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Gillig Transit Coach School Bus

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Gillig Transit Coach
1977 Gillig 97-passenger Transit Coach Model DT-16, one of the largest school buses ever produced.
ManufacturerGillig Brothers (1940–1969)
Gillig Corporation (1969–1982)
AssemblyHayward, California
Body and chassis
ClassType D (transit-style)
Body styleSchool Bus
  • rear-engine 4x2
  • rear-engine 6x4
  • mid-engine 4x2
  • mid-engine 6x4


  • 636 cu in (10.4 L) Caterpillar 1160/3208 V8
  • 672 cu in (11.0 L) Cummins NHH inline-6
  • 743 cu in (12.2 L) Cummins NHH inline-6
  • 855 cu in (14.0 L) Cummins NHHTC inline-6
  • 555 cu in (9.1 L) Cummins VTF555 V8
  • 318 cu in (5.2 L) Detroit Diesel 6V53 V6
  • 426 cu in (7.0 L) Detroit Diesel 6N71 inline-6
Capacity60-97 passengers
  • Spicer 6252 5-speed manual
  • Fuller T905 5-speed manual
  • Fuller RT610 10-speed manual
  • Allison MT643 4-speed automatic
  • Allison MT644 4-speed automatic
  • Allison HT740 4-speed automatic
Length28–40 feet (8.5–12.2 m)
Width96 inches (2.4 m)
SuccessorGillig Phantom School Bus

The Gillig Transit Coach School Bus is a series of buses that were produced by the American bus manufacturer Gillig. Produced from 1940 to 1982, the Transit Coach was produced in multiple applications; most examples were yellow school buses, with other versions produced as motorcoaches and other commercial-use vehicles. The first mid-engine school bus, the Transit Coach was also one of the first examples produced with a diesel engine. As of current production, the tandem-axle version remains the highest-capacity (97 passengers) school bus ever produced.

Over its 42-year production run, the Transit Coach was marketed primarily to operators on or near the West Coast of the United States (California, Washington State, or Oregon), competing nearly exclusively against the similar Crown Supercoach. Following the acquisition of the rights to the Kenworth "Pacific" bus product line, elements of its design were integrated into the Transit Coach, with the model line undergoing only minor evolutionary changes into the 1980s.

After 1982 production, the Transit Coach was discontinued by Gillig as the company concentrated its resources on the Gillig Phantom transit bus. From 1986 to 1993, a variant of the Phantom was offered for school bus usage, with the model line manufactured through 2008.

Throughout its production, Gillig assembled the Transit Coach in Hayward, California; currently, the company solely produces transit buses.

Design history

Founded in 1890, Gillig Brothers was a manufacturer of custom-built automobile bodies; in the 1920s, the company produced the "Gillig top", a lift-off hardtop for open cars that provided retractable side curtains.[4] As closed cars became more widely available, the company focused on body production, producing its first school bus body in 1932.[4] In 1937, Gillig Brothers moved from San Francisco to Hayward, California.[4]

During the late 1930s, school bus manufacturers were beginning to develop transit-style school buses. In comparison to a cowled-chassis bus mounted on a truck frame, a transit-style bus allowed for greater seating capacity within the same body length; manufacturers also experimented with engine configurations.


In 1940, after several years of experimenting, Gillig introduced the production Transit Coach.[5] Using a Fabco chassis powered by a Hall-Scott gasoline engine, the Transit Coach adopted a mid-engine configuration, placing the engine on its side.[4][5][6]

During World War II, Gillig entered war production, building hundreds of "Victory Trailer" trailer buses, serving as large-scale transportation on US military bases.[4]

Following the war, the company returned to production of buses, with the Transit Coach resuming production.[4][5] In 1948, a rear-engine configuration (in line with many other competitors) was introduced for the first time. Alongside the Transit Coach, Gillig sold the Gillig Coach conventional bus, sharing elements of its body design with its transit-style counterpart.

Through the early 1950s, the mid-engine Transit Coach overtook the rear-engine configuration in demand. In 1950, Gillig introduced the Model 590, fitted with a 590 cubic-inch Hall-Scott engine, the largest-displacement gasoline engine ever fitted in a school bus.[5] The early 1950s Transit Coach was offered in multiple seating capacities, up to 79 passengers.[4]

Through most of the 1950s, the Transit Coach design had only minor changes, distinguished from later examples by a smaller windshield, lower roofline, different Gillig badging, and dual (instead of quad) headlamps.


