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J. Gillig, J. Gillig & Son, Leo Gillig Automobile Works, Gillig Bros., Gillig Corp.
J. Gillig, 1896-1899; J. Gillig & Son, 1900-1910; Leo Gillig Automobile Works, 1910-1914: Gillig Brothers, 1914-1938; San Francisco, California; Gillig Brothers, 1938-1953; Gillig Corp., 1953-present; Hayward, California
Associated Firms
Patchett & Carstensen; Pacific Car & Foundry

Although they remain a player in the West Coast transit bus business, Gillig’s main claim to fame are the chrome yellow school buses constructed by the firm from the late 1920s into the 1990s, some of which remain in service transporting students to school in the states bordering the Pacific Ocean.

The firm was founded by Jacob Gillig (b.1853-d.1907), the son of a German-born harness-maker who saw to it that his four sons were well-suited to earn a living in the carriage and metalworking trades.

Jacob Gillig was born in 1853 in Buffalo, Erie County, New York to Damian (b.1824 in Baden, Germany-d.1869) and Elizabeth (Bauer, b.1826 in Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany) Gillig. His father was a harness-maker and Jacob’s siblings included Louis (b. Feb.13, 1851-d. Sep.14, 1905); Anna (b.1855); William (b. 1856): Leo Jacob (b.Feb.10, 1858-d.Jan.17, 1927); Frederick Henry (b.1860); and Carrie (b.18??) Gillig.

Jacob’s father was a well-known Buffalo harness-maker and apprenticed his sons Louis and Jacob to a Buffalo carriage builder – Louis trained in the smith works and Jacob in the trim shop. Upon reaching their majority, Louis took a position with a Millersburg, Iowa, blacksmith and Jacob with a Rochester, New York, carriage builder, James Cunningham & Son Co., 3 Canal st., one of the nation’s most respected vehicle manufacturers.

Their younger brother Leo J. Gillig remained in Buffalo, where he established his own sheet metal shop at 154 Howard St., with which his son, who shared the name of his uncle (Jacob Gillig #2), later joined him.

Our subject was listed in the 1870-74 Rochester, New York directories as follows:

“Jacob Gillig, carriage trimmer, 3 Canal, bds Walnut cor. Magne”

3 Canal street was the address of Jas. Cunningham & Son, a 150-year-old structure that still stands and is currently the home of Bags Unlimited, a manufacturer of ephemeral archival supplies and materials. His listing in the 1875 Rochester directory indicates that he had moved a few blocks closer to the Cunningham Works:

“Jacob Gillig, carriage trimmer, 3 Canal, bds 62 West Avenue”

In 1876 Gillig accepted a position with the Carvill Manufacturing Co., a large West Coast carriage builder formed by Orrin S. Carvill and located at 180-182 Jesse and 182-184 Stevenson Sts., San Francisco, California.

His listing in the 1877 San Francisco directory follows:

“Jacob Gillig, trimmer, Carvill Manuf. Co.”

“Carvill Manufacturing Co., Orrin S. Carvill, president, Carriage Manufacturers, 180-182 Jesse and 182-184 Stevenson.”

His employment with Carvill was short-lived, and in 1878 he took a similar position with Albert Folsom, the proprietor of the Fashion Carriage Factory, 217 Ellis St., San Francisco. The firm was associated with the Fashion Stables, one of San Francisco’s oldest liveries, which was located next door at 221 Ellis St. Gillig’s listing in the 1879-83 San Francisco directories follow:

“Jacob Gillig, trimmer, Albert Folsom, r. nw cor Cook & Post.”

Shortly after his arrival in San Francisco Jacob married Julia A.E. Boss (b.Feb. 7, 1860-d.Mar. 10, 1934), a New York City native and daughter of Henry Boss, and to the blessed union was born three sons; Leo (b.1880-d.1954); Chester Henry (b. 1891-1960) and William (b.1894) Gillig.

Gillig remained with Folsom for most of the next decade and a half, during which time Folsom’s son George A. was made a partner in the firm. Their listing in the 1887 San Francisco Directory follows:

“Jacob Gillig, trimmer, A. Folsom & Son, r. 15 Cook”

“Albert & George A. Folsom, proprietors, Fashion Carriage Factory, 217 Ellis”

Jacob’s eldest son Leo apprenticed in the Folsom shops and when George A. Folsom withdrew from the carriage business in 1895 the Gilligs took a position with Locke & Sullivan, their listings in the 1897 San Francisco directory follow:

“Jacob Gillig, carriage trimmer, Locke & Sullivan, r. 65 Cook”

“Leo Gillig, carriage trimmer, Locke & Sullivan, r. 65 Cook”

“Locke & Sullivan (James P. Locke and William I. Sullivan) carriage and wagon builders 329 Golden Gate av.”

The positions with Locke & Sullivan were short-lived as Gillig went into business on his own accord during late 1896 in a small shop located down the street at 102 Golden Gate Ave. Jacob & Leo’s listings in the 1898-1900 San Francisco directories follow:

“Jacob Gillig, carriage trimmer, 102 Golden Gate av., r. 65 Cook”

“Leo Gillig, foreman, J. Gillig, r. 65 Cook”

Leo was made a partner in 1900, in the style of J. Gillig & Son. The firm’s listings in the 1901-06 San Francisco directories follow:

“J. Gillig & Son, (J.&L.) carriage trimmers, 102 Golden Gate av., r. 65 Cook”

“Jacob Gillig, J. Gillig & Son, r. 65 Cook”

“Leo Gillig, J. Gillig & Son, r. 65 Cook”

The firm’s Golden Gate Ave. facility survived the tremors of April 18, 1906, however it did not survive the resulting fires that engulfed the city during the next two days during which 3,000 residents lost their lives, 300,000 people were left homeless and 80% of San Francisco’s buildings destroyed.

During the ensuing months property was acquired three blocks away at 473 Grove St., and Leo’s younger brother Chester H. had joined the firm as bookkeeper. They were back in business by the end of 1906, their listing in the 1907-10 San Francisco directories follow:

“J. Gillig & Son, (J.&L.) carriage trimmers, 473 Grove, r. 65 Cook”

“Jacob Gillig, J. Gillig & Son, r. 65 Cook”

“Chester H. Gillig, bkkpr, J Gillig & Son, r. 65 Cook.”

“Leo Gillig, J. Gillig & Son, r. Oakland”

Jacob Gillig lived just long enough to see his business rebuilt, but at the time of his death in 1907 he had no inkling that the recently-introduced motor bus would eventually become the firm’s specialty. For the next decade and a half the firm specialized in the manufacture of automobile tops, the December 20, 1908 issue of the San Francisco Call reporting:


“The Advent of the automobile has been responsible in many localities for the opening up of a new industry. It is that of the top builders and manufacturers of cushion covers and upholstery. A great deal of this work is done on the Job lot style in the east and sold at exceedingly low rates, but the owner of the line vehicle much prefers to have the work done in this city, where it is possible to fit it artistically to the vehicle. J. Gillig & Son report an increase in trade among this class of owners. They have furnished cushion covers for W. P. Hammond's Pierce-Arrow touring car, Al Schuler's six cylinder Thomas Flyer touring car and Charles W. Clark's Thomas limousine. They have built a top for Charles H. Kendricks' new Cadillac, out of the first shipment of 1909 top material.”

