by John Veerkamp
In 1928 Harry Zoltok and Fred Sicinski started an auto body repair workshop in Winnipeg. Canada. On April 9, 1932 they incorporated their company as "Fort Garry Motor Body and Paint Works Ltd.". In 1933 the first coach body was built on a Packard chassis, and in 1937 the first complete coach was constructed for Grey Goose Bus Lines in Winnipeg. By the outbreak of World War II production had concentrated on coach building. On January 7, 1941, the company name was changed to Motor Coach Industries, or MCI. Bus production was halted during the war, though one trolley coach was built in 1942. Production resumed after the war and in 1945 the "Courier" rear engined coach range was introduced, with series production starting in 1946. At the same time the company expanded into other fields, such as pole line hardware and road machinery.
Western Canada Greyhound had bought Fort Garry and MCI buses since 1938, and until 1964 Canadian Greyhound was MCI's biggest customer. In 1948 Greyhound Canada bought a stake in MCI, which was gradually increased until they gained full control over MCI in 1958. The MC1 prototype was built in 1958, leading to the famous MC range of coaches, which would become Greyhound's standard coach for several decades.
From 1958 to 1963, small series of the new models named MC1 to MC4 were built, each one preceeded by an experimental coach. The culmination of these models was the MC-5 which was introduced in 1963. With this coach MCI entered the US market. MCI Inc. had been established for this purpose in Pembina, North Dakota, on April 2, 1962. The first MC-5 delivery from the new Pembina plant was Greyhound U.S. fleet number 2500 on November 15, 1963. The first MC-5 from the Winnipeg plant was sold in May, 1964.
The MC-5 35 foot coach was further developed into the very similar MC-5A and MC-5B. The MC-5C, MCI's last 35 foot coach for a long time, used the more modern MC-8 front end and was produced from 1977-1980. The MC-6 was an experimental 102" wide model of which only 100 were produced for Greyhound in 1969-1970. The MC-7, introduced in 1968, was MCI's first 40 foot 3-axle coach. This was replaced by the improved MC-8 in 1973 and the MC-9 in 1978. The MC-9 was to become MCI's best selling coach, with 9,513 built by MCI and TMC until 1990. The final MC model was the MC-12, a modernized MC-9, built on Greyhound request from 1992-1998 as the, for the time being, last 96" wide MCI model.
Demand for the MC-8 was such that a new production plant was established in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1973. Another reason for the establishment of the new plant were labor problems in the other plants around this time. The Roswell plant was incorporated as TMC, Transportation Manufacturing Corp. The MC-8 and MC-9 produced here were badged as TMC rather than MCI, but were otherwise similar to the Pembina/Winnipeg produced vehicles. Also produced in Roswell, from 1979 to 1982, was the TMC Citycruiser, a 30 foot transit model built under license from Orion. Later MCI coaches built in Roswell were simply badged as MCI.
In 1984 MCI presented its new coach model, the "A", terminating the tradition of the MC model range name. The A had a more aerodynamic styling and modern look, though used many well-proven components. It was available in 96" and 102" wide configuration and with 2 or 3 axles, named 96A2, 102A2, 96A3 and 102A3. The 102A3 soon became the most popular model. As demand for intercity coaches decreased while the market for upscale charter coaches expanded, MCI developed the slightly higher, luxury 102C3. This model also had a fully paintable exterior to give coach companies the opportunity to develop more of their own identity. As some companies preferred the stainless steel exterior, this became available as an option. In 1990, the A range was replaced by the B range, though 2-axle models were discontinued because of low demand. The 96B3 and 102B3 were similar to the corresponding A models, but included various features of the C model.
In December 1986, Greyhound Corporation sold Greyhound Lines to an investor group but retained ownership of Greyhound Lines of Canada, MCI and TMC. This meant that the ties between MCI and its traditional largest customer and basically the founder of the MC range had been severed. In January 1987, Greyhound Corporation bought the GMC transit bus manufacturing, including RTS production in Pontiac, Michigan, and Classic production in Ste Eustache, Canada. The RTS production was transferred to the TMC Roswell facility, while the Classic production continued in Ste Eustache. An additional plant for the Classic was opened in New York State.
