One Of A Kind: 1935 GMC Northern Pacific Van

As a car collector and writer, I try to think outside the box when it comes to writing and finding vehicles; my mission is to find the rare and unusual in the automotive world. This 1935 GMC Railway Van not only fits the bill, it is also one of a kind. Factor in its ties to railroads and its Airstream body, it helps display an unusual part of the trucking industry back in the day. Find it here on Hemmings in Ottertail, Minnesota, with an asking price of $9,500 OBO.

Approved by Congress in 1864, the Northern Pacific Railway was a transcontinental that operated across the northern tier of the western United States (from Minnesota to the Pacific Northwest). Built from 1870 to 1883, the Northern Pacific Railway spanned 40 million acres and had about 6,800 miles of railroad track. Headquartered originally in Brainerd and later in Saint Paul, the Northern Pacific Railway merged with other railroad lines to form the Burlington Northern Railroad, which was later renamed BNSF Railway in 1996. Featuring an Airstream aluminum body, this truck was used to haul men and parts to their railway site. Overall, the truck appears to be in solid shape, with only surface rust on the non-aluminum parts and a tattered back bumper (I would try to repair it instead of replacing it). The rear cargo area appears to be in good shape, but it needs to be cleaned out. I definitely dig the dual rear wheels, the bumper-mounted headlights and the unusual-looking body. The paint on the hood and fenders looks to have been originally gray; furthermore, the original graphics, though gone, appear to have left an outline that is still somewhat readable as well. I am curious as to why the horns are mounted on the side of the truck and not on top.

The engine appears to be a six-cylinder, but the seller makes no mention of what six-cylinder it is (GMC used valve-in-head six cylinder engines ranging from 221 to 707 cubic inches, but some medium-duty trucks used Oldsmobile flathead six cylinders as well). Backed by a manual transmission (the seller does not specify how many gears it has), the engine “should run”, according to the seller, but I’m guessing it has not run for some time, so I would inspect it before firing it up. Appearance-wise, the engine and engine compartment appear to be in overall good condition and, with some cleaning and minor detailing, should clean up nicely.

Probably the most needy part of the truck is the interior, which is pretty weathered. Though not completely tattered, the seats will need attention, as will the door panels, the headliner, and the floor. The worst part of the interior is on the driver’s side, with part of the floorboard completely rotted through. On the positive side, the dash looks pretty solid, but will need to be repainted (it looks like it was either originally gray or black). The plates in the back seat are from the late-1950s or the early-1960s, but I would source license plates from around 1935 to put on the truck. Overall, this truck is really cool and solid, and once the necessary areas are refinished and addressed, I would take this truck to local shows. A possible era-correct conversion to an RV or a house truck would be kind of cool, too. What would you do with this one-of-a-kind GMC truck?

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  1. LOSER

    My mom drive one of these. I took my drivers test in a blue just like this. Everyone in high school was jealous of my sweet ride.

    • Dan

      Funny post! Thank you!

  2. glen

    With a ramp out back, this could be used for snowmobiles, bikes,atv’s,you name it, with room up front for people. I’m guessing the horns were placed there simply because it was easier than climbing up top.

  3. Leroy

    Bumper mounted headlights?

  4. Hearsetrax

    looks like a fun RV in the making

  5. Howard A Member

    This truck has been flipped big time. It came up on another site a year back for $1025. I don’t see 10g’s here. I can’t ID the motor, as other sites that featured this truck, say it’s not a GM motor ( exhaust and intake on right side) geomechs, what say ye?

  6. Ken Carney

    Like your idea Glen, but I’d use to haul my
    MIL’s power chair. Sure hope there’s spare parts in the back to help me get started. One things for sure, we’d have the only one in town and we’d never lose
    it in a supermarket parking lot!

  7. boxdin

    An alum body yes but nothing to do w airstream.

  8. Rustytech

    This would make an excellent, and interesting motor home. It would definitely turn heads. That said, the cost would be astronomical, and the asking price is at least twice what I would consider a starting point.

  9. Stu

    Gun turrets would complete the look.

  10. lawrence

    yes I’ve seen it before……

  11. Dave

    You can see what appears to be the factory horns near the master cylinder area.

  12. Joe Howell

    I love old trucks that have worked for their keep. My guess is the horns are on the side for low bridge clearance. As for use, it may have been used by signal maintainers or some other craft easy on their equipment. The shelving looks light duty and the cargo area doesn’t look like it was beaten up from kegs of spikes, bolts and piles of angle bars nor is it soaked in creosote from hauling ties. The track department usually hauled their men in camp cars and their materials on rail cars for big jobs and for smaller jobs trucks that can run on the rails with rail wheels that can lowered into place with the rubber road tires touching the rails to provide propulsion. Track department vehicles usually get pretty beat-up. Been there done that many, many years ago for a summer job so I’m ruling out the track department. Another use could have been by “car knockers”, car-men who maintained the rolling stock and could be ferried to a trouble area but then again not the heavy duty type hauler needed for serious car repair. I can’t see them deadheading train crews crews in it, it’s overkill for a taxi so that makes train service use unlikely. Last guess would be as a shuttle for people and freight to and from a station.
    I think it would make a cool motorhome or toy hauler with unlimited money to do it.

  13. pat gill

    I think the pictures from both listings were taken with the van in the same spot, same trees, steering turned the same way, left front tyre/tire valve in the same position…………. Pat

  14. Wayne

    Motorhome all the way! Polish it up, install some more modern drivetrain. And use it!
    I Dig it!
    Too much money for starters.

  15. Otto Nobedder

    Air brakes on this big ole Mother trucker!

  16. Kevin

    Just got off the phone with David, will be picking this beauty up tomorrow and bringing it back to Iowa. Its going to a good home with many other antique trucks.


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