The Wayne Works Story Part II
In the days before the government got involved in the purchase of school buses, more often than not, coaches were sold to third parties unconnected to the school district. Most were local individuals or small fleet operators who had won a bid for transporting a certain number of students to a certain school. The sale of a school bus was more akin to selling a motor vehicle to a single customer, sometimes a lot of leg work was involved in order to get a single bus sold and financed. During the 1950s more money became available for school transportation and many school districts began operating their own fleets, buying their own buses and hiring their own drivers on a non-profit absolute cost basis.
Bids for bus fleets would be let at a certain place and time, each salesman knowing that if he could learn the exact amount of his competitors’ bids, he would more often than not win the contract, even if he beat it by just a dollar or two.
A salesman for Blue Bird named 'Red Willie' once described a popular scheme he had used to drum up business, called ‘the pigeon drop.’ It utilized an ‘inside man’, typically a secretary or assistant superintendent who was short on cash. Our salesman's ‘friend’ would place a fictitious too-high bid from his firm in plain sight on top of his desk just before a competing salesman was due to arrive. The 'mark' would submit a slightly lower bid, believeing his was now the lowest. Later in the day, our 'resourceful' salesman would arrive at his appointeded time with an even lower bid, and if the superintendent hadn't caught on, would be awarded the contract, as the low bidder was always awarded the contract.
In January of 1954, Wayne Works purchased the Meteor Motor Car Co. of Piqua, Ohio and on March 19, 1956 Wayne announced the acquisition of another Ohio professional car builder, the A.J. Miller Company of Bellefontaine, Ohio.
Under this new conglomerate, the company would now be called Miller-Meteor. A.J. Miller's Bellefontaine plant was sold and manufacturing was consolidated at Meteor's Piqua, Ohio plant which was located at 125 Clark Avenue.
From day one, Miller-Meteor built exclusively on the Cadillac commercial chassis and the first Miller-Meteor coaches debuted in 1957. The new firm was an immediate success and had captured 50% of the professional car market by 1962.
In 1956 Glekel & Drimmer entered into negotiations with the board of directors of Divco, a route delivery truck manufacturer based in Warren, Michigan, hoping to merge Wayne Works with Divco.
The merger made sense as both firms specialized in manufacturing specialty vehicles, and as leaders in their respective fields, they hoped to maintain their respective positions through economies of scale provided by a centralization of their engineering, purchasing and distribution activities.
Both firms’ 1955 sales were in the neighborhood of $12-13 million. Wayne controlled 25% of the nation’s school bus market, Miller-Meteor controlled 30% of professional car manufacturing and Divco held 75% of the dairy truck business.
On November 1st, 1956 Divco Corp. acquired the assets of Wayne Works, Inc. which was reorganized as Divco-Wayne Corp. Although Divco’s directors didn’t realize it at the time, the merger would ultimately prove to be a carefully orchestrated takeover of Divco by Glekel & Drimmer.
Glekel spent most of August 1956 negotiating the deal, and the proposed merger was announced on August 27, 1956. Much of Glekel & Drimmer’s stock was actually owned by members of their respective families, and prior to the merger the pair had formed Richmond Industries to shield their Wayne holdings from prying eyes.
When Divco’s shareholders voted to approve the purchase of Wayne Works they did not realize that Glekel & Drimmer’s cleverly disguised 26% stake in Divco-Wayne Corp. would make them the majority shareholder. Within five years of the “merger” all former Divco directors and executives but one were gone. Drimmer became chairman of Divco-Wayne and Glekel, president.
Although the merger proved fatal for former Divco executives, Glekel and Drimmer did a good job of running Divco-Wayne from its new corporate headquarters in Manhattan. In 1958 Divco-Wayne purchased the Electronics division of Gruen Watch Co. for $1.5 million in an attempt to diversify into aerospace, but after a year of lackluster profits, it was sold off.
At about the same time Glekel and Drimmer entertained a merger with Studebaker-Packard a struggling automaker based in South Bend, Indiana. The shrewdly determined predicted that Divco-Wayne had the most to lose and the negotiations were soon terminated.
During the 1930s Ernest Ravinet organized Wayne Works’ export division which was later spun off as a separate unit, called Wayne Export. Ravinet and Timothy Gomez oversaw the firm which specialized in selling CKD (completely knocked down) Wayne Works bus bodies to the firm’s 20 overseas distributors and assembly facilities. As of 1957 Wayne Works’ bus bodies were in use in 60 different countries.
A July 1957 issue of the Richmond Palladium-Item included the following description of Wayne Works’ current facilities which were located in downtown Richmond on the north side of North E Street, between 9th and 10th Sts.:
Although Divco production was never consolidated with Wayne Works, a number of specialty vehicles were produced using the mid-sized Divco Dividend delivery truck which debuted in 1955.
