And I thought the Checker Aerobus was a long vehicle.
When you look back on it, one could imagine that these vehicles evolved organically, sprouting extra sets of doors almost as mutations until they got so long that they outgrew the roads they were intended for. After all, you’d think a bus might do just as well without all the specialized bodywork. There are advantages and disadvantages to giving each set of seats its own door, but it certainly complicates the coachwork. Could it be that they were made to fit through a hollow tree trunk?
Do you mean like this ’57 Chevy Nomaaaaaad?
Photo Credit: This photo was stolen from Curbside Classics, all rights reserved.
Specific Source: https://www.curbsideclassic.com/blog/the-drive-through-tree-a-car-spotters-delight/
EDIT: Oh wow, Barry… in testing the link, I just now realized that I stole that photo from YOU!!! LOL.
When you look back on it, you can’t see the other end.
The reason they only have one door on the driver’s side is tthe base suburban was a two-door back then. They added a rear door on the passenger side for ’67-7 and went to four doors with the 1973 Squarebodies.
The 12-passenger looks like it’s built on a standard 8′ (or was it 9′ at that point) longbed pickup chassis. The 18-seater has to have been a custom frame stretch since even if GM made a C-30 chassis in that wheelbase it would’ve been a straight-rail one not suited to putting a Suburban body on.
Not a GMC or Chevy truck chassis, it’s simply a regular ’57 Chevy wagon that has been cut in half, pulled apart, and a new frame section welded in place. A “Pillow block” connects the drive shaft to another section of drive shaft.
This is most likely another Armbruster-Stageway creation. Stageway was very successful in the extended chassis vehicles business. I’ve owned several over the last 50 years, including a 1964 Pontiac 6 door sedan, ’71 Ford 6 door Ranch Wagon, 68 Checker 8 door wagon, and a 1948 Ford 6 door sedan.
Armbruster-Stageway was doing very well in the extended vehicle business until Ford & Dodge introduced their extended van programs, with up to 18 passenger capability. these vans basically killed the extended passenger vehicle business.
Armburster also Stretched Travelalls. Years ago I saw an IH sheet for an ambulance package and in that case the new wheelbase did match the longest wheelbase of the pickup. I guess it could be that the Traveall frames were stretched but they did the same length so the could use a stock driveshaft, or if they did something crazy like order a pickup and a service replacement Travelall body or maybe a stripped chassis and a complete Travelall. I’m sure either way they wanted the mess of parts IH would have been happy to supply it. GM maybe not so much.
Armbruster did indeed stretch Travelalls, and like many other makes, it had an arrangement with International to place orders for vehicles to be stretched.
I visited Armbruster-Stageway in 1972 when I went down to Arkansas to pick up another vintage car, and on the way back I just stopped in, and on the employees hearing I had a Stageway airport limo [my 1948 Ford], I was given a wonderful tour of the place by Mr. Milt Earnhart, one of the owners.
I was truly amazed at what the shop was doing. Back then it was a small shop, brick front, single floor warehouse, maybe 10,000 square feet total. I saw workers cutting cars in half with saws and torches, and using rails in the floor, they moved the halves apart and then welded special frame parts in place.
When in 1987 I visited the Hooper Coachbuilders facility in a north London suburb, they were still doing it the same way, they took $250,000 Rolls-Royce Silver Spur sedans and cut them apart, using a floor mounted rail system to move the 2 pieces apart.
Mr Earnhart told me they had arrangements with manufacturers to place orders for special “Armbruster package” vehicles, these were partially completed vehicles, often filled with the extra parts they would need, including doors & seats. They often had the most recent heavy-duty parts like brakes and suspension upgrades, already installed.
What was really cool was the company had large photos of every car they ever built, and were able to show me photos of my Stageway-Ford before I left to go home to Maryland. I also learned my Ford was a one-off, the only one they made. That explained the wooden parts in the stretched area and the roof area. Sadly, I ended up sending my Stageway-Ford to a junkyard after one of the doors fell off due to a rotten door post, and at the time I was unable to find anyone to buy it.
Scoutdude, I vaguely remember seeing a Travelall having a fiberglass raised roof installed to make an ambulance. I don’t remember if it had been stretched, but I don’t think so.
Well of course since these were custom built there are certainly many variations but yes I’ve seen pictures of the the 60’s and 70’s Travelalls with ambulance specific extended roofs (with places molded for the emergency lights) in both standard and extended lengths.
I know that people who have built their own 6 door Travelalls with a long bed Travelette and a Travelall. The extra wheel base is basically the same as the length of the Travelall and Travelette rear doors.
It is not unusual for mfgs to send cars to the company with parts thrown in loose for later installation. or for things like limos and hearses sold a Cowl and Chassis that would have door pieces, quarter panels and other items strapped to the bare frame.
IH was particularly friendly on special orders and incomplete vehicles, the Glassic being my favorite.
Seeing this Cadillac cowl and chassis reminds me of a time I was traveling north on hwy 41 in NE Wisconsin. I saw a bus hood, cowl and chassis similar to this Cadillac (most likely going to get mated to a body) being driven southbound. I don’t remember the brand of truck. It did have a driver’s seat and instrument panel installed. The driver had on a black full race motorcycle helmet and a full black leather suit. I would have gotten a picture of it had I not been driving.
