Since the very first day he got into the custom car and truck scene, Joe Neel of Saginaw, Texas, has always wanted to build a customized bus. While most people think customized means custom wheels, tons of body mods, and paint, Joe's idea was to 'bag and body-drop a bus, while keeping it as stock as possible on the outside. At first glance, you might not even notice that it's a custom vehicle, due to the stock-looking exterior. But low and behold: this bus is not one you're going to miss! After searching on craigslist.org, Joe found an old fraternity party bus at a good price and immediately took it back to his shop to build his long-time dream.
You might take a look at his bus and think that it's just a 'bagged and body-dropped bus. But, that's the point. Joe wanted to keep the bus as stock and subtle as possible. "People keep asking me if I'm going to put chrome wheels on it and stuff, but then it wouldn't look like a school bus," he explained. The subtle details are the things that make this bus so damn cool. At first glance, most people overlook the custom decals, from the Outlaw Motorsports ISD posted top to bottom, and also the stop sign, which now reads "drag" with the silhouette of a dragging truck. "Most people are oblivious to it," Joe told us. "It looks like it's supposed to be there."
But, Joe's Blue Bird wasn't built to live its life on a trailer. Joe intentionally built the bus as a calling card for his shop, Outlaw Motorsports. "I wanted to prove that I'm not just building S-10s. I wanted to find the biggest and hardest thing I could find and do it," Joe said. Once he got involved in the 'bag and body-drop process, he found that it wasn't your typical truck frame, even though the cab resembles a van. After cutting into the stock rear section, Joe and his crew had to reconstruct how they were going to 'bag and body-drop a vehicle with a unibody design, including layers of metal and wood under the stock floor. After putting their heads together, they figured it out and proceeded to complete the task.
Owner: Joe Neel Ride: '85 Chevy Blue Bird Bus Hometown: Saginaw, Texas Club: Outlaw Motors
Another major concern of Joe's was that his customized kid hauler could spew showers of golden sparks at the flip of a switch. Having first used the rear bumper to produce glowing metal embers, Joe again put his brain to the test to come up with an idea to ride at a ground-hugging ride height, yet still be able to throw sparks from the rear. With the help of a pneumatic drag bar, which can be lowered and raised with the flip of a switch, the Blue Bird emits showers of sparks-no matter how much pressure Joe has in the 'bags. His idea not only works for his bus, it was also utilized on his other ride, a customized dualie on 22s.
Since completing the bus, Joe has enjoyed the attention that it gets, no matter where he might be. "No matter where you park it, there are people taking pics of it," he explained. Even a co-worker of his father's had spotted the bus in a parking lot and snapped photos of it, only to learn who it belonged to once he took the photo to work to show his fellow employees. But, Joe particularly loves catching the attention of the ones the bus was originally designed for-the kids. Joe said he loves seeing the reaction of children when they see the bus and has even gone as far as dropped his own daughter off at school in the short bus. "It's as much fun for the kids as it is for me."
So, if you're ever around the Hurst, Texas, area and you happen upon a little yellow school bus, you may want to allow a few car lengths between the two of you-because when that stop sign comes out, it isn't a sign for you to stop and wait for the kids to safely enter and exit the bus. It's a sign that some serious dragging is about to occur. For all the details, check out the Lowdown section to see the specs.