One cooperative venture was the 1959 Divco-Wayne Bantam Bus which mated a Divco Dividend cab/chassis with an unusual mid-sized bus body built at the Divco plant with seats and windows supplied by Wayne Works. It was an early take on the now-popular airport bus/limousine but with only 84 examples produced between 1959 and 1961, the Bantam was dropped.
Marginally more successful was another Dividend-based variant, the Divco-Wayne Emergency Rescue Truck. The vehicle was outfitted by Miller-Meteor with emergency rescue equipment and was optionally available as a four stretcher municipal ambulance.
Another Divco-Wayne division was the Divco-Wayne Acceptance Corp. which was involved with financing and leasing Divco-Wayne vehicles. DWAC also enabled small dealers to keep new vehicles inventory by means of a company financed floorplan arrangement.
A portion of Miller-Meteor’s Piqua plant, designated the Divco-Wayne Piqua Division, was used to build prototypes for government and commercial contracts.
In 1962 Divco-Wayne purchased Vought Industries, the mobile homes division of LTV Inc. (Ling-Tempo-Vought), a Dallas, Texas-based transportation conglomerate. Further investment in the mobile home and travel trailer field followed, and by 1966, Divco-Wayne owned Esteven Industries Ltd. in Canada, Nene Valley Coachworks Ltd. in England and Kip Kampeerwagens in the Netherlands.
The firm’s mobile home and recreational vehicle holdings were merged into a new subsidiary, Divco-Wayne Industries, which was soon producing more than half of Divco-Wayne’s profits.
S.A. Bosuga, a Barcelona-based Spanish bus builder but some Wayne-bodied buses under license in the early 1960s. Built on Pegaso and Barreriros-AEC bus chassis, the short-lived vehicles were marketed as Bosuga-Wayne buses.
In 1963 Gleckel and Drimmer purchased Divco-Wayne’s Canadian distributor, Welles Corp. Ltd. and incorporated it as a new division of Divco-Wayne. Welles had been assembling Wayne Works’ bus bodies since 1948, and started producing their own multi-stop delivery trucks soon afterwards.
As Divco did not offer their milk truck bodies in knocked-down form, Welles simply acted as their distributor. Divco had earlier established a Canadian leasing operation called Divco Truck of Canada Ltd. in 1956, and prior to 1941 had operated a Canadian sales branch called Divco-Twin Truck Co.
Divco-Waynes’ professional car division was expanded in 1965 with the acquisition of Cotner-Bevington Coach Co., a small manufacturer of Oldsmobile-chassised professional cars based in Blytheville, Arkansas.
Divco-Wayne Corp., the parent company of Miller-Meteor, bought Cotner-Bevington in 1965 as a budget companion to their popular Cadillac coaches and from then on, Cotner-Bevington built only on Oldsmobile 98 chassis.
One of the first things done after Divco-Wayne purchased Cotner-Bevington was the assignment to Blytheville of Tom Caserta from the Miller-Meteor plant in Piqua.
Caserta told Bernie DeWinter IV that his job was to change Cotner-Bevington from a small conversion firm to a coachbuilder by standardizing things as much as possible and doing things like a larger coachbuilder would do them. Part of that job involved coming up with a base car specification, and switching to such a package for all cars built by the firm. Essentially, that entailed chassis specs, but it also included standard equipment features such as air-conditioning, radio, etc. Caserta's idea was to make a Cotner-Bevington a well optioned car in standard form, and as a result, Cotner-Bevingtons were the first professional cars to feature air conditioning as standard equipment on all models in 1967. Ironically, a few chassis were ordered without a/c, as there were always a few customers who would demand a car without this feature, but they were a rarity.
In the early 1960s, dealers handling Miller-Meteor, S&S, and Eureka, had to offer other makes of coaches at a lower price in order to be competitive with Superior dealers who could offer a wide spectrum of price range with their Pontiac and Cadillac chassised coaches. Cotner-Bevington suited that need nicely and was popular as a second line, as was National, and other smaller builders. When it was purchased by Divco-Wayne, existing dealers were now offered both the Miller-Meteor and Cotner-Bevington products, although several elected to stick with other brands and carry only one of the two lines.
In December of 1966 Divco-Wayne announced that it was in negotiations to sell off its Divco Trucks Division. The winning bidder would turn out to be Transairco Inc, of Delaware, Ohio and in late 1967 production of Divco trucks was transferred to Transairco’s Delaware, Ohio plant.
In 1957, the Hughes-Keenan Corporation, a manufacturing concern organized by George W. Way in the late 1940's, became a division of the United States Air Conditioning Corporation, a firm formed in 1937 to manufacture air conditioners. In 1966, United States Air Conditioning changed its corporate name to Transairco, which was now controlled by Way. The firm’s Delaware, Ohio plant manufactured Skyworker overhead boom arms and hoped to offer complete units built using Divco chassis.
