July 30, 1928
Dwight E. Austin, an engineer at the California-based bus company Pickwick Stages System, finished building the first model of one of the most unique motor vehicles to grace America’s highways up to that time. The vehicle was the Nite Coach (also spelled out as Nitecoach), a double-decker bus with sleeping accommodations for up to 26 passengers.
The new bus was 34.5 feet (10.5 meters) in length, eight feet (2.4 meters) in width, and 10 feet (3.1 meters) in height. The Nite Coach’s innovative features included 13 double-sleeping compartments for long-distance overnight trips (the compartments could each be converted to dayrooms); a kitchen; dining facilities; and a lavatory. The top deck was designed to function as a balcony in good weather.
The inaugural Nite Coach, which would be characterized by Wisconsin’s Capital Times newspaper as a “veritable hotel on wheels” and “palatial motor bus,” was intended for use on Pickwick’s transit runs between Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego. Shortly after Austin completed work on the vehicle, the Nite Coach made its public debut at that summer’s Long Beach Pacific Southwest Exposition. The Nite Coach proved to be a popular attraction at that event and – with approximately 20,000 people in attendance – none other than movie star Clara Bow christened the vehicle.
“The sensational ‘Nitecoach’ looks like nothing else awheel or afloat,” reported the Texas-based Avalanche-Journal newspaper. “At first glance, it appears to visitors like a gleaming blue and gray submarine on bulging balloon tires, for it is gracefully streamlined and is equipped with portholes as well as big observations windows.” As many as four more Nite Coaches similar to the original were manufactured by Pickwick before it went out of business in 1932.
For more information on the Nite Coach, please check out http://www.coachbuilt.com/bui/p/pickwick/pickwick.htm.