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Three Mystery Machines – Streamline Bus – Gee-Bee Racing Car – Gee-Bee Franklin?

Mystery Bus or Motor Home

Updated – A good friend sent us one of those chain emails the other day that usually contain a couple of dozen vintage cars or gas stations. This message was filled with images of unique trucks including the one in the lead photo today that caught our eye.

At first glance, the cab, windshield, front end and grille brought to mind the styling of the Union Pacific “City of Portland” and the “City of San Francisco” streamline diesel-electric locomotives. It is not known who built this vehicle or where (the license plate may help with a location). We are hopeful a reader will be able to identify it.

Update II – Ace Zenek found: The photo is also shown in the book Ford Trucks Since 1905 (Crestline) with the following caption. “The custom-built integral display van was inspired by the new streamlined passenger trains placed in service by the Union Pacific Railroad in 1934.  Mounted on a 157-inch wheelbase Ford truck chassis it was owned by Duro Metal Products Company of Chicago.  Since it was similarly influenced by passenger train design; based in Chicago; and, utilized DeSoto Airflow headlamps.

Update I – ehdub from New Zealand commented: “The streamline bus photo is in Donald F. Wood’s Commercial Trucks book captioned: “Ford 1936, Duro Metal Products of Chicago used this rig mounted on a 1936 Ford truck chassis as a traveling showroom.” Ford archives photo.

Gee-Bee “Atlanta” Racing Car

Gee Bee Atlanta Racing Car

  • Gee-Bee “Atlanta” three-wheeled racing car design used a teardrop shape like that of the “R1” and “R2” planes.

Reader Ben Oakes commented on the recent Gee-Bee airplane post and mentioned the Gee-Bee racing car. It has been that has been reported that the Granville crew worked on this design of a three-wheeler in 1933 with the intent of entering it in the 1934 Indianapolis 500, but it was disallowed either by the Speedway or the AAA.

Can anyone with further knowledge about this concept let us know more about it, and did it ever get past the planning phase? The image is courtesy of Lord Kitchener.

Grandville Franklin?

1923 Franklin Sedan 2

  • 1923 Franklin with a scalloped paint design like that used by the Granville’s on the Gee-Bee. 

Ben Oakes owns this 1923 Franklin decorated with a scalloped paint design like that used on the Gee-Bee “R1” and “R2” and in the racing car drawing. Edward Granville was a member of the H.H. Franklin Club and according to Walt Gosden, a Club member who met him at Franklin Club Trek, he owned a Series 11 Franklin (1925-’27).

Granville’s ownership and interest in the Franklin automobile may have been because it was constructed in a light-weight fashion with a wooden frame, much like that of some pre-war aircraft. Can any Franklin enthusiasts or readers connect this automobile with Ed Granville, or the Granville Aircraft outfit?

  • This photo shows the Franklin before it was put back on the road.

1923 Franklin Sedan

18 responses to “Three Mystery Machines – Streamline Bus – Gee-Bee Racing Car – Gee-Bee Franklin?

  1. the “scallops” on both cars are the same..look at the air vent on the cowl side ..crazing is the same on both cars,look closer and compare ..same on both..photoshopped

  2. Is it wishful thinking on my part to `see’ Chrysler Airflow shaping to the headlamp lenses as well as tri-bar trim around the bottom of the bus in the first photo, reminiscent of the ’34 Airflow bumpers? Can the lettering on the side of the vehicle, or the emblem above the grille halves be enlarged to provide some additional clues to the client/user or manufacturer?

    • Kevin, Thanks for your comment, unfortunately the photo is of poor quality and low-resolution and enlarging it does not work.

      After having spent quite a bit of time studying the lettering on the side seems to end in Corp? What do others see?

      • Interesting to me, David is… I have many models of the Gee Bee (loved it’s uniquness. even as a child) in it’s Red Scallops on White livery. They’re in various scales big and small by different toy manufacturers, some extremely detailed and others not so (even a kite). Seeing this Granville Franklin ( an Ed of a Granville Aircraft Company?) with it’s yellow scallops on the grey body rang a bell in the “the little grey cells”. Being aware of Franklin’s longtime association/ affinity with aircraft, however not having a great deal of knowledge of the Golden Age of Air Racing beyond Rickenbacher and a few names (Henderson-your previous article) and planes I’m quickly out of my depth… Back to THE particular model I purchased in the 80’s , now packed in a box somewhere. , I believe it’s 1/64th scale and as detailed as that small size would allow… it came in 2 versions, one as all the rest but the “sibling” sported a yellow body w/ black scallops. A toy manufacturer’s whim or a real connection somewhere? Anyone?

        • You are thinking of the Gee Bee Z, the first of the forshortened racers, not quite as radical as the “R” planes, and smaller. It crashed disastrously on a speed record run at low altitude, killing the pilot. The cause was thought to be the gas cap, ahead of the cockpit, flying off, going through the thin plastic canopy, and hitting the pilot. It was painted black and yellow, with a red pinstripe between the two colors.l

  3. I am far from an expert, but just a couple of comments: Granville may have been interested in Franklins because of their air-cooled engines; apparently a number of 30’s aviation people had Franklins for this reason; Franklin used a LOT of die-cast aluminum to save weight – Granville may have been interested in this? As I recall, Franklin was a pioneer in the die-cast aluminum process. FYI, there is a terrific Franklin museum here in Tucson.

    • Recently visited the Gilmore Museum in Michigan which has a display by the Franklin Club. One thing I remember is that apparently Franklin put many aviation personalities in Franklins, probably gratis, for the publicity it gave them. Granville was likely one of them.

  4. The streamline bus photo is in Donald F Wood’s Commercial Trucks book captioned: ‘Ford 1936, Duro Metal Products of Chicago used this rig mounted on a 1936 Ford chassis as a traveling showroom. Ford archives ‘

    • The photo is also shown in the book Ford Trucks Since 1905 (Crestline) with the following caption.

      “The custom-built integral display van was inspired by the new streamlined passenger trains placed in service by the Union Pacific Railroad in 1934. Mounted on a 157-inch wheelbase Ford truck chassis it was owned by Duro Metal Products Company of Chicago. Since it was similarly influenced by passenger train design; based in Chicago; and, utilized DeSoto Airflow headlamps, it seems probable that the vehicle was built by the same firm which created the 1935 Olson Rug Company van previously shown.”

      The Chicago Daily Tribune shows a side view of the vehicle in the July 19, 1936 issue. The photo is too poor to reproduce here, but the caption states, “An air conditioned bus has just been purchased by the Duro Metal Products company, 2651 North Kildare avenue. Inside is a traveling display of a complete home mechanic’s workshop. The cooling system was installed by the Mills Novelty company, 4100 Fullerton avenue.”

      The Mills Novelty Company was run by Herbert S. Mills who has been described as the “Henry T. Ford of slot machines.” In 1929 Mills started manufacturing freezing and ice cream hardening equipment, and eventually the firm began producing refrigeration compressors and air conditioning units.

      An ad in the Hanover [Pennsylvania] Evening Star from March 8, 1937 shows a very similar photo that called the vehicle a “Motor Bus” and stated it cost $10,000.

      The “D” weight class on the Illinois license plate indicates a vehicle weighing between 10,001 and 12,000 pounds.

  5. That is a take off on the Union Pacific “City of Salina” M 10,000.
    I don’t want to go there with a picture that may be copyright.
    There are a lot of good pics of the City of Salina on line.
    One look at the bus I saw the City.

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