Western Auto & Truck Body Works - 1930-1970 Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada - Flyer Industries 1970-1986 - New Flyer 1986-present

Flyer, New Flyer and AMG transit buses

by John Veerkamp

Western Auto & Truck Body, Western Flyer, Flyer Industries, 1930-1986

In 1930 Western Auto & Truck Body Works was founded in Manitoba. In 1937 the company started building complete buses and in 1941 the "Western Flyer" model was introduced. In 1948 the company was renamed Western Flyer Coach, Ltd. In 1955 the "Canuck" model range was introduced which was redesigned several times over the next decade. The model 500 and 600 were the last versions. The market was too competitive for small companies, with GM dominating the industry, and in 1968 Western Flyer delivered its last intercity coach. With a production of only 693 coaches from 1946 to 1968, an average of 30 vehicles per year, Western Flyer was just a small company.

However, rather than to cease production altogether, it was decided to change the production from coaches to transit buses. In 1967 the prototype D700 was delivered and in 1968 a prototype E700 trolley bus was built. The 700-series looked very much like a GM New-Look. From 1967-1973 a total of 379 D700 and 191 E700 models were built. However, the company remained financially weak. In 1971 the Manitoba Development Corporation, a Manitoba government owned entity, stepped in to save it. The name was changed to Flyer Industries, Ltd.

Beginning of the 1970's Flyer delivered a D700 prototype to AMG in the US, which was to build the bus under license for the US market. AMG redesigned it, adding larger, rectangular windows and a new front end. In 1974 Flyer adopted this design on its own vehicles, which received the model designation D800. E800 trolleybuses were also built, among others for Boston and San Francisco. The latter town's operator MUNI received the substantial number of 343 E800 trolley buses, Flyer's largest order ever. In 1978 the first 35 foot model buses were built. A total of 561 D800, 86 of which were 35 foot long, and 473 E800 were built from 1974 to 1979.

In 1978 the 800-series received a new front end with one straight and one slanted window, similar to the Flxible Metro and Orion V. The new model was called the D900. The D901, introduced in 1980, had a slightly curved windscreen. This was to reduce glare for the driver and to improve wind flow around the left corner of the bus in order to avoid mud to be deposited on the windscreen in rainy weather. San Francisco received the D902 with double-width front doors. The D901 was also built in a 35-foot version. For Vancouver 200 trolley buses model E901 were built in 1982-1983. The model D900/D901 was built from 1978 until 1987.

From 1967 to 1987 Western Flyer, Flyer Industries and New Flyer built over 3000 transit buses of the 700, 800 and 900 series.

New Flyer, since 1987

On July 15, 1986, Den Oudsten of the Netherlands bought Flyer Industries from the Manitoba Development Corporation. The company was renamed New Flyer Industries. The Den Oudsten experience in bus building goes back to 1926 and the company has become the largest builder of intercity buses in the Netherlands. However, Flyer was not bought by the Den Oudsten factory but by the Den Oudsten family, so there are no institutional linkages between the two companies. Still, the Dutch factory has helped Flyer to modernize its production and to introduce the low floor and articulated vehicles. A number of New Flyer buses were finished in the Netherlands during a period when the Dutch factory had a lack of orders and New Flyer lacked capacity. Unfortunately, Den Oudsten Bussen went bankrupt in November 2001. Volvo has shown an interest in New Flyer Industries, so Den Oudsten may sell its Canadian interests.

Den Oudsten set out to modernize production and developed a new range of vehicles under the New Flyer name. At first the normal, high floor model D40HF was launched in 1987. This later developed into the shorter D35HF. In 1990 the long, articulated D60HF was introduced. New Flyer clearly aimed at making large inroads into the US market as in 1987 an assembly plant was opened in California, which was moved to Grand Forks, North Dakota, in 1990. In 1996 the plant moved again to Crookston, Minnesota, while in early 1999 a new factory was opened in St.Cloud, Minnesota.

