David Cassidy made the show and became a pop idol but the TV series identity was created by the Partridge family’s multi-colored bus. Seeing the old bus with it’s bright colors flashing across the screen behind the “come on, get happy,” theme song is the lasting legacy of the four season show. How could you not be happy with a bright theme song and a funny looking bus painted in all kinds of crazy colors and shapes?
If you have ever wondered about that bus, or even thought of creating your own version of the Partridge Family bus, the following is a list of the details that we unearthed.
Make and Model
The Internet Movie Database website www.imcdb.org identified the bus as a 1957 Chevrolet 6800 Superior. The Superior Coach Company started life in 1909 as the Garford Motor Truck company in Elyria, Ohio. The company changed it’s name to the Superior Body Company in 1925 and moved it’s operation to Lima, Ohio.
Superior signed an agreement with Studebaker to manufacture trucks and buses using Studebaker’s chassis as the base. Once the company had achieved their own success and established a dealer network of their own, Superior left the partnership with Studebaker and began building bodies on General Motors platforms.
The company changed its name to Superior Coach Company in 1940 and the years that followed saw hearses styled on Cadillac, LaSalle and Pontiac chassis. School bus bodies were built primarily on Chevrolet/GM, Dodge, Ford, and International Harvester truck chassis. The company continued this way until 1969 when Superior Coach Company was acquired by the Sheller-Globe Corporation.
The TV Show
In the series pilot, the family finds the bus in a used car dealership’s lot, where they purchase it and give the bus it’s iconic paint scheme. In reality, the bus was purchased by the Screen Gems TV studio directly from the Orange County School District for a tidy sum around $500.00.
There are many published accounts from the show’s producers and people who worked on the set, that there was only one bus purchased for the series. Many fans point out the differences in interior paint jobs between the first episodes and the later episodes in the series. The show’s producers stated that the interior was changed midway through the first season but stayed the same from the later season one episodes through the final episodes of the series in season four.
A persistent rumor had the distinctive looking bus making it to the end of the series in March of 1974 when it was supposedly repainted white and used in the filming of another series entitled Apple’s Way. From there it was rumored to have been sold to Lucy’s Tacos, located just a few blocks south of the USC campus in Los Angeles. According to the Partridge Family fan site, CmonGetHappy.com, the Chevrolet school bus graced Lucy’s parking lot until February of 1987, when repaving forced the relocation of the bus.
It’s All In The Details
A reader of the Internet Movie Database, user name Streamliner, makes the best description of the original bus and the one behind Lucy’s Tacos. “For the record, the Partridge Family show bus was a 1955 Chevrolet 6800 with Superior Coach body. Specifically, an eight-window with 220-inch wheelbase.” Streamliner explained that the 6700 chassis was shorter with a 194-inch wheelbase and only seven-side windows. “It was also not a 1957 Chevrolet, nor did it have a IHC chassis or Carpenter or other make coach body. The Chevrolet badging and Superior name is easily seen countless times.” he added.
“The Chevrolet hood emblem and badging as seen on the Partridge Family bus was only briefly used by Chevrolet for five-months in 1955- a mid season design change. This makes it easy to identify. The 1955 Chevrolet Series II Task Force school bus chassis was only built from March 25, 1955 until summer, 1955 when Chevrolet retooled for the 1956 model. The fender badging for 1956 is unique to 1956. In 1957, the Chevrolet bus chassis again had unique badging as well as new hood “spears” added – two raised stamped semi circle bumps on top of hood to add rigidity and reduce vibration. You will note there are no such hood spears on the Partridge Family show bus,” Streamliner said as he qualified his previous statements.
As for the bus at Lucy’s Taco Shop, Streamliner said, “The bus that was once stored behind Lucy’s Tacos into the late 1980s was definitely NOT the former Partridge Family bus. That bus was a 1957 Chevrolet with Carpenter school bus body – a lookalike Partridge Family ‘tribute bus’. It is a different year, coach body, make and length. Aside from countless other differences I could list, that bus parked behind Lucy’s for years had nine-side windows – one window longer than the Partridge Family show bus.
Streamliner also points out a different bus in the series pilot. “The bus used in the Partridge Family show pilot episode at ‘Al’s Used Cars’, which was still in school bus yellow, was also not the same bus later painted and used for the duration of the show. It was a different bus. That bus was a 1957 Chevrolet Carpenter, but was never seen in the show again. Note that bus only has 7 side windows, one shorter than the actual 1955 Chevrolet Superior Partridge Family show bus.
What Did Happen To The Bus
Streamliner says it best, “It remains a mystery what happened to the actual Partridge Family bus. It is reasonable to assume the Partridge Family show bus was scrapped sometime after 1975. If it had survived, it would have long ago been identified as THE bus, spotted somewhere, collected, restored, shown and/or placed somewhere on display. It has not.”