As early as 1964 Divco-Wayne started plans for the construction of a new plant, the problem was, they had selected a site in Florence, Kentucky. They had gone so far as to purchase an option on 107 acres in the Northern Kentucky Industrial Foundation Park, just south of Florence.
Not surprisingly, the Richmond community was reluctant to see the city’s largest employer leave, and a group of local businessmen, called the Committee of 100, entered into talks with Divco-Wayne to try and get the firm to stay. Divco-Wayne expressed an interest in a 100-acre parcel located northwest of Richmond, but pointed out that property had already been purchased in Kentucky.
They agreed to remain, providing that the city fathers provide them with the 100 acre parcel, which was conveniently located near the intersection of Interstate 70 and US 35. A fund drive to raise $150,000 was initiated and the local UAW offered to contribute $300,000 of a severance pay fund that would have been paid out if the firm left town.
The Committee of 100 managed to raise the necessary funds by Divco-Wayne’s August 31, 1964 deadline, and construction commenced on the $3.5 million facility. Included in the new facility were a number of new sheet-metal presses, multiple assembly lines and a state of the art paint and rust-proofing facility – all under one roof.
The new 550,000 sq. ft plant was constructed at 1100 Industries Rd. on a sprawling campus that’s visible from the south side of Interstate 70, 3½ miles northwest of downtown Richmond. The facility opened in early 1967, and the firm’s old North E Street plant (between Ninth and Tenth) was put up for sale.
Since the 1920s many of Wayne’s buses had been shipped across the country and overseas in knocked-down (CKD) form for assembly by the local Wayne distributor. This practice was slowly phased out during the 1950s and 60s, and when the new plant came online the practice ceased entirely. Welles Corp., Wayne’s Canadian subsidiary would be the only authorized Wayne assembly facility.
Divco-Wayne introduced a Chevrolet Suburban-based Wayne-Sentinel ambulance starting in 1967. Early Sentinels featured a stock roof, but a raised roof soon became available when their production was moved to the Blytheville Cotner-Bevington plant.
Early Sentinels carried no builder's identity on their exteriors, but little details made their Miller-Meteor ancestry obvious, such as the ambulance identification decals in the quarter windows. Early '70's Cotner-Bevington ambulance literature showed Wayne Sentinels in production in the same photos as Cotner-Bevington ambulances.
In addition to the Sentinel, the Blytheville plant built the Chevrolet van-based Wayne Vanguard and Dodge van-based Wayne Medicruiser ambulances in the early 1970s.
At about the same time that negotiations were underway with Transairco, Drimmer & Glekel decided to get out of the transportation business. On June 19, 1967 the two partners and R.V. Hansberger, president of Boise-Cascade Corp. announced that Boise-Cascade was going to purchase the partner’s controlling 26% share of Divco-Wayne.
Drimmer & Glekel would receive approximately $11.9 million dollars of Boise-Cascade stock for their shares of Divco-Wayne. Hansberger also announced his intent to merge Divco-Wayne into Boise-Cascade through a $35.7 million exchange of the two firm’s common stock.
Divco-Wayne’s shareholder didn’t approve the first offer, but in October of that year, they accepted a second slightly more lucrative offer of $47.1 million. The merger was subsequently approved and on January 1, 1968, Divco-Wayne was absorbed by Boise-Cascade.
As Boise-Cascade had really only been interested in Divco-Wayne’s mobile home division, it came as not surprise when they sold off the firm’s transportation business in October of 1968 for $15 million. The purchaser was Indian Head Inc., a little-known manufacturer of textiles, glass bottles, metal products and auto parts.
Indian Head Inc. dated from 1953 when a former Textron executive named James Robison purchased the Nashua Mfg Co. which owned the trade name Indian Head. Robison renamed the firm Indian Head Mills and during the next 8 years he went on a buying spree, purchasing 11 additional companies.
In 1962 Robison began to divest himself of his textile firma and began to buy automotive-related businesses. In 1964, he purchased Metal Products & Auto Parts, in 1965, Detroit Gasket & Mfg. Co. and in 1966 Detroit Engine & Machine Co.
In 1966 Robison reorganized the firm as Indian Head Inc., and in 1967 purchased MGM Brakes and the following glass manufacturers; Obear-Nester Glass, Northwestern Glass, Pierce Glass, Laurens Glass and Mason.
The Wayne purchase included Welles, Ltd, Miller-Meteor and Cotner-Bevington. The buying spree did not end there; in 1969 Robison purchased Machinery Corp. and United Vintners. By 1970 Indian Head’s 22 subsidiaries employed 18,700 employees in 60 separate plants.
