Editor’s Note: This article was originally printed in the January 2023 Issue of National Bus Trader Magazine. It has been reprinted with the permission of Larry Plachno.
1937 Yellow Coach Model 743
John D. Hertz began building vehicles in 1910 under the Yellow Cab name and established Yellow Coach in 1923 to build buses. General Motors took over Yellow Coach in the late 1920s and moved operations to Pontiac, Michigan. By 1930, Greyhound was buying and operating Yellow Coaches.
The Yellow Coach Models 719 and 743 represent a major change in the bus industry to rear engines, underfloor luggage compartments and integral construction. Around 1929, Dwight E. Austin developed integral construction for the Pickwick Nite Coach because it was impossible to do what he wanted with a chassis. While Pickwick failed to continue production into the Depression years, Austin was hired by General Motors and put to work developing a new rear engine integral coach with underfloor luggage that was introduced as the Model 719 Super Coach in 1934. This was later upgraded to the Model 743 that offered Detroit Diesel’s new 6-71 inline diesel engine.
Fred Dunikoski wanted a Yellow Coach Model 743 in the historical fleet and related what he went through. He started by finding a 743 that had been converted to two-and-one seating. He continued looking and found a former Northland Greyhound 743 at Black Hills Stages in Nebraska. After that, a third 743 was acquired to be used for parts to restore the 743 acquired from Black Hills Stages. The Yellow Coach 743 became the flagship of the Greyhound fleet until the new Silversides design came along. With bus production curtailed during the war years, the 743 was essentially a major part of the Greyhound fleet through World War II until the arrival of the new Silversides after the war. The asking price on the Model 743 is $75,000.
1947 GM PD4151 Silversides
Yellow Coach introduced its Silversides design in the late 1930s as the replacement for the Model 743. Production during the war was limited because the assembly line in Pontiac was used to make amphibious Ducks for the military. Production resumed after the war under the General Motors name but was again hampered by a major strike from November of 1945 through the end of March, 1946.
In common with most other bus operators, Greyhound struggled through the war years with increased ridership, an aging fleet and little or no new coaches. In 1947, Greyhound placed an order with GM for 2,000 Silversides coaches to rejuvenate its fleet. It was reportedly the largest bus order ever placed. While most of the order involved the PD3751 model, there were some of the newer PD4151 model. This was a special model for Greyhound with four additional seats.
While additional orders for following “41” models were placed with General Motors, the Silversides effectively served as the flagship model of the Greyhound fleet for many years. Noteworthy features included the reliable inline 6-71 diesel engine and an air clutch with a column-mounted shift handle. This model developed a reputation for durability and being a very solid coach, sometimes compared to a Sherman Tank. This member of the Historical Fleet has already been spoken for by the Pacific Bus Museum. As of December, 2022 they are gathering together donations to pay for it.
1948 ACF Brill Model IC-41
Greyhound began moving to Yellow Coach buses around 1930 but did buy from other manufacturers for special applications. For example, lines with lighter patronage did not require the larger coaches. Hence, some smaller coaches including the Gar Wood, Aerocoach, FitzJohn and even the small Flxible Clipper were brought into the Greyhound fleet. In order to modernize its fleet quickly after the war, Greyhound turned to the ACF Brill Model IC-41.
American Car and Foundry expanded into the bus business with the acquisition of Fageol Motors of Kent, Ohio and J. G. Brill Company of Philadelphia. Fageol had been founded by the Fageol Brothers in 1916 in Oakland, California and had built coaches including the popular Safety Coach introduced in 1921. Brill was the largest builder of streetcars and was moving into the bus business. After the war the company built a series of Brill transit buses both gas and electric trolleys. The IC-41 model was the company’s most popular post-war intercity coach.
In spite of its unique features, it was purchased and operated by many bus companies including Greyhound and Trailways.
Although being the standard 35 feet long and 96 inches wide, the Model IC-41 had some features that were different than other coaches. The passenger door was located behind the front axle and was operated by air from a knob on the dash. As a result, there was a passenger seat in front of the door and to the right of the driver at the front of the coach. What was probably the biggest difference is that the IC-41 was powered by an underfloor Hall-Scott Model 190 gasoline engine. This overhead cam engine had a huge displacement of 779 cubic inches and offered a great deal of power.
On the negative side, the underfloor engine limited luggage space. On the positive side, it could push those buses to 80 miles per hour or more. Unfortunately, fuel consumption was rarely better than three miles per gallon. Some say that the IC-41 originated the phrase “. . . it will pass everything but a gas station.” The asking price on the Brill is $85,000.
1954 GM PD4501 Scenicruiser
The Scenicruiser is obviously the star of the historic fleet. In addition to being the coach that started the Greyhound Historic Fleet, it represents the first production unit of the model generally considered to be the most iconic American coach. Having been unable to replace its aging fleet during the war, Greyhound placed a record order for Silverside coaches and then set about in 1947 looking for a new model for the future. This led to the double-deck GX-1 or Highway Traveler that was impressive but considered too radical.
