to how to continue. Apparently there may be something wrong with the master cylinder. I am tempted to just completely replace them. That is if we can find the parts.

**UPDATE: The Rear wheel cylinder has to be replaced. It took almost 2 weeks of searching, but we finally found the part.

Oh yea, as for sealing her up, the windshield glass should be done next week sometime. The rest of the poor broken out windows are just gonna have to suffice with being boarded up for the time being.

***UPDATE: We got glass! Norma finally has a shiny new windshield and we are now much closer to being able to register her!

The finishing touches will be making the inside suitable to be classed as an RV conversion so that we can register and insure her. Then she can hit the road.

Documenting Progress On The Bus - Its not as easy as it looks....

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Assessing the way outInternational R180Me and Norma~ The very first meetingSmile and waveWood panels reveal gross insulation.That is gonna be replacedDexter loves helping meMaking space to walk inHard at work planning out the shell
Assessing the way out
Assessing the way out
International R180
International R180
Me and Norma~ The very first meeting
Me and Norma~ The very first meeting
Smile and wave
Smile and wave
Wood panels reveal gross insulation.
Wood panels reveal gross insulation.
That is gonna be replaced
That is gonna be replaced
Dexter loves helping me
Dexter loves helping me
Making space to walk in
Making space to walk in
Hard at work planning out the shell
Hard at work planning out the shell

Some Turtles Have Nice Shells - Someday, Norma will have one too.

The thing about this book is, I really love turtles, and my man Matt and I have dreamed up this turtle-like bus house roof, so when I came across this book, it was clearly fate and I had to have it. There are no actual turtle shell roof top bus conversions in there, ours may very well be the first. None the less, this book has shown us that is completely possible and within our reach, and even for quite a bit less than we expected.

So Whatchya Gonna Do With That Thing?

Seriously, I don't know how many times I have said this in the past several months as a new bus owner, but when looking for anything related to the bus, in any topic of conversation, I get the question. Its entertaining at least, because of the varied reactions I have gotten so far, but that mostly from my small town folk friends, so I am just gonna let that slide by.

© 2013 Mandy

Are You Bus Enthusiast too? - Leave me a comment I would love to hear your stories

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    • Spirality profile image


      5 years ago

      It has great head height. Cool project.

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 

      5 years ago from Alabama USA

      I so want your dream bus to come alive. I would love to have one of my own. Wishing you all the luck in the world.

    • Heidi Vincent profile image

      Heidi Vincent 

      5 years ago from GRENADA

      I am dying to see the finished product!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      The magic school bus :D

    • blue22d profile image


      5 years ago

      Great idea and great lens. Enjoyed my visit.

    • Johanna Eisler profile image

      Johanna Eisler 

      5 years ago

      Sorry, no. But it'll be very interesting to see how everything works out!

    • Arachnea profile image

      Tanya Jones 

      5 years ago from Texas USA

      though i'm not a "bus" enthusiast, i enjoyed following your project's story. great lens and congrats on lotd.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Wow that truck reminds me of the movie Into the Wild, what a cool story!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      This is an amazing project. I just don't know enough about engines to attach my home to one. I can get into pulling a home but not brave enough to actually attach it to the engine I'm dependent on. I love your energy and enthusiasm. And, of course, as a boomer, I've just got to love an old bus!

    • delia-delia profile image


      5 years ago

      Congratulations on LOTD! What an interesting project! Since I watch the shows on flipping or restoring vehicles, I can see there is a lot to it...oh and the money. I like the patina on the bus, it gives it even more character.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Congrats on LotD! Great lens on a cool Bus! I would love to see how Norma looks when you are all done! :)

    • writerkath profile image


      5 years ago

      I think that this is an awesome project! You have me yearning for a road trip now. Wonderful! Congrats on LotD, and I hope you get Norma up & running soon!

    • lazywrites profile image

      Cherrylyn Moquete 

      5 years ago from Philippines

      She's a real beauty... I've always wanted to live on the road and have my own RV but that's next to impossible here in my country. Very good lens, I'm excited to see her transformation. Btw, my mom's name is Norma too and was born three years ahead of your baby- that's a cute coincidence :)

    • Sir Daniel UK profile image

      Danny Gibson 

      5 years ago from Northampton

      I've only ever seen these old buses in American movies. I reckon De Niro drove one in 'A Bronx Tale'.