A display ad in the May 4, 1909 issue of the San Francisco Call follows:

“AUTO TOPS, upholstery, cushion covers, glass fronts; etc. J. GILLIG & SON, 473 Grove St., San Francisco, Phone, Park 1323.”

During the next year J. Gillig & Son was reorganized as Leo Gillig Automobile Works to reflect the change in the firm’s ownership, which passed to his eldest son Leo although Chester would play an increasing role in the firm’s activities.

Gillig contemplated manufacturing his own delivery truck, the November 25, 1912 issue of the Automobile Journal reporting on the construction of a prototype Gillig ¾-ton truck:


“Leo Gillig of San Francisco Enters This Field on the Pacific Coast.

“Leo Gillig, who has been connected with the motor car trade at San Francisco, Cal., for a number of years, has entered the manufacturing field and has turned out the first Gillig truck from his plant at San Francisco. The vehicle has 1500 pounds capacity and shows some new and decidedly interesting features. Mr. Gillig has contracted to place 50 of his trucks on the market for the 1913 season.

“The new light delivery wagon has chain drive with patented differential of the most simple design. Either solid or pneumatic tires can be used and the bodies are built to suit the convenience of the purchaser. The truck has left hand drive and is durable in construction. It will be marketed at a popular price, and is expected to meet a long felt want in its particular field.”

Soon afterwards the firm constructed their first known motor bus using an unknown chassis (possibly a Gillig) for Oakland, California’s newly constructed Hotel Oakland. (One source states the bus was constructed in 1906 – unlikely as the Hotel’s cornerstone wasn’t laid until 1911 and its grand opening occurred in 1913.

Although full scale manufacture of the Gillig truck didn’t materialize as hoped, local investors spearheaded a 1914 recapitalization of the firm which coincided with the construction of the new three-story Gillig Bros. factory at Post and Franklin Streets.

(Larkin Street is sometimes mentioned as the location of the Leo Gillig Automobile Works, however I could find no substantiation for the claim, all advertisements and directory listings give 476 Grove or 1298 Post St. as their address).

Leo Gillig served as president; Chester H. Gillig, general manager; A. E. Eberhardt, secretary-treasurer; and H. Fry, purchasing agent.

Alexander E. Eberhardt and his father Frederick Eberhardt, headed the Salt Lake Mattress & Mfg. Co., 531-33 W. 3rd South St., Salt Lake City, Utah which had a large San Francisco showroom at 535 West Broadway.

Gillig’s ‘Spanish Top’ – their own take on the then-popular ‘California Top’ which was already gaining popularity in Los Angeles - was highlighted in a 1917 issue of California Motorist:

“The manufacture of automobile bodies and tops has come to be a very important industry in San Francisco.

“Gillig Brothers, whose new factory is at the corner of Post and Franklin Streets, are among the pioneers in this line. They have been established since 1897. Their new factory contains 14,000 square feet of floor space and is thoroughly equipped for the manufacture of auto tops and bodies. They have installed a new system of drying ovens, seven in number, which enables them to do exceptionally fine painting. They are the originators of the 'Spanish Top,' with convertible curtains which makes a closed car in a few minutes. The building is of concrete and steel. About sixty men are employed at the present time. Many new departments have been added and the very latest devices have been installed.”

Leo Gillig discussed the firm’s sliding curtain top in the 1918 issue of California Motorist:

“Special tops and body jobs attracted the visitors at the recent automobile show by scores. The beautiful cars with tapestry upholstering, sliding curtains and dome lights were a show by themselves. Many of these tops are manufactured in San Francisco by Gillig Brothers. L. Gillig, in speaking of the attention paid to the special jobs, said: ‘The main feature of these tops is that the curtains can be adjusted without the slightest trouble to the occupant of the car, while driving, thus converting a touring car into a comfortable closed car. These curtains, when not in used disappear into the top.’”

The Brother’s tops were covered by the following US Patents:

Design For An Automobile Top - USD52610 - Grant - Filed Apr 22, 1918 - Issued Oct 29, 1918 to Leo Gillig
Automobile Side Curtain - US1294442 - Grant - Filed Jan 17, 1918 - Issued Feb 18, 1919 to Chester H. Gillig and Leo Gillig
Design For An Automobile Top - USD57635 - Grant - Filed Oct 8, 1919 - Issued Apr 26, 1921 to Chester H. Gillig and Leo Gillig
Side Curtain For Automobiles - US1388425 - Grant - Filed May 13, 1919 - Issued Aug 23, 1921 to Chester H. Gillig and Leo Gillig
Automobile Side Curtain - US1423210 - Grant - Filed Jan 21, 1919 - Issued Jul 18, 1922 to Chester H. Gillig and Leo Gillig
Sliding Window Mechanism - US1473928 - Grant - Filed Aug 26, 1830 - Issued Nov 13, 1923 to Elecie P. Farum and assigned to Leo Gillig and Chester H. Gillig
Vehicle Top - US1469331 - Grant - Filed Nov 28, 1919 - Issued Oct 2, 1923 to Chester H. Gillig
Sliding Window For Automobile Tops - US1510668 - Grant - Filed Jun 10, 1920 - Issued Oct 7, 1924 to Chester H. Gillig and Leo Gillig
Sliding Window For Motor Vehicles - US1658595 - Grant - Filed Jul 19, 1921 - Issued Feb 7, 1928 to Chester H. Gillig and Leo Gillig

A statement in the January 4, 1919 issue of the San Francisco News Letter makes reference to the brother’s patents:

“Announcement to motor car owners has just been made by Gillig Bros., that they have received final patents on their sliding curtain top for automobiles, which has become very popular since it was placed on the market. In an interview with Mr. Leo Gillig, he states that his firm will take all necessary measures against those who have infringed upon these patents.”

The firm’s exhibit at the 1919 San Francisco Automobile Show was mentioned in the February 8, 1919 issue of the San Francisco News Letter:

“Gillig Bros, have a separate exhibit in the balcony at the Automobile Show. They have on display a working model of their famous sliding curtain top for which they have just received exclusive United States patents.

“There is also a display of the latest materials and equipments for all styles of cars. Mr. Leo Gillig is personally supervising the exhibit.

“A large number of the 'dolled up' cars seen on the main floor have been specially finished by this company.”

A display ad for the firm was included in the same publication:


In late 1919 Los Angeles’ Moreland Motor Truck Co. announced they had secured the rights to the ‘Gillig Top’ and planned to use it on the upcoming Moreland automobile, the November 1, 1919 issue of Motor West reporting:

“Moreland to Build Passenger Car

“A new Moreland company, manufacturing a line of passenger cars of very distinctive type and capitalized at $1,000,000, has recently been announced in Los Angeles by Watt L. Moreland, president of the Moreland Motor Truck Co., of that city, and president of the local Chamber of Commerce. The cars will be on the market within sixty days according to the company's head. Nine factory branches in California are now being operated by the Moreland organization.

“‘There will be three types of cars,’ says Moreland, ‘a five-passenger, four-passenger, compact coupe and roadster with permanent top. They will be popular priced and equipped with a gasifier, permitting the use of distillate and low grade fuels. The car itself will be a six-cylinder job with 118-inch wheelbase. Manufacturing rights have been secured on the Gillig top.’”

More details were revealed in Motor West’s November 15, 1919 issue:


“Veteran L. A. Motor Truck Builder Announces Popular-Priced Car in Two Models—A Six-Cylinder Job.

