|The Ambassador's Rolls' 1936 White Touring Coach (1 of 2)|
When the US National Parks first began, visitors would arrive by train and take horses or stagecoaches up the winding roads. As horse and buggy travel was gradually replaced by motorized vehicles, the relatively young National Parks wanted to attract visitors by providing an incomparable offer to see the parks in style and comfort - modern combustion engine coaches. The parks already had various automobiles running on their roads, but there was no reliable standard. Vehicle manufacturing and design was young at the time and the pool of companies was small; most existing car models were so under-powered and low on seating that they weren't practical, so the US Park Service challenged designers to produce a high capacity vehicle that could handle the steep roads and treacherous turns of the parks, to be tested on Yosemite National Park.
|White Motor Co. logo, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons|
Four companies participated in the challenge and each of their vehicles were run on an identical stretch of Yosemite. White Motor Company was one of the competitors, originally getting its start as manufacturers of sewing machines in Ohio. After the owner's son made a great improvement on steam Locomobiles, White Motor Co. split from the sewing machine department and formed its own branch, mainly for fear of fire in either paint department destroying both businesses.
In 1909, William Taft selected the White Model M 7-seat tourer as the first official automobile of the US President, generating significant interest in White. After co-founding brother Walter White died in a traffic accident, the company took a turn for the worst. Workers started striking and formed one of the first ever automotive unions in the US. Robert Fager Black took over in 1935 and was deeply sympathetic to their plight. He learned them all by name, supplied baseball equipment to striking workers, and eventually convinced them that the old White had finally returned thanks to Black. He was adored by his employees until retiring in the 1950's.
|Robert Fager Black, courtesy of The Western Reserve Historical Society|
When the competition for the king of the parks had ended in 1935, head and shoulders above the rest was the model 706 Touring Coach by White Motor Co. Their massive 318 cubic inch 6 cylinder engines conquered the roads with ease and their physical design was appealing, sleek and modern, created by the famous Russian-American industrial designer Count Alexis de Sakhoffsky. It was put into service for Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier, and other locations.
|Visitors at Yellowstone's Grotto Geyser next to a Model 706 Touring Coach, courtesy of The National Park Service|
The Touring Coaches featured seating that ranged from 14 to 17 depending on which park it serviced, boasting a convertible roll-back top so riders could get a completely unobstructed, 360 degree view. They were very well received and quickly became a staple of the National Parks until after World War II when personal vehicles became more popular and interest decreased in the coaches.
|The interior of one of The Ambassador's Rolls' Coaches|
The coaches of Glacier National Park are especially well-known and beloved. Painted a bold red and black, they're affectionately known as "Red Jammers." The term Jammer comes from the sound the coaches made when they ran on standard transmissions, drivers would use a technique called short-shifting in which gears are switched early to anticipate road changes as well as increase grip on the road. Even the drivers themselves are celebrities, known as "Gear Jammers."
|A Red Jammer in Montana, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons|
Yellowstone operated 27 of the buses in 1936 and had used as many as 98 by 1939. The coaches in Yellowstone are an appropriately garish Yellow and Black:
|A Yellowstone Touring Coach, courtesy of Alan Vernon's Flickr|
Today, Glacier National Park runs 33 of their original 35 coaches while Yellowstone still runs seven. Ford Motor Co. renovated the coaches for modern use between 2002 and 2007 yet both parks elected to keep one of the coaches unmodified from its original design. Two of Yellowstone's former buses now operate at the Gettysburg National Battlefield. Most of these vehicles are either owned by private collectors, museums, or National Parks. The Ambassador's Rolls is perhaps the only business in the United States offering these rare coaches for commercial use.
|A 1936 White Touring Coach from The Ambassador's Rolls|
If you are considering a large party and are on the fence, there is no better way to travel in style than with such classic and symbolic vehicles. We have a matched pair of coaches, number 87 and 88, which are absolutely wonderful accommodations for big groups. We're always willing to roll back the canvas tops which makes it feel like a rolling party! Go to our website or schedule an appointment to come see these vehicles, they're truly spectacular and must be seen to be believed.