One of the less obvious challenges of WW2 was the transport of war workers. New plants were popping up everywhere, and workers were moving all over the country as a consequence. But many didn’t have cars, contrary to popular assumptions, especially single women. And gas was rationed, as well as rubber.
So all kinds of solutions were improvised, including the Chevy 15 passenger coach, by Fitzjohn. It took some creative and dense seating to make that happen.
Here’s a crop of the ad, to better see just how that was done. Cozy! Hopefully nobody had gas,
Wouldn’t a basic bus be easier?
I’ll bet that the assembly lines on which buses (trucks) would be made were requisitioned for war production; so it was easier to produce a car. Just a guess.
Also, this could have used stampings that had been made prior to wartime requisition, and so it didn’t interfere with war production. Someone who knows more about early 40s Chevys could say about that.
Man, I get car sick just looking at the picture of those workers riding in that.
From what I’ve read it was the other way around – car production was shut down early in 1942, but truck production (including Chevrolet Suburbans) continued as the government and military needed them.
From September 39 all we got was military vehicles real trucks and pickups, shipping space was very restricted and only essentials got space
I’m guessing you’re right though – FitzJohn probably bought the cars before car production was cut off, originally to turn into a limo or other special purpose car and came up with this Aerobus-like thing after the US entered WW2.
Truck production carried on we got thousands of lend lease Chevies, Fords and Fargos during war time new car supply was shut off here in 39 due to shipping space restrictions, restricted car production carried on but only for military supply.
I’ll bet that the guy who had beans for supper the night before isn’t very popular on the commute.
I hate the fact that this phrase has been co-opted for political purposes, but stuff like this is what made America great, and why the people who did stuff like this are called the Greatest Generation.
A problem is identified, and immediately a (or several) cheap, expedient, and viable solution is found and implemented. Once resolved, it’s time to move on to solving the next problem. Rinse and repeat.
Do any of these survive?
I was reminded of a General Motors print ad that I saw during the 1973 gas crisis. Their argument was that a full-size car carrying 6 people got more mpg per person than a subcompact carrying 2 people. If you assume that you will in fact be 6-up all or most of the time, then that argument holds water. Sales of big cars went off a cliff at this time, and presumably the copywriter used any argument they thought might work.
They all smoke cigarettes, pipes or cigars to cover up any gas or BO. I find the ad and the justification for it bizarre, but it was an option for some places, I guess.
Back then, people were also thinner compared to today. Imagine stuffing 15 people of today’s stature in that car.
Smoking curbed appetites.
That might only apply to those 50% of Americans that smoked back then. People ate a lot less and/or had more physical activity.
All around the world things like this existed, while living in Senegal I saw a 70’s Jeep Wagoneer and squarebody Suburban modified to seat as many people as possible, the Suburban even had a raised roof behind the front doors.
In Turkey there were extended 30’s – 60’s cars a bit similar to this Chevy in use as something in between a taxi and a bus until the early 2000s. They were called dolmus and many pictures can still be found, might be a good future CC article?
Here ya go:
Large vehicles like SUVs are more efficient when they are fully loaded and used to the max of their capabilities. Just like a train or passenger bus. Though they usually aren’t used in fully loaded mode. A bus travelling it’s route empty isn’t very efficient either. I read about one city that used an on demand system where they mixed in large passenger vans during periods of low demand. If you could have riders reserve their public transit use beforehand, via a phone app, this could be a viable system.
Some useful info (July 1942):
This (Pinterest photo) shows Fitzjohn as having been doing these back in 1936: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/1936-chevrolet-fitzjohn-sedan-bus-conversion–454019206165660182/
Here’s a museum-survivor of a ’36: https://www.flickr.com/photos/47904859@N08/40719730190
Below is a better copy of that mid-1942 press photo at the Capitol (you’re welcome to snag any of these, Paul): https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/image/sedanbus.htm
There were various things like this made as “tour buses” or “airport buses”. As I understand it, a non-uncommon application was to take folks from the train station to hotel(s) or resort(s). This is a 1941 Packard listed for sale in 2015, that according to the poster Joe Thomas commenting on the listing in 2022, was known as “Miss Sequoia”. She was purchased new in 1941, believed to be the last Packard acquired by the tour service. She remained a part of Smoky Mountain National Park Tours Company fleet until late in 1955, probably built on a commercial version of the 120 chassis.
A War Worker Coach appeared in the 1947 film “13 Rue Madeleine”
How neat .
I remember being the middle kid squashed by far too many others kids going to school in dilapidated Caddy Limos….
I’ve owned several 6 and 8 door airport transport limousines over the years, and I think this special Fitzjohn limo is a standard 8 door vehicle that, prior to the war, would have had 4 rows of seats for a total of 12 passengers, with room in the back for luggage. When it came to the basic body, nothing had changed.
What Fitzjohn has done was change the seating to vis-a-vis type seating, forcing passengers to share leg room, thereby making it possible to add that 5th row of seats. Had this been designed specifically as a 15 passenger wartime vehicle instead of a converted 12 passenger vehicle, the next to the rear door [3rd from front] would not have been needed as it is basically impossible for anyone to enter or exit thru that door.
Making the vehicle from scratch as a 15 seater would allow it to be built more efficiently and cheaply by not having that 3rd door open. That’s one of the reasons why many of the “8 door” cars have non-opening center doors on the driver’s side, and in doing so it made the bodies stiffer.
As for the likelihood of a Fitzjohn 15 passenger wartime vehicle surviving, I doubt a single example was still around even a year after the war, because few civilians would want to ride in it due to a lack of comfort, so surviving vehicles would have been quickly converted to the pre-war 12 passenger seating arrangement.
And speaking of seating comfort, take a close look at the padded seat backs on those center seat rows [what padding?].