In 1957, Kenworth ended its presence in the bus segment, resulting in Gillig obtaining the product rights to the Pacific bus product lines.[4][5] With the acquisition of the tooling from Kenworth, the roofline of the Transit Coach was introduced with redesigned front and rear roof caps.[7] While Gillig would not adopt the four-pane windshield of the Pacific T-Series, the Transit Coach saw its windshield expanded in size (from 2,340 to 2,580 square inches); until its 1982 discontinuation, the model line offered the largest windshield on a school bus.[5]

Along with restructuring school bus production on the West Coast to essentially a Gillig Transit Coach–Crown Supercoach duopoly, the acquisition of Pacific led to design changes for the Transit Coach that were retained for the rest of its production.

In 1959, Gillig introduced the first diesel-powered Transit Coach, offering two models. Similar to the Crown Supercoach, the mid-engine Model 743 was powered by a 743 cubic-inch Cummins NHH220 underfloor inline-6; the Model C-180 was the first diesel-powered school bus with a rear-mounted engine (Cummins C-180).[4][5][6] To increase intake ventilation for the diesel engine, Gillig added a roof-mounted air intake (first used on the Pacific, in slightly different form)[5]. As another addition, the Model 534 was a rear-engine bus powered by a Ford Super Duty gasoline V8 (replacing the Hall-Scott and International Harvester engines). The rear-engine diesel Transit Coach would prove successful, as manufacturers of rear-engine transits from the eastern United States did not widely offer diesel engines until the 1970s; Crown did not offer a diesel rear-engine Supercoach (in school bus form) until the late 1980s.

During the 1960s, in response to the Baby Boom generation reaching school age, school buses grew in size to accommodate the growth of student populations. From 1948, the highest-capacity Transit Coach offered seating for 79 student passengers. In 1967, several changes were made to the Transit Coach. The Model 743DT-16 was introduced, expanding from 13 to 16 rows of seating by extending the body to 41 feet long, requiring tandem rear axles.[4][5] Offering a seating capacity of 97 student passengers, the DT-16 was the largest school bus ever mass-produced.[5] In line with similar Crown Supercoaches, the DT-16 was configured with tandem rear axles; unlike motorcoaches, both rear axles were driven.[5] In another change, the interior height was raised 7 inches, from 72 inches to 79 inches.[5] A rear-engine version of the DT-16 was offered, the 636DT-16, powered by the Caterpillar 1160 V8 (later the 3208).[5]

In the early 1970s, Gillig introduced several new engines and retired others. In 1971, the first Detroit Diesel engine was offered, the Model 318D (powered by a 6V53 V6). In 1974, the Model 743 became the Model 855, as the Cummins NHH engine was enlarged to 855 cubic inches; in contrast to its 220 hp predecessor, turbocharged versions were introduced (available up to 335 hp).[8] In 1974, the final gasoline-powered Transit Coach was produced.[5] In 1976 and 1976, the Transit Coach introduced the Model 555 and Model 426, powered by the Cummins VTF555 V8 and Detroit Diesel 6N71 inline-6, respectively.[5]

In 1974, the interior of the Transit Coach underwent a revision, with a molded-fiberglass dashboard replacing the previous all-metal design.[5] To improve driver ergonomics, key switches were relocated from under the steering wheel onto a single control panel left of the driver; many full-size school buses use this layout to this day. In states outside of California, amber warning lights began to be phased in as a requirement alongside the red warning lights (seen since the 1940s); in 1975, the Transit Coach was offered with amber warning lights for the first time (to meet Washington state specifications).[5]


In April 1977, federal safety standards went into effect in the United States, intended to improve the crashworthiness and structural integrity of school buses. In compliance, manufacturers had to produce stronger bodies to better survive crashes and rollovers, seats had to adopt compartmentalization as a passive restraint system.[5] While largely unchanged from the outside, from 1977 onward, the Transit Coach adopted high-back padded seats; the largest model offered now seated 90 passengers instead of 97 (as the padded seats took up more interior space).

During 1979 production, Gillig made the first visible exterior revisions to the Transit Coach since the company purchased the Pacific product line in 1957. In a major change, the windows were changed from a drop-sash configuration to a larger split-sash design (used on all school buses except the Crown Supercoach), the guard rails on the side of the bus were revised for the first time, as the guard rail below the windows matches the two on the lower body, replacing the previous set of four (used since the 1940s).


For the school bus industry as a whole, the early 1980s was a period of struggle. At the same time Gillig had facelifted the Transit Coach, two East Coast manufacturers (Superior and Ward) had closed their doors; several others were also struggling financially. Alongside the recession economy, student population growth had largely plateaued, as the entire Baby Boom generation was past the age of secondary education. Gillig Corporation, as a fairly niche manufacturer, saw its school bus sales drop off significantly; in 1980, the company ended production of the Gillig Coach conventional entirely.

