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Ed Stauss
October 30, 2022
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Sizing up the Six MCI’s First Wide-Body Bus

Editor’s Note:  This article appeared in the May 1979 issue of Bus World magazine.  It is reprinted and updated here as there is a lot of interest in this model bus, even though there were only 100 of them built.  Note, one reason they decided to build wider buses was because of the increasing width of passengers so they could be more comfortable on long trips.  There are still a few of these buses out there on the road that have been converted and the owners love them. 

The intercity bus designer is up against some basic facts of human anatomy. Hips, the widest part of the body, aren’t getting any narrower over the years and need to be cradled in a bulky cushion for comfort during long trips. 

To be economical, the designer needs to install seats four abreast and then he must leave space for an aisle just wide enough for a senior citizen to squeeze through with an overnight case while carrying several overcoats and an umbrella.

Allocation of space across the 96-inch width of a standard intercity bus has been an art of carefully considering each quarter-inch.

The agony can be eased considerably with the addition of just six more inches and that’s what Greyhound had in mind in 1967 when two prototypes of the MC-6 were built and placed in service.

The MC-6 was designed as a luxury express bus for long-distance service. In addition to its 102-inch width, it had a large twelve-cylinder 385-hp engine, GM model 12V-71, and a 4-speed manual transmission. It was just the thing for cruising over the newly forming interstate highway system except for one thing, the extra six inches.  These were real fuel guzzlers but back when fuel was ($0.33/gallon), according to CreditDonkey.com fuel efficiency then wasn’t as much of a concern as it is today. 

Although 102-inch widths had been approved for transit buses in some cities, most states wouldn’t allow them out on the highway. There is a touchy political issue. Giving six inches to the buses will certainly have the truckers demanding equal space. 

Sure, that the problem would eventually be resolved, Greyhound’s factory, Motor Coach Industries in Pembina, North Dakota, built 100 MC-6s between 1969 and 1970. While the legal and licensing experts began negotiating with various states for permission to operate, they were placed on eastern routes, such as New York - Chicago, for which they were authorized.

The precious extra width was doled out with 1-1/4 inches to each seat and an extra inch for the aisle. The extra space allowed the designers to add a narrow armrest between seat pairs which could be folded up out of the way when lovers wanted to snuggle together or brought down when you’re sitting next to a stranger. 

The MC-6 has other unique architectural features such as the tri-level roofline which makes it easy to spot on the road. The lowest roof level is over the driver. There is a second level over the first twenty seats. 

These first five rows are on a slight incline, theatre-style, giving passengers some help in seeing where they’re going. Approximately mid-way back, there is another step up to the third roof level under which are 23 seats, all on the same flat floor. 

Here is a video with a few shots of the inside of the MC-6 bus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CoiLuesopw 

The two window areas on the roof steps are glazed with a dark green material that admits light but offers little view.

The rear axle is a tag (unpowered) that can be raised off the road under special circumstances such as turning tight corners and driving in snow. Originally the tag wheels were enclosed, giving the bus the appearance of having a single rear axle. Then wheel cutouts were added which are smaller than the cutouts for the driving wheels, giving the rear wheels a big and little brother appearance. Originally the tags were equipped with small 9x22.5 tires, not used anywhere else on the Greyhound fleet. Later they were able to use the same tires used on the MC-8s.

The original V-12s were replaced with 8V71 (TI) turbo-charged engines in Chicago during a 1977 overhaul. The new engines, called “fuel squeezers” are more efficient and less polluting while providing nearly the same power. At the same time, the manual transmissions were replaced with 4-speed Allison automatics.

To simplify the maintenance and licensing of these unusual buses, they have now been concentrated into two operating areas. Eighty-four were in the Greyhound Lines California-Nevada pool, running on several coastal routes and to Reno and Las Vegas. Fifteen other MC-6s were in Canada where their use is unrestricted.

The policy for the California Nevada group was to assign them to scheduled service, rather than charter, to rack up mileage as fast as possible. While the buses are interesting, their uniqueness makes maintenance more expensive. The fifteen Canadian MC-6s were not re-powered and were used in the Trans-Canada Highway service.

While most casual passengers are a bit more comfortable because of the extra inch-and-a-quarter width, they may not be conscious of the difference.  Drivers, however, find a few notable differences.  Some like the adjustable tilt steering wheel and all can appreciate the air-hydraulic opening mechanism for the entrance door.  

The door is operated by moving a small knob at the driver’s seat rather than reaching up to a conventional manual handle. Others like the high driver’s position, placing the driver at about the highest level over the traffic of any bus.

Greyhound was still seeking permission in 1967, and they made considerable progress since the MC-6 first turned its wheels. In 1967, they were allowed in all states except for Alabama, Arkansas, and West Virginia were holdouts and were expected to fall soon.

The MC-6 ended its career, but the concept of a 102-inch intercity bus has been with us ever since.  

To see an informative video about the MC–6 (The Bus That Paved the Way, 6 Inches Too Wide, MC – 6 Super Cruiser by Motorcoach World click HERE.  

Article written by Ed Stauss
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