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The Revolutionary Pickwick Motor Coach Designs | The Old Motor

An Entertaining & Informative Vintage Automobile Internet Magazine

The Revolutionary Pickwick Motor Coach Designs

February 1, 2013

The Pickwick Stage Lines was a west coast company that like many early bus and taxi companies, started out small in 1912 with a Model T Ford and by the mid-teens had prospered and was buying Pierce-Arrow cars for use as stages.

By the early 1920s Pickwick could see the need to build its own coach bodies for use on the long distance routes the company ran. has an excellent article on the Pickwick Motor Coach Works and had this to say about the designer and the first custom built coaches the firm built:

Dwight E. Austin, born on September 26, 1897, was a natural born engineer who excelled at his profession despite the fact that his formal education ended at the eighth grade. In 1915 he joined his father and brother in the formation of an automobile repair business where he developed a knack for working with wood and metal which led the firm into the body building business. After the 1922 sale of his father’s business, Austin was subsequently hired by the Pickwick Stages who appointed him designer and superintendent of it body works in 1923.

Austin was the man responsible for the legendary Pickwick intercity parlor-buffet coaches which were introduced on the Pierce-Arrow Model Z chassis in 1925. In March of 1927, Austin introduced the Pickwick Observation-Buffet Coach, which was followed four months later by an improved model with a novel elevated driver’s compartment in the form of a crow’s nest jutting out from the top of the vehicle. Both models were built on the purpose-built Pierce-Arrow Model Z bus chassis.”

The photo at the (top) from the Automotive Industries magazine, September 18, 1927, issue, shows this wild second design with the “Crows Nest” on the top for the driver. The Observation-Buffet Coach and patent photos (center) are courtesy of Good detailed photos of the early units the company produced, are hard to find and we would like to do another post on this Observation-Buffet Coach if any of our readers can help.

Austin always the innovator, next set to work designing and building the the new Pickwick NiteCoach as seen here (above and below). This was the first of four units that the company built. had this to say about the NightCoach:

“The coach had a central aisle intermediate of the two decks with single steps leading up and down into the thirteen 2-passenger compartments. The center aisle was 86 inches tall and its roof was composed of a central Duralumin backbone and framework covered by insulating board and a heavy nitrite-coated canvas cover.


The Nite Coach’s front-mounted engine was built into a removable carrier frame which was fitted with a 110 horsepower Sterling Petrel 6-cylinder gasoline engine and a Brown-Lipe transmission. Power was delivered to the rear wheels via a driveshaft that rode inside a 22 inch wide central isle which was constructed of made up of heavy 1/8 inch Duralumin plate.  Steel uprights ran up to the roof  forming a central framework to which the various compartment partitions and braces were attached. The resulting steel and Duralumin honeycomb resulted in a durable two story coach weighing little more than a standard single deck 33-passenger coach. The windows were made from shatterproof glass framed by composite Duralumin and Bakelite frames.”

The the August 14, 1928, Capital Times, Madison,Wisconsin, had the following to say about the kitchen and lavatory in the NiteCoach:

Lavatory located directly in the rear of the car and equipped with flushing toilet, chemical tank for collection of waste, wash stand with running water and full length plate glass mirror. The kitchen is located in the entranceway of the car and is complete in every detail. Range, percolator, toaster, ice box and cooking utensils as well as table wear for 20 passengers carried. Meals will be served on tables in the compartments.”

In the middle (above) left to right; an article from the August 11, 1928, Automotive Industries gives full details of the new NiteCoach, and a drawing for the patent received by Dwight E. Austin for the design on October 6, 1931.

The last of the sensational Pickwick NiteCoach units is seen (below). This appears to be a modified version of the 1928 design, with a tapered tail and a longer second floor section. This Pickwick design featured Pullman style double sleepers carrying 26 passengers in comfort on overnight journeys. It appears that this design came out late in 1929, as a photo of it was found in the Automobile Trade Journal, dated Dec. 18, 1929, showing a NiteCoach at a convention in Atlantic City, NJ.

Left to right (below); a patent drawing filed on November 20, 1929, for this second design, (center and right) a two page article in Automotive Industries Magazine, dated May 17, 1930, showing the new 53 passenger coach which followed the NiteCoach and gives us many details about its construction. Visit with where you can learn more about these very interesting coaches and the company, in a very detailed two-part post filled many more photos.


8 responses to “The Revolutionary Pickwick Motor Coach Designs”

  1. I saw one of these in a junk yard on the NW side of Chicago, on Addison west of Harlem. It must have been in 1943. By 1944 the entire junk yard had gone to the war effort.

  2. As far as I know there is only one of the nite coaches left,it was in Montana several years ago used as a storage building it was retrieved and is now in Southern Ca,its a rolling chassis now with no running gear.

    • Hi. I’m very interested in seeing this nite coach, and I live in So. California. Do you have any further information of its location? Much appreciated.

  3. Wonderful history of these amazing coaches when traffic allowed such machines to travel in comfort. The coaches in Skagway, AK are still in operation as far as I know for scenic touring of the area, likewise amazing machines. Thanks for posting.


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