Lucky Seven: 1964 GMC Suburban Tour Bus

040916 Barn Finds - 1964 GMC Suburban - 3

You know when they say, when a door closes, a window opens? Well, in this case, when seven doors close, seven windows open! This is a former Yosemite National Park tour bus in the form of a 1964 GMC Suburban made by Armbruster-Stageway, makers of all sorts of multi-door vehicles. Unfortunately, they only show hearses on their home page, but they’re still very much in business. This GMC looks pretty nice from this first photo, but it’ll need work to bring it back to its former glory again.

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This unusual, and unusually long, vehicle is in Marysville, California, about forty minutes north of Sacramento if traffic is flowing smoothly. There have been a few airport limo-like vehicles shown on Barn Finds in the last few years but I don’t know if I remember any of the GMC Suburban ilk. I love the look of this one in dark green with black rims. I would restore it to exactly that look again, but that’s just me; I’m a sucker for plain, black rims on a vehicle.

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I’m not much for riding, I prefer to drive. But, if a person were going to take a tour of an area as gorgeous as Yosemite National Park is, it would be nice to have the roof open like this one has. The seller says that this “was” a ragtop, it’ll take some work, and some cash, to have one of those made again. Of course, it will never be as cool as, say, a 1937 Cadillac tour bus is, but it would still be fun to own this if a person could think of what to use it for. The seller mentions that two of the doors are welded shut. I’m guessing those are the two passenger doors on the driver’s side; possible road hazard with gob-smacked tourists jumping out into traffic to get a photo of something.

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I can almost hear the classic tour bus gear-grinding-sound now. I would have expected to see an automatic in this, just to keep the passengers’ necks from snapping back and forth on shifts, but a manual is usually more fun to drive if a person can operate a clutch pedal. This is the only interior photo, unfortunately, but they mention that there is, or was, “Lots of RUST ON FLOORPANS (flat pieces) Update replaced 6 feet of flat floor, Still has rust along bottom of rocker panels” So who knows what you’ll run into here. In other news, the dash looks perfect! Although, the seller says that it “needs Brakes and tires and shift linkage is messed up so is now not drivable.” You can figure those things out when you put it up on your 30′ long lift…

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No AC to “need charged” here. With that whole roof area being open, and probably the side windows open, too, there’d be a nice breeze even in July and August when the average high temp at Yosemite is 89 F. Bring a hat and some sunscreen, and your iPad to hold up to your face to take photos with! This unique vehicle supposedly has a 305 V6 and I’d want to pop that out and rebuild it, or put something a little beefier in there to haul all of that weight around. This vehicle has to weigh all of 3.5-4 tons when it’s loaded with tourists. It’s listed on Craigslist for $9.500, firm! And don’t even think of being funny with the seller, they say that “ONLY SERIOUS NEED To REPLY.” I wouldn’t really have a use for this vehicle but it’s pretty unique. How about you, could you think of a use for this, and how would you restore it?

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Comments

  1. Fred

    I like the “30 foot long lift..” line. Never stopped to think about that until now! Exactly how do you service the underside??

    • seth

      my mechanic’s shop used to be a bus shop. It has a pit you could drive or push this over. Also they do make lifts for servicing buses.

  2. Alan (Michigan)

    This tank screams for a big block. V6? Nuts. Not if anything over 30 mph is expected, and there is less than half a minute available to get going that fast.

    I could even be persuaded to think that a modern diesel would work well. Strip the running gear and fuel system from a 2500 or 3500 series pickup, and do the swap. The three-speed would have to go, if nothing else… Period drivers must have gotten a real workout.

    Someone who is intent on a quality restoration of this ride would likely want to re-open the welded-up left side doors. Those may have been made inoperable to aid with chassis stiffness. At risk with a vehicle this long is chassis flexing. Rusted frames can’t support the body against massive torsional forces.

    Great photo of the ’57, as included by the seller. How great were those times?

    • Poppy

      If I recall the original Suburbans were 3 doors with only one door on the drivers side. I’m guessing these “welded doors” were never doors at all. That said, I agree that it would be nice to have access from both sides if door posts are present.

    • David W. Mitchell

      I looked this one over, on site. My late wife and I thought a full restore/upgrade with AC, wraparound couch seating, wet bar and A/C would make an excellent Tahoe/Reno wine limousine tour for the retired couples in the area.

  3. Woodie Man

    Great write up…it would be the project that would never end! But too cool for school!

