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David Millhouser
March 11, 2024
96 views

Two Kinds of Coaches (Pushers and Pullers)

It was pitch black as the empty Scenicruiser climbed an icy Colorado slope. Wheels spinning, it fought the grade, and the grade won. It slid sideways into a ditch. Oakie was driving, and never one to quit, he spotted a D8 Caterpillar dozer parked nearby.

As a “juvenile,” he had “practiced” driving a “borrowed” bulldozer, and he put that experience into play. Firing that jewel up, he strapped it to the Scenicruiser with some chain and proceeded to jerk its’ butt out of the ditch.

Bad idea. Scenicruiser’s parking brakes only use one axle (not enough on ice). The bus began sliding downhill backward. Thus began a delicate dance as Oakie drove the ‘dozer fast enough to avoid being bashed but not so fast that he put strain on the chain and made things worse.

If Oakie had pulled when pushing that might have worked better.

There are two kinds of coaches, pushers, and pullers; and it behooves us to choose wisely.

Pullers

Nothing comes free, and their weaknesses pushed them from the over-the-road motorcoach market following WWII, but they’re currently making a return.

Support can be uneven because responsibility for the chassis, body and some components are each handled by different organizations.

Entrance doors eat useful floor space, and the front of their passenger compartment tends to be noisy.

Ride quality and handling aren’t as good. High-capacity pullers have a turning radius rivaling that of a container ship, and they often sweep outside the turn with a swinging bootie. 

The lengthy driveshaft occupies space that a pusher uses for luggage. Body/chassis design buses generally have a shorter lifespan (and lower residual value).

Reduced acquisition cost makes them a good choice where mileage traveled is low.

In a tougher duty cycle, the math becomes fuzzier. If they cost half as much but only have 1/4 the life expectancy… (if I was good at math, would I be writing columns?)

Pushers

Mounting the engine in the back offers problems of its own. You must stuff all sorts of delicate technology in a small hot place, where It’s harder to find and maintain. Cooling is tough. Heck, just checking the fluids can be an adventure.

The passenger cabin is quieter because there’s more room for insulation, and baggage space abounds. Three axles make weight a lesser concern, and semi-monocoque construction can endure millions of miles.

Bob (appropriately known as Mace) was frustrated. His 4104’s battery was dead, and efforts to push start it with an ancient Dodge van had been futile. A fan of inertia, he decided to back the van and get a run at the ‘04.

Bob nailed the bussy butt at 20 MPH and it did roll off. As a triumphant Mace leaped from the Dodge…its’ windshield fell out in the street. The steering wheel bracket had cracked, and from then on, we would steer that sucker by pushing/pulling the wheel… no need to turn it.

In this case, pulling might have been better than his aggravated version of pushing.

In choosing between front and rear engines for a bus conversion, consider the strengths and weaknesses as they relate to your finances and planned travel locations and schedule.

Don’t be Oakie… or Mace.

Article written by David Millhouser
Dave Millhouser started driving buses cross-country for a non-profit Christian organization called “Young Life” as a summer job in 1965. They carried high school kids from the East Coast to ranches in Colorado in a fleet that consisted of three 1947 Brills, a 1947 Aerocoach, and a 1937 Brill. Their fleet grew to 23 buses and traveled all 48 contiguous states and much of Canada.When Young Life dropped their bus program, Dave ended up selling parts for Hausman Bus Sales. In 1978 Dave was hired by Eagle International to sell motorcoaches and spent the next 30 years doing that… 13 years with Eagle, as well as stints with MCI, Setra, and Van Hool. His first sale was an Eagle shell for a motorhome, and his career ended selling double-decker Van Hools.Dave had a side career in underwater photography/writing, and Bus and Motorcoach News asked him to do a regular column in 2006. Millhouser.net is an effort to make those columns available to bus people.If you find value in them, feel free to use them at no charge. Dave would ask that you consider a donation to the AACA Museum aacamuseum.org in Hershey, Pennsylvania. They recently merged with the Museum of Bus Transportation, and maintain a fleet of 40 historic coaches, lots of bus memorabilia, and hundreds of antique automobiles.If you are anywhere near Hershey… Dave says, “You will love it.”In May of 2015, the Editor of Bus & Motorcoach News called Dave a Bad Example for Motorcoach Drivers… his proudest accomplishment to date. Read the columns and you’ll see why.

Click here to reach Dave by email: davemillhouser@icloud.com Click here to visit his website: https://www.millhouser.net/

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