In 1990, MCI presented its first 45-foot prototype, which went into production in 1992 as the 102DL3, after 45 foot coaches had become generally allowed in 1991. This coach soon became popular with both charter coach owners and as a long distance coach. A 40 foot version, the 102D3, replaced the B and C models in 1994.
Several changes occurred during this period. TMC stopped production of coaches and concentrated on the RTS production in 1990. To avoid confusion between Greyhound Corporation and Greyhound Lines, which were now unrelated companies, Greyhound Corporation changed its name to Dial Corporation in 1991. In 1993 the Classic bus production was sold to Nova Bus. In August 1993, Dial Corporation divested itself from the bus production and established an independent corporation, MCII or Motor Coach Industries International. Included were MCI, TMC, Custom Coach Corp. and Hausman Bus Sales, among others.
In 1994, MCII merged with Dina from Mexico. As a result, RTS production and the Roswell plant were sold to Nova Bus, and MCI started marketing the Dina Viaggio coach in the US. Towards the year 2000 the integration of the two companies intensified and the new MCI F and G models are produced in Mexico.
The latest developments in MCI are a modernization of its coach range. A new top-of-the-line hi-tech luxury 45 foot model, called the 102EL3 "Renaissance" was presented in 1996. MCII changed its model numbers in 2000, with the 102D3, 102DL3 and 102EL3 becoming the D4000, D4500 and E4500, respectively. A new 35 foot model was introduced in 2000 as the F3500, though this is basically the Mexican Dina F12 model. New MCI models currently being introduced include the G4100 and G4500 "long distance transport coaches" and the J4500 "Modern American Coach", which resembles the E4500 but is less sophisticated and less expensive. Special versions of the D series include charter coach, long distance coach, commuter coach, and inmate transport models. New Jersey Transit is currently negotiating with MCI an order for 96" wide coaches, though the exact model remains to be determined.
During the 1990's, MCI has also placed more emphasis on the custom coach market, for which Custom Coach Corp. was acquired. Special versions of the D, E and F coaches are available as custom models.
It is interesting to see that after having specialized on 40 and 45 foot 102" wide coaches, MCI is now re-entering the market for shorter, 35 foot long, and narrower, 96" wide coaches. With the current D4000, D4500, E4500, F3500, G4100, G4500 and J4500, plus the various options, MCI has a broader range of coaches in production than ever before. In its new numbering scheme, MCI has omitted H and I, to avoid confusion with the Prevost H models and to avoid confusion between 1 and I.
Coach and bus models.Early models
The first complete Fort Garry built buses had front-mounted International petrol engines. In 1939, 6 buses were built using Yellow Coach styling and 22 more buses were built in 1940-1941 for Greyhound's lines in Canada. After the second world war production increased to some 50 buses per year for Greyhound, following rather closely the Yellow Coach/GMC models of the period.The "Courier" series.
MCI introduced its "Courier" rear-engined coach series mid 1940's. Different models were built; initially the 100, 100A, 100B, 100C and the 200, 200A and 200B. Slight updates of those were the Courier 50, 50A, and 85, 85A and 85X. Later in the 1950's came the 90, 95, 96 and 97. The Courrier 96 was the last addition, in 1956, and was produced until 1960, after the introduction of the "MC" range. They were quite similar to the contemporary GM's PD4103 and the Flxible Clipper. The "Courier" was sold in Canada, with the exception of 5 Courier 95D that went to Greyhound New England in the US. From 1937 until the start of the MC series, Fort Garry/MCI had built some 550 coaches.
The "MC" series.
MCI will probably be remembered best for its famous MC silversided coaches that became the best selling intercity coaches ever in North America. The first MC was the MCX1, a prototype introduced in 1958. It differed substantially from previous MCI coaches but closely followed the example set by GM several years earlier. The MC1 had a length of 35 foot, stainless steel sides, slanted style windows, and air suspension. A total of 28 MC1 were built after the prototype, in 1959-1960, mainly for Greyhound Canada.