      Really good lens, this. Loved it.

      Oh and please don't pimp that bus too much; restore to original where possible. Want lose its character then.

    • blackflamingo777 profile image


      5 years ago

      This is such a wonderful project! My mom dreamed of renovating an RV and hitting the road full time for as long as I can remember. Now, I can't wait to get my hands on one. I will be stalking your progress with this beauty! For some reason, the first thing that came to mind when on saw your bus was 'The Magic Schoolbus' which is a good sign I think. Congrats on getting LotD!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Very cool project. I'm wondering if you could convert a bus that old to natural gas. I know, one more BIG thing to do but I'll bet you could get the $$$$ through crowdfunding. It would legitimately have real positive environmental impact and possibly become a template for others. Just a random thought. Congratulations on getting the Purple Star and LotD!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 

      5 years ago from Fresno CA

      My hubby and I have often dreamed of hitting the road but just haven't the gumption to do it. What we need is an old bus... haha. This looks loads of fun and heartache. Hopefully more of the former than the latter. Congrats on Lens of the Day.

    • CampingmanNW profile image


      5 years ago

      You just gotta love a project. Good luck and congratulations on being awarded the Purple Star and Lens of the Day. Cheers

    • GoldenRod LM profile image

      John R Wilsdon 

      5 years ago from Superior, Arizona USA

      Love the wood inside. Great reading adventure, and good luck to you. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Well I do love to camp and sleep in a Bed! I have a 1986 Toyota panel van with a bed in it. No "facilities" tho. I love her - she's also good on gas. I am proud of you for taking on Norma and wish you lots of fun adventures.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      you seems so happy... so i feel you made a good decision. congrats on lens of the day!

    • Faye Rutledge profile image

      Faye Rutledge 

      5 years ago from Concord VA

      Thanks for sharing this interesting story! Great job restoring the bus. Congratulations on LotD!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Hey there, glad to see this lens make LoTD! I liked it already so can't do that again, but loved going back over the story! Congratulations!

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      5 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      What fun. I can't wait to see Norma when she is finished.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      5 years ago from Colorado

      Since I'm known as the "Do or Di" DIY gal, I would be right there helping you and Norma. She deserves to live and have some awesome adventures. It's fun to imagine the possibilities. Wishing you all the very best as you restore her vitality. Congrats on Lens of the Day!

    • Dressage Husband profile image

      Stephen J Parkin 

      5 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      I think you are crazy, but if you have the know how and determination only you know if it is worth it in the end! The bus is unique and modern ones are unlikely to survive everything that Norma has been through. Think of all the things she will have done in her lifetime and all of the people she has carried and protected in her time! Great LOTD and I for one want to see what you make her look like in her full glory again.

    • esmonaco profile image

      Eugene Samuel Monaco 

      5 years ago from Lakewood New York

      Congratulations on LOTD and a huge project, looks like a lot of work but fun to be creative :)

    • MJ Martin profile image

      MJ Martin aka Ruby H Rose 

      5 years ago from Washington State

      Oh yea, congrats on Lotd, getting a purple star too, fun, creative read.

    • MJ Martin profile image

      MJ Martin aka Ruby H Rose 

      5 years ago from Washington State

      We haven't a bus but a cool old van that I'd like to do the same thing with. Lots of work you are doing, it will be so worth it, I am sure.

    • Aladdins Cave profile image

      Aladdins Cave 

      5 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      mmmmmm. I wanted to know more. Don't want to go to blog. Bummer.

      Cheers from DOWNUNDER

    • WriterJanis2 profile image


      5 years ago

      What a fun and interesting project.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I don't know where I would put a Bus, so that is not on my list, but I have an old vette 1985 and she needs restoring, so I'm working on that! In the meantime, I'm lucky she's certified for driving still........

    • WendyArts profile image


      5 years ago

      Cool idea, not a bus enthusiast but love the idea of restoring this wonderful historical piece. Good luck with it.


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