“The Gray Line”, the mountain gives back.

The 1940 Gray Line tour car line up.

 As early as 1915 there was a market for tourist travel to the summit of Pikes Peak. While many folks chose to take the Cog Rail line to the top, others wanted a more personalized and private trip to the summit by automobile.

White bus, Pierce-Arrow, Cadillac and specialty designed 1955 Chevrolet tour cars were used on Pikes Peak

The Broadmoor Hotel ran the largest stable of tour cars and ran the program through the Gray Line travel company. Earliest cars that were used began with the White Model 15-25 bus and the Pierce-Arrow cars.  Tradition dictated the drivers to stop at the halfway point for pictures at Glen Cove and for an additional charge, photographs could also be taken a summit house.

Starting in the late 1930’s the Broadmoor Hotel ordered specialty built Cadillac tour cars with a removable canvas roof.   These twelve passenger cars became a favorite with the folks wanted to take in all of the sites along the route. Additional orders continued in the 1940’s and 1950’s, the later cars no longer had the removable top but came with sunroofs featured across the top of the cars to allow for the wonderful views , while keeping the somewhat brisk temperatures at bay.

The program of producing these special cars became such a success that the Cadillac named them the “Broadmoor Skyview” .

By 1955 the cars were all painted a bright red and no longer carried the Gray Line tour company logos . They were used by the hotel for VIP guests. These 1955, 1956 and the last edition of the SkyView Cadillac in 1959 have become very collectible and a few have survived.

The Flxible Bus.

In 1954 a contact to build short wheel base tour buses was given to the Flxible Company of Londonville Ohio, for five buses . Four would go to the Pikes Peak Highway Company and an additional bus for the “Colburn Motors Tours” company also from Colorado Springs.

New buses coming to the Pikes Peak Highway in 1954
The “Flxible bus while on a rest stop on the Pikes Peak Highway.
The Broadmoor Skydview Cadillac in 1959 in bright red .
Picture shows a Broadmoor Skyview Cadillac and a Flxible bus at the summit of Pikes Peak late 1950’s

The Gray Line and Broadmoor tour drivers.

This is the part were the mountain gave back. One of the hardest parts of racing on Pikes Peak is learning the road. The so called “156 turns” can make or break a drivers time to the summit. If you wanted to know the route better as a race car driver , taking a turn as a tour car or a tour bus driver was one of the best ways to learn the course. (Some out of state competitors called it an unfair advantage for the local drivers) .  As early as 1949 Speed Age magazine interviewed successful driver Art Hillis about his knowledge of the course and that time already had 5040 trips up Pikes Peak as a tour car driver. That’s right over 5000 trips !

Best way to know the road was by being a tour car driver . Free Press newspaper 1950

 

Many race car drivers, Art Hillis, J.C. Shoemaker, Al Rogers ( over 3000), Louie J. Unser, Nick Sanborn,  Bob Finney and many more over the years could count their trips in the hundreds and thousands on the Pikes Peak Highway. .  Not only was it about learning the many turns , but also learning how the weather conditions effected the different road surfaces.

A handful survive !

The mountain took it’s toll on the equipment used in the tourist business, but the care given to the vehicles used was always first class. Several still survive today. The most prominent of the survivors is fittingly still with the Broadmoor Hotel.  A beautiful 1937 Cadillac with the roll back roof is still in their collection and is available to rent for special occasions.

The 1937 Cadillac tour car in front of the Broadmoor Hotel

 

Two of the Flxible buses survive, one is rumored to be in England and other known bus is located in the USA.  Check out this video below for more details.

 

Someone had to do it.

As long as companies were providing travel tours up to the summit of Pikes Peak,by automobile someone had to drive. Why not an inspiring race car driver !

If you have additional information, photos or stories about these tour programs please contact me. It is an important part of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb racing history.

The Unser Boys ascend Pikes Peak on Indians

1915    Sept 19th   Three brothers Jerome, Louis and Joseph Unser aged 16, 19, 18 made the trip up Pikes Peak on Indian motorcycles. Jerome and Joseph was on the Indian with the sidecar. Louis was on the single and waited for his brothers at the end of construction, short of the Summit. They had to carry the sidecar rig the rest of the way to the summit.   The first time for a sidecar at the Summit of Pikes Peak. The time of the trip from Cascade at the foot of Pikes Peak to the Summit was 2hr 15 minutes.

The entire Unser family would go on to set records for years to come at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb race.  Pikes Peak would be nicknamed  “Unser Mountain”. It all started with an Indian motorcycle with a side car.  Take some time to check out the family website for their museum:

http://www.unserracingmuseum.com/

 

First gasoline automobile to climb Pikes Peak

1913  July 18th  W.W. Brown and J.S. Bradley made history climbing to the summit in his Buick BearCat automobile.  This event is covered at many sites on the web. The best being:

http://winfield.50megs.com/WWBrown.htm

This article is from the Colorado Springs Gazette July 19th 1913

William purchased the Buick,  at a fire sale for $100 and stripped it down to save weight (1400 lbs). It was a 1910 Model 10 Buick “Bear Cat” racer which had a 92 inch wheelbase and a 165 cu. in. 4 cylinder engine that developed 22½ horsepower, The tires were wrapped in hemp rope to help keep the rocks from  cutting into  the rubber.  An interesting detail while climbing the steps of the Cog Railway platform , he tore off the top step and damaged his flywheel and crankcase doing so., but not enough damage to keep his BearCat from driving back down using the Cog Railway road. The trip going up took 3 hours and 22 minutes . Brown’s BearCat was a nice little race car winning 15 of 18 races and 3 second place finishes. Dirt tracks were booming and the hot rod age was dawning in the early teens.

Newspapers reported that W.W. Brown believed Mr. Penrose decided to build a road up the Peak after his car performed so well going up the old carriage trail.

W.W. Brown would come back years later to run in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb and also he built a car for the Indy 500.