13 Famous Buses Throughout History

It’s hard to underestimate the value of the bus in modern society. They are a reasonably-priced alternative to other forms of transportation and allow people to travel to places they might not otherwise be able to go — whether it be within one’s own city, or all the way across the country.

As buses have been so important over the last several decades, it only stands to reason that there will be some buses that have reached a kind of iconic status. It may even just be that using buses to get around gave certain people the means to do things that have reverberated down through modern history.

Let’s take a look at some of these famous buses, and the people who rode them!

Famous Music Buses

When we hear the words “tour bus,” we inevitably think of a bus that’s transporting a group of musicians. There are thousands of bands who have criss-crossed countries on their proverbial “steel horses,” as Bon Jovi has famously metaphorized. Let’s take a look at a few of the most famous buses that have made their mark in music history.

1. The Partridge Family Bus

You think you’ll love it, so what are you so afraid of? Come on get happy and hop aboard the Partridge family bus! Just point me in the direction of Albuquerque and we’ll get you where you need to go on one of the most iconic buses of all time.

This 1957 Chevy bus blasted its way across the USA, transporting the snazzily-dressed Partridge family, featuring an oh-so-dreamy teen heartthrob David Cassidy as a competent and somewhat egotistical band leader, and Shirley Jones as the stern-but-fair mom who held the family band together. And let’s not forget about the young Danny Bonaduce holding down the beat with his funky, flavourful bass lines.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Jeffrey Gent (@jeffreygent) on

The bus is unique due to its Mondrian-inspired paint job — bright blues, yellows, and reds in differently-sized blocks adorn the sides of the bus, making sure everyone knew when they were speeding into town for a one night stand. But how long is too long for a ’57 Chevy bus to ride around the country? It lasted only until 1987 when it found its way to an LA junkyard, lasting just a few more years longer than the careers of the famed family band.

2. Willie Nelson’s Tour Bus

While the name “Biowillie” may be a delightfully easy target for fanciful wordplay, it’s actually the name of Willie Nelson’s tour bus. When he’s ready to get on the road again, Willie and his crew hop aboard the eco-friendly tour bus and try to keep themselves from getting into trouble.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by GalHarpaz (@galharpaz) on

If your heroes have always been bus drivers and think of them as angels flying too close to the ground, you’ll be happy to know that Willie’s gets to drive this potential party crew in a bus powered by biodiesel fuel made of soybeans and vegetable oils.

Perhaps the next version of the bus will be solar-powered, allowing Willie and his band to get anywhere they want on an uncloudy day.

3. The Almost Famous Bus

When Cameron Crowe was only 15 years old, he went on the road with Led Zeppelin. The story he wrote about them made the cover of Rolling Stone, although both Crowe and Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner have stated, not without a little bit of internal controversy at the storied publication.

The end result, however, is a positive one, as it launched Crowe’s career as a music journalist, which he later parlayed into a stint as a screenwriter. His stories from the road with many of the 70s hottest rock bands inspired the movie Almost Famous, in which a young journalist tours the USA with fictional rock band Stillwater.

One of the most memorable scenes in the movie takes place the night after a rather debauched (in true rock and roll fashion) party at the home of a fan of the band. As they get on the Stillwater tour bus, the group and their groupies are quiet as Elton John’s Tiny Dancer pirouettes above the silence. As the song nears the chorus, one group member starts singing along, followed by another, until all those aboard are singing their hearts out, the events of the previous evening forgotten, if only for a little while.

It’s a marvellous bit of movie magic, and if you can make it through the scene without at least a single tear rolling down your cheek, you may be made of stone. Isn’t it amazing what can happen on a bus?

Buses from Pop Culture

We’ve all got a bus from pop culture that has driven our imaginations and steered our passions. Here are just a few of the most famous buses from pop culture. I’m sure you’ll be able to get on board this trip down memory lane with at least one of them!

4. Further, Ken Kesey’s Bus

No, that’s not an odd grammatical error above. Ken Kesey, the leader of the Merry Pranksters actually named the bus that transported Kesey and his counterculture buddies across the USA Further!