The MC-2 prototype was built in 1959, followed by 62 production coaches in 1960-1961. The MC-2 had the more powerful 6V-71 engine, air-conditioning and a slightly re-designed lower front end. The MC3, a prototype of which was built in 1961, featured a different rear end, replacing the almost "tailfin" like appearance of the MC1 and MC-2. Regular production in 1961-1963 accounted for 50 units. One MC-3 built in 1961 was called the MC-4X even though it had the same specifications, engine and wheelbase of the MC3. The "real" MC4, of which 50 were built in 1963, had a more powerful Detroit 8V-71 engine and a new 4-speed gearbox. Externally the main difference with the MC3 was a slightly longer wheelbase. In 1963 a total of 50 MC4 were built.
The first MC-5 was the MC-X5, looking identical to the MC-4. The production MC-5 can be easily distinguished from its predecessors by the 2 instead of 3 baggage compartment. With the MC-5 marketing in the US began and the assembly plant in Pembina, North Dakota, was opened. After the 1963 prototype, a total of 300 MC-5 were built in 1963/1964, a new record for MCI. Minimal changes in 1964 led to the model designation being changed to MC-5A, which can be distinguished by the rib on the baggage doors. On the MC-5 these are flat. Apart from the very first MC-5 in 1963, the MC-5A was the first MC model purchased by Greyhound in the US. A total of 1,605 MC-5A were built from 1964 through 1971. The MC-5B was introduced in 1971 and was built until 1977, with a total production figure of 350 units. The lower sales are indicative of the increased popularity of 40 foot coaches around that time. Changes from the MC-5A to the MC-5B were minimal and gradual. From 1968 midship marker lights appeared on the MC-5A. From 1975 the roof marker lights on the MC-5B changed to the rectangular model as on the MC-8.
The MC-5C was MCI's last 35 foot coach in the MC series and was produced from 1977 through 1980. It was substantially different from previous MC-5 models, incorporating much of the improvements of the MC-8 in a 35 foot model. Most notable are the MC-8 front end and the square instead of slanted windows. A total of 380 MC-5C were built, many as special orders rather than in regular production. Greyhound bought 198 for a contract in Saudi Arabia, 49 of which had a unique central exit door. After the end of the contract they were sold in the US, where they can easily be recognized by their double roof. Some of the buses had their second door removed, but others continued in service with this unusual layout.
With the introduction in the US of the MC-5 the "Challenger" name was adopted, though Canadian coaches continued to also carry the Courrier name.
The MC-6 is one of the most unusual MCI coaches. It was built specially for Greyhound to the then unusual, and in many states illegal, width of 102", and to a length of 40 feet. Two prototypes were delivered in 1967. As the time apparently was not ripe for the general change to the 102" width, and because the MC-7 40 foot coach had gone into production, the total number of MC-6 built was limited to 100, with the regular production vehicles delivered in 1969 and 1970. The MC-6 was a very unusual design with its three levels.
In 1968 MCI made the change to the 40 foot coach with the introduction of the MC-7. This 3-axle coach featured a high-level passenger area and a very obvious roof dip. It rapidly became popular and from 1968 through 1973 a total of 2,550 were produced. With the MC-7 MCI's domination of the intercity coach market in the US started.
The MC-8 replaced the MC-7 in 1973. It was produced until 1978 and became the most popular MCI model with 4,475 being produced, 3,053 by MCI and 1,422 by TMC in Roswell. It differed from the MC-7 by its less pronounced roof dip and by having the destination box behind the windscreen rather than incorporated into the roof cap. The MC-8 was also the first model produced in the new Transportation Manufacturing Corp. (TMC) plant in Roswell, New Mexico. Coaches produced here carry a TMC rather than MCI insignia, but are otherwise similar to the Pembina / Winnipeg produced ones. During its last year of production the window style was changed from the traditional slanted to the rectangular one as already used on the MC-5C. The windows remained, however, less deep than on the MC-9 and the first window retained its triangular shape, helping to distinguish these late MC-8 from the MC-9. With the MC-8, MCI also introduced a new name for its coaches: "Crusader".
The MC-9 or "Crusader 2" was a modernized version of the MC-8, recognizable by its flat roof and deeper, square windows. With 9,513 units built from 1978 until 1990 it would set a new production record. Several special versions of the MC-9 were built, with roof windows for sightseeing, with transit-type doors and with larger, roof mounted destination boxes. The largest of these became known as the "New Jersey Caps". A special development was the 2-axle MC-9, of which 5 were built by TMC and 2 by MCI. Intended for use in New York, they finally served as prototypes for the A2 models. The final MC-9 model offered in 1989/1990 was the "Special Edition", featuring a special interior and attractive price.