The 18-pass./208″ would’ve definitely required a stretch. Not even modern Class 4/5 chassis cabs with a 120″ cab to axle have a wheelbase that long.
The 5,660 pound weight of the 12 passenger version is less than the 6,016 pound weight of a current Suburban. The 18 passenger is only a little more (6,860 pounds).
“Oh good! There’s just that one Suburban at the drive though window.” Unfortunately it has 18 people in it and none of them want a pickle on their burger.
The 12′ model looks like a simple conversion of a Chevy C-30 panel. Saw a lot of those turned into ambulances back in those days.
They must have bought those windows by the truckload. Not the prettiest solution but certainly much easier and cheaper than doing roll up windows.
Armbruster kept costs down by using things like extruded aluminum sliding window frames and on the trucks they used bulk rolls of rubber mat style carpeting on the floor, and I’ve seen Suburban vehicles with 4 doors on the right side, and only the driver’s door on the left side. That saved a lot of money on a vehicle that typically picked up a group of people in one location, and dropped them all off at another location.
Today Armbruster has gone thru a major focus in quality, as they now are mostly building vehicles for the funeral home trade, or special government vehicles, especially new Chevy Suburbans.
I spent some time below critiquing “Armbuster” stretch craftsmanship.
Okay, they were production vehicles, form follows function, just getRdone – fair enough.
But… the (DOT be damned-) soldered connection hydraulic brake tube extensions did raise a second eyebrow. LoL
During WW2, the short-route Greyhounds were all “airport limousines”, 1941 or ’42 Chevys on a stretched chassis and three or four doors per side. I made several trips from Marshall IL to Terre Haute IN with my mom or grandma in those. I found them very intriguing, but not terribly interesting. On weekends during the Christmas-shopping season, since TH was our big shopping town, we would get a Flxible coach on the route, to accommodate both the larger number of passengers, but mostly to provide room for their purchases.
“Intriguing but not interesting.” I can’t quite get my mind around such a state of consciousness. You may have just discovered linguistic terra incognita. Unless the Germans got there first. If anyone has a word for “intriguing but not interesting” it’s them.
I would be curious to see stopping distance with 18 people on board.
Yep…with bias-ply tires and drum brakes all around, no less…probably about a city block or two ~
These days, vehicles of this sort are usually limited to 15 passengers plus a driver. Once a driver/vehicle exceeds 15 passengers, the driver is required to carry a CDL with a passenger endorsement.
Which is not to say passenger buses don’t exist that exceed 15 passengers, because of course they do. But it’s sort of the same reason you see box trucks rated at 25,995 GVW – because above that, you need a CDL.
The 1973-91 generation of Chevy Suburbans were popular for this sort of conversion as well.
A local retirement home in the White Oak section of Silver Spring, MD., had a gold 1976 Chrysler New Yorker 8 door Town & Country station wagon, it was loaded with all options including dual A/C and power windows. It even had two roof racks! However with all those windows it meant Stageway had to put an additional panel on the driver’s door to handle all the power window switches.
This was an upscale retirement home in a wealthy area, and they took beautiful care of the Chrysler. It was typically used to take groups down to the local county park not far away. It was pampered and kept clean inside & out. I tried for years to talk them into selling the car to me, but no luck. Then one day about 1990, as I drove by, it was gone. A big white Dodge B-300 series van was there in the parking space where the wagon normally sat. I went inside the office and found out the wagon had been in a wreck and totaled.
Also; I can’t believe I beat Paul N to pointing out he did an Armbruster Stageway story only about a year ago, on the Hershey School “Cattle wagons”. The link is here:
“I can’t see officer, all I know is hurry, eight cars just pulled up!”
There was a regional bus-stageline that operated eight door Chevrolet sedans and wagons, specifically recall 1956, 1959, 1962 in the late 1950’s/early 1960’s years. The service ran from the southern tier of western New York to the Rochester area. Back in that era, many people still did not drive or keep a car, every college student didn’t have a car either as they seem to now.
Later, one would encounter these eight door Chevys in junkyards with unknown high mileage and well-worn condition. Frequently, they became parts storage after the seats were removed, full of starters, generators, radiators, etc.
The oldest one that used to appear at local shows was a 1928 Buick Master stageline coach that had run the Route 6 in northern Pennsylvania.
Also popular for a while in Australia in the 40s-50s…
That’s the biggest 1955 Dodge truck I’ve ever seen! Even if it had the Red Ram hemi V8, it was probably quite slow.
Either there are additional hidden steps up to the floor, or those are high-back seats.
Dodge made substantially bigger trucks than that. They made a full line, like Chevrolet and Ford. here’s a ’55 semi tractor with sleeper cab.
Paul, yes, I know, I shoulda said it’s the biggest “Passenger” truck I’ve ever seen!
And while I have your attention, was it here on CC that you recently published a photo of a very early VW with 2 nuns standing outside? If so let me know where I can find the photo please, as I’ve been unable to find it.
It’s right on the front page of the site. But here’s the link:
Here’s an ad for their big trucks:
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