The Bookmobile: 1951 GMC COE

1951 GMC Bookmobile

I love oddball vehicles, the only thing I love more are oddballs with interesting stories! Well this GMC COE is a bit of an oddity, simply because of the design of these cab over trucks, but add in its history as a rolling library and you have something very special! The owner of this truck, Walter K, contacted us about listing it on the site and we just couldn’t say no! You can find Walter’s contact information and more info about this truck here on craigslist in Phoenix, Arizona.

The Bookmobile

It seems this truck was used by Arizona State University as a bookmobile, or a library on wheels. We don’t know exactly what they used it for, it could have been used at extension campuses or elementary schools. Walter states that the inside is original, so we assume that means its shelving is still in place. It would be interesting to see how the inside is setup and if there was some system in place to keep the books from falling out of the shelves.

1951 GMC COE

Walter wasn’t able to give us any additional information at this time, as he is being flooded with phone calls from interested parties. If you’d like to add this cool oddball truck to your collection, I’d suggest you act fast before it’s gone! So do any of you recognize this truck? It would be great to hear from someone who has been inside this Bookmobile!

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Comments

  1. Birdman

    very cooooool!!!

    Like 1
  2. RayT Member

    Never been inside this Bookmobile, but if it was run by N.A.U. there’s a chance that it toured the Indian reservations….

    I think I need it. My books are overflowing available shelf space! Finding a place to park it might be a wee problem, though.

    Neat!

    Like 1
    • PaulG

      Ray, It appears to be from ASU, not NAU.
      I see this as the coolest RV conversion for a retired librarian…

  3. RBTempe

    could make a real cool toy hauler

  4. Rick

    Would make a cool rv conversion.

    • Wayne Thomas

      RV conversion or meth factory…..

      Both?

  5. Matt Tritt

    I agree with Rick. It’d make an excellent platform for a motorhome.

    Like 1
  6. Matt

    I see A Toter Home pulling a race car to the Dragstrip. I love this

  7. Howard A Member

    Not too sure what you’d do with it, maybe park it and live in it, but here’s a blast from the past. I wasn’t inside this particular bookmobile, however, when I was a kid in grade school, mid 60’s, the Milwaukee Bookmobile would come to our school, and we all had to go outside, single file in the cold, and file through the bookmobile, picking out certain books. Very few car books, so I usually didn’t find anything. SO, looking up vintage bookmobiles, guess what I found. Here is the bookmobile that came to our school. Internet is just amazing.
    http://www.retrocom.com/retromilw/milwaukeebook.jpeg

    • Josh Staff

      That’s too cool Howard! I wish a bookmobile like that would have come to my school growing up!

      • Howard A Member

        Hi Josh, just want to thank you again for an awesome site. The stuff that shows up here is just nuts. Yeah, at the time, we thought it kind of sucked. Like I say, we’d stand outside, single file, shivering, while little Janey couldn’t make up her mind. And the bus was usually running, and we all got sick from the diesel fumes standing there. Yeah, good times indeed.

    • Howard A Member

      Wait, there’s more. ( crappy day in the Badger, perfect for looking up stuff) Apparently, these were made by a company called Gerstenslager Body Works of Wooster,Ohio. They made like 95% of all bookmobiles, among other large van bodied trucks. I believe, you specified the make, and they’d build it.
      http://libraryhistorybuff.blogspot.com/2013/12/greene-county-oh-bookmobile-1948.html

      • Woodie Man

        Vintage Truck magazine did a piece on Gerstenslager liberry trucks recently

    • rusty

      wow howard very cool to find it but what a cool truck it is too

      ps: oh but doesnt it look more like it should be in a British Movie.

    • geomechs geomechs Member

      Hi Howard. That’s the way it was for me back in my school days. When the school library would get a few car books and I would read up a storm. I remember studying up on Science intently but Hot Rod was tucked well within that huge text book.

      • Bill

        Howard, thanks for the reference materials. We also lined up outside in the winter in Ohio in the 60’s to get on the bookmobile. I have fond memories of those time. For the life of me, I don’t remember exactly if it was Gerstenslager truck. But browsing the images, this picture hit me as the style.

  8. Marty Wilke Member

    Someone with sufficiently deep pockets could make one way-cool RV out of this.

    Or perhaps track hauler and mobile workshop on wheels. Great find.

    • geomechs geomechs Member

      Hi Marty. I agree; it would make a cool RV. Maybe the potential buyer should consider that…

  9. Chebby

    Come on Walter, zero interior pics?

  10. Charles H.

    Found this pick of another one from the same era

  11. Stang1968

    I think it would be nice to restore the body, modernize the drivetrain perhaps with a turbo diesel for reliability, upgrade the electrics to support LED lighting inside, and then donate it to a library system in need.

  12. Charles H.

    And here is an image, not a really good one, of the interior of one from around the same era

    • Howard A Member

      Hi Charles, HEY! That’s me with the corduroy pants and suspenders. How’d you get that picture? :)

    • Howard A Member

      Here’s another. Just like us, standing in the cold. The truck looks pretty new. ( note tire chains)( I think that’s geomechs bending down to throw a snowball at the photographer) http://www.mountvernonpubliclibrary.org/sites/default/files/VSLIDE6/data/images2/bookmobile14.jpg

      • leiniedude leiniedude Member

        Hi Howard! Living in the Badger State I know what you mean about time for research. I live not far from Mt. Vernon, cool connection if it was from there. As a 1955er the wardrobe was pretty close for me growing up. One more thing, the girl behind geomechs is a dead ringer for my older sister! I will ask her if she ever did time there. Thanks for the photo, Mike. P.S. No offence to geomechs, just using that as a reference.

