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Rarity From Yosemite: 1936 Pierce Arrow Sightseeing Bus

One of the coolest experiences you can have when you visit Yosemite National Park is a bus tour.  Yosemite is a mighty big place, and one of the best ways to see the park is sitting in a comfortable seat, watching the park go by as a guide narrates.  This tradition has been going on for decades, and there have been a number of unique different buses utilized over the years.  One of the rarest is this 1936 Pierce Arrow sightseeing bus being sold on eBay by a restoration shop in Wilsall, Montana that specializes in restoring these types of vehicles.  Built as a last grasp at survival by the Pierce Arrow Motor Car Company, this bus is going to need a tremendous amount of work before hauling around any more tourists.  Is this amazing historical artifact worth the $86,000 buy it now price and a small fortune in restoration costs?

The Pierce Arrow Motor Car Company was an amazingly diverse outfit.  During their corporate lifetime, they made bird cages, bicycles, motorcycles, trucks, buses, and cars.  The company was profitable and well respected in the marketplace for decades.  The onset of the Depression changed the profitable part of that sentence.  As the thirties wore on, sales continued to spiral down for their primary concern: making luxury automobiles.  After a short period where they were purchased by Studebaker and then sold off to Pierce management when Studebaker declared bankruptcy, the company started to flounder financially.  They had no real lesser line of automobiles to sell, and the luxury market was crowded and almost dried up.

As a hail mary pass, the company, according to the Pierce Arrow Society, made some nine and fifteen passenger sightseeing buses. They even tried making luxury travel trailers from 1936 on.   This was far from enough to stave off creditors, and the company went under in 1938.  Parts were sold until the war broke out, but the remaining tooling and parts were unceremoniously scrapped to help the then desperate for materiel war effort.

The seller helps to fill in a few of the blanks in this bus’s story in the ad.  We are told that Yosemite National Park purchased ten of these buses in February of 1936 for sightseeing use at the park.  Pierce Arrow made the park a great offer.  If they could convince other parks to purchase 30 more buses, then they would reduce Yosemite’s bill by 5%.  Being that there was a Depression going on, they were only able to drum up three more orders.  These were for the Fred Harvey Company wo provided tours when visitors arrived by train (meals and lodging were that company’s primary offerings).  The Pierce Arrow Society lists the last date that buses were produced as 1935, so these final buses must have been year end leftovers.  This one is claimed to be the last known survivor.

As you can see from the pictures, restoring this bus back to operation would require a Herculean effort.  A number of parts are missing, and the pictures also indicate that the engine and transmission are not currently in the vehicle.  There is no mention in the ad to their whereabouts.  The seller’s company restores buses like this, with their specialty being the much more common White sightseeing buses.  There is no telling what the final restoration costs would be on a vehicle of this size, condition, and complexity.  Hopefully, there is a deep pocketed collector out there that either loves Pierce Arrows or has fond memories of riding in one of these before they were retired.  Sadly, both of those types of folks are rapidly fading from the Earth.

Do you think this bus is worth saving when you add together the purchase price and restoration costs?



  1. Classic Steel

    Since they bought ten and i will continue to ride them and admire those.

    So for a mere 85 and some change one can get this one and add another 50-70 as most parts or repair is machine shop fabrication then find a storage facility to store.
    Hmm i could for that get a super bird , king cobra, 356 Porsche or a split window that fits in my garage and has a bigger market share for resale..🤔😏

    Sounds like bargain day for the posh posh life 🤔💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰

    Goid luck with your sale👍

    Like 7
  2. Andy

    You could get a pretty nice Pierce sedan or coupe, or even open car, for that kind of money, and not have to do anything to it. I doubt something this huge and white-elephant could draw this kind of price in mint condition, even. And lastly, I’m surprised the federal government contracted with a luxury maker for these cars when they could have saved a small fortune with Buicks, or DeSotos, or Hudsons, or even Studebakers.

    Like 11
  3. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    My buddy sent me a large post card from Glacier National Park this summer with a tour rig like this one on it. There’s are built by White Motor Company in 1936. He said they are going to refubish them as electric vehicles over the next few years. https://www.glaciernationalparklodges.com/red-bus-tours

    Like 7
    • John M.

      Good to hear that the buses are going to be given a new lease on life. Thank you.