A prototype low floor vehicle was built by Den Oudsten in the Netherlands, based on a model introduced in 1984. Interestingly this model was not continued in Europe, but a completely new, structurally different low floor integral bus, the Alliance, was developed around 1990. New Flyer used the Den Oudsten bus as the basis for their own low floor model. A vehicle was tested in 1988 and in 1989 the first 40-foot production vehicles were delivered. The New Flyer low floor bus has become a success and a trendsetter in North America. Logical developments were the introduction of 35 ft and 60 ft articulated versions of the low floor vehicle. Even a 30-foot version is available. These vehicles are called the D30LF, D35LF and D60LF.

Another area in which New Flyer has invested is alternative fuels. In 1993/1994 articulated high-floor trolleybuses, E60HF, were delivered to San Francisco. More experimental but unsuccessful, were the Ballard hydrogen fuel cell buses, F40LF, built in 1994. Less innovative, but widely accepted, are the CNG buses introduced in 1994, the C30LF, C35LF, C40LF and C40HF. The low-floor CNG version can easily be recognized by the large gas tanks on the roof. Smaller numbers of the LNG versions L35LF, L40HF and L40LF were built. Yet another new concept was introduced with the diesel-electric hybrid buses for Orange County in 1999.

Two completely new models were developed by the end of the century. A suburban bus, the D45S, was introduced in 1998 and sold to Houston. This 3-axle high floor vehicle competes directly with the MCI and Neoplan suburban vehicles. A shorter 40-foot version is also available.

More innovative is the "Invero", a new low floor model with a much more stylish bodywork than the traditional North American transit bus. The design includes many new features such as the use of composite materials, electronic controls, and a modular construction. The result is a lighter vehicle, easier to maintain, driver and passenger friendly, and less costly to operate. Three prototypes are currently being tested in Canada.

Since 1987, when the New Flyer range was introduced, over 10,000 vehicles have been sold, making New Flyer one of the major transit bus builders in the US and Canada. Around 60% of these were low-floor versions, which clearly indicates the success of this concept.

AMG, 1974-1979

Externally virtually indistinguishable from the Flyer buses are the US built AMG (American Motors General) buses, which is the reason why they are treated under this chapter. AMG only produced buses from 1974 to 1979 but had considerable success, delivering 5,212 diesel buses and 219 trolley buses of the same model. In addition, AMG finished 410 articulated coaches under a contract with MAN from Germany in 1978-1979 and built 4 diesel prototypes.

AMG was never a bus builder, but was interested in large (federal) contracts. AMG had been invited to participate in the construction of prototypes for the 1970's "Transbus" project, together with GM and Rohr Industries. As the models were being tested, AMG wanted to assure that it would have the capacity to participate in possible future acquisitions. It turned to Flyer of Canada for collaboration. Flyer's production was aimed at Canada as the "buy America" policy prevented it from entering the US market without finishing the vehicles in the US. There thus was a mutual interest. Flyer delivered a D700 prototype to AMG, which AMG set out to redesign, resulting in larger, rectangular windows and a redesigned front end. Flyer then started using this model to replace the 700-series and called it the D800. The AMG was built in 3 series, with some minor external differences, and in four variations: 96" or 102" wide and 35 ft or 40 ft long. These were called 9635, 10235, 9640 and 10240. The second series received an A suffix and the third series a B suffix. The B series, introduced in 1976, had a rounded instead of a pointed rear roofline and was called the "Metropolitan". By the end of the 1970's the Transbus project was cancelled and AMG pulled out of the bus business. After finalizing the last diesel buses, it built the 219 trolley buses for Seattle and Philadelphia in 1978-1979, and it entered into a contract with MAN for the production of MAN articulated buses in 1978-1979. AMG looked for other lucrative contracts and became the builder of the famous Hummer vehicle.


