Bernal Dads Build Muni Race Car to Speed Up Public Transit


There’s been a lot of controversy lately about new schemes to improve the quality of our local public transit service. Some say we need to make Muni faster, so buses become more attractive to would-be riders. Others say we need to respect automobile drivers, for whom the car is still an essential way to get around. Both approaches have pros and cons, but when those petroleum-huffing papas from the Bernal Dads Racing Team looked at the problem, they saw an opportunity to deliver a big win-win for both transit riders and motorists.

The Dads started by taking a family-friendly car, and turning it into a bus. Then, to hasten the commute, they added horsepower — lots and lots of horsepower. The result is what you see here: A 1992 Volvo 240 station wagon that’s been repowered with a higher-output BMW M52 engine and converted into a Muni bus.

Say hello to Bus 670, Muni’s first public transit race car.



Designed to upgrade the quality of service on Muni’s existing 67 Bernal Heights Line, Bus 670 was built to provide super-express service between Bernal Heights and downtown San Francisco. Before entering regular service, however, the Bernal Dads took the vehicle to Thunderhill Raceway last weekend to conduct high-speed endurance testing under live race conditions in a 24 Hours of LeMons competition.

At first, the judges at 24 Hours of LeMons judges expressed some concern about the authenticity of Bus 670 because, they said, it did not sufficiently reek of piss, vomit, or feces. Nevertheless they determined that all of the vehicle’ safety equipment was in order, including the rear-facing “Stop Requested” sign that engages in tandem with the rear brake lights.

When the green flag came out, Bus 670 quickly validated its basic design concept. With the BMW motor installed where an anemic Volvo engine used to sit, Bus 670  became a formidable competitor in heavy traffic — with no “red carpets” required:


However, in classic Muni style, Bus 670 did experience some teething pains. After about  two hours on the track, the clutch failed. Bus 670 was returned to the yard, and a team of ace mechanics quickly set to work on repairs.



Eight hours (and a complete engine removal and reinstallation) later, Bus 670 was ready to return to duty:

With the new clutch in place, 670 performed flawlessly during seven continuous hours of express service on Sunday:


Of course, like the signs say, your picture and voice may be recorded on any contemporary Muni vehicle, and Bus 670 is no exception. Here’s a 360 Video of your Bernalwood editor taking a lap around the track:

… and this video gives a sense of how nimble Bus 670 can be in brutal traffic:

All told, this trial run of Bus 670 was a huge success.

The Bernal Dads Racing Team estimates Bus 670 has the potential to transport commuters from Pinhole Coffee on Cortland Avenue to the Ferry Building downtown in five minutes or less with limited-access traffic controls. To verify this, the Bernal Dads look forward to strapping SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin into the rear passenger compartment for a high-speed proving run.  Just remember our motto, Mr. Reiskin: “Information gladly given, but safety requires avoiding unnecessary conversation.”

Welcome aboard!

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

17 thoughts on “Bernal Dads Build Muni Race Car to Speed Up Public Transit

  1. “…did not sufficiently reek of piss, vomit, or feces.”
    C’mon, Todd, you just don’t like public transportation, do you? I haven’t been on a bus recently that reeked of any of those things.
    Now my car, on the other hand, has not improved since the spilled milk was followed by heavy duty cleaning products and tamped down by years of stinky pug dog. Phew!!

    • I do take public transit, and I have praised it very recently.

      No, seriously… that’s really what the judges said to us when they were inspecting the car. One of the judges used to work for a bus manufacturer, and he had a far-too-intimate understanding of the materials testing requirements for bus interior fixtures. I’ll spare you the details, except to say that the regimen apparently includes “immersion testing”

  2. That exact sentence caught my eye, and left a nasty feeling throughout the rest of a delightful read.

    • I completely loved that exact sentence and it kept a smile on my face till the last period – Thank you Todd

  3. But perhaps more importantly, who is Phil and why does he pay more than the others to board this bus?

    • Phil is the Chief Justice of the 24 Hours of LeMons Supreme Court. He knows what he did.

  4. Pingback: Bernal dads race Muni-themed car for 16 hours

  5. Brilliant strategy: Pass on the straightaway while all the other racers have a mandatory right turn.

  6. Love this article! My Dad was the real “BernalDad” RIP, the cable car painter that has been forgotten by MUNI but lives on in my heart. I would love to witness the E. Reiskin strapping. Thank you guys, this is awesome! I saw some designs by my Dad on the machine and it made me smile. Hope to have a chance to watch this bus in action.

  7. Maybe you can drive your car in the red bus lanes on Mission now? Let us know if it works so we can all put MUNI prints on our cars!

  8. Super Awesome! Maybe some day I will have enough spare time to bend on knee and ask to join your cool fast crashy cult.

    • No top-speed testing so far, but it pulled around 105 mph on the front straight at Thunderhill.

Comments are closed.