Lodgeside Classic: Checker Aerobus – Twelve Passengers, Eight Doors, Four On The Floor

(first posted 8/25/2012)     It’s time to finally get around to the Checker Aerobus we found on our vacation to Glacier National Park last year, parked in front of the splendid Glacier Park Lodge. It’s still in use, to shuttle folks from the East Glacier train station nearby, which is a popular way to get there. It’s how Glacier was developed in the first place, by the Great Northern Railroad. Maybe it should be called the Trainobus.

The Aerobus was built from 1962 through 1975, although Checker had built similar long-wheelbase wagons back in the forties and fifties. There were two versions, this eight-door, twelve-passenger version being by far the most common.

The nine passenger was only built through 1969, and finding pictures of one is almost impossible. As the ad points out, the Aerobus was not a “stretch” Checker Marathon, but almost a wholly different vehicle.

The Aerubus sat high on a specially designed frame and heavy duty suspension, with all the components engineered and sized for the tough tasks it was designed for: for businesses, institutions, resorts, service firms, schools…even big families!  I wish; each of us kids could have had their own full seat on our family vacations.

Aerobuses also had different power trains from the Marathon. Unlike them, they never had the Continental six, or the later Chevy six or 283 V8. Up until 1965, Aerobuses came with Chrysler’s polysphere 318 V8 and Torqueflite, a combination already well proven in motor homes. After 1965, Chevy 327 and 350 V8s were on tap, presumably with the TurboHydramatic. But this being Glacier, with its famously steep Going to the Sun Road, these babies have a four speed manual with floor shift. That’s why the famous Glacier tour buses are called jammers, for all the downshifting they had to do to keep their brakes from cooking.

And I have to assume it’s a heavy-duty truck transmission with a granny low gear, based on the sign. Only use for pulling stumps or climbing the side of cliffs.

Yes, that’s where I would have liked to be on family trips, as far away from the grumpy driver as possible. “What? I can’t hear you back here!” Although an automatic would have been more appropriate for him. The relatives visiting from Austria would have been suitably impressed.

So I’ve finally gotten around to the Aerobus.What else have I meant to do and not gotten around to this past year? Oh, right; build a house. Minor detail. Hey, we finally excavated for it this week.

Oh, and I never did do the write-up on the 1937 White Glacier sightseeing buses. And about a hundred or more other cars. And now that September is here, my favorite vacation month, I’m just brimming with desire to hit the road again; where to this time?