During the 1970s and 1980s a number of large bus line operators and contractors also served as Wayne Works distributors, Laidlaw in Canada and ARA Transportation being two of the largest operator/dealers. Laidlaw later entered the US transportation market in a big way and bought ARA in 1983.
The popularity of Suburban and van-based modular ambulances and the 1973 EMS Systems Act (see below) struck the death knell for a firm that specialized in building passenger-based emergency vehicles and Wayne closed the division at the end of the 1975 model year.
Wayne’s Sentinel and van ambulance production moved for a short time to a new facility west of Piqua, Ohio, then finally back to Piqua at Miller-Meteor’s Clark Avenue plant.
(The 1973 EMS Systems Act - passed in 1974, implemented four years later in 1978 - required that communities receiving federal funds for their programs had ambulances that met new federal specifications. Three chassis styles meet the criteria and are still in use today: Type I uses a small truck body with a modular compartment, Type II has a van body with a raised roof and Type III has van chassis with a modular compartment. Passenger-based vehicles were purposely excluded from legislation and the last American-made automobile-based ambulance was built in 1978. However a handful of automobile-based ambulances are still made in Europe using Mercedes E-Class and Volvo S-60/S-80 chassis.)
Under Indian Head, Wayne’s bus lineup remained basically unchanged until 1970 when the Wayne Papoose debuted. Built on a step van chassis, the awkward-looking vehicle was designed for use as an airport or courtesy bus, and was reminiscent of the Divco Dividend-based Bantam of 1959-1961. Like the Bantam, the Papoose was a failure, however it paved the way for the Wayne Busette, a far more attractive minibus that debuted in 1973.
Built on the most recent iteration of Chevrolet, GMC and Dodge’s light-duty forward control 1-ton van chassis (aka cutaway van), the Busette was a success. It molded the donor-vehicle’s cab and chassis to a 12- to 18-passenger bus body that rode over the 1-ton chassis dual real wheels. Initial versions used the passenger side cab door as an entrance, but a proper school bus doorway was soon made available. Available options included air-conditioning and an electro-hydraulic wheelchair lift.
The Busette had a low headroom of only 63” so in 1976, a higher headroom version called the Transette was added to Wayne’s cutaway van bus series. The higher headroom made the vehicle better suited to airport use and by the end of the decade Wayne Transette minibuses had become the primary rent-a-car shuttle bus in the country.
Despite the ready availability of cutaway van chassis, none of Wayne competitors would release their own minibuses until 1979 when the Thomas Mintour debuted.
For many years bus manufacturers knew that their bodies’ Achilles heel was their joints, or places where panels and body parts were fastened together, which tended to separate in rollovers. Although exterior guard rails - used since the 1930s – protected occupants in moderate side-collisions, they did little to protect them in a severe accident or rollover.
The Ward Body Co. of Conway, Arkansas had conducted a rollover test on one of their school bus bodies in 1967 and had noted that despite their increased use of rivets, the joints continued to separate under sever stress.
Wayne engineers decided to attack the problem in a novel manner, rather than strengthen the joints, which the believed would not result in any significant protection, they decided to look into strengthening the guardrails. In fact they decided to turn the entire bus body into one giant guardrail through the use of continuous longitudinal interior and exterior panels in the sides and roof of the body.
The design depended upon the use of long roll-formed steel panels that ran the entire length of the body. By reducing the number of joints, the risk of separation was significantly reduced and by using a sandwich of interconnected inner and outer panels, they could further strengthen the body shell, in effect giving it a wraparound guardrail.
Branded the Lifeguard, the new school bus design debuted in 1973 and would remain the firm’s greatest achievement since the debut of the Wayne all-steel body in 1930.
Additional benefits to the Lifeguard included lower weight, reduced quantities of fasteners and a consequent reduction in man-hours needed for assembly. The only downside was the initial investment in roll-form presses that were capable of producing the extra-long body panels.
It wasn’t until April 1, 1977 that the Federal Government would address the issue of school bus safety when the U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for school buses took effect. And the government’s solution – increase use of adhesives – did not fully address the problem.
Although safety was an oft-mentioned phrase in each respective manufacturer’s advertisements, aside from the adoption of ‘National School Bus Yellow’ in 1939, no Federal legislation mandating standards were enacted until 1973, when emergency exits and window releases became mandatory. Illinois Senator Charles Percy pointed out in a 1973 congressional hearing on the subject that school administrators typically purchased school buses on bids, and more often than not, the contract was awarded to the lowest bidder. Although several firms, in particular Ward and Wayne Works, had started offering extra-safe ‘superbuses’ most school districts couldn’t justify the additional expense to budget-minded voters and administrators. Percy summed up the need for a Federal Safety Standard as follows:
“So long as there are not adequate standards, then the bids come in for a school bus but not necessarily for a safe school bus.”
