Bus Stop Classics: 1951 Aerocoach Mastercraft P-372 – The Champ (GM) Scores Another Knockout

Several weeks ago we looked at the Fitzjohn Roadrunner, an intercity coach built from 1954 to 1958 that failed in the marketplace due to the overwhelming might of General Motors and the transportation industry’s preference for GM’s products. The bus above unfortunately faced that same fate. It’s a Model P-372 built from 1950 to 1952 by the General American Aerocoach Corporation of Chicago Illinois.

Aerocoach is another bus manufacturer with an interesting history. It began as Gar Wood Industries which developed and marketed one of the most technically sophisticated buses of the 1930’s – the Model C and D, designed by noted aircraft engineer William Stout, yes, the same Bill Stout of “Stout Scarab” fame…

Stout approached designing buses similar to how he designed aircraft and cars.  He used a steel-framed monocoque body fitted with aluminum outer panels, powered by a Ford flathead V8 engine in the back, driving the rear wheels.  The monocoque body and chassis resulted in a very light bus with superior gas mileage and lower operating costs.

The D models featured streamlining, similar to the Scarab and came in 24, 33 and 37 seat versions.  In 1939 the bus portion of Gar Wood Industries was sold to General American Corporation – forming GA Aerocoach.  GAA continued building the Gar Wood models through 1942 when it switched to defense work for the duration of the war.

Post-war, the company introduced more mainstream urban transit and intercity models.

Their intercity coach was the P-371, 96 in wide 35 ft long, with seating for 37 passengers. Engine was typically an IHC Red Diamond 6 cylinder that could run on gas or propane.  The “heart-shaped” front windows made them easy to identify.

The P-372 and 373 followed in 1950 with a restyled front and the option of a Cummins JT6 diesel.

As with the Roadrunner, the ad copy rarely squared with reality – by 1952 only a handful were sold and the company closed its doors that year. The Chicago factory was sold to a railroad tank car company who continued to build its products there until 2008.

A beautifully restored model resides at the Antique Auto Museum in Hershey PA.