If you're looking for the ULTIMATE collectors item in American hot rod history, here it is. The one and only, restored, "Von Dutch Bus".
Kenneth Howard, the eccentric artist and pin striper better known as "Von Dutch", is the iconic man who made this bus his home and workshop.
As the story goes, Von Dutch took the bus in payment for a pin striping job, then moved his machinery, lathe, drill press, industrial compressor and associated hardware into the bus. During the restoration process, the current owner said he found markings on the bus that showed it once belonged to Douglas Aircraft, which used it to shuttle employees from one building to another on the aircraft manufacturer’s vast site in Escondido, California. According to the current owner, paperwork proves that the bus was indeed delivered to Douglas Aircraft.
The bus is a 1950 GM TGH-3102, 27-foot-long, 31-seat bus with a 270-cu.in. GMC straight-six, believed to be the original motor.
As Howard created his world inside of this bus, he made it to included a shop, a bathroom (complete with a “flying eyeball” porthole window), a hot plate that served as the kitchen, and a rear bunk and table that served as living quarters. In it, the artist machined and created everything from motorcycle parts and belt buckles to custom knives and firearms. The six bullet holes in the front of the bus are said to be period-correct, "added ventilation", installed in a drunken stupor by Howard himself.
Von Dutch died in 1992. For many years, the bus sat abandoned in a field in Santa Paula. It was sold in poor condition at an auction, but shortly afterward, the current owner, who had worked with Von Dutch, bought the bus. His mission was to restore the bus to its former glory.
The bus was in rough condition when the current owner first acquired it, and he anticipated that the restoration would take six months, however the restoration took much longer than anticipated. Parts, such as the original bathroom door, taken off before the bus crossed the auction block, were missing and had to be recreated with the guidance of those that knew Von Dutch and the bus well (The original door has now been reunited with the bus, which freed the recreated bathroom door to be used for a marquee). Dick Odette, a long-time friend of the artist, was instrumental in providing advice, as well as helping to recreate parts.
After 8 years, the restoration project was a success. Many people contributed time and effort over the years. Howard’s daughters, Lisa and Lorna, pitched in, as did his ex-wife Sheila Harlan, and the bus even contains clothes that Howard wore during his working years. The current owner says that the effect he wanted to create inside the bus during the restoration, is that Von Dutch just stepped out for a smoke and will be back at any time, and it has been achieved.
The appraisal on the Von Dutch Bus was done a little over four years ago by world-renowned appraiser Rick McLash, who estimates that in the next five to ten years the value would be ten to fifteen-million dollars.
The Von Dutch Bus has been listed exclusively through Jettset Luxury Brokers, LLC. Showings can be scheduled by appointment only, directly through Jettset Luxury Brokers. Phone: 602-980-9213