This firm first produced bus bodies, then Western Flyer highway coaches including the Standard and Canuck models. An unusual model was the Bruck, a bus with the last few rows of seats replaced by a closed cargo space accessible through a large rear door, making the vehicle part bus and part truck. In 1968 production of the diesel Model 700 transit bus began, and a few years later the vehicle name became simply Flyer. A trolleybus version

of the Model 700 was also made. Today Flyer provides bus shells for AM General which builds Flyer diesel coaches under license in the United States. Flyer, now owned by the Manitoba government, is one of Canada's biggest bus producers. Its vehicles, coming from one of the coldest cities in the country, have always been noted for their warmth in winter. Total production to date is over 1150 units. HD


Western Auto & Truck Body Works – 702 Broadway - Winnepeg, Manitoba, Built truck & Bus Bodies during 1940s – Striking Western Flyer Buses of the late 1940s featured transparent roofs similar to Canadian Flyer observation rail cars.

New Flyer Buses
On July 15, 1986, Den Oudsten of the Netherlands bought Flyer Industries from the Manitoba Development Corporation. The company was renamed New Flyer Industries. The Den Oudsten experience in bus building goes back to 1926 and the company has become the largest builder of intercity buses in the Netherlands. However, Flyer was not bought by the Den Oudsten factory but by the Den Oudsten family, so there are no institutional linkages between the two companies....  

New Flyer's innovative business style has been evident since our beginnings in 1930 as Western Auto and truck Body Works Limited with the production of truck and bus bodies.

Company Introduction

New Flyer's innovative business style has been evident since our beginnings in 1930 as Western Auto and truck Body Works Limited with the production of truck and bus bodies. Capitalizing on a growing need, Western Auto became Western Flyer Coach in 1948 and began the production of a custom built highway coaches. Production of these coaches along with school buses ceased in the late 1960's as the main focus turned to manufacturing urban transit buses. In 1971, the company name was changed to Flyer Industries Limited, which developed and sold the large heavy duty transit bus models, D700, D800 & D900. Flyer Industries also became North America's leading trolley bus manufacturer.

On July 15, 1986, Flyer Industries Limited was acquired by Den Oudsten, B.V., Holland's largest bus manufacturer. The company name was changed to New Flyer Industries Limited. Den Oudsten was Holland's largest bus manufacturer and had, during its sixty years in the business, designed, developed, and built every type of bus. The company was a family owned enterprise with a consistent record of profitability. Den Oudsten supplied 95% of all inter-city buses in the Netherlands and had shown its leadership in bus technology by developing a new low floor urban transit bus. The low floor concept has swept European bus technology.

New Flyer, under its current ownership, designed and sold a whole new line of heavy duty urban transit diesel buses in 35', 40' and 60' lengths. The company also developed and introduced the "low floor" bus to the North American market. What began as a specialty product soon became the industry standard, with New Flyer as the leader in units sold and in revenue service.

New Flyer of America was established in 1987 to operate a final assembly plant in California. Due to successful penetration into the Eastern U.S. market and for economy of operation, the final assembly plant was moved to Grand Forks, North Dakota in 1990. A total of 2,655 buses were final assembled at this plant. In March 1996 New Flyer of America relocated to a new state-of-the-art, final assembly facility in Crookston, Minnesota.

In 1998, continued growth required the construction of a third assembly plant in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Construction began in the fall of 1998, and the facility began production in early 1999.


