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Some of these buses are still on the road in transit duty decades after they first saw the light of day. A variation of this bus (the GM Classic) was still being produced in Canada by MCI until 1997. The 4104 powered by the DD 6-71 and four-speed manual transmission (not so painful for over-the road use) could get up to 12 mpg.
On take-off, (full throttle usually) the engine spun up to well into its rev range, and the bus would smoothly lumber away. The bus in this photo has been converted by an enthusiastic Oregon Ducks football fan for game day parties in the parking lot. The other bus I found is an old left-over from Eugene’s fleet of these 4523s, and is the victim of a botched conversion attempt, not an uncommon thing.
I’ve been tempted to go down this road myself, especially with a handsome PD 4104 conversion. I’m not exactly an expert on the RTS, but it arrived with complications and issues, unlike the New Look buses. GM’s over-the road coach business went on a bit longer, but eventually there were no new products, and it withered away. Amazingly Paul some of these buses have escaped the US no photo sorry but I saw a converted GM transit bus in Napier thanks to your previous article I knew what I was looking at.
NYC transit has a coulpe of old GM buses that they run from time to time on short runs in the city, which is pretty cool too. Many operators were a bit hesitant at first, in part because they New Look buses gave such excellent service and were easy and cheap to fix. The first series had an interesting sloped rear end, but it meant a smaller interior space, another reason operators weren’t too keen on it, having to give up seating room. And another very cool video featuring the assembly and roll out of the first RTS’s for Long Beach CA, some very cool video of the assembly process. Back when I was a teenager in Los Angeles and somewhat dependent on the RTD to get us around with my friends, we rode a lot of the RTS’s. There’s a whole fleet of them, about 20 different buses, that they run in regular service every December. When I went on my Alaska cruise in 2010, they were still using the fish bowls in Juneau for tourist buses. One day a couple years ago I stumbled across a photo on Flickr of the very bus he drove, at the end of its life in a junkyard.
Great piece, Paul and I particularly appreciate your perspective as a driver and your explanation of how GM lost its hegemony over the bus market, which always puzzled me.
Also reminds me of the old Tipton’s appliance store commercials that ran in the 70s and 80s filmed at a bus stop. I got a kick out of the Tipton spokesman and wonder who he was – he did a very good job.
I rode Greyhound regularly between Marysville, Ca and Sacramento in late 1969-early 1970 before I bought my avatar. Didn’t know about the twinned 4-71s in the Scenicruisers I just thought they were all 8V mills to start with.
All the buses I’ve been around had electric starters, powered by several big batteries in series. Given how well built the chassis were it might have been cheaper in the long run to just repower all the busses with a modern diesel and say 8 speed Alison automatic. There have been several generations in bus designs since then, to make them more accessible.
There have been numerous other improvements in bus design, many of them originating in Europe, not surprisingly. This bus is a New Flyer D40LF which had been in production since late 1987 and still in limited production today with their C40LF versions made for MTA New York City Transit. The bus service at NC State University, where I worked for 12 years, switched over to that same model of bus, the D40LF, in 2007.
When I arrived at the Frankfurt airport we deplaned away from the gates and had to enter buses to get to the building. Hopefully the next time ETS brings out all their restored buses I’ll be able to attend. My university used to have one of these as the shuttle bus between the campus and the parking lot, so I ride it often. Loved the bus history, except for the myth about GM buying light rail companies to make them buy buses. BTW, only an incurable romantic would think commuters a century ago actually enjoyed riding in trolley cars.
The ones in LA that are rebuilt or are getting rebuilt are on former PE red car lines, which National City Lines (the holding company GM and other conspirators funded) never obtained.

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CMS is an independent supplier of spare parts and has no commercial link with Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha or Kawasaki. Horoscopes for different signs of the zodiac provide the most obvious flaw in the belief system as generalised advice based on your sign is offered but we know that the only way these messages can apply to such a wide range of people as for example all those born between May 21st and June 21st is by making the advice so generalised that it could apply to anyone.