“Watt L. Moreland, general manager of the Moreland Motor Truck Co., recently approved the final design on a popular-priced car to be known as the Moreland, and expects the first two models to be on the road inside of 60 days. This is not Moreland's first effort along passenger car lines. He has made, in the past few years, ten different touring cars to try out different features of design and construction.

“The new Moreland touring car will be produced and marketed by a new company which will be capitalized for $1,000,000. with separate and distinct production units from those used by the Moreland Motor Truck Co.

“The car will be a six-cylinder job, on a 118-inch wheelbase, with three body types. It will embody many refinements of design only procurable today on other cars at a very high additional cost. The wheel equipment will be Disteel wheels and top will be permanent with sliding glass panels and rolled celluloid curtains.

“The new company has secured a manufacturing right on the Gillig top, which created much favorable comment at the last San Francisco motor car show. This type of top gives the advantages of a closed car when one is necessary and an open touring car when desired. The body lines are a combination of present beveled edge and square lines, presenting a most attractive appearance.

“The Moreland gasifier will be standard equipment on each engine, permitting the use of distillate and other low-grade fuels — a feature of prime importance to the motor car owner from the standpoint of economy as well as ease of operation.

“The company will produce one chassis, with three different types of bodies — a five-passenger, a four-passenger and a roadster. The four-passenger will be a special close-coupled coupe, completely glassed in. The roadster, for business men, will be equipped with a permanent top, a combination of the Gillig idea and roadster type.

“It is the intention to produce 1,000 cars the first year. Orders have already been placed for a number of the five-passenger models and it is expected that the first showing will bring many more.

“The sales organization for the new car is already built up, as it will be marketed through the Moreland Motor Truck Co. dealers and branches. This includes nine factory branches in the State of California and a number of dealers and distributors in other Western states. Besides this, there are export connections in seventeen foreign countries.

“The factory organization of the Moreland Motor Truck Co. will aid largely in producing the new passenger vehicle, as many of the men in that organization have had in the past a really worth-while motor car experience. F. H. Whatley, purchasing agent, was some years ago purchasing agent for the Stoddard-Dayton Co., the Gramm Motor Truck Co. and the U. S. Motors Co.; Roy D. Heartz, general sales manager, was formerly assistant director of service and later sales promotion manager with the Hupp Motor Car Co., of Detroit, and sales manager of the Premier Motor Car Co., of Indianapolis; P. H. Mallory, assistant general sales manager, has had a large experience both with distributor organizations and as a dealer, himself, mostly in Western territory.”

Their listing in the 1920 Vehicle Yearbook under ‘automobile bodies’ and ‘automobile tops’ follows:

“Gillig Bros. 1298 Post St. (Wh) (Pas-Com) (W-M) Leo. Gillig, prop.; C. H. Gillig, gen'l mgr.; A. E. Eberhardt, sec. and treas.; H. Fry, pur. agt.”

At that time their main competitors were F.D. Gould Co. and Larkins & Co. but during the next few years the popularity of the closed automobile body put a damper on the automobile top business, and F.D. Gould Co., their main competitor, was out of business by 1925. Gillig (and Larkins) survived because they had earlier embarked upon the manufacture of commercial truck and motor coach bodies, and by the late 1920s it was their main line of work. Gillig Bros. even experimented with the manufacture of pleasure boats under the ‘Marinecraft’ trade name and in 1928 announced they would be manufacturing a heavy truck in direct competition to Fageol and Kleiber. No prototype was forthcoming and the onset of the Depression put the plans on hold indefinitely.

As the Depression wore on Gillig Bros. looked for additional sources of income and in 1932 constructed their first purpose-built school bus body, a product that would soon become their main line of work.

In 1935 Gillig Brothers constructed an ambulance for the San Jose Ambulance Co. using a stretched 1935 Chrysler Airstream Eight sedan and shortly thereafter they became the West Coast distributor of Lima, Ohio’s Superior Body Co.

Midway through 1937 Gillig bought out their main competitor, Patchett and Carstensen, of Newman, California and commenced looking for a factory with room for expansion, as their 1298 Post St. factory could no longer keep up with the increased demand for school bus bodies in Northern California.

Franklin A. Patchett had served as Newman’s Ford Motor Co. dealer since the early teens and in 1913 constructed a school bus body on a 1913 Ford Model T chassis. Demand for his school buses increased and in 1923 he formed Patchett & Carstensen, a $150,000 company to meet the increasing demand, officers included: Franklin A. Patchett, Pres.; Hans С. Carstensen, Vice-Pres.; Laura D.Patchett, Sec., its directors: Hans С. Carstensen, Lloyd Hendy, Franklin A. Patchett, Laura D. Patchett and Morris Vincent.

For the next decade and a half Patchett & Carstensen supplied Ford-powered school buses to school districts in and around the Bay area and in such far-away places as Phoenix, Arizona. The Patchett & Carstensen story was published in the May 24, 1972 issue of the Fitchburg Sentinel:

“1914 In California - America's 1st School Bus

“NEWMAN, Calif. (AP) — In September 1914 about 20 youngsters clambered aboard a converted Model T Ford which its designer said was ‘the first motorized school bus in the United States. Until then, students got to school on their own, either by walking, on bicycle, horseback, wagon or a lift in the family car, said Franklin A. Patchett.

“That lone bus developed into a fleet of 220 leased to 42 California school districts before he sold Patchett's Bus and Transportation Co. in 1968, Patchett said.

“Soon after Patchett acquired an auto dealership in 1914, he recalled, a Newman school trustee told him: ‘Patchett, we've got to figure out a way to get these kids to school.’

“That started me in the bus business,’ said Patchett, 92. Patchett's bus utilized a Model T truck chassis. The rear wheels were removed and sprockets installed for a chain drive. A wooden passenger compartment with benches was mounted on the truck frame. Patchett said inflatable tires were placed in front and solid rubber tires in the rear. The bus was powered by a 20 horsepower engine.

“When-the Newman Elementary School District needed a larger bus, Patchett built trailer that carried 10 to 15 students. Girls rode in the bus and boys in the trailer until the trailer overturned in a ditch. ‘Nobody got hurt, but the next day we got letters from the boys saying they refused to ride in the trailer anymore,’ Patchett said. ‘We built another bus right away and it took care of that.’

“Other school districts learned of the buses and either purchased them or contracted with him to transport their children, Patchett said. Patchett estimates he constructed between 700 and 800 buses by 1937 when he sold the manufacturing end to Gillig Brothers of San Francisco.”

The Gilligs eventually located a suitable factory across the Bay in Hayward, Alameda County, California - the September 18, 1937 issue of the Hayward Daily Review reporting:


“S.F. Plant Coming To Hayward: Sprague-Sells Bldg. Bought By Makers Of Heavy Vehicles

“City To Become ‘Bus Center Of State,’ Says Gillig Bros.

“100 Men Employed, New Payroll is $2500 Weekly

“Here, folks, is the best news that has hit Hayward in many long year.

“Gillig Brothers, 1298 Post street, San Francisco, operating a large factory making truck and bus bodies, will move their entire plant and office to Hayward before Dec. 1.

“The firm has a payroll of approximately $2500 weekly during its peak production season. It employs from 60 to 100 or more men.

“Buys Plant Here

“It has bought the old Sprague-Sells factory west of the Southern Pacific tracks here and plans to begin operating by mid-December.

“Many of the company's salesmen and workers already are looking for homes here, thus matching the building activity apparent here in recent months.