      Like 5
    • geomechs geomechs Member

      Glacier Park is just a hop, skip and a jump away from me. They used a pile of those White 706 buses which were as iconic as the park itself. Yellowstone also used a fleet of them, only yellow. Yosemite, also a stop along the railroad, had (I understand) green ones. They were actually owned by Great Northern Railroad, which also built the huge luxury lodges at those parks. About 25 years ago they started upgrading all fleets by actually replacing the entire chassis with propane-fueled Ford components. Good idea, really, although it still put a bad taste in the mouth of a purist like me. Now they’re talking about changing them to EV? They have had endless problems with the power grids in the mountains. I can see them plugging in the fleet and blacking out the lodge. Obviously being motivated by some outside pressure IMHO…

      Like 14
      • Chevy Guy

        Yep, about 5 years ago Glacier park used to be for me as well. Man, what a beautiful place!! Just shows God’s wonderful creation..

        God Bless America!!

        Like 8
  4. Brakeservo

    $86,000?? Dollars? Even way too much in Pesos! They’re either smokin’ some terrible stuff . . . or hopin’ someone else is! Trouble is, most people with $86,000 to spend on a toy have it because they’re NOT STUPID.

    Like 4
  5. Bultaco

    This is probably not worth restoring to original condition, but it would be cool to restore the body and put it on a more modern truck chassis. That way, it could be saved for a reasonable cost, plus it would be everyday usable.

    Like 9
    • rodney

      Your comment is the first ray of hope I have seen in regard to making that car into something fun. I can see paying 15 for the car and easily spending what, 150, to restore it?
      But you hit the target with the truck chassis.

      Like 8
  6. Jeff
  7. Scott Marquis

    Just $86k for the perfect ride to the Zombie Prom.

    Like 3
  8. geomechs geomechs Member

    I think these buses might have been actually built by White. White and Pierce Arrow were hooked up off and on during the thirties and I understand that P/A ordered its trucks from White but shipped the front sheet metal clip. I heard this while researching a truck in the ‘Lost And Found’ section of HCC. They had an article called ‘Unidentified Grunt,’ which showed a full tandem truck with those molded in headlights and similar grill. It was hooked to a flatbed trailer with what appeared to be a Cat 35 crawler on the deck. I was told that they were essentially White trucks, with a few special options (I wondered if one of those options was a V-12 or a straight 8). So I wouldn’t be surprised if this bus was basically a White 706 with the P/A front end…

    Like 6
  9. Lance Nord

    There’s gotta be a typo… shouldn’t the BIN price be more like $8,600? Cool truck but it’s gonna continue to rot for $86K.

    Like 5
  10. waynard

    A few years back, maybe 6-8, there was an identical bus in New Mexico I found. Same deal: no engine, trans, seats. The guy wanted $25,000 for it. I went to see it twice before I went to Hershey armed with 30 photos of it. I talked to the Pierce Arrow Club there and they all thought this guy was out of his mind. Worth $2500.00 at best, they said. They had a correct engine at Hershey for it, I think $1500-$2000 (?), so that was a positive. Went home and offered the guy $2500. for it, prepared to go up a bit. Nope. Was gonna stick to his guns. He had the truck for another maybe year or so and sold it to someone in California…for $2500.00. His son told me, so I believe it. This one? Maybe $5-8K. Maybe.

    Like 7
  11. Steve R

    Would make a cool motorhome.

    Like 2
  12. bigdoc

    I agree there has to be a typo because 86,000.00 for this pure laughable.

    Like 1
  13. Ken Carney

    Hi Folks! I”m baaaack! Had some health
    problems and family matters that kept me tied up for awhile. As for this bus, it
    does need to be saved but not restored.
    I say that because it’s nothing more than
    a blank canvas. I’ve read everyone’s
    posts and I propose this: How about a
    diesel or propane powered hybrid that
    used electric power as a backup? It’s
    my understanding that electric powered
    vehicles are really expensive to convert
    to EV’s so unless you’re the National Park
    Service, recouping any of your build costs
    would be out of the question. That being
    said, propane or natural gas seems to me
    to be the most viable here. If you live in
    community with gas mains, you could
    have your own pump installed on your
    property but it’s gonna cost you big time
    after you’ve paid for the permitting and
    the installation of the pump. I’m currently
    researching this route so that I can get a
    Generac generator installed at our house
    before next hurricane season arrives. This would make a great article here on
    Barn Finds if the staff wanted to take this
    one on. Then, we could all follow along
    with the team while they rebuild this thing
    just like we did with Rod & Custom Magazine back in the day. So what say
    you, all ye readers? Would it be worth it?

