The WHO DEY HEROES Bengal Tailgate bus debuted during the 2009 season! It was a summer-long project for Big John & friends! Over the past couple of seasons, several members of the Bengal Bomb Squad have contributed to completing, enhancing, improving, and cleaning up the design of the centerpiece for the Bengal Bomb Squad tailgates!
After years of tailgating out of a Civic or a CR-V, we finally upgraded to something we wouldn’t have to pack & unpack just to get to the games!
Since its debut, it's been filmed by the crew of HBO's Hard Knocks & Stacy Doose of Cincinnati.com and appeared in Cincinnati's Metromix as well as the Hamilton-Middletown Journal!
Loaded, inside and out, with Who Dey Heroes...The bus has become the marker of the tailgate! You can’t miss us with it parked in our familiar spot, and Who Dey standing tall above for all to see!
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(as told by Big John)
We bought the bus in mid-April of '09 and brought it home. It was solid orange with blue seats inside. There were a couple magnets, some old static-cling decals, and one tiger head hanging inside when we brought it home.
First things first. We pulled all the chairs out and spent a few days cleaning things up. We touched up the orange paint on the outside (just few minor blemishes), removed all the decals and magnets, and painted everything on the inside a nice clean white (except for the areas that were already painted black). Then, I moved most of the chairs back inside (we completely removed the back couple rows of chairs) and installed a marble table for food & games while traveling. The table had Bengals & Reds logos and had been found at a charity auction for the Butler County Animal Friends Human Society.
The first round of decorations inside was next. While at King’s Island on opening day, we found a great tiger eyes poster that we thought would look great on the bus. After picking it up, I cut it down to size and adhered it to a giant magnet. Adding these wicked tiger eyes over the back-door was just the begging of the bus’s interior reformation.
The same day, I added a bit of fun to the bus. I'd found a great, giant, orange & black frisbee flyer at a local Big Lots. We had so much fun with it just tossing it around the store, I couldn’t resist picking it up for the tailgate. Stopped in at a local vinyl decal shop and had them create a Bengal Tiger head just for it. Once the decal was on, I just simply velcroed the disc to the roof of the bus.
Next came doing something about those blue seats. I’d had a few different ideas on how to cover them, but most proved too expensive/difficult (converting old Bengals jerseys into seat covers) or too tacky for our tastes. After seeing an Ed Hardy tiger seat cover, some ideas started flooding in and we started looking for some good “original” tiger seat covers. We located a really neat “chrome tiger” style that we decided to test.
I installed the covers as soon as they arrived. Also, with the seat covers in place and me loving the look, I immediately installed the matching steering wheel cover, floor mat, and CD-Visor-holder! The final effect came out better than I could ever have hoped! The blue chairs were gone and the Bengal tigers were growlin’!
Decorations are nice and all, but the bottom line I had in mind when I bought this bus was reclaiming my garage from all of the tailgate gear and being able to get everything to and from the games with minimal effort. So, storage had to be found. When I'd started shopping for the bus, I knew of the existing rule for the passholder lots (like Lot 1) was that no vehicle over 20-feet was permitted. With our trailer on the end, we were just short of that.
While I was at it, I used the same screws and created velcro straps on the top of the ceiling at the rear of the bus. The year prior, I had gotten a Bengals Football Toss (ladder golf) for Christmas, and it was a really great looking set. But, getting it to the tailgate in a Civic might have been an issue. However, with the straps in the rear, the two goalposts for the game sit decoratively on the roof until time for tailgate games. Once again, no passenger space lost … and this time we actually added some more Bengals/football love to the inside of the bus!
Now that I had that done, additional storage was still needed. Sitting with a couple of friends, I was able to work out how to turn the underseat areas into safe/secure storage places. Using some thin pieces of plywood (for sides and flooring), Bengals material, and cargo netting, the underseat compartments were big enough to hold bar essentials, tableware, decorations, and much more! Plus, with the soft-sided material & netting walls, absolutely no legroom was really lost!
In addition, we used the framework of the passenger seat to build a “cooler tower” on. The white cube coolers stacked and stored perfectly in the open space and a couple bungee cords kept them from going anywhere. The frontside of the tower was the perfect place to secure the entry door handrail (originally secured to a part of the bus we had removed) so guests would have an easy time climbing in and out.
The rear of the bus was for storage. 100%. Bottom line was, though, we only had seating for 8 people right now and we knew more would be more climbing aboard. A couple of us designed storage cabinets with having them double as benches specifically in mind. Keep in mind, these cabinets had to hold a grill, a PA system, dishes, cornhole set, ladder, heater, propane tanks, and tons more! I actually had dinner with some friends one night to plan these out and try and build around the dimensions of everything that had to fit.