  4. Sofakingfast

    Found a web site: http://6066gmcguy.com/Stageway.html
    Could be the same photos or same vehicle?
    Photos may not be too recent. Maybe.

  5. boxdin

    The 305 V6 is a very well respected engine and used in lots of applications including stationary pumps etc. Not enough power for this rig but a great engine.

  6. geomechs geomechs Member

    Funny that when I think of tour buses for places like Yosemite, Glacier or Yellowstone, I can’t help but envision something from out of the 30’s, made by White. They were red in Glacier Park, yellow in Yellowstone and green in Yosemite. I still remember the old red beasts in Glacier on the ‘Going to the Sun Road’ (sometimes referred to as Logan Pass), with their flathead sixes and crash-boxes. That was in the days before someone decided to ‘upgrade them to a modern (read: totally boring) chassis.

    This one must have been used for the overflow as I never saw anything but the aforementioned White 706 buses. I’m really surprised to see this one sporting a 3 speed instead of a 4 speed or even a Hydramatic, which was available in the heavier versions of GMC’s light duty trucks. The 305 V-6 will surprise you as to what it’s capable of doing as long as you’re not looking for a speed demon. However, if I was to take on a project like this, the motor would be replaced with a big block and the transmission would be a THM 400. I really don’t know what I’d do with this thing. For all practical purposes, I’d be inclined to shorten this up to a real burb size and use it as such. It would be a real blast to have that open roof.

    • Mark S Member

      I’m inclined to agree, cut that junk out of the middle and turn it back into a burb. Maybe you can make a shed or green house out of the cut out part. I’d also go with a 366 industrial or diesel with an Alison 5 speed automatic. I like the colour though, sort of suits it.nice find

    • CHRIS WEICHLER

      I would also raise it and give it 4WD…Just for kicks!!!

  7. Charles

    I wonder what gear ratio is in the diff?

  8. Todd Zuercher

    Good lord – 3 speed on the column in a rig like this??

  9. BTG88

    I’d like to see ICON in LA get a hold of this.

  10. Woodie Man

    Guys…why cut it up? Just go buy one that came OEM…they’re out there. If you had the time and skills this would be a great project. Plus it would scare the hell out of all the burbians in their overpriced Lexus/Audi/Escapimps etc……as you pulled into the parking lot. Dont paint it leave it…makes it ding resistant!

    • geomechs geomechs Member

      Good point, WM. Fix it up and use it. Buy a real Burb and fix IT up. Can you imagine qualifying for a handicap sticker and parking it in the proper stall? Anywhere else on the parking lot would be worthy of some nasty words…

  11. Fred

    As a gearhead kid I noticed that the GMC school buses of the time (mid ’60s) were V6 powered. This rig is a cakewalk for the V6 compared to a 50 passenger full sized bus.

  12. john C

    A good Painter/carpenter like myself would enjoy using this ‘Das Boot’ “as is” in every way !!! Easier to get at ladders on the roof, all my tools in Door # …etc !! Might have to modify the roof to keep out the occasional raindrops though… Keep on Truckin’

  13. motoring mo

    holding out for one of these instead…

  14. pogo mojo

    Wow, single line brake system! That would make for an interesting ride should they fail.

  15. Tommy

    They used the same V6 in school busses, plenty of grunt to move that beast.

  16. Mike

    My Folks took us to Yosemite back in the late 70’s and we took the tour in one of these, and I don’t think they ever drove it above 30 miles an hour, and they stopped every 10 feet or so, I remember the brakes smelling like they were getting hot all the time. But when you are driving around and a Buffalo is standing in the middle of the road they don’t move

  17. Birdman

    305 V6!?!?! Imagine the pistons in that thing…yikes… And yeah,I’d want to ditch the 3 on the tree….

  18. Khann

    Save the National Parks is my mantra… I can’t afford an old White but would love to see this one fixed up and used for touring the parks again! My husband is not so inclined to move it ahead of our many other projects.

  19. Chebby

    The passenger shot of this reminds me of an old kids’ joke:

    Q: What’s green and goes SLAM, SLAM, SLAM, SLAM?

    A: A four-door pickle

  20. Mike

    Add is back up! 4/16/17 It does mention it has 9400 original miles. Obviously needs to be brought back to life! Wish I had the $. I’m sure restored this beast could have value, and if not, a custom version might?? It would take all the right circumstances, and some luck! https://yubasutter.craigslist.org/cto/6073881561.html

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