|Vehicle:||1937 Renault TN4H|
|Original List Price:||Unknown|
|Tune Up Cost:||$400|
|Chassis Number Location:||Brass plaque on frame crossmember in engine compartment|
|Engine Number Location:||Location n/a|
|Alternatives:||1937 Bristol K Series, 1937 Yellow Coach Model 733, 1938 Mercedes-Benz D38|
|Investment Grade:||D (depends what you charge for fares)|
This 1937 Renault TN4H Autobus sold for $18,745, including buyer’s premium, at the Bonhams auction alongside the Goodwood Revival in Chichester, England, on September 18, 2009.
It is not particularly unusual to find enthusiasts who collect commercial vehicles. There are those who fancy dump trucks, and others who are drawn to buses and coaches. (A “bus” is a local, commuter-type utility vehicle, while a “coach” is a fancier, usually long-distance conveyance. This Renault is the former.) Apparently, these TN-series buses, especially the TN4, are as iconic in the world of public transport in France as the famed red Routemaster double-decker buses in London. With their long service life, millions would have remembered riding these Renault buses as residents of-or visitors to-Paris and its environs.
Few buses survived after retirement
It’s difficult to find vintage buses that have survived their retirement. Coaches were often converted into campers and thereby saved, albeit with heavily modified interiors. Few public buses would have been sought after for this, as not only were they far more Spartan to begin with, but their low gearing and weak power output make them unsuitable for long-distance use. That’s another reason to marvel that the TN4’s former owner actually drove it from the U.K. to Paris. At a top speed of 25 mph, it must have been a very long trip.
Restoring an old bus must be a true labor of love, as it’s hard to imagine recouping the rebuild costs on such large vehicles. On the other hand, they were robustly built and for the most part simply trimmed; the restoration skills required are more the blacksmith and carpenter type than English wheel artisan variety. What makes one of these more desirable than another is the degree of originality it retains from its service life.
This 1937 TN4H Autobus would appear to have a lot going for it, as it retains details down to the signage and window shades. The interior, including the wood-paneled ceiling, was said to be original and in the catalog photos looked to be in very good condition. Although not stated, it must have been retired to a museum prior to the seller’s ownership, as it’s unlikely to have remained in a condition suitable for refurbishment if left to rot, as most of these were.
Of course, as an outsider to the bus scene, I also wondered-as I’m sure you do as well-what do you actually do with a bus once you have one? I suppose you could take your 50 closest friends (including standees) out for a rolling aperitif, to a showing of “Inspector Maigret” films, or to work, very slowly, in the HOV lane.
Check if you’ll need a CDL
In addition, you should check with your local DMV for licensing and insurance requirements. My home state of Connecticut cares not that the bus is over 70 years old, but only that it weighs seven tons and carries 50 people. Therefore, a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) is required to drive it if you intend to carry anyone not in your immediate family.
Buses of this vintage are noisy, and many owners report they can be exhausting to drive, but all enjoy the camaraderie of fellow enthusiasts as well as the public, who invariably have strong memories of riding in these when in service. If you are not a bus or truck driver, you obviously have to bone up on wide turning and slow, steady braking.
Driving a vintage bus demands a level of patience beyond that required for a car of a similar age. Indeed, it’s probably akin to a car a few decades older. Apart from the usual rallies and meets for bus owners, an evocative “foreign” example such as this TN4H is also sure to find work in films. All considered, it has to be a bargain at under $20k-that’s only $1.31 per pound.