On October 17, 1976 the Associated Press distributed the following article in which Jay Perkins explains the long overdue Federal School Bus Safety Standards which were to take effect on April 1, 1977. The first Federal Safety Standard relating to school buses - FMVSS No. 217 (Bus Emergency Exits and Window Retention and Release) had already taken effect (on September 1, 1973). The next four implemented were FMVSS No. 220 (School Bus Rollover Protection); FMVSS No 221 (School Bus Body Joint Strength); FMVSS No. 222 (School Bus Passenger Seating and Crash Protection) and FMVSS No 301 (Fuel System Integrity - School Buses).
“By Jay Perkins, Associated Press Writer
“Washington - (AP) – On Oct. 2, 1967, four sleepy-eyed students boarded a school bus in Waterloo, Neb., for their last ride to class.
“They died minutes later when a Union Pacific freight ripped the bus apart, twisting the sheet metal skin and exposing sharp, lethal edges. The nine other children aboard were injured, some of them on the exposed edges. Federal investigators later would label them child-lacerating ‘cookie cutters.’
“Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found the bus came apart too easily. Joints failed under too little pressure. Seats ripped from the floor. Children riding in the disintegrated portion were tossed about and ‘probably... struck many hard and sharp surfaces.’
“It was the first time a federal agency found fault with the way most of the nation's 250,000 school buses are made, although independent testing laboratories previously had reported problems.
“Yet, it would be another five years before the government would propose the first regulation to improve school bus construction. And it will be April 1, 1977, when the three federal regulations finally agreed upon go into effect.
“Why the delay?
“Because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration felt there weren't many fatal school bus accidents.
“‘We found it (school bus transportation) was the safest mode of transportation we had, bar none,’ says Bob Boaz, the NHTSA' s public information officer. ‘We had a limited amount of funds and we're dealing with the whole spectrum of highway accidents. So when we looked at priorities, there was no way to say 100 fatalities here should be a high priority when we had so many more being killed in passenger cars. But then Congress got involved and said the heck with cost benefits, issue some standards, so we did.’
“The NHTSA's three regulations will have the force of law, unless overturned by Congress. How effective will these regulations be? One of them, designed to eliminate ‘cookie cutter’ edges, has a loophole that allows manufacturers to make a school bus's metal skin even thinner and less safe than it is today. The builders say they won't use the loophole.
“Another regulation, aimed at keeping the roof from collapsing when a bus overturns, relies on a test that even the NHTSA once said wouldn't determine if the roof were really safe. And the third, requiring padded seats designed to hold children in place during an accident, is not as strong as originally proposed. The original regulation specified seat backs eight or nine inches higher than they now are.
“But school administrators said this might create a discipline problem because drivers wouldn't be able to see children. So the NHTSA compromised with a regulation that adds four or five inches to present seatbacks.
“Until now, there have been no federal regulations governing school buses. And no state has set safety regulations as strong as the NHTSA rules effective next spring.
“Despite their shortcomings, the NHTSA and the six principal manufacturers of school buses believe the regulations will produce safer buses, once the buses now in use are replaced. That will take a decade or more.
“Meanwhile, more than 20 million children ride those traditional yellow school buses each school day. Fifteen to 20 are killed and 5,000 are injured in an average year, the government reports. That's not an alarming accident rate. The buses avoid accidents by travelling slowly, other drivers watch out for them, and school bus drivers are good drivers, Rep. Les Aspin, D-Wisc., told a 1973 congressional hearing. But he added: ‘School buses are probably the unsafest vehicles on the road because when they are involved in an accident, the results are often catastrophic. Today's school bus is shoddily constructed...’
“Dr. Stanley J. Behrman, representing the American Society of Oral Surgeons, told the National Safety Council in 1972 nearly 10 per cent of the 16,000 children treated by society members in one year were injured on school buses.
“Why then do school districts buy the unsafe buses - those made by attaching a riveted, sheet metal bus body to a truck frame and motor purchased from an outside supplier?
“This type of construction, which is about half as expensive as building the bus as a unit, is used for 97 per cent of the school buses made today. The remaining three per cent are safer.
“They are mostly buses made as a unit, much like the commercial buses that carry passengers across the country.
“Sen. Charles Percy, R-Ill., noted during a 1973 congressional hearing that school administrators usually purchase buses from the lowest bidder. ‘So long as there are not adequate standards, then the bids come in for a school bus but not necessarily for a safe school bus,’ Percy said.
“Between 30,000 and 35,000 school buses are made each year. Most cost $12,000 to $15,000. The new regulations are expected to add $1,200 to the price of each bus.
“The NTSB reported in 1971 that many injuries in two Alabama school bus accidents were caused by ‘the laceration of child passengers by exposed edges of the bus interior sheet metal, including the ceiling...’