In 1949 General Motors built a prototype GX-2 that was a deck-and-a-half design with a length of 40 feet. At that time prior to interstate highways the states controlled vehicle dimensions. Hence, the GX-2 was brought to state capitols to foster legislation approving the 40-foot length. The new technology from the GX-2 went into developing the 35-foot GM PD4104 that was introduced in 1953 and the new Scenicruiser that was built for Greyhound starting in 1954.
Jim Michaud comments: “Obviously, the PD4501 has extreme significance as it has serial number PD4501-001. It is the very first one off the production line and has remained in Greyhound’s fleet its entire life. There is no other bus that is more iconic and represents the bus industry better than the Greyhound Scenicruiser. There are a few out there today that have undergone significant restorations that are on par with “001,” and each of those restorations were well over one million dollars. But they still do not have the significance or history of being the first production model.”
A total of 1,000 production Scenicruiser coaches were built from 1954 to 1956. They all went to Greyhound and became the new flagship model of the fleet. Since 2,000 PD4104 coaches were also added at this time, the Greyhound fleet was highly modernized and given a new appearance. An attempt to replace the Scenicruiser with the 102-inch wide MCI MC-6 model was not successful because of the width. Hence, the MCI MC-7 model was the effective replacement for the Scenicruisers in the Greyhound fleet.
As late as the gasoline crunch of 1973, half of the Scenicruiser fleet was still operating for Greyhound. Some of them racked up more than three million miles before being sold to other bus companies. By 1978, all of them had left Greyhound except for the preserved 001 and two units in San Francisco that were out of service. The asking price on the Scenicruiser is $980,000.
1968 MCI MC-7
Some people have asked about the gap between the Scenicruiser and the MCI MC-7. It has been suggested that initial plans called for adding a PD4104 or PD4106 to the Historic Fleet, but they were not retained. While the MCI MC-6 was an exclusive model for Greyhound, it had only a limited production run and hence was never a big factor in the fleet so it was not included in the Historic Fleet. It was the MC – 7 that effectively replaced the Scenicruisers.
Greyhound began switching to buying MCI coaches with the 35-foot MC-5 that was introduced in 1963. The MC-7 model built upon this basic design but had a length of 40 feet, three axles and a raised passenger level to increase luggage capacity. Like the PD4106 and MC-5, it was powered with the Detroit Diesel 8V-71 engine. The first MC-7 delivered to Greyhound had skirting over the bogie axle and was lettered “Scenicruiser.” Subsequent coaches were lettered “Super 7 Scenicruiser” to carry on the Scenicruiser name but differentiate the new MCI.
The MC-7 started production in 1968 and remained in production until 1973. When it entered the Greyhound fleet, the MC-7 effectively took over as the Flagship model although some of the Scenicruisers were still around for another decade. It also marked the end of purchasing 35-foot coaches for the fleet. Greyhound became the largest operator of the MC-7 model and during the last year of production, Greyhound began ordering MC-7 coaches with automatic transmissions. With the introduction of the MC-8 model in 1974 the MC-7 was replaced as the flagship of the Greyhound fleet. The MC-7 in the Historical Fleet has already been sold and will be going into a fleet that is active doing movie work.
1984 TMC/MCI MC-9
Newest of the coaches in the Greyhound Historical Fleet is an MC-9. The MCI MC-9 model was introduced in late 1978. It replaced the MC-8 in the MCI product line and effectively became the flagship of the Greyhound fleet when purchased by Greyhound. It is noteworthy that when MCI discontinued their 35-foot MC-5C model in 1980, the MC-9 became the only MCI model in production until the introduction of the new “A” model in 1984.
Effectively an updated MC-8, the MC-9 was very popular with many coach operators. In spite of the fact that MCI offered newer models, the MC-9 remained in regular production until 1990 – a span of nearly a dozen years. July of 1989 saw MCI offer a Special Edition of the MC-9 that featured a special interior and an attractive price. When regular production ended in 1990, a total of 9,513 units had been built. This set a new American coach production record, bypassing the 5,065 GM PD4104 coaches that had been built over a span of eight years.
Also noteworthy about this particular coach is that it was built in Roswell, New Mexico. The gasoline shortage of 1972 and 1973 increased sales at MCI and prompted the opening of an additional manufacturing plant at Transportation Manufacturing Corporation in Roswell, New Mexico. Although initially intended to produce coaches for Greyhound, Roswell built coaches for other companies. This MC-9 was built there in 1984. The asking price on the MC-9 is $55,000.
Historical Fleet Notes
Why did the Greyhound Historical Fleet end with the MC-9? The most obvious answer is that Greyhound Corp. announced that it was divesting itself of Greyhound Lines in late 1986. The new owners probably had little chance to make decisions on this before financial problems appeared and they were forced into bankruptcy. After Greyhound Lines was back on its feet again, it became very conservative and starting buying the MC-12 model, effectively an updated MC-9. It was somewhat of an anachronism since it continued with the 40-foot length and 96-inch width while the industry was moving to 45 feet and 102 inches. The Historical Fleet never did develop beyond the MC-9.
Additional information and photos of the coaches can be found on BusesOnline.com. Michaud Bus Appraisals has indicated that they are accepting offers from those that are interested in acquiring one of these coaches from the Greyhound Historic Fleet. For more information on these buses contact Jim Michaud at (603) 679-2800 or Jim@BusAppraiser.com.