The “barn-find”! Collectors salivate at the idea of discovering a filthy old classic, sitting on flat tires, having been entombed in a dark and musty building for the past three or four decades. But could there be something even better than a barn-find? Perhaps a scenario where the classic car has indeed been hidden away unseen for more than four decades, but in a nice clean climate controlled garage instead of a rodent infested shed with a collapsing roof.
Well, as hard as it is to believe, that is exactly how this 1960 “Donut Bus” was found just four years ago.
In 1960, this swivel-seat Kombi Bus was purchased by a Dayton Ohio entrepreneur from R.B. Kuhn Volkswagen in Fairborn, Ohio for $2,269.17. The new owner had the idea of serving fresh, made-on-the-spot donuts to local factories -primarily the General Motors manufacturing plants that dotted the Dayton cityscape back in the ‘60’s. The bus was sent to Jay D. Tyree, owner of the Rolling Donut Company in Springfield Ohio, who modified it with all of the fryers, mixers and generators required for a mobile donut making business. Having tried several other vans, Mr. Tyree was quoted in a period VW advertisement as saying “They just don’t work. Too big – and they cost too much to run. But Volkswagen works beautifully and economically”
The owner hired a “baker” to drive to the manufacturing plants and sell donuts. All was seemingly well until the owner discovered that his trusted employee had been skimming from the profits. The owner was so disgusted with the situation, that he fired the crooked employee and sequestered the bus away inside a heated garage where it would rest, un-driven and unseen for nearly 45 years.
Every effort has made to retain the original bits that make this bus so special. The driver’s door jamb has the paper oil change decals placed there by the servicing dealership mechanic on June 20, 1960. Sitting in the driver’s seat, your eyes are drawn to the spotless speedometer face. The first thing you see is the ultra low mileage – just over 10,000 – but then other details start to appear. The clear needle is truly clear, not tinted yellow with age like so many other 50 year-old speedometer needles. The numbers are crisp and clear and the entire gauge has an art deco appearance that belies the commercial lifestyle of a VW van. Beneath the dash panel where that speedometer lives is a painted metal parcel tray. These parcel trays typically served as a catch basin for spare key rings, residual fast food and pocket change. The life of a parcel tray was a life of scratches, rust, and abuse. In this case, the parcel tray is a rare example of how they looked when new.
Looking further, the rubber door and window seals scream “replacement”, because they are so perfect, but they are in fact original to the bus. The interior paneling has none of the cracks, chips and water-damage that you would expect to find in an old commercial vehicle. It’s all perfect, down to the little white enamel sink and powdered soap dispenser located just inside the cargo doors. One of the few factory installed options on the bus is the swivel seat in the driver’s position, allowing him to quickly and easily swivel around to the side and enter the cooking area through the walk-through passage.
Peeking through the hinged mesh panel on the drivers side is a generator resplendent in its original blue metallic paint. Other commercial bits are the fine wire mesh fastened over the windows to keep flies and mosquitoes out of the food prep area, an alarm bell nestled behind the spare tire on the nose which served to alert hungry factory workers that it was breakfast time and two ceiling mounted fans used to evacuate the heat and odor of boiling fry oil out of the interior.
So what is not original? Only the tires. While the OEM tires had plenty of tread remaining, they were severely flat spotted and deemed unsafe. Remarkably, even the paint and sign writing is original from 1960.
VW busses were used and abused, especially the ones outfitted for commercial use. To find one with original paint and ultra-low mileage is nearly impossible. This bus is museum quality!
Additional photos and information are available upon request.
Price - $old!