“This was Detroit when Detroit was it,” says Stephen Crouch, the creative director for the buses, marveling at the durability of these behemoths, built by GMC’s Truck and Coach Division. “These weren’t supposed to be disposable Bic lighters.”
Crouch, a sculptor at the 52 O Street Studios, is transforming the buses into functional spaces, with the idea of getting them on the road by summer; the rehab work is expected to cost about $50,000, which the Fojol Bros. hope to finance via a Kickstarter campaign. Crouch figures, as of last week, that he has spent about two months working on the first bus: ripping out seats, stripping off layers of exterior paint and designing the interior for its role as part of the District’s street scene. The spacious, turquoise-colored interior will be outfitted with modular components, such as tables that snap onto the old overhead hand rails, so the buses can take on various personalities, depending on the function.
The first bus is already beginning to assume the persona of the other vehicles in the Fojol fleet: the raw, distressed-metal look that is distinctive among Washington’s food trucks. Yet Crouch doesn’t want to impose too much modernity on these old workhorses from the past; he says such an approach would peel away some important history, which is practically embedded in every rivet. “You don’t want to take the life out of these old vehicles,” he says.
The Fojol Bros. have even given the buses an old-fashioned, Merry Pranksters, Ken Kesey-esque name: The Elastic Hallways, a reference to the vehicles’ ability to adapt to just about any occasion. Crouch hopes to affix equally old-fashioned Vegas-style signs to both buses, so that each will flicker its name in lights.
Ultimately, the buses will be a subsidiary entity, separate from the Fojol street-eats team, Vitarello says. The three working Fojol trucks — Merlindia, Benethiopia and Volathai — might partner with the buses at a given event, but the buses eventually will be available for any business or group that wants to rent them. It could be a bunch of artists who want to showcase their works. It could be a new company wanting to hit the streets to promote its product or services. It could be several food trucks that want to mobilize in an underserved neighborhood. “The opportunities are limitless,” Vitarello says.