“There are six major manufacturers of the body-on-frame type of school bus - Blue Bird Body Co. of Fort Valley, Ga.; Carpenter Body Works, Mitchell, Ind.; Superior Coach Division, Lima, Ohio; Thomas Built Buses, High Point, N.C.; Ward School Bus Co., Conway, Ark., and Wayne Corp., Richmond, Ind.
“Most of them still use numerous sheets of metal to form the skin - a practice criticized by the NTSB in the 1971 report, which said the panels were poorly fastened. Spacing between rivets was so wide - four to 10 inches - that it resisted ‘wind and weather but the joint could contribute little to structural strength.’
“Wayne Corp. now uses sheet metal panels that run the length of the passenger compartment. This eliminates many joints and produces a safer cabin compartment.
“Ward has been marketing since 1971 a safety bus containing more than twice as many rivets than in pre-1971 buses. Other manufacturers are using better fasteners and more rivets than they did nine years ago.
“The principal concern about the adequacy of the new regulations concerns a loophole in the rule designed to keep the sheet metal skin panels from breaking loose in an accident.
“The regulation says the joints between panels must have 60 per cent of the strength of the panels. But it doesn't say how strong the panels themselves must be. So manufacturers can meet the standard by doubling the number of rivets at the joints - as NHTSA intends - or by reducing the strength of the panels. ‘You can make those panels out of tissue paper and meet the standard,’ said one expert.
“Guy Hunter, an NHTSA specialist in school bus construction, said the agency was aware of the loophole when the regulation was issued, but left it in to give manufacturers leeway in future designs.
“He also said the loophole can't be used because strong panels are needed to make the buses rigid enough to pass the rollover test.”
Standard No. 217 - Bus Emergency Exits and Window Retention and Release:
This established requirements for bus window retention and release to reduce the likelihood of passenger ejection in crashes, and for emergency exits to facilitate passenger exit in emergencies. It also requires that each school bus have an interlock system to prevent the engine starting if an emergency door is locked, and an alarm that sounds if an emergency door is not fully closed while the engine is running. Another portion of FMVSS 217 required that yellow, white, or red retroreflective tape be applied so as to mark all emergency exits, so rescue personnel can quickly find them in darkness.
Standard No. 220 - School Bus Rollover Protection:
This established performance requirements for school bus rollover protection, to reduce deaths and injuries from failure of a school bus body structure to withstand forces encountered in rollover crashes.
Standard No. 221 - School Bus Body Joint Strength:
This established requirements for the strength of the body panel joints in school bus bodies, to reduce deaths and injuries resulting from structural collapse of school bus bodies during crashes.
Standard No. 222 - School Bus Passenger Seating and Crash Protection:
This established occupant protection requirements for school bus passenger seating and restraining barriers, to reduce deaths and injuries from the impact of school bus occupants against structures within the vehicle during crashes and sudden driving maneuvers.
Standard No. 301 - Fuel System Integrity - School Buses:
This specified requirements for the integrity of motor vehicle fuel systems, to reduce the likelihood of fuel spillage and resultant fires during and after crashes.
Standard No. 131 - School Bus Pedestrian Safety Devices – wasn’t implemented until May 5, 1991.
This standard establishes requirements for
devices that can be
installed on school buses to improve the safety of pedestrians in the
of stopped school buses. Its purpose is to reduce deaths and injuries
minimizing the likelihood of vehicles passing a stopped school bus and
pedestrians in the vicinity of the bus.
Surprisingly, compulsory installation of seat belts in school buses has yet to be made a Federal requirement, although several states have enacted legislation that requires them; California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York and Texas, although New Jersey is the only state that mandates their use.
In 1975 Indian Head Inc. was purchased by the Thyssen-Bornemisza Group B.V., a Dutch holding company owned by Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza (1921-2002). Thyssen-Bornemisza is mainly notable for his world-class art collection and his series of marriages to some of the world’s most beautiful women.
Under Thyssen-Bornemisza, Indian Head Inc. sold off much of its North American holdings.
Although Wayne incurred huge expenses when it re-tooled its Richmond facility in order to produce the Lifeguard body, they remained profitable into 1980 and were spared the Thyssen axe. However, the firm’s Cotner-Bevington plant in Blytheville, Arkansas was closed down in 1975 and it assets were sold to the Mid-Continent Conversion Co., a small ambulance builder located in Kansas City, Missouri.
Mid-Continent would later become Stratus Specialty Vehicles. Located at 12600 N. Woodlands Ave., Kansas City, the firm is now doing business as Mid-America Coach, specializing in mid-size bus, mobility and wheelchair van, shuttle, and small bus sales.