“News of the deal was confirmed late Friday by Leo Gillig, partner in the firm, in an interview with The Daily Review. His brother and partner, Chester H. Gillig, plans to move here to make his home. Rumor concerning the big development has been heard here for some time.

“Makes Buses, Stages

“The Gillig Brothers factory makes school buses, stages, streetcar buses. The firm is Northern California distributor for Ford buses, also for Studebaker and Pontiac funeral cars and ambulances.

“Leo Gillig declared that the firm's establishment in Hayward will make this city ‘the bus center of California’ and the largest bus factory west of Chicago.

“One of its specialties is the repair of trucks and buses damaged in collisions and general insurance collision, repair in heavy vehicles, Including trucks and trailers.

“New Dept. Planned

“A new department for the building of special commercial car bodies is planned. Mr. Gillig said. The firm also manufactures light delivery trucks.

“Mr. Gillig said his firm plans to start other lines of activity when its establishment here gets under way. Another firm, the name of which Mr. Gillig would not reveal, which supplies auxiliary products used by the Gillig company, may build another plant near the Gillig Brothers factory.

“Gillig Brothers had inspected property near San Leandro with a view to locating there, but the Hayward location appealed to them more, Mr. Gillig declared.

“Start In December

“Employes of the Hunt Brothers Packing company, which has had the Sprague-Sells building under lease for some lime, are beginning moving that company's property from the building. The Gillig firm will start occupying the premise's before Dec. 1, with painting, renovation and installation of machinery scheduled to start, next week. Manufacturing operations are expected to start about the middle of December.

“Representatives of the firm came here some weeks ago looking for a location. Fire Chief Manuel G. Riggs took them to Secretary Digby Smith of the Hayward Chamber of Commerce, for a discussion of the opportunities and available business in Hayward. Mention was made of the Sprague-Sells building, and Mr. Gillig went with Chief Riggs to insect it and inquire about possible purchase.

“Established 30 Years

“Gillig Brothers have been in partnership 20 years, Leo Gillig having been in the business for 10 years longer than that.

“Mr. Gillig did not give details of the deal involving the purchase of the Sprague-Sells building. The structure, vacant for some years, formerly was occupied by the Sprague-Sells and Anderson-Barngrover companies, makers of canning machinery.

“It is reported that officials of the Southern Pacific railway have been active in directing the attention of Gillig Brothers to the Hayward site.

“Mr. Gillig is expected in the city Tuesday.”

The Editorial Page of the same issue (September 18, 1937) of the Hayward Daily Review included more details:

“For seven years The Review has heard rumors of this factory, or that one, coming to Hayward, but at the last minute something happened and the new institution flickered out.

“But now we are in position to announce to the community that Hayward is to have a new factory before December 1st. Gillig Brothers, manufacturers of automobile bodies of various designs, are coming to Hayward, have bought the Sprague-Sells building west of the Southern Pacific depot.

“This firm will bring to town some 75 high paid craftsmen, meaning an annual payroll of $120,000 or more. This will help our community a lot. Sixty workers means a demand for sixty homes, an addition of two hundred forty people, when we consider family includes some four persons.

“Now that Hayward has broken the ice, has secured a new industry, let us start out valiantly to secure other industries. We have talked of the natural advantages lot. Hayward is out here in a strategic location for new industries. Let us go after more of them!”

The December 14, 1937 issue of the Hayward Daily Review mentioned the firm’s purchase of Patchett & Carstensen:

“Four months ago Gillig Brothers bought out their only western competitor. Patchett and Carstensen, of Newman. There the latter gentlemen eroded a business and built buses for schools located all over western America. In summer that firm worked 200 men. That factory created a payroll whoso beneficial effects were felt over that entire community. The Newman factory equipment has been moved to Hayward by Gillig Brothers.”

The same issue (December 14, 1937) of the Hayward Daily Review reported on a visit to the new Hayward plant by John H. Shields, executive vice-president and treasurer of the Superior Body Co.:

“Funeral Cars Are Distributed Here

“Pontiac, LaSalle and Cadillac funeral cars and ambulances will be distributed throughout Northern California through the Gillig Brothers, regional distributors, now moving to Hayward.

“This was stated by Mr. Shields, secretary-treasurer and general manager of the Superior Body company factory of Lima, Ohio, on his visit to the coast last month, in the announcement of their 1938 line of all-steel funeral cars and ambulances for Pontiac six and eight, LaSalle and Cadillac chassis.

“Mr. Shields states that Superior is one of the largest builders of funeral cars and ambulances. Superior products represent the highest class design, workmanship and materials available and for 1938 their equipment will be built entirely of steel electric welded into a single unit for safety and long service.

“This is the first time in the history of ambulance and funeral car building that a departure has been taken from the old fashioned composite wooden body construction and is along the same construction used by all manufacturers of passenger automobiles”

Gillig built the famed ‘Elephant Trains’ that transported sightseers around Treasure Island at the 1939-1940 Golden Gate International Exposition.

They were prominently featured in a 1939 issue of Popular Mechanics:

“‘Elephant Trains’ Carry Sightseers at Golden Gate Fair

“Fantastic elephant-like trains, with the driver’s cab replaced by a howdah, transport sightseers at the Golden Gate International Exposition. Usually a trains has three trailers, each carrying twenty passengers. Seats are back to back, facing to the right and left of the train, and the conductor has an aisle between the seats. Trailers have but two wheels at the extreme rear, and steel floor plates overlap at the couplings to form an articulated train of four separate units with only ten wheels. Easy to board, the trailers are built within six inches of the ground. The power unit is an eighty-five horse-power V-eight engine.”

The title ‘Elephant Train’ moniker is derived from the circus, where groups of elephants entering or exiting an arena would join tail-to-trunk forming a train. Operated by the Key System, the trains carried fairgoers from Treasure Island’s ferry docks to the Exposition grounds for 10 cents per person. Sightseers could also take a guided ‘elephant train’ tour of the fair for an additional 35 cents.

Not all of the trains were decorated in elephant guise, the October 28, 1938 issue of the Hayward Daily Review provided details on one trains that was dubbed the ‘Orient Express’:

“‘Oriental Express’ To Parade Here: Exposition Train To be Shown by Gillig Brothers

“The public of the Hayward community will get its first glimpse of this areas outstanding contribution in the Golden Gate Exposition of 1939 at 2 o’clock next Monday afternoon, when the Gillig Brothers bus factory will parade the first of 18 sight-seeing trains being built for the fair. The train has been named the 'Oriental Express.'

“This ‘community preview’ was arranged Friday following conferences between Leo Gillig, partner in the firm, and Secretary Digby Smith, of the Chamber of Commerce, who is arranging for a police escort and a band. It is planned that the train – including a tractor and three cars – will be paraded through the Hayward business district as it is started on its way to Treasure Island over the San Francisco-Oakland Bay bridge.

“This first train, decorated in Oriental splendor, is scheduled for delivery by Tuesday. The other 17 trains are to be delivered during December or early January.

“The Gillig Brothers firm has issued invitations to various local groups for a factory preview at the plant Sunday morning.”

Construction of the ‘Elephant Trains’ commenced later in the year, the January 10, 1939 Hayward Daily Review reporting on the delivery of the first six examples:

“‘Elephant Trains' May Be Cavalcade: New Consignment Of Gillig Cars Suggests Idea

“Gillig Brothers' bus factory at Hayward sent forth six of its new ‘Elephant trains’ en route to Treasure Island and the Golden Gate exposition Monday afternoon - the six forming a spectacular procession as they trundled up A and Castro streets. Oakland bound.

