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Tank-Tough! 1941 Ford Marmon-Herrington

This 1941 Marmon-Herrington bus seeks a new owner here on Los Angeles, California craigslist where the $5500 asking price represents the tip of the restoration iceberg. This one’s bell-shaped grille tags it from a series built by MH for Bell Telephone. Optimistically described as “aerodynamic” by the seller, this bus may best a parachute’s Cd (coefficient of drag), but not by much. Thanks to reader Ikey H. for spotting this forgotten piece of American mechanized history.

Famous for its military vehicles, Marmon-Herrington also created four-wheel drive variants of other manufacturer’s trucks. Between World Wars, Marmom-Herrington produced these buses and other niche vehicles. In 1950 the company outright acquired Ford’s passenger bus business. Thanks to coachbuilt.com for some details.

What looks like a Ford flathead V8 rides between drive and passenger, right where you can keep an eye on it or cook a can of beans on your way to a National Park. Joking aside, this powerplant appears to have been shielded from weather by the no-doubt sturdy metal roof. The seller claims it was running in the last 10 years, and driven to this spot in the 1990s. Hopefully the new owner is not allergic to spiders!

This picture of a similar bus captures the vehicle better than the listing’s current pictures. This one appears to have been segmented into individual booths to give service men and women an opportunity to make precious calls home. The 18 inch wheels and rugged tires make the look of this bus. MH leveraged their knowledge of all-wheel-drive systems to make this front-wheel-drive bus.

Form follows function in the spartan interior. Needle-nosed pliers come with the sale and may prove handy for removing scorpion stingers. Proximity to the engine provides immediate telemetry in the event of overheating or fuel leaks. Exhaust leaks my go undetected until the vehicle drifts off the road into a ditch. The flathead may have its hands full propelling what looks like an all-steel body on this 25-foot bus. The missing title will surely add to the new buyer’s fun. Who wants to buy this and make their own mobile Tiny House?


  1. Hunter Snyder

    I have no idea what I would do with this bus but I want it. Good thing I don’t have 5500 and I don’t live in California.

    Like 16
  2. Joe M

    I agree this is cool, there can’t be many of these left, someone should do a cheap resto on this and donate it to the National WWll Museum in New Orleans.

    Like 8
    • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

      Good call, Joe M. I didn’t see your comment until I posted my comment below just now but heck yeah, make it original!

      Like 2
  3. Rick

    Never heard of it, but love the bell shaped grille. Throw a couple of bug-bombs in there to clear out the critters, then go to town. It actually looks pretty solid, but still a ton of work to convert to anything useful.

    Like 4
  4. mike b

    Do a thorough restoration or…just phone it in.

    Like 5
  5. CCFisher

    Seems like a lot of vehicle for a Ford flathead, and I imagine there are considerable frictional losses in the FWD drivetrain. The Corvair 95 hiding in the background would be a speed demon by comparison.

    Like 5
    • Steve

      It’s all in the gearing… Folks weren’t in such a fizz to get someplace then, and this was used as a portable phone booth unit where ever needed…Speed limit then was 55 too.

      Like 5
  6. Benjy58

    Let the spiders have it.

    Like 1
  7. CapNemo CapNemo

    Conference call on wheels!!

    Like 6
  8. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    If someone could find photos of the inside of this or another bus like it when it was an original mobile phone (well, booth anyway!) it’d be cool to fix it up like it was, take it to a military museum (USS Hornet, Yanks Air Museum, etc.). Who knows, maybe an entrepreneur with one of the phone companies would like to help with technical/historical/fiscal assistance, just got the sake of preserving their place in US history. It’d especially be fitting to find an WW2 Vet that might have used one of these while home on leave!
    What a unique talkpoint this could be to a docent or educator, and a unique piece of history.
    Save it!

    Like 12
  9. Brent

    Ah Yes! A truly unique vehicle, from a time long past, when people were smarter than their phones. To think of all the joys and sorrows that pasted through those phones. Few people have known the joy of hearing a loved ones voice and the sorrow that you may very well never here it again. It needs to be restored and in a museum.

    Like 9
    • Rube Goldberg Member

      That’s pretty cool you would say that. Seems like emotion is lost in today’s world. Since mobile phone technology was a ways off, I’m sure this was stationary,( leveling jacks in the back) and plugged into a pole. Just think, could have been the last time they spoke to their loved ones.

      Like 8
  10. Rustytech Member

    I see a nice vintage motor home. No time or money to complete it though. Sure do wish I was 20 years younger.

    Like 3
  11. CapNemo CapNemo

    When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, he found that he had 6 missed calls from Chuck Norris.

    Like 11
    • Chebby Staff

      That one is excellent. Chuck Norris jokes rule!

      Like 6
      • CapNemo CapNemo

        Heck yeah! Cheers!!

        Like 5
    • Robert White

      Who is Chuck Norris?


      Like 6
  12. Chebby Staff

    Not Even For Free.

    A WWI museum might want it if it was restored though.

    Like 0
  13. john s

    Holy Hell, you have to reach into the back seat to shift!

    Like 2
  14. Dovi65

    Very cool; never knew of ‘mobile telephone booths” from back then [or at any point in time!]
    I’m pretty sure that I need this behemoth. I have no earthly idea what I’d do with it [other than scare every other driver off the road on my daily commute]. This big gem should be restored, and put back into some use, at least as part of a museum

    Like 1
  15. djjerme

    Herkimer Battle Jitney – finest non-lethal military vehicle ever made!

    Like 1
  16. sg

    I wonder how this thing was ventilated? The windows appear non-opening, and there’s just a couple roof vents. Sitting there in the summer would feel like Cool Hand Luke’s isolation box!

    Would love to see photos of the transmission/axle setup. Maybe its just a transfer case without the rear driveshaft?

    Like 0
  17. TimM

    I’ve never seen a bus like this!!! Flat head V-8 too!! This has got to be one of the coolest vehicles I’ve ever seen on Barn Find!! The originality of it is super cool but I bet it would make a great personal motor home for someone to go coast to coast in!!! I’ve never heard of a numbers matching bus but a diesel in this truck with some air brakes would be the way to go!!

    Like 1
  18. Rodney - GSM

    My favorite design feature is the exhaust manifold as an armrest. People were a lot tougher back when this was in use, (so I am told…)

    Like 1
  19. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Cool it survived the crusher……

    Like 0
  20. JimmyinTEXAS

    This thing has been for sale for a good while. (year?? more??).
    It is cool and might be bought for less than the ask.

    Like 1
  21. George

    Same price as a year ago on BAT.

    Like 0
  22. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

    I find it interesting that the original listing says it’s front wheel drive, NOT 4-wheel drive. Yeah, it could be a misprint, but it also could have been built that way to give a lowered walkway down the center of the interior, with the phone booths slightly raised on either side to clear the frame rails. Callers would sit down inside a booth before closing the privacy door.

    And I love the name of the vehicle shown on the driver’s door: The “Telebus”.

    Like 1
  23. John Manders

    No gas cap; must have tons of rainwater in tank. Unlees bottom has rusted. And what about all those cracked windows?

    Like 0
    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

      John Manders,

      All but one of the windows are flat glass, and easy to cut & fit. The rear window appears to be a curved unit from the 1941/42 Ford sedan.

      As for the gas tank, I suspect it was an “off the shelf” piece, probably from the larger Ford truck line, usually found under the flat bed of a truck.

      Like 0

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