When Greyhound emerged from bankruptcy, it needed to replace many worn-out coaches. Rather than adopting the new MCI models and the 102" width, a model more compatible with the existing fleet was specified. This led to the development of the MC-12 (10 and 11 probably being unofficially used for other models), which incorporated much of the lower part of the new A models with the upper part of the MC-9. The coaches look very much like the MC-9, but can be distinguished by the different roof cap and the modern tail light group. Some 850 were built between 1992 and 1998. Over 800 of these were delivered to Greyhound. It was also used a prisoner transportation vehicle. When the production of the MC-12 ceased, the end had come for the MC-series introduced with the MC1, after some 3 and a half decades.
The new appearance MCIs
During late 1984 MCI introduced its re-designed coach range, called "The New MCI". The second half of the 1980's was characterized by increased competition from European imports and from Canada (Prevost) and a shift in the market from reliable intercity coaches to more luxurious charter coaches. The New MCI was MCI's, successful, answer to this challenge. While based on proven designs, the new models incorporate many detail and esthetic improvements. Among the most noticeable changes are the larger windscreen and passenger windows.
The new A models were available in four versions: 96" or 102" wide and 2- or 3-axle configurations. These were called the 96A2, 96A3, 102A2, and 102A3. Ultimately, the 102A3 proved to be the most popular. The A-series models were built until 1990, when they were replaced by the B-series.
To cater for the higher end of the coach market, MCI introduced the 102C3 coach in 1988. It offered a new interior and passenger comfort. It also was three inches higher than the A-series and boasted a fully paintable exterior. However, some operators still specified the stainless steel exterior so this became available as an option. The stainless steel was only applied to the lower part of the sides though. The 102C3 became quite popular, and was produced from 1988 through 1993. After that, it was replaced by the 102D3.
The A series was replaced by the new B (for Bus) series in 1991, but only the 96B3 and 102B3 were produced as interest in 2-axle coaches was minimal. The B series retained the height of the A-series but incorporated details of the C-series. The rather rare 96B3 retained the old front end and stainless steel on the lower part of the sides, but the 102B3 received the new model front end and fully paintable sides. Like on the 102C3, however, stainless steel sides could be specified for the 102C3.
The various options make it difficult to distinguish between a 102B3 and a 102C3. The most obvious spotting feature is the difference in height, which can be seen by looking at difference in the strip over the passenger windows. The 96A3 and 96B3 are virtually undistinguishable. Obviously, the difference between a 96 and 102-inch wide coach is not always easy to see either. The front ends on both versions are the same; the body widens between the front and the first passenger window. From the rear, the 96" coaches have no space between the motor door and the tail light cluster whereas teh 102" coaches have a three inch space here per side.
In 1990 MCI presented its first 45 foot long coach, built as a prototype fully accessible unit for the Canadian Government, based on the 102C3. After 45 foot coaches were allowed in 1991, MCI presented its new 102DL3 coach beginning in 1992. The D indicated the new series while L stands for long, indicating the increased length. Externally, the coach looks like a lengthened 102C3, but it features a new rear end and a larger engine compartment that houses more powerful engines. The 102DL3 which is still offered by MCI quickly became popular, but it is now known as the D4500. As with the 102B3 and 102C3 models, the 102DL3 exists with a fully paintable exterior. Optional stainless steel panels on the lower part of the sides are offered.
The 102D3 40 foot coach was introduced in 1994 and replaced the 102B3 and 102C3, which, with the various options, had become basically the same model. The 96" wide range was taken out of production because of the diminished interest from operators. While similar in appearance to the 102C3, with the same double strip over the passenger windows indicating its greater height, the 102D3 features the straight rear end and larger engine compartment of the 102DL3, though some 102C3 had the D rear end installed as an option. The D model has a shorter wheelbase to accomodate the longer engines. The 102D3 has been renamed D4000 since and is also still available from MCI.