The big rub came a couple days later though … when two of us discovered we could NOT remove the rear heater from the bus and would have to build & stack around it. That would cost us lots of space, and several inches of security when mounting the cabinets. However, never despair! We were able to work around it. I started the project owning a hammer, a couple screwdrivers, and some pliers … and now, through the course of it all, have a complete set of power tools! But, on the plus side, the cabinets turned out perfect and even had more storage space then we’d thought possible!
I used cargo netting for the front of one, and cabinet doors on the other. I found some great Bengals “cabinet pulls” on closeout at the Pro Shop, so I bought all I could and installed them on the doors and on the cabinet lids. The lids would lift up to reveal “chest”-style storing for our cornhole boards, flagpoles, and ladder. By this time, it was nearing July of 2009!
The original thought was to use vinyl decals as decorations on the underseat storage area walls and the new cabinets. However, mother nature gave us better inspiration! A planned Reds game for the 4th of July was nixed with a forecast of rain that didn’t make that look to promising. So, a run to Meijer & Home Depot was made and the holiday weekend was spent painting designs on the bus’s storage areas! They included some fun lettering and accents to the rear cabinets (”Rumble In the Jungle” and “Who Dey!”) and some more tribal tiger art for the cabinet doors and a few white & orange stripes for the underseat storage.
But why stop there? The black plywood we’d installed for much of the storage was just too tempting of a blank slate! So we added two more unique tiger pieces of art to the front, on either wall of the cooler tower! I’ll be honest, many people miss the one on the front of the cooler tower, but the moment you catch its eye through the windshield … it is easily the most intimidating & wicked looking tiger on the bus!
Now it came time to properly design the outside of the bus. In all honesty, this was probably the earliest part “designed” but it wasn’t created until we neared the end. About the only work done on the exterior, in the early days of the work, was to remove all the old magnets and then sand & repaint all the minor rust areas. There were just a few and it took less than an hour to take care of all of them.
The actual exterior design went through several early versions. The bottom line was, I was never going to be content with just striping the bus or using traditional “Cincinnati Bengals” logos & art … it just didn’t feel right to create just another Bengal bus. Ever since I knew I was getting the bus, the plan was to feature our Bengal friend “characters” as well as some timeless Bengals faces/characters. It was decided that six “featured” characters would work … and we chose Paul Brown, Anthony Munoz, Bootsy Collins as well as our own Joe B., The Bengal Thing, & WhoDeyBaby. Just how they'd be incorporated was a whole other issue.
With several visions in mind, I spent an entire rainy Saturday afternoon on my laptop just clicking through Photoshop and exploring different ideas. The side panels of the bus immediately limited many of my initial ideas. There was a “splatter paint” version that looked fun and creative, but didn’t connect with us. There was also “tigers” version of it that was built around some more impressionistic art styles, but again it just didn’t feel right for us … and, in that version, the side panel “characters” really stuck out like sore thumbs. Going back to a thought on building the design around the characters themselves, I framed them. Immediately, it hit me … the bus would have a comic book art theme!
The characters were locked into comic book panels with fun word balloons. Bengals football phrases were all over (like a Batman TV series “fight scene”). I used a rectangle narrative “balloon” to throw a party slogan across the roof. It all just came together instantly. At least, it came together for the sides. I started experimenting with tiger art, manipulating it to fit with the pencil & ink style of comics, and they evolved into the door and window tigers. The front came right along then … by just converting a roaring tiger photograph into a 3-color piece of vivid art to match the rest of the bus. We dressed up the bottom edges with the traditional Bengal stripes. Finally, a few Google-searches revealed a rarely-known superhero & comic book called “Tiger Man!” From what I could find, he made it about 3 issues by an off-brand publisher before cancellation. As luck would have it, one of those issues had fantastic cover art. I modified Tiger Man to make him more “Bengals” in look, style, and color … and then designed a decal that covered across the back of the bus. It was the perfect capper!
I took the HiRes art to Patron Graphics (www.PatronGraphics.com) of Kentucky, and their staff printed all the graphics on laminated vinyl and installed them onto the bus. While they had the bus, I worked at home and designed the cushions for the storage cabinets/benches in the back of the bus. Keeping with the comic book theme, I took our tailgate photos and turned all of us into super heroes … inserting our pics onto classic comic book covers (with a little bit of the orange & black for good measure). Using iron on t-shirt transfers to put the covers onto the top of the homemade cushions, I velcroed the cushions in place onto the cabinets/benches.
PLEASE NOTE: All photos that appear on this page were taken by Nick Daggy of Cox Ohio Publishing. Used with permission.