Blue Bird Number One, the first steel-bodied school bus
Blue Bird Number One, the first steel-bodied school bus. Click image to enlarge

Dearborn, Michigan – The Henry Ford Museum has acquired the first steel-bodied school bus, Blue Bird No. 1, which will go on display in May 2008.

The bus was built in 1927 by Albert Luce, owner of Ford dealerships in Fort Valley and Perry, Georgia, when one of his customers requested a vehicle to transport workers to a cement plant. Luce bought a wood-bodied bus that he sold to the customer, but the wood deteriorated before the customer finished paying for the vehicle.

Luce constructed a body of steel channel, steel sheets, wood and canvas, which he mounted to a 1927 Ford Model T chassis. The bus was sold to Frank Slade of Marshallville, Georgia to be used as a school bus.

“Blue Bird embodies the ingenuity and resourcefulness of one man,” said Patricia Mooradian, president of The Henry Ford. “By taking one innovation, the Model T, and using it as the foundation for his school bus, Mr. Luce changed the paradigm of transportation for school-age children in terms of safety and reliability. Within eight years, all major school bus manufacturers were producing steel-body buses.”

By 1932, the Depression had reduced car sales so seriously that Luce sold his Ford dealerships and concentrated on manufacturing school buses full time, naming his new company Blue Bird Body Company. Blue Bird Corporation still remains one of the major school bus manufacturers in the U.S.

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