In a 1979 news article, Wayne’s president, Dwayne Shields, told the story of Wayne’s stillborn entry into the taxi-cab market:
The 1973 EMS Systems Act had virtually eliminated all passenger car-based ambulance production by 1977 and Miller-Meteor only built 21 ambulances during the year. Only four were built in 1978 and by 1979 Miller-Meteor was reduced to a single line of professional vehicles - hearses. With sales down and prospects dim, The company announced the end of operations on November 1, 1979 and on December 13, 1979 the plant was closed down. There would be no 1980 Miller-Meteor products.
The company laid-off 252 employees and terminated the contracts of their 34 North American distributors.
The two legendary 1983-1984 Miller-Meteor three-door Eldorado hearses were the brainchild of Spencerville, Ohio's Jack Hardesty, the owner of a small funeral home supply company called the Barron Corp. Hardesty was also Lima, Ohio's first sports and imported car dealer and went on to found the Lima Coach Co, a hearse conversion company that specialized in Dodge Caravans.
When Miller-Meteor went out of business in 1979, Barron Corp. purchased the trade name of the once-famous coachbuilder. He also owned the local Ziebart franchise, and most of the work on the second Eldorado was done in the large Ziebart shop. Bud Bayliff assisted Hardesty in building and engineering the first 1983 Eldorado prototype which was constructed at Bayliff's Lima, Ohio body shop.
In late 1984 Hardesty sold the rights to the Miller-Meteor trade name along with the tooling for the Eldorado coaches - which also happened to fit Cadillac's new 1985 front-wheel-drive DeVilles - and the second 1984 Eldorado prototype to Collins Industries of Hutchinson, Kansas. Hardesty's front drive tooling was the basis for the 1985 Collins-built Miller-Meteor-Cadillac front drive coaches which were produced in Hutchinson through 1992.
The Heritage Coach Co. of Skippack, Pennsylvania, a division of Lankford Buick Pontiac GMC Inc. of Norristown, PA, purchased the Eureka tooling and trade name from the firm's receivers. Within the year Mark Lankford and Bob Williams had established a new firm called CCE Inc. to manufacture Eureka-badged funeral coaches and limousines in a new plant in Norwalk, Ohio. In 1993 the firm, now known as Eureka Coach, CCE Inc., purchased another classic funeral coach producer - Miller-Meteor - from Collins Industries of Hutchinson, Kansas.
Located at 600 Industrial Parkway in Norwalk, Ohio, CCE Inc. was a union (UAW) shop that employed from 80 to 120 employees and enjoyed a QVM ‘‘Qualified Vehicle Modifier’’ rating from Ford Motor Company as well as Cadillac's ‘‘Master Coach Builder’’ certification.
In 1999, CCE Inc. sold the combined Eureka and Miller-Meteor operation and trade-names to the nation's largest producer of funeral vehicles - Accubuilt Inc. who moved it to their new (in 1995) 175,000-square-foot facility in Lima, Ohio.
In August 2001, Accubuilt purchased the assets of Vartanian Industries, a small shuttle and wheelchair van converter and moved their operations to the Lima, plant.
Today, 220 skilled Accubuilt employees manufacture $45.90 Million Dollars worth of quality vans and professional vehicles for five distinct brand names: Vartanian, Eureka Coach, Miller-Meteor, S&S (Sayers & Scovill) and Superior.
The entire bus industry experienced a notable decrease in sales as the baby boomers completed their educations and in 1979-1980 a number of Wayne’s competitors were sold, reorganized or liquidated. Ward Bus was the first to go and in 1980 the Superior Coach division of Sheller Globe.
Wayne started experiencing losses in 1981 and by 1983, the losses were reportedly in the millions and the firm warned the UAW and its distributors that the firm was up for sale. The Union made a number of concessions to help keep the firm in business, and in 1985 Wayne Corp. and its Canadian subsidiary, Welles Corp. Ltd. were sold to Richmond Transportation Corp.
Richmond Transportation was formed in late 1984 by California venture capitalist Jack M. Dekruif and a group of current Wayne executives headed by Terry G. Whitesell. The firm remained solvent into 1986 and its Chaperone line of cutaway buses did well in the marketplace against tough competition.
While the firm was owned by Thyssen, it had been privately held and in the fall of 1986 Dekruif and Whitesell had hoped to take the firm public. However the stock market crash of October 1986 forced the cancellation of its IPO.
The Canadian transportation giant, Laidlaw, had been Wayne’s largest customer for a number of years, but in 1986 they split their new bus orders between Wayne and the reorganized Ward Bus of Conway, Arkansas which was now doing business as AmTran Corp. (American Transportation Corp.).
During the 1960s and early 1970s Wayne produced a rear-engined transit-style bus for the US Government on a military contract which ended in 1973. Wells Corp. also developed a rear-engined transit prototype, but it was never placed into production.
