Bus Nojoda, Barranquilla

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Bus “Nojoda”

Operator: Costa Tours
Chassis: Ford 1950
Body: Transportes Puerto Colombia 1960

A completely coincidental encounter was with this bus which was parked along the main coastal highway from Barranquilla to Cartagena, a dozen or so kilometres west of the city. It immediately drew my attention because of its extraordinary length. So I stopped and asked whether I could take some pictures, which was no problem as long as the daughter of the driver (?) could pose in front of the vehicle! I was told the bus was used for tourist transport by Costa Tours. But I only found out how special it was when browsing through the (now defunct) site www.busesdecolombia.com where its story is told under the chapter “Historia-ciudades Colombianas, Barranquilla, Un icono de Barranquilla: el bus Nojoda”.

The full story can be found on this site, in Spanish. Here follows a summary. The story commences when Don Rafael Basso Tepedino, owner of the Flota Verde bus company, decided to build a bus able to transport 100 passengers. He also owned a 1950-Ford truck which he rebuilt for this purpose using four girders or beams from railway cars to make the chassis longer. The welding was done by the then famous local welder “El Mocho”. The engine was exchanged for a 1960 Ford model and a wooden body was built in the workshops of Transportes Puerto Colombia, which Don Basso also owned. The bus started working in 1960, but the papers were only adapted in 1966 when the 1950 truck was registered as having a 1960 engine and a passenger capacity of 99 persons. The bus was called “Don Felo”, after the first owner’s father. However, in Barranquilla it was popularly called “nojoda”, pronounced as “nojoooooooooda” to emphasise the length of the bus. “Nojoda” is local slang and is used to express surprise, emotion, so in English it would be something like “bus reeeeeally!”. Two more long buses were built, though one was somewhat shorter, but only Don Fele survived and became a city icon. The bus was two-person operated and has a centre door. In 1992 it was retired from public service but was still used to transport tourists and personnel of the free trade zone. In 2003 it was sold to Costa Tours and is used for tourists. A comparison with pictures on www.busesdecolombia.com show that the bus has recieved a new interior and a new front grille a few years ago, making it look slightly (but only slightly) more modern. The bus was decorated with the picture of Ralhpy (Ralphy Ray) a famous salsa singer from Barranquilla.

Pictures taken by John Veerkamp, September 2010.

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