Tom Daniel's S'Cool Bus

In 1968, Monogram Models was a company with over a hundred plastic model kits in its catalog, and was adding new ones at a rate of 16 per year. The two largest plastic kit manufacturers had each made a deal with a famous custom car designer— Revell with Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth and AMT with George Barris— so Monogram hired Tom Daniel to contribute some of his wild designs to its line-up.

That October, Mattel purchased Monogram, thus gaining free license to Daniel's designs. Although he was still working for the Monogram models division, Mattel started using his designs in the 1969 Hot Wheels™ line.

The first Tom Daniel-designed Hot Wheels™ cars: Red Baron and Paddy Wagon

In 1970, Tom Daniel penned the S'Cool Bus for Monogram, and it became a Hot Wheels™ car when it was added to the 1971 Heavyweights Series. The S'Cool Bus actually was the heaviest Hot Wheels™ produced to date. But by 1972, Mattel was having financial issues and cutting costs (especially to its Hot Wheels™ division), so the S'Cool Bus was dropped after being produced for only one year.

The Monogram box describes "the wildest idea ever in a funny drag machine! A DUAL blown Chrysler fueler, with the latest trick chassis and ...GASP!, a chopped and narrowed fiberglass GMC-style school bus shell... Tom Daniel has come up with what has got to be the most unreal design of all time."

Asked about his inspiration for the Bus, Tom Daniel said: "While many kids rode to school in a bus when I was growing up, I never did and always wanted to. Finally I got to ride in one when I was about 13 years old and man it was crazy! That stuck with me when I designed this kit. The other hot thing at the time was dual engines... I gave it that tilt-up body to show all that off. Kids could really relate to it."

I certainly did. I had a 1973 reissue of the Monogram model (and still do), but it took two and a half decades for me to find the little Hot Wheels™ car. In 1995, this Hot Wheels™ became the very first item I ever bought online. Thanks to my shiny new Internet, I was able to make a killer deal on a vintage S'Cool Bus!

But the wheels were wrong... Almost immediately I learned about the Vintage Series— a line of reproduction models Hot Wheels™ issued for its 25th Anniversary in 1992. And how the S'Cool Bus casting was actually re-made for the Vintage II Series in 1994. My "Vintage" S'Cool Bus was really just a brand new fake! And not such a killer deal after all.

Since then, Hot Wheels™ has released the Bus in sixteen different variations of wheels and colors. So I comfort myself by thinking that at least I got the first "original reproduction" version.

In 2009, members of's Red Line Club voted the S'Cool Bus to be the third sELECTIONs car of the year. (Four times a year, members vote online for different aspects of a Hot Wheels™ car, and whatever results from that, Mattel makes as many as are ordered. In this case, 4098.)

First, voters picked the S'Cool Bus out of sixteen model choices. Members then voted for their choice of wheel types, and then the color.

The final color round came to a choice between Race Team Blue, or Deep Purple. I'd been voting as my 6-year-old son's representative, and asked him which color he'd want this Bus to be. He picked purple. After the votes were tallied, purple won out over blue...

By one vote! 941 to 940! One vote can make a difference!

If he'd voted the other way, the bus would have been blue. So I tell Michael repeatedly that HE is the one who decided Hot Wheels™ should create this S'Cool Bus in purple.

The Short Bus

In the '70s, one popular way of making kooky custom cars was to shorten them. I'd always wondered what Tom Daniel's extra-long S'Cool Bus would look like if it were shortened. As an adult, I finally had the skills to mock one up for free: No plastic chopping, just Photoshopping.

Making it shorter meant I had to remove one of the engines. While I was at it, I decided to raise the roof.

(The pictures of the Short Bus model are sourced from photos of a finished S'Cool Bus belonging to Rob Riley in Bloomington, IN. You can see his model here. All the other photos are mine.)

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