The RVing Examiner can reveal exclusively that episode 11 of Autoweek’s Vinsetta Garage- which premieres on Discovery Channel’s Velocity network on Tuesday, March 13 at 8:30 PM EST (7:30 PM CT) – will recapture the sophistication of a bygone era of RVing by showcasing a stunning, 33-foot-long bespoke private coach – with a distinctive split screen windshield – manufactured by the now defunct US-based Flxible Company.
Established by Hugo H. Young in Ohio in 1913 as The Flexible Sidecar Company (later renamed The Flxible Co) this storied company built a variety of funeral cars and ambulances based on Buick chassis, as well as intercity and transit buses (like the Clipper, Visicoach and Starliner), incorporating a GMC chassis and Buick eight-cylinder engines. Sadly Flxible, which was once the largest builder of transit buses in the United States, has gone the way of other famous coach building companies like Eagle International. Although Flxible ceased operation in 1996 this 9-ton Loudonville-built coach – one of only five such examples built by Flxible in 1950 – stands as a testament to the work of the artisans and craftsmen at this venerable bus and motor coach manufacturer.
Vinsetta Garage host, Courtney Hanson, and Autoweek Senior Road Test Editor Natalie Neff (an 11-year veteran at Autoweek) – who describe themselves as “Thelma and Louise in a motor coach” ride along in the Flxible RV and discuss the best roads to drive and the unique roadside attractions along the 758-mile U.S. Route 127 – which traverses Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan – and also the the 11-mile stretch of U.S. Route 129 in Tennessee which includes 318 curves and is often referred to as the “tail of the dragon.” At the end of the episode, Mario VanRaay – General Manager at Canadian-based RM Auto Restoration – gives viewers a tour of the motor coach and explains what makes it so special. According to its original 1950 bill of sale this Flxible coach with its retro art deco exterior was originally offered at $20,700, but was sold at auction to a private buyer in April, 2009 for a stunning $92,400.
The custom built Flxible Coach – often referred to as a Land Cruiser – was originally commissioned by the wealthy Minneapolis-based Slawik family and is the epitome of 1950’s travelling elegance and functionality. Somewhat surprisingly, the coach – which celebrates its sixty-second birthday this year – has logged a mere 24,000 miles. Probably because from 1958-1995 the Flxible was kept in a climate-controlled storage unit!
The rig sleeps up to seven passengers, and features the original Buick inline eight-cylinder engine, as well as a Spicer four-speed manual transmission, air brakes, power steering, a Kohler four-cylinder automatic generator, and a roof-mounted electric air conditioner. Passenger accommodations include a beautiful mahogany and stainless steel interior dating to a 1955 refit, a fully outfitted galley with an intercom and storage cabinets, a Pullman-style bathroom, and a private sleeping area for four, which converts to a pair of daytime sofas. Externally, the Coach continues to display its 1955 factory refinish with gold leaf trim, and while it rolls on a set of updated wheels and tires, the original items are included as well.
This truly singular Flxible Coach has to be seen to be believed. When it was sold in 2009 it came complete with a circa-1956 Chrysler Highway Hi-Fi radio/record player – designed by CBS Laboratories – which included records, sleeves, and packaging! The unit plays through the speaker of the vehicle radio and uses the radio’s amplifier system. The turntable for playing records is located in a shock-proof case which was mounted just below the center of the instrument panel. A tone arm, including sapphire stylus and ceramic pick up, plus storage space for six long-play records make up the unit.
The special records are seven inches in size, transcribed on both sides, and were pressed especially for Chrysler by Columbia Records. They give up to 45 minutes of music and up to one full hour of speech per side, a collection of six disks was presented to customers with each player. The Chrysler Highway Hi-Fi is as rare as the Flxible coach. Only 42 units were ever produced!
Don’t forget that if you’re on the west coast the half-hour Vinsetta Garage episode will air at 5:30 p.m. (PST) on Velocity HD.
Additional Information: Autoweek Vinsetta Garage • RM Auto Restoration, One Classic Car Drive, Blenheim, Ontario N0P 1A0 Canada. • The Flxible Forums •
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