“Thereupon it occurred to Louis C. Drake, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce publicity committee, that he had acquired an imposing idea for Hayward's participation in the Exposition's premiere Feb. 17.

“Why Not Cavalcade?

"'Why not.' Mr. Drake suggested to the Chamber's board of directors Monday night, ‘why not load the next consignment of these Elephant trains with Haywardites and send them to Treasure Island as 'Hayward's Cavalcade' for the premiere?’

“‘H'm, not so bad.’ was the answering comment of members of the board.

“These ‘Elephant trains’ are gaudily decorated open cars, three to a train and drawn by tractors decorated to resemble elephants. They were designed, Oriental embellishments and all, by Chester Gillig, partner of the Gillig firm.

“Seven Delivered

“The six that paraded out of Hayward Monday completed a total of seven delivered to Treasure island thus far, under a contract from the East Bay Transit company, which will operate them for the benefit of Exposition visitors on the Island. Nine more such trains are to be delivered by the time the fair opens Feb. 18, making a total of 16.

“Mr. Drake suggested that the nine trains might be used, if permission of the railway firm can be obtained, to provide transportation as ‘Hayward's Cavalcade’ for the fair's premiere.”

The following article from the February 10, 1939 issue of the Oakland Tribune describes the process used by Gillig in choosing the colors of the vehicles:

“ . . Our man Thursday, who is an Elephant train addict already, dug up the following facts for us today: ‘Colorists for the Gillig Brothers in Hayward, construction engineers of the sightseeing trams for the Exposition, followed the official Expedition color palette in painting the trains.

“The elephant form itself which encases the engine of the power unit, is painted with Death Valley mauve. . . Eyes of the tusked animal are of light red glass which blink mischievously at night.

“Trappings of the conventionalized beast utilize the standard Fair colors of China Clipper blue, Ming Jade (light green), Treasure Island gold, Imperial Dragon red, Pagoda yellow and Polynesian brown...

“Southern Cross blue, darker than the China Clipper blue, is used on power unit fenders and also on trailer units.

“The cab of the power unit, converted into a howdah, is decorated with flowery designs of Imperial Dragon red on a background of Ming Jade (light green).”

Two different types of motive power units were used to pull the trains. The trains dressed as elephants were built on a late ‘30s Ford V-8 chassis, while others were pulled by tug tractors more commonly seen towing aircraft. After the close of the Exposition some of the trains were appropriated for War work, the October 23, 1940 Hayward Dailey Review reporting:

“Hayward Trains For Navy Yard: Fair ‘Elephant Cars’ to Speed Defense Work

“The Mare Island Navy yard will have a ‘made in Hayward’ transportation system, it was revealed Wednesday.

“Three of the 18 ‘elephant trains’ manufactured nearly two years ago at the Gillig Brothers school bus factory here for the Golden Gate exposition, have reported for duty at the Navy yard, to be used in carrying men and materials from one part of the yard to another, as a means of speeding operations.

“Mare Island reports said the three trains, consisting of three motor units and six trailers, were brought to the Island Tuesday from Treasure island, a 30-mile trip during which the trains attracted much attention along the route.

“The trains are to be put in service soon, carrying men and materials between shops, ships and storehouses. A record work load is being carried by the 12,000 men employed at the yard, and the trains are expected to save much time.

“The ‘elephant trains’ represent the first contribution to the current defense program from Hayward industries, except for foodstuff orders to the local canneries.”

Gillig would take on any project that deemed profitable, one of which was the construction of stadium seating for the newly-constructed Golden Gate Fields horserace track situated on the border of Albany and Berkeley, California - the October 9, 1940 issue of the Hayward Daily Review reporting:

“The Chamber of Commerce of Hayward gets away to a flying start as President Jack Casson brings an order for 3,000 chairs to this city to a local firm, so they may broaden their program of work to encompass the entire year. The firm, Gillig Brothers, have had a seasonal business, during bus building time, but this new chair sideline, started by the order from the new Albany race track, will help them broaden their program. This is home-run number one for the Chamber of Commerce for 1940.”

The firm also constructed their first transit coach in 1940. Equipped with a midships-mounted under-floor Hall-Scott six-cylinder gasoline engine, the chassis was constructed by Fabco, an Emeryville/Oakland based specialty truck manufacturers, and the all-steel body by Gillig.

Gillig Bros. also constructed an attractive woody wagon on a 1941 Cadillac chassis, although further production is doubted.

Bus construction was put on hold at the start of the War, and the firm engaged in the manufacture of trailer buses for the transportation of war workers, the August 16, 1942 Oakland Tribune reporting:

Caption “A new type trailer bus, designed to provide a suitable and economic meant of transportation for workers in Defense Industries, will be on display at the Oakland Auditorium Monday and Tuesday this week, according to Gillig Brothers of Hayward, motor coach builders. The unit combines the engineering and manufacturing facilities of Gillig Brothers, The Trailer Corporation of America and the Capitol Chevrolet Company of Sacramento. Production plans call for 100 units monthly at the Gillig plant, it was stated.

“New Trailer Bus Produced In Gillig Plant at Hayward

“A new type of ‘trailer’ bus has recently been designed, and will shortly be put into production at the Hayward plant of Gillig Brothers, motor coach builders. It is announced. Designed for the transportation of workers in defense industries, and using little in the way of vital materials. The trailer bus embodies all safety features found in the conventional type bus, it is stated.

“In commenting, Chester H. Gillig, who designed the bus states: ‘Sufficient steel was used in the body to meet the safety requirements of the State Railroad Commission; the rest is of plastic and other non-essential materials. Despite this fact, the body is as safe as any other type of bus body and every precaution has been taken to protect the passengers. For example, double side-doors provide ample room for incoming and outgoing passengers, but in addition there is a safety door in the rear for emergency unloading. Likewise the main sash type windows, which are shatterproof, open a full 18 inches so that they too can be used if necessary. Safety signals are connected to the cab and are under control of the cab driver. A special feature is the unusual arrangement of the seats. Instead of the standard type of seating arrangement, the seats are set in the manner of a ‘herring bone,’ at an angle which allows for greater comfort and a greater seating capacity, namely 75 as against 59 in the standard type bus. Standing room for 21 additional passengers is also available.’

“‘An important feature of the ‘Victory Trailer’ is that, at some future time, it can be converted into a cargo carrier at little cost. The unit is provided with interior lights, special floor covering, suitable stanchions and hand rails for ‘standees’ and a pull-cord buzzer system. Proper ventilation and other features have been provided for the safety and comfort of the passengers.’

“Present plans call for the production of at least 100 units monthly, although this can be increased to meet the demands of industry, it was pointed out.”

The August 17, 1942 Hayward Daily Review carried much the same story:

“LOCAL MOTOR COACH BUILDERS PRODUCE NEW TYPE ‘VICTORY TRAILER’ BUS AT PLANT HERE; Chester Gillig, Inventor, Tells Of Advantages of New Vehicle Over Existing Means of Travel

“That, a new type of ‘trailer bus’ has recently been designed and will shortly be put into production at the Hayward plant of Gillig Brothers, Motor coach builders, was announced Monday morning. Designed for the transportation of workers in defense industries, and using but little in the way of vital materials, the trailer bus embodies all safely features found in the convention type bus, it was slated.

