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Peacemaker I, 1987-present; Vermont; Peacemaker II, 2005-present; New Hampshire
Associated Firms
General American Aerocoach, General Motors

A handful of surviving Aerocoaches can be found today in the hands of private enthusiasts and museums (AACA in Hershey, PA). However you’re much more likely to encounter one of the two Aerocoach-sourced GM Motor Coaches, named Peacemaker I and Peacemaker II, which tour the country as part of the outreach mission of The Twelve Tribes, an international messianic religious group founded by Elbert Eugene Spriggs in 1972.

The buses and their on-board EMTs provide complimentary medical care at large public gatherings and concerts (Phish, My Morning Jacket, Dark Star, Ratdog, The Other Ones, Bob Dylan, Bob Weir, Mickey Hart etc.) frequented by Dead Heads, so named for their love of the Grateful Dead.

The Twelve Tribes (known informally as ‘The Community’ or as ‘Yahshuas’ by Dead Heads) are headquartered in Vermont and operate an expansive system of hostels, health food stores, restaurants (Yellow Deli), and gift shops. If you frequent farmer’s markets in the Northeast, you’ve likely encountered members of The Community selling organic food, furniture handicrafts and their (excellent!) bread at one time or another. The Twelve Tribes have three communities in Vermont (Bellows Falls, Island Pond, Rutland); farms in Cambridge and Ithaca, New York; a large ranch in Valley Center, California and a short-lived coachworks in Lancaster, New Hampshire. They are also affiliated with dozens of smaller Communities (or ‘Sprigs’) located across the continental U.S. (New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Tennessee, Colorado, and Florida) and in several other countries (Australia, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom).

The Peacemaker I was conceived in 1986 as an outreach to the Grateful Dead concertgoers and was constructed using a 1961 GM motor coach topped off with the upper section of a 1950 General American Aerocoach observation coach. The rear half of the coach was raised approximately 24” to provide it with a bi-level or stepped greenhouse and pieces fabricated to fill in the gaps. The high quality work was completed over a three month period at the beginning of 1987. In a brochure entitled ‘A Bus Called Peacemaker’ Twelve Tribes community member ‘Anak’ (pictured to the right overseeing the construction of Peacemaker II) describes the process of fusing two buses together to create a bus with character:

“A couple of months later the ‘cocoon’ was prepared (a 100 year old barn was bisected to fit a bus) and the ‘caterpillar’ went in for the metamorphosis. The next three months was a labor of self-sacrificing love by some truly spiritual men who spent 16 to 20 hours a day in a practically unheated barn in northern Vermont in January, February, and March.”

The Peacemaker moniker is related to a riot that ensued between the Pittsburgh Police and a group of Dead Heads on April 3, 1989. The bus and members of the Twelve Tribes community were in attendance offering free medical care to the concertgoers.

Someone within the unruly crowd congregating outside the Grateful Dead concert venue threw a beer bottle at one of the officers, splitting his head open. The PPD’s Riot Squad arrived moments later and a reported 500 Dead Heads were arrested. Tensions remained high and the Pittsburgh Police enlisted the help of The Community to try and calm things down. A megaphone was provided to Community member ‘Gladheart’ (real name Dicky Cantrell) who spoke up telling everyone to be ‘peacemakers.’ Twelve Tribes members started dancing and playing music in the chasm separating the police and the angry Dead Heads. As time went on much of the formerly angry crowd were happily clapping to the beat and further violence was averted. The chief of police commended the actions of The Community members stating "You are peacemakers!" and from that day on the name stuck.

During the next 15 years Peacemaker I travelled over a half million miles during which time it required 3 replacement engines and transmissions as well as countless sets of tires. The coachwork held up well although it required reupholstering and was repainted three times.

It eventually became apparent that a replacement was sorely needed and The Community decided to create a much-improved version of the original Peacemaker that would be longer, taller, and carry more people. It could also be equipped with air conditioning, an onboard generator, and a shower – three items the original Peacemaker had done without.

In 2004 The Community acquired the two vehicles - a 1955 GMC Scenicruiser and a 1949 General American Aerocoach Observation Coach - required to complete their vision and construction commenced in a small auto body shop located on Summer St. in Lancaster, New Hampshire. Thankfully The Community documented its construction in the series of photographs seen to the right. Long story short, the ten-wheeled 1955 Scenicruiser was horizontally bisected above the wheels retaining the original running gear. The top half was raised approximately 24” to provide it with the same stepped greenhouse seen on the original coach and its roof replaced with that of the 1949 Aerocoach. Once again pieces were hand-fabricated to fill in the gaps and outfitted with side windows taken from the Aerocoach. The styling was substantially upgraded from that of the original Peacemaker by installing forward-facing windows below the bi-level roof and the quality of its construction exceeded the excellent work found on the original vehicle.

The exterior was finished off with a beautiful two-tone maroon and cream paint job with the front marquee bearing the bus' name: ‘Peacemaker’. The interior was modeled after a wooden ship and was finished in cherry, ash and mahogany hardwoods. It can sleep up to 24 with convertible bunks and 2 overhead lofts and has a stainless steel bathroom with shower in the front and a kitchenette in the rear.

The Peacemaker II debuted in April 2007 at a Yellow Deli reunion in Chattanooga, Tennessee. From there, Peacemaker I & II embarked on a West Coast Tour that traveled from The Morning Star Ranch in Valley Center, CA to Vancouver, BC. The buses crossed the country through the Twelve Tribes midwest communities and then embarked on an East Coast tour. More recently the Peacemaker II accompanied the 2012-2013 Bob Dylan tour, distributing a memento pamphlet of Dylan's songs and insights and appeared in the Great Lakes region at various tall ship events alongside the Twelve Tribes’ Peacemaker tall ship.

For more information please see the Twelve Tribes website.

© 2014 Mark Theobald for with special thanks to Dale Martin and The Community






Peacemaker II's constructors from L-R; Ben Nabi, Yachin, Ahron, Maoz, Nehemiah, Zerbabel and Shuvael.

Outside the rear of the bus at the left is Anak; standing up on the bus L-R are Nehemiah, Maoz & Shuvael; on the floor in the back are Abad, Nehemiah and Tacov; on the floor in front are Steve, Yonah, Jeremiah & Reya.

Anak imspects the metal superstructure


Beverly Rae Kimes & Henry Austin Clark - Standard Catalog of American Cars: 1805-1942

Steve Bloom - Deadheads, High Times; June, 1990 issue

Dale Martin - Twelve Tribes Community makes a two-to-one bus, Great Northwoods Journal, Jan 7, 2006 issue

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