(Image/Chris Pulley)

Chris Pulley is on a mission.

He has Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a form of Muscular Dystrophy. But don’t think that’s stopped him from doing stuff he loves—Pulley goes water skiing, snow skiing, scuba diving, and drives the wheels off his handicap-modified 2010 Dodge Challenger SRT. And he wants other people with disabilities to realize they can do things like that, too.

To that end, Pulley built this 1957 Ford B500 bus as a rolling billboard for Beyond D.A. Bus, a nonprofit devoted to engaging people with any disability in activities they may have never imagined themselves doing.

Two years in the making, the D.A. Bus will be on display in the TAMCO Paint booth at the 2019 SEMA Show, November 4-8 at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, NV.

The D.A. Bus is a group effort by several Texas-based shops. Nfamus Metal Fab in Cleburne, TX handled the metal fabrication and suspension work. Diesel Dynamics in Dallas, TX rebuilt the 7.3L Power Stroke diesel and 4R100 four-speed automatic transmission pirated from a 2003 Ford E450 school bus. And Forgotten Rides Garage in Houston, TX is currently working on the paint, wiring and audio, and interior trimming.

The bus has a full complement of accommodations for Pulley and his passengers:

  • Adaptive Driving Access (ADA) hand controls and a six-way transfer seat base to allow the driver to easily move from a wheelchair onto the seat.
  • A BraunAbility RA300 Transit Ramp for wheelchair access through the modified rear door.
  • A track system in the floor to safely lock wheelchair passengers in place.

Stuff like the Dakota Digital gauge cluster, TMI seats, steering column and linkage, brake upgrades, and other items came from Summit Racing.

While the D.A. Bus is designed to inspire people with disabilities to take a chance and do things they’ve always wanted to do—like building a hot rod—it’s also a most excellent piece of car (bus?) crafting in its own right. Check out these photos to see how the bus was built and whether you agree.

Here is the raw material for the D.A. Bus project. “I bought the 1957 Ford B500 short bus in running and driving condition in Eureka, MT. Apparently that is where buses go to die,” Chris Pulley said. The Ford E450 was a Craigslist find that was retired from a school district near Austin, TX. It donated its 7.3L Power Stroke diesel, 4R100 four-speed automatic transmission, and rear axle to the cause. (Image/Chris Pulley)
Nfamus Metal Fab in Cleburne, TX did the majority of the fabrication and suspension work on the D.A. Bus. Here is a mockup of the dually rear axle out of the E450 at full slam. A custom two-link/airbag rear suspension helps keep the bus as low as possible to minimize the angle of the wheelchair access ramp at the back door. (Image/Chris Pulley)
Now that’s a wheel tub. It’s big because it’s covering a pair of 24 x 10 inch Big Bore wheels on 285/40R-24 Nitto Grappler tires. (Image/Chris Pulley)
Up front is a custom suspension with tubular A-arms and airbags. The brakes are a mix of AutoExtra rotors, Power Stop calipers, and Hawk ceramic pads for a 3/4-ton Chevy truck. (Image/Chris Pulley)
Nfamus built the custom air suspension system using four Viair 485C Gen 2 compressors and two Air Lift five-gallon air tanks. The system is controlled by an Air Lift 3H air management system. The ability to lay frame is not just for looks—it’s also a big help for getting people in and out of the bus. (Image/Chris Pulley)
This is how the bus will look at full drop. Those 24 x 10 inch Big Bore wheels are powdercoated in a one-off color called Oxblood Red, created by Black Label Coatings in Chuckey, TN. (Image/Chris Pulley)
Crede Young at Diesel Dynamics in Dallas, TX rebuilt the 7.3L Power Stroke diesel. It’s been upgraded with bigger fuel injectors, a custom compressor wheel for the turbo for quicker spool-up, and a FASS lift pump and filter setup to keep the Power Stroke fed. Swamps Diesel will do a custom tune for the engine. (Image/Chris Pulley)
Here’s Crede Young, Transmission Witch Doctor, commanding whatever evil spirits are living in the 4R100 transmission to come out and return to wherever transmission spirits come from. (Image/Chris Pulley)
BraunAbility donated a RA300 Transit Ramp that will allow wheelchair access through the modified rear door. D.A. Bus’s air suspension system will unfold, lower, and raise the ramp as needed—very clever. (Image/Chris Pulley)
This is the TMI seat sitting on an Adaptive Driving Access (ADA) six-way transfer base. The base turns to let the driver move easily from a wheelchair to the seat, and can be adjusted fore and aft as well as up and down to position the driver comfortably. ADA also installed the hand controls for the throttle and brakes. (Image/Chris Pulley)
Nfamus fabricated a ramp that makes it easier for passengers in wheelchairs to roll from the BraunAbility ramp to the inside of the bus. A track system will be installed in the floor to secure the passengers in place. (Image/Chris Pulley)
The B500 bus wasn’t completely rust-free. Take the side door, for example. Nfamus had to rebuild the door bottoms, the step area, and the hinge on the left-hand door with new metal. The bus’s cowl area and rear door also needed some metalwork to bring them up to snuff. (Image/Chris Pulley)
How would you like to see this in your rearview mirror? Take note of the nifty sunvisor Nfamus made, and the humongous radiator behind the grille. (Image/Chris Pulley)
It takes a village to build a bus. That’s Pulley flanked by Keith Sawyer of Nfamus, and Crede Young of Diesel Dynamics. (Image/Chris Pulley)
Pulley did his share of work on the D.A. Bus. Here he’s laying down paint with guidance from Dave Cabera, lead painter at Forgotten Rides Garage. (Image/Chris Pulley)
Here’s the bus fresh out of the paint booth. The paint is from TAMCO: Sinister Black/ DK Red Pearl Triple Reboot on the roof, Short Stormy Grey on the body, and BLC Oxblood Red on the molding. (Image/Chris Pulley)
In the paint booth from left to right: Forgotten Rides Garage co-owner Mike Stevens; Forgotten Rides Garage co-owner Rob Nentwich; lead painter David Cabrera; and Pulley. (Image/Chris Pulley)
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Author: Alan Rebescher

Editor, author, PR man—Alan Rebescher has done it all in a 25 year career in the high performance industry. He has written and photographed many feature stories and tech articles for Summit Racing and various magazines including Hot Rod, Car Craft, and Popular Hot Rodding, and edited Summit Racing’s Street & Strip magazine in the 1990s. His garage is currently occupied by a a 1996 Mustang GT ragtop.