Weight savings in vehicles enhances fuel efficiency and decreases maintenance costs, especially in mass transit systems. Lightweight composite materials, such as glass fiber reinforced polymers, have been used to replace traditional steel and aluminum components. In this paper, a mass transit bus side body panel was designed, analyzed, and manufactured using thermoplastic composite materials. The design featured a sandwich composite with E-glass fiber/polypropylene (glass/PP) face sheets and PP honeycomb core as constituents that provide low weight, high strength and energy absorption benefits. The panel was designed and analyzed using Pro/Engineer 2001 (Pro/E), Altair® Hypermesh® 6.0 (Hypermesh) and ANSYS 7.0 (ANSYS). A single diaphragm forming process was used to manufacture the glass/PP face sheets. This process provides excellent consolidation, which was confirmed by microstructural analysis of the face sheets. The face sheets and core material were adhesively bonded and tested to validate the model. The failure of the body panel occurred by adhesive failure when the load reached 11.7 kN. The static loading requirements of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) for the body panel were met. The thermoplastic composite body panel exhibited excellent weight saving of more than 55% compared to a conventional bus with aluminum skin and supporting steel bars. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.