The scientific community rejects astrology as mere superstition because there is no evidence to support it and a number of controlled studies have failed to provide any. The western system of astrology is especially flawed; our planets are named after Roman gods whom we have no belief in, the system was developed when people still believed the earth was the centre of the universe and we ignore the 13th sign of the zodiac even although older branches of astrology were happy to include it. It is also worth pointing out that due to precession the earth is no longer aligned the same way as it was with the stars but the assignment of star signs has not changed to compensate. Sadly those who believe in astrology as more than just a bit of fun do so with a religious faith and so they are unlikely to be swayed by arguments based on common sense. This scrambler classic is available for purchase as of today so dont hesitate or it will be in someone else's garage!
It is characterised by unique, refined details, such as the aluminium front and rear mudguards, the spoke wheels and the brown seat with diamond-shaped inserts. They literally owned the bus market from the late thirties through the seventies, having earned that spot with superior technology and quality construction (along with some monopolistic tendencies like buying tram and light rail companies and converting them to buses). I saw one on a passenger run in Ashland, OR just two summers ago, but didn’t have my camera at hand.
Given that our featured bus was built about the same time as many of GM’s Deadly Sins, we have here a study in GM contrasts. Try to imagine shifting a transit bus, double clutching every shift of the four speed un-synchronized transmission with a forty-foot long mechanical linkage. It advanced the art of bus-making to a new level, with its advanced aluminum stressed-skin construction. And of course, it spawned the legendary 4105Scenicruiser, specifically designed and produced for Greyhound. Visibility was beyond superb; it was like sitting in a green house compared to the “submarine” predecessors.
Depending on vague factors beyond anyone’s apparent knowledge, at some speed between 30 to 35 or so, the torque converter would mechanically lock with a substantial jolt, and now the engine was in direct mechanical drive. The 35 footers were nimble compared to the forties, and one could whip them about pretty quickly in some of the older narrower streets of town. How compelling it is to buy an a tired old transit bus with millions of miles under its belt to convert to the ultimate get-away vehicle. But it’s probably a good thing I’ve resisted, since I like to take my little Chinook in places a 35? bus would never get out again. Since the feds fund the overwhelming share of all transit capital expense (but not operating costs), they started meddling early on with the bus designs themselves. The Canadians (wisely) wanted no part in this new generation of buses, and kept the New Look in production for decades.
But GM’s buses from their golden era will undoubtedly be seen on the roads for decades, as RVs and increasingly, as restored classics, or just party buses.
Nice to see that NY Transit one; I remember that color scheme from our visit there in 1964. The RTS sold well at the start, Los Angleles was flooded with them in hte 80′ as was NYC. Half of their buses were fishbowls and the other half were made by AM General, which was a local company. I originally grew up in north STL until Ike took our home for I-70, then to Jennings then to Florissant until 20 years ago when we moved to the Cincinnati area.
I dislike Bus travel, but I got several chances to ride the original California Zephyr until it was cancelled in March 1970 – now THAT was cool!
You guys remember when St Louis spent Millions changing all the bus stop signs to “BUS START”? I’d love to find a print of that setup, good idea on paper but not in practice I guess. That was the main reason for the new government regs for what became the GMC RTS bus and others. The latest low-floor buses are very easy to get in and out of, and don’t require complicated lifts and such.
It may not look that old nor its even considered a classic bus but the design had already been around for at least a quarter of a century.
They used the low-rider trick and dropped the bus hydraulically or by air pressure to 2 or 3 inches off ground. It’s a beautiful bus, and I had the chance to ride it on one of the historic tours a few years ago. Buses from the fifties and early sixties (GM, Brill) bring back fond memories of when I used transit regularly as a young student or working at the downtown library.

It was ubiquitous automobile ownership and the resulting urban sprawl that killed trolley cars.