“In commenting, Chester H. Gillig, who designed the bus, states:

“Sufficient steel was used in the body to meet the safety requirements of the State Railroad Commission; the rest is of plastic and other nonessential materials. Despite this fad, the body is as safe as any oilier type of bus, and every precaution has been taken to protect the passengers For example, double side doors provide ample room for incoming and outgoing passengers, but in addition, there is a safety door in the rear for emergency unloading. Likewise, the Pullman sash type windows, which are shatter-proof, open a full 18 inches so that they too can be used if necessary.

“Safely signals are connected to the cab and are under control of the cab driver. A special feature is the unusual arrangement of the seats. Instead of the standard type of sealing arrangement, the seats are set in the manner of a 'herringbone', at an angle which allows for greater comfort and a greater seating capacity - 75 as against 59 in the standard type bus. Standing room for 21 additional passengers is also available.

“An Important feature of the 'Victory Trailer' is that, at some future time, it can he converted into a cargo carrier at little cost.

“The unit is provided with interior lights, special floor covering, suitable stanchions and handrails for 'standees', and the pull-cord buzzer system. Proper ventilation and other features have provided for the safety and comfort of the passengers.

“Plans call for the production of at least 100 units monthly, although this can be increased too, was pointed out. The new type trailer bus will be on display at the Oakland Auditorium Monday and Tuesday of this week.”

Other contracts were also awarded to Gillig, one of which involved modified long wheelbase Chevrolet Panel Trucks into 14-passenger high-headroom buses by installing a 24-inch high domed roof in place of the stock roof.

The firm also constructed an occasional bookmobile, the March 12, 1948 Hayward Daily Review reporting:

“Bookmobile library Inaugurated

“Services of a new bookmobile to serve the unincorporated areas of Alameda county between San Leandro and Hay ward have been initiated by the Alameda county library.


“The bookmobile was built by Gillig Brothers, Hayward, on a 1 ½ ton Ford chassis the bookmobile is the walk-in type, with an entrance at the front and exit at the rear. Inside dimensions are 20 feet, 8 inches, 7 feet, four inches.

“It is designed for all-weather use and is insulated against heat and cold. Windows at the front and rear and a large sky-light admit plenty of daylight and the interior is fluorescently lighted.”

In 1953 Leo Gillig passed away and his brother Chester retired. The firm was reorganized as the Gillig Corporation and long-time employee Stanley J. Marx, assumed control of the firm. Marx had started with the firm in 1927 as a mechanic, and by 1930 had taken a position in the firm’s sales department.

Stanley Johnson Marx was born on May 18, 1908 in Oakland, Alameda County, California to two native Californians, Otto and Edna (Johnson) Marx, his father was a bookkeeper at a ‘meat company’. During his childhood Stanley lived with his paternal grandparents, Charles and Emma Marx, in San Rafael, Marin County, Calif. Marx married Virginia S. (born 1904 in Oklahoma) and their union was blessed with the birth of two children, Stania (b.1936) and Steven J. (b. 1939) Marx.

Gillig returned to the construction of mid-ship-engined school and transit buses after the war, and in 1948 introduced its first rear-engined or ‘pusher’ coach, powered by a Hall-Scott Model 450.

The firm introduced an all-new Hall-Scott-powered coach in 1950. By that time Gillig’s 200 or so employees produced approximately 75 coaches and 100 assorted truck bodies per year.

Increasingly more powerful Hall-Scott engines were offered in the early 50s culminating in the Model 590, the largest inline 6 ever place in a school bus at that time.

In 1957 Gillig acquired the assets of the Pacific Car & Foundry from Kenworth and in the following years incorporated a number of the Kenworth-Pacific’s school buses’ features into Gillig’s school buses which resulted in a more streamlined appearance.

The firm’s longtime LA-based competitor, Crown Coach, controlled the Southern California school bus market while Gillig controlled the North with a firm 70% of the market. They were also the predominant school bus brand in most of Oregon, Washington and Northern Nevada.

Another Gillig-built bookmobile was mentioned in the November 18, 1963 Mountain Democrat Times, (Placerville, Calif.):

“New Bookmobile

“The El Dorado county library's bookmobile, a 27-foot vehicle purchased from Mendocino county school system, has been all parked up with a complete paint job inside and out, new linoleum on the floor and carpet on the shelves and now is ready to roll.

“The inside of the bookmobile, according to county librarian Vera Fitch, its principal manager and the chief superintendent of its refurbishing, measures 18 feet from the driver's seat to the rear window. The shelves, now carpet covered to prevent the books from slipping in transit, will hold 2500 books. The Gillig Brothers custom-made body is built on a White bus chassis.”

Diesel-powered coaches were introduced in 1959 and by 1965 90% of the firm’s coaches featured diesel power. At that time approximately 150 employees turned out 175 coaches and 50 assorted truck bodies (including bookmobiles). The firm continued to distribute Superior Body Co. professional cars and school buses, the Eastern-made vehicles accounting for an additional 100 units per year.

They also expanded their school bus line to include a choice of gasoline Ford (Model 500), or Diesel Cummins (C-160, C-180, C-190), or Caterpillar V-8 (CAT 1160) engines, and was the first to offer a production Diesel-powered pusher school bus.

In 1967 Gillig offered new mid-ship-mounted coaches equipped with Cummins new 743 cu. in. NHH220 Diesels which were soon eclipsed by Cummins massive 855 cu. in. NHH250 Diesel. In response to Crown’s new tandem-axles school buses, Gillig introduced their own line of tandems during the same year.

The 41-foot-long Gillig offered not only larger capacity - 97 passengers – and two live rear axles, again with a choice of Caterpillar CAT-3208 or Cummins NHH-220/250 Diesel power. The Gillig range now included a wide range of gas and Diesel power from the nation’s leading manufacturers – Caterpillar, Cummins, Detroit Diesel and Ford.

In 1968 Stanley J. Marx, vice-president and general manager, retired after a 41 year career with the company, and the firm was acquired by Hayward-based Herrick-Pacific Steel Co. a large structural steel fabricator and erector and subsequently reorganized as Gillig Corp.

A new 4-acre plant was constructed during 1968, the July 21, 1968 edition of the Hayward Daily Review reporting:

“A Look At Gillig's New Hayward Plant

“Using a bus under construction as a vantage point, Hayward City Councilman Tom Neyeau, second from right, and Leroy Martin, left, of the Hayward Chamber of Commerce industrial committee, get a look at Gillig Brothers' new plant at 25800 Clawiter Road. Escorting them on the tour are Chester Gillig, right, vice president of the firm, and Stanley Marx, president. A longtime member of Hayward's business community, Gillig Brothers is the largest school bus manufacturer west of the Mississippi. The 117,000 square foot plant is located on a 14-acre site and represents a $1.5 million investment. The firm employs 175.”

A detailed overview of the Gillig operation was included in the December 19, 1971 issue of the Hayward Daily Review:

“The Life And Times Of An Ordinary Bus by Marlene Michelson

“HAYWARD — Care to ride a Gillig Brothers yellow school bus, flashing red lights and all, through the 20th century?

“Our driver is a dynamic young man who was practically born in a bus — a Gillig Brothers bus, that is — and it's quite a trip from the company's first limousines and jitneys at the turn-of-the-century to its sleek school buses of today.

