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Morgan Lyons

May 25, 2000

Remodeled 1966 bus up and running

DART Breathes Life into Retired Dallas Transit System Bus

On January 9, 1987, after hitting the road for 40,560 hours and operating more than a million miles, Bus 494 returned to the garage and retired its wheels.

Thirteen years later, the hard-to-find 1966 General Motors New Look bus has been fully restored and runs as smoothly as the day it came off the assembly line. Now ol' 494 will be taking it easy, making guest appearances at Dallas Area Rapid Transit's (DART) special events and marketing promotions.

(L to R) DART Mechanics Billy England, Ismael Serrano, Carlos 'CD' Warren and John Trojacek worked during their free time for two years to restore the hard-to-find 1966 General Motors New Look Dallas Transit System (DTS) bus -- that seats 53 -- to its original state. In an effort to preserve DTS and DART history, the mechanics recycled parts from another 1966 bus as well as those acquired from bus vendors.

The restoration of the 34-year-old bus that seats 53 started two years ago in an effort to preserve Dallas Transit System (DTS) and DART history. After Billy England, DART body support manager, located the bus at a storage lot in Mesquite, DART purchased it for $2,000. Then England and DART mechanics Carlos Warren, Ismael Serrano and John Trojacek worked during their free time to bring the bus back to life. The group restored the bus to its original state over a span of eight months, recycling parts from another 1966 bus and those acquired from bus supply vendors.

"Because of the bus' age, trying to procure original parts was the hardest part of the project," said England. For example, the engine and transmission used by this model of bus haven't been made in more than 20 years. Although very rare, the rebuilt engine and transmission are expected to run for years.

While the exterior of the bus required a new paint job and new aluminum panels, the major overhaul occurred inside. When boarding the bus, the first eye-catcher is the original farebox in which passengers would insert 35 cents for a ride. This is a definite keepsake because this particular style of farebox was only used from 1966 until 1984.

Thirteen years after retiring its wheels, the Dallas Transit System 1966 General Motors New Look bus has been fully restored and runs as smoothly as the day it came off the assembly line. Bus 494 hit the road for 40,560 hours and operated more than a million miles, and will now make appearances at DART special events and promotions.
Another collector's item inside the bus is the original white steering wheel, initially thought to be unsalvageable. And while the original rearview mirror was too damaged to repair, it was easily replaced with a replica. Also in place is the original small fan attached to the wall that helped keep operators extra cool on hot days.

Some of the most detailed reconstruction work involved the bus' bright blue seats, and the DART mechanics rebuilt the surprisingly comfortable and beautiful seats by hand. Additional renovations included new headliner, new floor covering, remanufactured transom glass, new insulation over the air conditioning unit, recreated chrome stanchion rods for passengers to hold on to while standing, and new DTS decals. The original hand crank sign that displayed the 71 routes #494 traveled is still intact.

"It's not everyday that one can participate in such an exciting project," Warren said. "We definitely had a lot of fun working on this bus because it's one of a kind."

While #494 is a far cry from the state-of-the-art DART buses in service today, its basic features are what make it radiate. "I consider this a classic, like the '57 Chevy in the automobile industry, because at the time, it was on the leading edge of the bus industry," England said. This bus is a true collector's item, and simply put, it serves as one of the best history lessons given -- without one word ever being spoken.

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