Who were Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters? Kesey was an author. His most famous work is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. But more than a writer, he was a leader of the hippie movement, encouraging others to drop out of “normal society.” He welcomed those who wished to “tune in, turn on, and drop out” to his communes in LA and Oregon.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Woodstock (@woodstock) on

But not content to remain stationary, Kesey and the Merry Pranksters boarded Further and took off to spread their cultural movement across the country. And the psychedelic paint-job on the outside of the bus attracted other hippies and law enforcement officials alike.

To get an inside view of what happened on and off the bus, you can read all about it in Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

5. The Bus from Speed

You’re on a bus. The bus must maintain a speed above 50 mph or it will explode. Sandra Bullock is driving, and Keanu Reeves is working out a way to keep you from blowing up. You’re on the bus from Speed!

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by ᴵᴹᴬᴳᴵᴺᴱ (@vintage0052) on

Widely panned upon its release, the movie Speed has found a special place in the hearts and minds of many lovers of action flicks. If you have 90 minutes to kill and love the deliciously improbable action movies of the 90s, you’ll love Speed.

Chances are, if you’ve gotten this far in this section, you already love this movie. Now is as good a time as any to watch it again!

6. Into the Wild Bus

In 1992, Chris McCandless walked out into the Alaskan wilderness in an attempt to live completely off the grid. Tragically, McCandless did not make it out, and the bus where he was found has become a kind of tourist attraction.

The entire story of how McCandless met his fate is documented in the book Into the Wild by John Krakauer. At its heart, it’s a compelling story of someone trying to make his own way in the world. At its end, it’s a heartbreaking story of a young man who wasn’t prepared for what he faced.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Seanicus Bartelicus (@sean.bartel) on

The problem now is that this same bus has become a kind of tourist spot where, according to Vice, travellers attempt to “achieve a sort of survivalist, solitudinous nirvana.” And many of them have to be rescued every year. As romantic as the idea of this bus may be, it seems like this one is best left as a good read as opposed to an actual experience.

7. The Magic School Bus

Who would have ever thought that someone’s positive experiences on school buses headed to and from field trips would be the inspiration for one of the most popular and beloved book AND TV series of all time? Well, this was the case for Craig Walker, the person who had the original idea for The Magic School Bus, and he turned it into a thrill-a-minute adventure for kids all over the globe.

The stories, as you will recall, all center around good ole Ms. Frizzle, a sort of tough-but-fair, and ultimately very kind, school teacher who takes her elementary school class on field trips to unusual places. What kind of places? The solar system, the past — even inside the human body, like a kind of Fantastic Voyage for kids.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by positive paparazzi Diva (@divaladyc21) on

There’s good news for lovers of the series. It has been rebooted as The Magic School Bus Rides Again and is available on Netflix. It’s so cool that Lin-Manuel Miranda performs the opening theme song!

Famous Civil Rights Buses

In the 1950s and 60s, the fight for civil rights in the United States raged against the racist machinations of previous lawmakers. Buses played a major part in the struggle, and we look at two of them here.

8. Rosa Parks’ Bus

On December 1st, 1955, an African American woman in Montgomery, Alabama refused to give up her seat to a white man. Rosa Parks’ act of defiance gave way to the Montgomery bus boycott, which became — and remains — a very important landmark in the history of the civil rights struggle in the United States.

No one knows where that particular bus is now. It doesn’t matter. The bus, and the action taken on it, were symbols for the civil rights movement, with African Americans boycotting the Montgomery bus system for more than a year. In the end, Rosa won her right to her seat in court. And a year after that, in 1957, the first Civil Rights Act was passed as legislation in the USA.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Gavin (@rustbeltphotos) on

9. The Freedom Riders’ Buses

Although the first Civil Rights Act was passed in 1957, many in the southern states resisted any type of integration. The Supreme Court had ruled that it was illegal to segregate buses, but the resistance led to confrontation and, on May 14, 1961, tragedy struck Anniston, Alabama when one of the Freedom Riders’ buses was attacked.

A group of black and white students had boarded a bus to travel to New Orleans, where the fight against the South’s racist Jim Crow laws were being challenged in the courts. Along the way, they were ambushed by a mob. The bus’s tires were slashed, rendering the bus immovable, and a firebomb was thrown through a window.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by National Park Service (@nationalparkservice) on

Fortunately, the riders were able to escape with their lives, but it wasn’t the only incident that took place at the time. There were many other incidents in which riders were beaten to the point where they were unable to continue on their journey.