1930 Foundation of Western Auto & Truck Body Works in Manitoba by John Coval with a staff of five.
1937 Move to complete bus manufacturing. The first three buses are sold to Grey Goose Bus Lines, Ltd., they were 32-passenger coaches powered by Buda Lo-525 bus engines.
1941 28-passenger "Western Flyer" front engine intercity bus model
1943-1945 Western Auto & Truck Body Works takes part in the war effort by covering 12,000 truck bodies for the Federal Munitions and Supply Department
Introduction of a 32-passenger "Western Flyer", both 28 and 32-passenger models are officially known as T-28 and T-32
1946 First order of two sightseeing buses from the Salt Lake Transportation Co., Salt Lake City, UT
1948 Renaming to Western Flyer Coach, Ltd.
1949 C-40 and T-40 ("City" and Transit") buses with International Red Diamond 450 engines.
1950 Introduction of the T-36 "Standard" bus
1953 First "Canuck" prototype with rear engine mount and Cummins JBS 600 diesel engine.
1955 First two-level coaches, T-36 models with 40-2L body type.Redesign "Canuck" model (P-37) with International Red Diamond 501 engine.
1956 Construction of four 4 x 4 - 28 buses for the Canadian Department of National Defense (Air)
1958 P-41 "Canuck" with Cummins JT6B diesel
1962 Start-up of Fort Garry (Winnipeg) plant
1963 Company purchased by A.J. Thiessen and its associates
1964 Renaming to Western Flyer Coach (1964) Ltd.
"Canuck" Model 500
1967 "Canuck" Model 600 (stretched Model 500)
First model 700 city bus demo. Western Flyer enters the transit bus market with the D700.
1968 Final "Canuck" 600 to roll-off the line, last intercity bus of the company. From now Western Flyer will concentrate on transit city buses. From 1946 through 1968, Western Flyer produced 693 coaches.
First model 700E prototype trolley coach for the Toronto Transportation Commission.
1969 Award of a major Electric Trolley Contract with the Toronto transit Commission
1970 Western Flyer took over by Detroit businessman Thomas J. Ault
1971 Majority capital entry of the government owned Manitoba Development Corporation. Renaming to Flyer Industries, Ltd.
1972 First Electric Trolley Demo to be shipped to San Francisco Muni.
1973 Construction of a new assembly plant in Transcona (Winnipeg)
1974 "800" series bus
1977 Delivery of Flyer's largest order of 343 E800 trolley coaches to San Francisco Muni.
1978 First 35ft buses. First deliveries of D800B buses to US properties
First D900
1980 D900 redesigned to a better D901 model
1981 600 employees mark
1982 Between 1967 and 1982, Western Flyer and Flyer Industries build 3071 transit buses. Of these, 963 were electric trolleys.
1986 Acquisition of Flyer from the Manitoba Government by M. Jan den Oudsten
Renaming to New Flyer Industries Ltd.
1987 Opening of a final assembly plant in California, subsequently moved to Grand Forks, ND.
Delivery of the first D40 bus ("high floor")
1988 First North American tests of a 40ft low floor prototype
1989 First delivery of our new low floor bus (D40LF) to the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey.
1990 Delivery of the first 60ft articulated buses (D60HF) to San Mateo County
1994 Implementation of PLC controlled multiplexing on all of our bus models.
Delivery of the first CNG powered buses.
Delivery of 60ft articulated electrical trolleys to San Francisco Muni.
Delivery of first 40ft low floor bus shell to be outfitted with hydrogen fuel cell by Ballard
Power Systems.
1996 Move of the final assembly plant to Crookston, MN
1998 Introduction of new breed of Suburban buses for the Transit Industry (D40S and D45S)
Expansion of Winnipeg plant and offices.
Opening of new Parts/Technical Publications facilities.
ISO 9001 Certification
Delivery of first Diesel/Electric "Hybrid" buses to Orange County

Crookston plant expansion.  As of Q2 1999, 3,500 low floor buses were delivered and an additional 2,600 were on order.
Opening of new plant in St-Cloud, MN
Unveiling of the new Invero™ low-floor bus during APTA's Expo 99 in Orlando, Fl.

2000 Unveiling of the second generation of Diesel/Electric "Hybrid" buses.
2001 As of 2001, over 6,300 low floor buses were delivered, based on industry data; this represents close to half of the North American heavy-duty low floor bus fleet.

KPS purchases controlling interest in New Flyer.
Delivery of the first production Invero™ to the St. Catharines Transit Commission.



For more information please read:



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David Jacobs - American Trucks: A photographic essay of American Trucks and Trucking

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James T. Lenzke & Karen E. O'Brien - Standard Catalog of American Light-Duty Trucks: 1896-2000

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Fred Crismon - International Trucks

Don Bunn - Encyclopedia of Chevrolet Trucks


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