NCL only obtained the LARY yellowcar lines in LA which as far as I know only operated on surface streets with no private right of ways, those routes were the ones converted to bus, the redcar system was simply abandoned after many years of operating in the red and an ancient infrastructure in dire need of costly updates. This provides the first problem with the idea, why is it the time of birth as we record it? It should be fairly obvious that a twelfth of the world do not have the same experience or feelings each day. They often argue that it is harmless and many astrologers just give good advice but there are no checks at all on the advice they are giving and some people are fool enough to live their lives by it. There have been tests to examine whether there is any correlation between birth signs and personality as astrology claims there is and the results clearly show the idea is completely false, there is absolutely no link between when you are born and what your personality is like. One of the most brilliant and enduring examples of that is the “New Look” transit bus that came out in 1959, and revolutionized the field with advanced stress-skin aluminum construction and virtually indestructible build quality. Unlike most of GM’s other buses, it suffered from some structural problems, and the complicated twin-engine (two 4-71 four cylinders) setup was also problematic, and they were all later rebuilt with a single 8-71V engine. With their low (high numerical) rear axle ratio, the transit buses could muster about 50-55 mph or so; the higher-geared Suburban versions could hit maybe 65 on a good day. But the slightly newer 40 footers had one other nice feature in addition to the bigger engine: the throttle pedal was air actuated, instead of the mechanical linkage of the older buses. Some have the resources; others don’t, as these two variations of the theme illustrate graphically. The biggest one was the Transbus project to develop a new generation of buses in the seventies.
The RTS had a very checkered career, and eventually GM got out of the transit business, selling the RTS design to MCI, which eventually passed it along again. Miami International Airport used to have about 15 of them in service until about 10 years ago as employee shuttles from the terminal to parking lot.
I tried to catch one of the buses this year, but the few days I was in that area (they usually only operate on the M42 route) it was raining so they weren’t running. Since the purchase money for almost all city buses comes from the feds, they can mandate accessibility and other features. Trolley buses disappeared a few years ago and the last of the Fishbowls a few years before that. The idea is that the position of celestial bodies has an effect on our lives here on earth, the position of planets, stars and constellations in the sky is claimed to have a bearing on our lives. Why not the moment of conception, after all you exist in some form for nine months before you actually pop out? If you think it is harmless consider this, someone as powerful as the President of the United States Ronald Reagan based many of his plans on astrology, he relied on it to make important decisions which effectively means he was taking advice from a series of women who called themselves astrologers. Tests which allow astrologers to read personal charts in greater detail have also proved their complete lack of ability to determine things about those people, when they give good or accurate advice it is more likely they are doing so by reading body language and questioning their customers, essentially they are cold reading. Note that power steering on these was highly optional; the power came from well developed arm muscles and the leverage of a large wheel and a high (numerical) steering ratio. Not only did the mechanical linkage engender knee-ache (to go along with the back ache from the mechanical steering), but one jammed up on me one memorable day. It was an unloved child that ended up in four foster homes before it was finally surpassed by newer and more desirable designs. My first visit to Alaska in 1996 I was surprised to see that most of the municipal buses in Anchorage were bright yellow fishbowls too.
I did get to see one of the GM New Look buses (pretty sure it was the same one in your picture) parked as a display piece near my office at least.
When I first drove for Portland city bus transit in 1981, they had a lot of the short 35ft fishbowls. There are many different branches of astrology; the one most familiar to us in the west is the signs of the zodiac.
We may even have them to blame for the ascendancy of the Bush family since George Bush Senior was apparently chosen as his Vice President from a list of seven candidates because he was a Gemini.
This example undoubtedly has power steering, given its smaller non-original steering wheel.
Search a few storage lots or wrecking yards around here and you can still find some Fishbowls rotting away. The PD 4104 set the template for all buses since, and they’re still desirable RV coach conversions.

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09.07.2016 admin

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