Today, the bus can be seen at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute where the price paid by those who fought so hard for civil rights can be considered in quiet contemplation.

Political Buses

Before buses, politicians would travel on trains in order to reach potential voters. The problem was that train tracks only go to certain places. That all changed with the bus, and since then, buses have become a major aspect of political campaigns that are sometimes as popular as the campaigns themselves.

10. The Campaign Bus

Do you want to meet with as many constituents as possible in an effort to get yourself elected to public office? Well, it’s time to get on the bus! The bus tours are not only integral to the campaigners’ ability to reach voters, but they’re also a way to carry around a full media team with you to help you get your message out via news outlets.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Joshua Bright (@jbrightphoto) on

Sometimes, this can lead to positive results. But as we all know, the media loves nothing than to glom on to a perceived gaffe and milk it for all its worth.

For example, Senator Bob Casey travelled across Pennsylvania with Barack Obama stumping for the election and stopped at a bowling alley. After Obama chalked up a scant 37, complete with two gutter balls, the man who would be president said, “My economic plan is better than my bowling.” From the crowd, someone quipped, “It has to be.”

11. Obama’s $1.1 Million Dollar Bus

We’ve all heard about the presidential Cadillac that carried President Barack Obama inside 5-inch thick bulletproof glass surroundings (affectionately known as “The Beast”), but have you heard about Ground Force One?

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Genaro Morel Jr. (@autopediaflorida) on

It was a sleek black 45-foot long bus that the Secret Service designed to keep the president safe and, by all accounts, comfortable, as he sought reelection in 2012. While it did keep the president and his family safe, the heavily mirrored windows prevented the first lady from waving to crowds as they travelled, forcing the bus to stop so she could get out and interact with crowds.

Non-American Honourable Mentions

Not every bus, as you might well know, is from the USA. Nor are the only memorable ones limited to the States. Here are just a few of the buses from around the world that have been indelibly inked onto our collective consciousness.

12. Chicken Buses

Buses are an integral aspect of transportation in many Latin American countries. They’re often painted in ornate custom designs, bright and colourful, and are generally old American school buses that have been auctioned off after a solid 10 or more years of service. These are known locally as “La Camioneta,” and in English they’re called “chicken buses.”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Miquel Alfaro (@miquelalfaro) on

Why do they call them chicken buses? One theory is that passengers will often bring one or more chickens with them on their travels, ostensibly to have something to eat once they get to where they’re going. Another is that it’s because passengers are crammed so tightly into the vehicles.

Whatever the actual case may be, they’re amazing to look at, and even more fun to travel on!

13. London’s Double-Decker Buses

The double-decker bus is as much a symbol of London as Big Ben or London Bridge. They originally started carrying Londoners around town in 1956, and are still used today to carry tourists around the city, giving them a bird’s eye view of their surroundings.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Transport for London (@transportforlondon) on

These buses are such a great way for tourists to see cities that municipalities around the world have adopted them into their own tourism strategies.

Bonus: Horse-Drawn Bus

Well, it all had to start somewhere. This amazing journey that we’ve been on with buses all started with French polymath Blaise Pascal. Yes, the same one who invented the hydraulic press, and made great contributions to mathematics, physics, and philosophy. He also lends his name to a modern computer programming language.

So, with those credentials, it would stand to reason that he would be the inventor of the modern bus service, right?

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Wakefield Official News (@wakefieldofficialnews) on

In 1662, Pascal rolled out the first bus service, carrying six-to-eight passengers at a time through the streets of Paris for five cents a ride. The problem was that regular people were not permitted on these large, horse-drawn “buses.” And, as often happens with the upper classes, the nobility soon grew weary of the novelty, and the service was discontinued in 1675. Nothing approaching the service would return to the city until the 19th century, but his legacy remains.

The Legacy of the Bus

As we’ve seen, buses have played an integral part in the development of our modern world. Our thoughts and ideas are formed by those who have ridden on buses, and our ability to communicate with each other in person has been greatly enhanced by this wonderful vehicle.

There are a lot of stories about buses that we can all enjoy and even learn from, so if you’re up for adventure, make sure to start yours on a bus!

Safe and easy charter bus rentals

Get a free quote in under two minutes for your charter bus rental!