In the late 1970s, Gillig launched efforts to diversify its product line; after a joint venture with Neoplan, the company developed its own mass-transit bus, leading to the Gillig Phantom in 1980.[4] In 1982, the company chose to concentrate on mass-transit production, ending production of the Transit Coach after a 42-year production run. In 1986, a successor to the Transit Coach was introduced as Gillig launched a school bus variant of the Phantom; the Phantom school bus was withdrawn in 1993.


Through the production of the Transit Coach, Gillig used the following numbering system to designate school bus models.[9]

Body configuration

C-Type C (conventional)

D-Type D (Transit Coach)

T-Tandem rear axle

"#"-Number of rows of seats (maximum 16 before 4/1/1977, 15 after 4/1/1977)

Example: 426DT15= A Transit Coach with 15 rows of seats, tandem rear axles, and a 6N71 Detroit Diesel engine.

Depending on engine type, Transit Coaches were sold in 28'(only with gasoline engines), 30', 35', 37', and 40' body lengths. The two longest body lengths only were sold with a diesel engine (the 37' could not be ordered as a 318D, a C-Series, or a VTF555-D).


Gillig Transit Coach powertrain details (c.1950-1982)
Diesel engines Transmission
Gillig model code Engine Configuration Production Engine fitment Notes
636D Caterpillar 1160

Caterpillar 3208

636 cu in (10.4 L) V8

636 cu in (10.4 L) turbocharged V8

1970-1982 Rear Spicer 6252 5-speed manual

Fuller T905 5-speed manual

Fuller RT610 10-speed manual

Allison MT643 4-speed automatic

Allison MT644 4-speed automatic

Allison HT740 4-speed automatic





Cummins C-160




464 cu in (7.6 L) inline-6 1959-1974 (C160)

1959-1976 (C170/C180/C190)

Rear Distinguished by roof-mounted external air intake (designed by Kenworth)


Cummins NHH 743 cu in (12.2 L) inline-6

743 cu in (12.2 L) turbocharged inline-6

1959-1973 (743)

Midship DT=Mid-engine tandem


Cummins NHH 855 cu in (14.0 L) inline-6

855 cu in (14.0 L) turbocharged inline-6

1974-1982 (855) Midship DT=Mid-engine tandem

Largest-displacement engine ever fitted in a school bus (as of 2020 production)


VTF555DT (tandem)

Cummins VTF555 555 cu in (9.1 L) V8 1975-1982 Rear VTF555DT is the only rear-engine tandem-axle school bus ever built
318D Detroit Diesel 6V53 318 cu in (5.2 L) V6 1971-1977 Rear


Detroit Diesel 6N71 426 cu in (7.0 L) inline-6

426 cu in (7.0 L) turbocharged inline-6

1976-1982 Midship 426DT=Mid-engine tandem
Gasoline engines
Gillig model code Engine Configuration Production Engine fitment Notes
534D Ford Super Duty V8 534 cu in (8.8 L) OHV V8 1958-1974 Rear Final gasoline engine used in Transit Coach
590D Hall-Scott 590 590 cu in (9.7 L) SOHC inline-6 1954-1959 Rear
501 International Harvester RD-501

("Red Diamond")

501 cu in (8.2 L) OHV inline-6 c.1950-1959 Rear
Timeline of Gillig Transit Coach Production (1950–1985)
Bus Type 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s
'50 '51 '52 '53 '54 '55 '56 '57 '58 '59 '60 '61 '62 '63 '64 '65 '66 '67 '68 '69 '70 '71 '72 '73 '74 '75 '76 '77 '78 '79 '80 '81 '82
Gasoline Engine 501
Caterpillar Engines 636D
Cummins Engines C-160D
743D/DT 855D/DT
Detroit Diesel Engines 318D

See also



  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Gillig Bros., Gillig Corp., Jacob Gillig, J. Gillig & Son, Leo Gillig Automobile Works, Gillig Bus, Gillig Phantom, Leo Gillig, Chester Gillig, Stanley J. Marx -". Retrieved 2019-04-25.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r "The Gillig Story". Archived from the original on 2008-02-07. Retrieved 2019-04-25.
  6. ^ a b The Gillig Story... Then and Now Archived 2007-10-10 at the Wayback Machine,, retrieved on 2008-01-21
  7. ^ "GilligCoaches.Net - Pacific SchoolCoach Trivia". 2008-02-07. Archived from the original on 2008-02-07. Retrieved 2019-04-26.
  8. ^ "GilligCoaches.Net - Gillig Trivia". 2008-02-07. Archived from the original on 2008-02-07. Retrieved 2019-04-26.
  9. ^ "GilligCoaches.Net - Gillig Trivia". 2008-02-07. Retrieved 2020-06-22.

External links

This page was last edited on 9 August 2020, at 21:05
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