I’ve been in Yellowstone all week, so without further ado: The White Model 706 Tour Bus. Actually, here’s some further ado: Wyoming - you need better internet.
The White Motor Company was an Ohio-based automobile manufacturer that existed until 1980, and the 706 was specially designed for National Parks. This particular coach was designed with rear access doors on the right side of the vehicle to prevent excited tourists from exiting into traffic, and a folding canvas roof that allows a near-panoramic view of wild bison, bull elk, and wolves.[Link]
In the 1930s, White produced 500 of their small Model 706 buses specifically designed to carry passengers through the major National Parks of the western US. The distinctive vehicles, with roll-back canvas convertible tops, were the product of noted industrial designer Alexis de Sakhnoffsky, and originally operated in seven National Parks. Today, Glacier National Park operates 33 of their original 35 buses, where they are referred to as “Red Jammers”, and 8 (of an original 98) have been restored for renewed service in Yellowstone National Park. Glacier National Park’s 33 buses were refurbished by Ford Motor Company and TransGlobal in 2000-2002, while Yellowstone National Park’s eight buses were refurbished by TransGlobal in 2007. Glacier has kept one bus in original condition. Yellowstone has five White buses in original condition, two model 706s and three older units as well. In addition, Gettysburg National Battlefield operates two of Yellowstone’s original buses. [Link]
According to Yellowstone Association tour leader Phil Knight, in Yellowstone’s early years it was difficult for private cars to navigate the Park’s network of unimproved roads. So they commissioned a bunch of 706 motorcoaches in 14- and 18-passenger configuration, and strapped powerful six-cylinder engines under the hood. By 1940, there were nearly 100 of the motorcoaches roaming the untamed plains.
Most of the buses were sold as private vehicles by the late 1960s after the paved road network was complete. In the early 2000s, Yellowstone bought back eight of the White coaches, and refurbished them at an estimated cost of $250,000 per coach before putting them into service. The biggest change was to swap out the original chassis for one engineered by Ford, changing the frame, transmission, brakes, and axles, among other mechanical components. The engine then was replaced by a 330-cubic-inch Ford V-8, and power steering makes it a lot easier for the driver to maneuver. The driver and front passenger are treated to power windows, while roll-up windows line the rear compartment. But that’s where the modernization stopped. Chrome covers the original bumpers, and the original license plates are still there, restored to near-mint condition. [Link]