A May 1987 fire destroyed the Drouillard Rd. plant of Welles Corp. in Windsor, Ontario. With the cooperation of the city of Windsor, Welles was able to stay in business, and rebuilt the factory on the former Sheller-Globe CAW Mfg. facility located on Marentette St.
In 1988 Wayne introduced an all-new transit (flat face) bus called the Lifestar. Unlike many transit-style buses, the Lifestar was designed as a front engined bus and was built for use on a General Motor’s new purpose-built S-7 forward control chassis. Like the Lifeguard, it included Wayne’s continuous longitudinal interior and exterior side and roof panels.
The Lifestar featured a standard length flat-face bus body mounted on a short-wheelbase chassis. A small turning radius enabled it to easily navigate crowded city streets, however it also gave the vehicle a harsher ride than a comparable long-wheelbase bus.
The S-7 chassis had been designed for the Lifestar and General Motors hoped that other bus manufacturers would adopt it. They didn’t, and after two years of limited manufacture, GM discontinued the unprofitable chassis in 1989.
One resourceful Wayne bus dealer - Bus & Bodies Inc. of Plaistow, New Hampshire – liked the Lifestar so much that he located a suitable Korean-built short-wheelbase chassis that would fit, and imported then under the Asia-Smith brand. Asia for its continent of origin and Smith for Bus & Bodies’ owner, Milton H. Smith.
Unfortunately the Asia-Smith chassis was not well received and Wayne contracted with Navistar to supply them with a replacement, a forward control version of their popular International 3800 bus chassis, which was called the 3900 FC.
Leftover Asia-Smith chassis were sold to New Bus Inc., a small Chickasha, Oklahoma bus manufacturer that took over the bus manufacturing facility of Carl-Built, Inc., which had been started by Carl Greene Jr., a Superior Coach bus dealer. A handful of New Bus / Asia-Smith forward control buses were built between 1989 and 1990.
Wayne’s conventional-chassised Lifeguard buses continued to struggle in the decreasing school bus market and in April of 1990, Richmond Transportation announced that the Welles Corp. assembly plant in Windsor would close for good in June of that year.
At about the same time Wayne sold the rights and tooling for their Busette cutaway buses to Mid-Bus, a small bus manufacturer headquartered in Lima, Ohio. Mid-Bus was formed by former employees of the Superior Coach Co. in 1981 and relocated to Bluffton, Ohio in 1995. It was purchased by the Collins Bus Corp. of South Hutchinson, Kansas in 1998, and the Bluffton facility was closed in 2007 and operations were consolidated with those of its parent company in Kansas.
In late 1989 Navistar had introduced a chassis which could be used with the Lifestar body and Wayne Lifestar production on the International 3900 FC chassis commenced in 1990. Other firm’s purchased the International forward control chassis, and of particular importance was its adoption by AmTrans, formerly Ward Body Co.
AmTrans developed a both a front- and rear-engined bus using the 3900 FC chassis, and Navistar like it so much that they purchased a 1/3 interest in the firm (American Transportation) in early 1991.
The purchase would prove to be the proverbial “final nail in the coffin” for Wayne. Navistar, their chief supplier had just purchased AmTrans, their main competitor. Although Navistar continued to supply Wayne with chassis, the firm’s future looked bleak, and industry insiders were more succinct, predicting that Wayne would be out of business in a matter of months.
The insiders were correct and in August of 1992, Richmond Transportation Corp., - Wayne’s owner – filed for bankruptcy protection. In February 1993 a military contractor named BMY Wheeled Vehicles purchased most of the firm’s tangible assets for $2.1 million.
BMY, a subsidiary of the Harsco Corp., transferred all bus building operations to its Marysville, Ohio plant at 13311 Industrial Parkway where it continued to manufacture small numbers of Lifeguards and Lifestars under the Wayne Wheeled Vehicle brand. Various chassis were utilized and a number of Lifestars were built using CCC forward control chassis between 1992 and 1995.
Unfortunately Harsco’s BMY-Wheeled Vehicles Division, which was for many years a major manufacturer of 2½-ton trucks for the US Army, did not see the contract renewed and Harsco pulled the plug their Marysville operations in 1995, and along with it Wayne Wheeled Vehicles.
In 1995 Carpenter Industries closed down their antiquated Mitchell, Indiana factory and moved into the former 550,000 sq. ft. Wayne plant in Richmond where they produced school buses and walk-in vans into 2000 when the plant was shut down. In 2005 a revitalization plan was proposed by a group of Richmond investors who purchased the facility in the hopes of turning it into a mixed-use business park.
© 2004 Mark Theobald - Coachbuilt.com, with special thanks to Bernie deWinter IV.
Appendix 1 Wayne Works Libelous Interoffice Correspondence of 1940:
Letter Number 1
Wayne Works Letter Number 2