The D4000 and D4500 "Classic American Coaches" are available with various specifications, as Line Haul, Charter Coach, or Commuter Coach. Interestingly, New Jersey Transit ordered a 96" wide version of the D4000, which, if built, means the re-entry of MCI into the narrow coach market.
The latest developments.
In October 1996 MCI launched a new top-of-the-line model called the "Renaissance" or 102EL3. It is a completely re-designed 45 foot exclusive model and a breakaway from the still rather squarish and functional looking A-D series. The model designation has since been changed to E4500.
The most recent developments show a further extension of the product line.
The F3500 means a return to the 35 ft coach. The F3500 is the result of the collaboration between MCI and DINA and basically is a DINA F12 coach adapted for the US market, sold as an MCI but produced in Mexico. Sales started in 2000.
The 102G3 or G4100 "long distance transport coach" was developed in close collaboration with Greyhound as a new economic and reliable long distance coach. It has much of the esthetic appeal of the Renaissance but has been designed with durability, reliability and economics in mind rather than sophistication. For an extensive test program 25 102G3 (now renamed G4100) were built, 17 of which are operated by Greyhound. At the Motorcoach Expo in Atlantic City, held in February 2001, the 45 foot G4500 was presented. As Greyhound is apparently opting for this longer coach, the G4100 may not go into regular production.
Also presented in February 2001 was the J4500 "Modern American Coach", a new luxury coach reminiscent of the Renaissance but less sophisticated and with an accordingly lower price tag.
While MCI is known for its coaches, the company has at various moments in its existence built transit buses, though those were normally not to MCI's own design.
The first MCI transit bus was a trolleybus "Model TRY" built for the Winnipeg Electric Railway in 1942. Though this vehicle was in operation as Winnipeg's number 1532 until the 1960's no additional units were ever built.
More important was the production of the Orion I 30 ft transit bus in the TMC Roswell factory from 1979 through 1982. A total of 848 so-called TMC City Cruiser buses were built, mainly for various US transit companies. The model was virtually identical to the Orion built buses.
In 1987 MCI acquired General Motors' bus production which included both the RTS model in the US and the Classic model in Canada. The RTS production was moved to the TMC Roswell factory in New Mexico, where RTS production continued as the TMC RTS. Production of the Classic was continued as the MCI Classic in the existing facilities in Ste. Eustache, Quebec. MCI's only new development was the introduction of an articulated version of the MCI Classic in 1992. Only small numbers of this model were sold to Halifax and Quebec.
In 1993 the Canadian MCI transit bus factory was sold to Nova Bus, who continued the production of the Classic. The TMC RTS production facilities were sold to Nova Bus late in 1994, as a result of the MCI-DINA merger. Nova Bus continued the RTS production. As a result, both the RTS and Classic models have been produced by three different companies.
Modernization of older coaches
MCI coaches' high quality makes that they have a long lifespan, many being in service for 20 to 30 years. While design differences between the MC models were rather limited, the introduction of the new A series and subsequent models made the MC series start looking outdated. To upgrade these buses, several companies, such as Bus Cap, started offering new front and rear ends to give them a more modern appearance. Not only many MC-9 have been treated like this, but also older MC-8 and even some MC-7 and MC-5. Most often the window configuration gives away the original model. Also, the windscreen tends to be less deep than on the A-D models. Greyhound rebuilt some MC-8 with MC-9 windows and a fully paintable exterior. Some rebuilding is so extensive that it becomes impossible to recognize the original model
MCI's focus has always been on the North American market and export of new coaches has been limited. MCI did not make an effort to develop export models and its existing models often did not comply with regulations in other countries. A major export order was for 187 coaches for a temporary Greyhound operation in Saudi Arabia, which included 40 2-door MC-5C, though these were repatriated to the US after the end of the Greyhound contract. Other, generally small, export orders were for Australia and Taiwan, while a few MCI's can be seen in South Africa and Egypt.
Given their longevity, secondhand MCI's have become a popular export product, especially to Central America. Also, they can also be seen in Cuba, Peru, and even China and Estonia, to name but a few places.
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- Mroz, Albert. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Trucks and Commercial Vehicles. 1996
- Plachno, Larry. Modern Intercity Coaches. 1997
- Plachno, Larry. MCI Coaches from A to J. In: National Bus Trader, April 2001
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