by Jon Persson
School is in session and the big yellow bus has arrived, but this bus stops at Memory Lane. It’s a ’48 Nash, one of two that remain, and the curriculum is more work than fun: a complete rebuild from frame to paint, now underway at Westbrook’s Vintage Motor Cars.
Thomas Harrington, owner of the bus, requested just one thing of Rich Willard, owner of Vintage Motor Cars, when he assigned the historical restoration—“to do it right.” Already a detailed, digital record has been made of every part and assembly, a second Nash truck frame has been purchased, the bell has rung and the work has begun.
The original Nash line ran from 1917 to 1954, and a variety of mergers echoed its technology in the Rambler and AMC family for another 30 years. The bus has two stories to be told, one of metal and grease and factory floors, blueprints and cubic inches. This was a machine that rolled out of the post-war assembly line, as poignant a symbol of peacetime as could ever be found. And then there is the story of a bus that served several schools in Minnesota, fighting winter’s bitter cold and snow—with never a snow day.
The bus last ran in 1969, having carried its last loads of kids who had become too style-cool for big bands, leather jackets, and straight-leg jeans. The vehicle’s faithful last stop before the Westbrook restoration was as a hunting and fishing retreat.
Once the rebuild is complete, Thomas Harrington will graciously donate the yellow bus to a Nash-friendly museum. There it will rest, and wait at that stop for people who will gaze at its classic shape and wistfully say, “That bus just takes me back….”
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