      • geomechs

        Hi guys. Howard, that’s interesting that you should make the comparison between the snow thrower and me. I used to wear my cap like that and I had a winter jacket very similar. But the baggy trousers, no. I might add that my hair was never that dark. Medium brown years ago before someone started putting bleach into the shampoo. I remember being detained after school and came out just as the bus was leaving. That armpit of a driver looked right at me and kept going. Those ol’ Leprechauns in me lost their temper and caused me to lob a barrage of snowballs into the side of the bus. I got the strap from the principal and the belt from Dad when I got home. And I’d still lob snowballs at that jerk of a driver….

        Those girls’ caps….

  13. jim s

    i too am thinking it would make a good car hauler. the seller needs to post more pictures and text. maybe a price range might help. great find.

  14. Old School

    Well my wife the librarian only likes the one in the news paper.

  15. RoughDiamond

    The guy that had Dave Kindig of “Kindig It Design” restore one of the GMC “Parade of Progress” vehicles should make this his and Dave’s next project.

  16. z1rider

    Did anyone notice the bodies are customized around the cab doors being slightly opened? Visualize a flatbed from the same era. The bed is flush with the outer dual wheel, but extends out past the sides of the cab. This boobkmobile holds the doors open to nearly flush with the axle width and the body is made to accommodate that open position. I’m not totally sure if the A-pillars were also modified to avoid a forward blind spot but I think they were.

  17. Mark E

    The second pic clearly shows at least two broken windows on the drivers side. Makes me wonder about the ‘original condition’ of the interior is like if this spent time parked outside somewhere where it got vandalized…

  18. Rufus

    Back in the early 70’s, I got a job with the Dallas Public Library driving a 40 foot Gerstenslager Bookmobile. I put myself through college with that job. It was a pretty neat machine. Rear engine like a bus. Flat nose, so you could see directly down in front. My 18 year old self learned a lot about driving, by bouncing around Dallas in that truck. Had to parallel park it every Tuesday at a stop downtown. Each of our 12 stops had a power pole that we could hook up to to run the air conditioner and lights (drove by one that is still there just last week. I guess there was never any reason to take it down.
    The shelves were angled at probably 20 degrees to keep the books from falling out going around corners.
    That was a great experience for me, and seeing this old truck brings back memories, even though mine was a lot bigger, a lot nicer and a lot newer.
    I remember one day, I was late for work, and called the librarian and we met at a shopping center for me to leave my car and go on with the day. Imagine the shock of climbing out of an Austin Healey 3000, and into the drivers seat of a behemoth like that. Helping folks with the act of learning, by carrying the materials to them was a great way to feel part of the community.
    Good luck with the sale.
    Have fun
    Rufus

  19. Mark S Member

    I’m not sure what you’d do with it, I’ll bet that it gets about 7 gallons to the mile so RVing in it wouldn’t be practical unless maybe putting it on blocks at the lake and making a cabin out of it. The other thought that I have would be to part out that front clip to save another COE as these are starting to get pretty rare now.

    • George

      7 mpg is pretty typical of most Class A gas rigs. I once heard a reference of around 4 for one of these. (I don’t know if it was accurate or not)

  20. geomechs geomechs Member

    Actually they weren’t all that bad mileage wise. I used to ride on school buses based on trucks like this. They sure weren’t as efficient as the ones made today but they sure had class…

  21. Charles H.

    Wow Howard A!…..what a coincidence!, I just entered vintage bookmobiles on yahoo search, and that was just one of many interesting images that popped up.

    • Howard A Member

      Hi Charles, I was kidding, as the picture dates to 1954 in St. Paul, I was probably just being thought about then. ( born in ’55) However, I do remember those pants and suspenders.

  22. Charles H.

    Got that Howard!….lol, I thought you were serious about that really being you….that was a little before my time as well…..but not by too much!

  23. Bryan Cohn

    I see a fantastic vintage Formula Junior race car hauler in hiding. Upgrade the drivetrain to modern specs, mod the interior to hold your car and a small living area, get a proper sign painter/artist to paint a faded, made up old racing team logo and name on the side so it looks original. Go racing. Blow minds. Sip cheap champagne under your awning.

    Live your 60’s European racing driver dreams.

    Life is good.

  24. Al8apex

    He wouldn’t have to waste everyone’s time if he put a price in the ad. Not a fan of this kind of listing

    Price it to move or stop wasting people’s time

  25. Lee Burris

    My Dad bought a 1952 Dodge Bookmobile from the City of Minneapolis back in the 60’s. He completely gutted it & made it into an RV. We used that old Bookmobile for about 6 years every summer until he traded it for a 1946 Flex Bus. There was even an article wrote about it in the St. Paul Pioneer Press newspaper. I would like to find it again & take pictures of it. We had lots of memories in that Bookmobile. The Bookmobile even made a couple of trips to Canada. It wasn’t very fast on the open road, nor was it very fast going up steep hills. It had a flat head 6 with a 4 speed. No 2 speed rear end. So it was a little under powered but it was still cool.this is a awesome site thanks

  26. Tom Moore

    Hi-

    My name is Tom Moore and I work in the film and Tv industry in New Orleans.

    We are looking for a Bookmobile for a project, if you have one or know of one,

    Please let me know ! tommooretranspo@gmail.com

  27. Tracy

    Doing anything but restoring this bookmobile to its original beautiful self would be an abomination. I agree let’s have some pictures and a price so everyone can start fighting over it! I want to restore it and drive it around as a book mobile in my hometown when I retire. Giving back to the community one book at a time!

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