“So let's get aboard and begin with a deluxe on a used bus, converted into a poor man's mobile home.

“Although used buses only account for three to five per cent of its business, the company, located at 25800 Clawiter Road, has been selling more and more in the past six years to people who want to make homes on wheels out of them.

“Steve Marx, 32-year-old sales manager of the company, says ‘the cost of trailers or mobile homes can run into five figures, while a used school bus ranges in price from $750 to $4,000, with $1,500 being about average.’

“‘Gillig takes used school buses back in trade for new ones. In past these have been resold, mostly to farm labor contractors with a few going to churches. The people who buy used buses for conversion into mobile homes are,’ Marx says, ‘good people to deal with. Many of them are hippie-type, but I'm never given a hard time. And if there's something wrong with the bus, like a cracked block, we tell them. It's a word-of-mouth kind of sale. Marx says, ‘and our customers send people to us.’

“With today's trend for diversification, Gillig got into the micro-bus business last year. ‘It's a very difficult market to penetrate,’ Marx says, ‘because competition is very, very keen.’

“Micro-buses are used mostly as shuttle buses in shopping centers, airports, hotels and sometimes in municipal transit systems.

“Since its founding, Gillig has been mostly a family-owned company. Marx's father, Stanley Marx, is president, Chester Gillig is vice president and Gillig's son Jim is a sales representative.

“Gillig has the one plant here in Hayward and sales offices or ‘distributorships’ in Los Angeles, Portland and Tacoma. It sells buses in California, Oregon and Washington states primarily, and gets major competition from Crown Coach of Southern California.

“Summer in the bus business is like Christmas in the retail business. Gillig employs about 160 persons in the shop and 30 in the office. But in the summer that 160 swells to about 200. The seasonality of the business is caused by school starting in September. And, since school budgets run from July to July, many districts don't know until July whether they'll have the money to buy new buses.

“Then, of course, the older buses are brought back home to Hayward in the summer when they're not being used. They are returned for painting and repairs that enable them to comply to the state safety regulations.

“GILLIG'S SCHOOL buses are sold primarily to school districts, but once in a while the firm gets government contracts. The firm is building one now for the U.S. Department of Immigration. It is air conditioned, contains a toilet and will be used to haul illegal immigrants back to Mexico.

"That one is gray," Marx says. He recalls the time his partner in sports cars wanted to paint theirs Brabham yellow. Marx convinced him otherwise.

“They're also making a bus for the Atomic Energy Commission up in Idaho to haul personnel from housing developments to work projects.

“The Gillig school buses do have other uses however, like mobile libraries, audio-metric buses (tearing lest units), law enforcement security buses and buses for private industry.

“Back to ‘national school bus chrome yellow,’ state regulations require that buses for elementary, junior high and high schools be yellow with black lettering and trim, the bus must also carry the name of the school district and the district's number for the bus.

“There are few color exceptions allowed. Bus tops in hot areas, like the Mojave Desert, can be white to reflect the heat. On the other hand, buses for universities, colleges and junior colleges cannot be yellow — another state regulation — so they are generally painted in the school's colors, Marx says. Buses for this level of education are used to transport sports teams and school bands.

“Gillig sold about 230 buses last year. Its sales, Marx says, have been gradually increasing. The buses cost between $7,500 and $34,000, but the difference between those two models, Marx says, ‘is like comparing apples to oranges — they're entirely different buses.’

“The 13-row bus is the most common, seating 79 students. San Francisco bought two models — the 13-row and the 15-row, which seats 91 — at an average cost of about $25,000 per bus for the 20 buses. It takes 60 days to build one of these two models.

“Marx says no one is a manufacturer today, not even Ford. Small suppliers make various components, which Gillig buys. It does buy steel in sheets, however, and cuts it at the Clawiter Road facility.

“Diesel-powered engines are put into about 95 per cent of Gillig's school buses; but they do build gas-powered models. Engines vary, since there are different requirements for buses used in the mountains of the Tahoe-Truckee area, for example, than on the flatlands.

"Gillig school buses are custom built, with a life 'expectancy of 20 years. There is no assembly line. The buses are generally all handbuilt in what Marx calls ‘a blacksmith-type operation. That's why they cost so much,’ he adds.

“The first step in building a Gillig bus is building the chassis or steel frame. Then, assembly begins with the installation on the frame of the engine, fuel tank and other chassis components. Old tires are also put on to get the bus from one area of the plant to another.

“The bus is then given a coat of zinc primate paint — a rust inhibiter — and is pushed to the ‘body line.’ There, body cross members are added, along with side structures, roof, windows, floor and the dashboard and its mechanical hookups. Gillig electric welds the pieces together, using rivets only on the roof paneling and belt-rails, which run along the side of the bus.

“The engine is now fired for the first time, new tires are fitted, and the bits can be driven from the body line to the paint shop, where it receives its two coats of ‘national school bus chrome yellow’ and its black lettering and trim. Then the bus is baked for an hour in an oven of about-185 degrees before going to the trim department.

“Here the bus gets its flashing red light bulbs and rubber floor covering, seats are ‘put-down,’ fire extinguisher and first aid kit are installed and windshield wiper arms are attached, as is all other hardware. Gillig doesn't make its seat frames, but it does make the padding and upholstery, which is usually green.

“The inside of the bus is then painted with a light green paint and driven to the finishing department, the last step. Here paint is touched up, windows are washed and the bus is thoroughly cleaned. Then, in accord with rigid state regulations, the bus is weighed and given a road test — a minimum of 60 miles which, Marx says, may involve taking it over Altamont Pass and back, or to San Jose and back.

“A brake certification test is given on the Gillig property, with the bus being tested at a ‘panic stop of 20 miles per hour,’ Marx says. The bus must stop in 30 feet, but Marx says ‘most of our units stop at half of that—12 to 10 feet.’

“After all these tests, the bus is checked again for leaks, brakes are adjusted if necessary, and bells are tightened.

“The California Highway Patrol inspects the buses initially, then rechecks them twice a year. ‘And they really check them over,’ Marx says. Finally, the school district sends a driver down to pick up the bus. ‘He usually wants to look at the plant while he's here,’ Marx says.

“Although he never rides a bus, Marx possesses a Class II license to drive them around for demonstrations. He says there's still a stigma to riding a bus, ‘but people will have to ride some form of mass transit soon, because parking is getting so prohibitive and the highways are jammed.’ Public transit buses have different specifications, he says. ‘They have to make shorter steps for little old ladies, for example.’

“Marx says he never gets bored in the bus-selling business. ‘I've been raised in it,’ he says. ‘People think it's a path of resistance going into the same business as your father, but I thoroughly enjoy it.’

‘I don't mind being the son of the president of the company,’ he says, ‘but you are expected to perform better than the others.’ He adds that he and his father have a good relationship. ‘I started pushing a broom here at 15, and then spent Christmas and summer vacations out in the plant.’ He wanted to get into every department and did, even becoming a journeyman welder.

“Raised in San Leandro, Marx went to college in Santa Rosa, studying business. He came right back to the plant after college. He lives in Fremont at 42652 Lerwick with his wife and two children. Does he expect his son to go into the business? ‘I don't expect him to.’ Marx says, ‘but certainly I would not be displeased. I wouldn't crowd him, however.

“Selling today is more sophisticated than in my father's generation," Marx says, and talks about the old ‘sit on the fence, whittle a stick’ sales method. In his father's day, school district trustees and boards were made up of farmers. A salesman would have to go out to the farm and talk to the man about Gillig buses. The salesman would often end up sitting on the fence, whittling a stick with the farmer.