    Like 2
    • leiniedude leiniedude Member

      Hey Ken, after your Email I am happy to see you back so soon. Your idea is not going to work here. 90K is way to much to start a project. Maybe a cheap small block Vega in propane or natural gas. Do not count me in though. Kind of getting burnt out putzing around adjusting the valves and so on with the old flattie and the rest of my old junk. Now I want to turn the key and go. Best of luck to the family Ken, take care, Mike.

      Like 0
  14. Bill Hall

    An original Motor and trans for this beast is not impossible to find. When Pierce went out of Biz they sold the tooling and design for their 8 & 12 Motors to Seagrave who modified for the fire service built several over the next 15 or 20 years. There are quite a few old Seagrave parts trucks out there to be dug up.

    Like 1
  15. John

    Dreamers gonna dream. But they won’t find someone dumb enough to pay anywhere near $86K. Must be related to Peter at Gullwing…

    Like 2
  16. BR

    Apparently the resto company thinks it’s not profitable to restore it so they’re unloading it on the unsuspecting/MNO individual.
    This is clearly an undertaking for Jay Leno, if he saw fit.

    Like 1
  17. canadainmarkseh

    The best thing that you could do would be to transplant this body into a near new chassis/ engine / driveline. Then restore the body. The idea of making this into a motorhome or moveable tiny home. You’d have to rent a commercial bay to be able to work on it and that is going to be a big part of the expense.

    Like 1
  18. Ken Carney

    Thanks Mike! Glad to be back! Just met
    with Mom’s attorney today and all the
    paperwork has been submitted. We could go to trial in April of 2020. Now, .
    what’s this noise about getting the valves
    set in your flattie? What kind of engine is
    it? Doc says that I can’t spin a wrench
    until they find out just what the hell’s going on with my heart, but I can kibbetz
    from here. Time to put our thinkin’ caps
    on fellas! Maybe we can help you get those valves set for you Mike! Best
    thing you can do is walk away from it
    for awhile, have a smoke, and relax a bit.
    Had to do that once while running down
    a nasty tapping noise I had coming from
    the 390 I had in a ’65 Colony Park wagon
    we had in the early ’70’s. Dad, Uncle Dean and I tore that damned motor down
    3 times and we couldn’t find it! We were so frustrated that we wanted to beat that poor car to pieces with a sledge hammer!
    My kid sister wanted to help, so she brought us the fuel pump. As she came
    near to us, we all heard tap, tap, tap as
    walked across the driveway shaking the
    pump as she came to us. It was the fuel
    pump return spring! After a round of head slaps, we bought a new fuel pump,
    put ‘er together for the 4th time, and she
    ran like a watch! Point is Mike, it’s gotta
    be something simple. With all these minds in the BF universe, we should come up with something to help you out!
    For now, walk away and relax!

    Like 1
    • geomechs geomechs Member

      Hi Ken. Hope you’re on the mend. A Ford FE with a tap-tapping noise. We had three of them do that same thing on the ranch. It was hard to nail down because it came and went. We found the first one quite by accident on our ’67 F250 4×4; the engine tap-tapped for a good year before the fuel pump died, then the problem was discovered. When the others started doing it, I knew where to look. I think there was an epidemic back in the 60s and early 70s. The last one I had was my own ’75.

      Like 1
  19. Jay E.

    Nice write up Jeff! I too think there is a misplaced decimal point. Its not a Futureliner.

    Like 1
  20. Del

    Barn Finds is always good for a huge out loud laugh

    And at 86 grand , I almost bust a gut 😂

    Like 1
  21. ctmphrs

    I can,t believe that the restore freaks aren’t screaming to restore this beast. Probably the rarest vehicle we’ve seen lately.

    Like 1
    • geomechs geomechs Member

      I, for one, think it should be restored. Since there’s no engine or transmission, maybe a more modern source of propulsion. Even a Cummins 5.9 or 8.3. Trouble is, who’s got that kind of change kicking around? If you could get it for $10K and then throw another $100K at it, you could actually have something to enjoy at the end of the line. Personally I think someone has been watching too many collector car auctions…

      Like 0

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