“Today, a salesman doesn't go directly to the school board anymore, Marx says. School districts are more specialized now, so salesmen go to superintendents or transportation directors. This specialization is also apparent, Marx says, in that ‘the guy who drove the bus years back, also cut lawns and swept classrooms at night. Now a bus driver is a bus driver, not a jack-of-all trades.”

Gillig’s last gas-powered coach was constructed in 1974 at which time transit coach production accounted for 90% of all units sold with custom-built truck bodies accounting for less than 10% of total production which was pegged at approximately one complete coach per day. The Microcoach had been constructed in conjunction with Hertz Rent-A Car and after 75 examples were constructed the line was spun off to a third-party (Sportscoach) in 1974.

The March 26, 1975 issue of the Hayward Daily Review provided the following statistics:

“Richard Gale welds a cross member on the frame which will be the foundation for a Gillig Brothers school bus. Gale and the other 150 or so employees of the Hayward firm turn out custom built buses at a rate of about one a day, each bus taking 60 to 30 days. Gillig builds the buses from the ground up — after buying components, the plant starts with the frame and builds the body up to the roof, including all work in between.”

The June 22, 1976 issue of the Hayward Daily Review announced a new partnership with the European motor coach builder Neoplan:

“Area firm plans heavy bus production

“By Rich Riggs

“HAYWARD — A local school bus manufacturer, Gillig Brothers, 25800 Clawiter Road, is planning to expand its operations into the production of heavy-duty, 30-foot buses for mass transit.

“Hal Dornsife, chairman of the board of Gillig Brothers and its parent corporation, Herrick Corp., 28450 Clawiter Road, said production of the first of the buses is targeted for ‘late this fall.’

“‘It is Gillig's goal to be producing up to 100 buses per year by the end of 1977,’ Dornsife said.

“When production is at that level, it will create 60 new jobs at the Gillig plant, which now employs 125 workers, Dornsife said.

“Currently, Gillig produces about 200 school bus coaches in the 35 to 40-foot length range each year. School bus production will continue as the company expands into mass transit.

“The firm has bought additional land at its Clawiter Road plant to expand its 10 acre plant by as many as 12 acres, if needed. But Dornsife said the firm plans to ‘get maximum use out of our existing plant’ before embarking on a major plant construction project.

“Gillig Brothers has been manufacturing school buses in Hayward for 35 years. The company was started in San Francisco 80 years ago to produce horse-drawn wagons.

“The components for the new mass transit buses will be American. But, through a five year licensing agreement with a German bus builder, Neoplan of Stuttgart, the Gillig firm will be able to utilize some German busmaking technology.

“‘The principle items that Neoplan will provide will be styling and the design of its airride suspension,’ Dornsife said. Air-ride suspension is used in public transit buses and in a few trucks. They provide a safer, more comfortable ride over bumpy surfaces than do the spring suspension systems used in school buses, according to Dornsife.

“The buses, which will be called ‘Gillig-Neoplan Public Transit’ buses, will be 30 feet in length and will utilize more glass and dramatic styling than the conventional 35 to 40-foot buses used now by most cities.

“The Gillig-Neoplan buses will carry 33 passengers, compared with the 45-passenger capacity of conventional buses.

“Dornsife feels the smaller buses will be right for smaller cities just getting into mass transit or for use by larger cities to feed passengers in from outlying areas where the passenger loads aren't as heavy and the streets may be too narrow to accommodate full-sized buses.

“You may have already ridden a Neoplan bus. A special, 12-foot wide model is in use at Los Angeles International Airport. It's used to shuttle passengers between domestic and international flights.

“Neoplan, which produces about 1,000 buses per year, has come up with many dramatic new bus designs. Included are a "super-bus" which features two sections coupled together somewhat like a train.

“For competitive reasons, Dornsife declined to release any figures on how much Gillig is investing in the new venture, the costs of the buses, or the costs of the licensing agreement with Neoplan.

“Dornsife said that he is confident in the success of the venture because he believes ‘the energy supply will continue to dwindle and mass transit will continue to grow in importance.’

“Dornsife noted that the federal government is spending ‘a tremendous amount of money’ to encourage people to leave their cars and use mass transit."

“Among the inducements, Dornsife said, are federal grants which can defray up to 80 per cent of the costs of new buses to new transit systems.

“In conjunction with the expansion plans, Gillig has hired two new executives. Dornsife said. Frank Buttine, formerly an executive vice president of Consolidated Diesel and Electric Co. of Connecticut, has been named president and general manager. Joe Dabrawski, formerly vice president of engineering for Rohr-Flxible Bus Co. of Ohio, has been hired as Gillig's new director of engineering.

“The bus will initially be marketed to cities and transit districts in California, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon and Washington. Dornsife said.”

A picture of the new Neoplan-based coach under construction appeared in the July 11, 1977 Hayward Daily Review with the following comments:

“Skeleton of a bus

“Abe Knowles, right, of the Hayward Chamber of Commerce industrial committee, stands inside the skeleton of a Gillig Brothers, 35-passenger bus, which will sell for between $64,000 and $68,000 when completed within the next 20 days. Knowles and Hayward City Councilman Larry Ratio, left, were on a tour of the facility conducted by Gillig Brothers President Fran Bultine, center. The Hayward bus manufacturer is in the midst of a $350,000 expansion."

Transit coach production had eclipsed school bus production in the mid 70s and by the early 1980s school bus sales all but vanished, with the last 'Classic Gillig 'School Bus produced in 1982.

Gillig's most popular transit coach ever, the Phantom, was introduced in late 1980 to overwhelming acclaim. Available in numerous configurations, widths (96" & 102") and lengths (30', 35' & 40'), the Phantom was easily adaptable to all transit scenarios and could be fitted with a wheelchair lift.

The firm’s former president, Stanley J. Marx, died on December 10, 1984 in Alameda County.

A 96" wide Phantom school bus debuted in 1986, and although sale were initially strong, production ceased in 1993, putting an end to Gillig's most popular product line.

The August 1, 2008 issue of Metro Magazine announced that Gillig was under new ownership:

“Gillig Corp. under new ownership

“Bus manufacturer Gillig Corp. has been purchased by Henry Crown & Co. operating under CC Industries Inc. (CCI), based in Chicago.

“The new partnership will allow Gillig to continue to focus on their "long-term goals of greater customer satisfaction, better products, improved relationships and higher productivity," according to company officials.

“CCI Inc. operates under the umbrella of Henry Crown & Co., which was founded by Henry Crown and his brothers in 1919, includes a large and diverse group of businesses from the Aspen Skiing Co. to Great Dane trailers.”

The CCI takeover coincided with the end of Phantom production. Today the firm's 750 employees manufacture 1,250 Low Floor (Diesel & Hybrid) transit coaches, BRT (Diesel & CNG) rapid transit coaches and Trolley Replicas per year in their Hayward, California facility.

© 2013 Mark Theobald for







Beverly Rae Kimes & Henry Austin Clark - Standard Catalog of American Cars: 1805-1942

Harre W. Demoro - The Key Route: Transbay Commuting By Train and Ferry, pub. 1985

Richard Reinhardt - Treasure Island; San Francisco's Exposition Years, pub. 1973

George Henry Tinkham - History of Stanislaus County California, pub. 1921

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