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Yellow Coach
Yellow Coach Manufacturing Co., 1923-1925; Yellow Truck & Coach Manufacturing Co., 1925-1928; Chicago, Illinois; Yellow Truck & Coach Manufacturing Co., 1925-1943; Pontiac, Michigan
Associated Builders
GMC Truck & Coach Division, General Motors Corp., 1943-1987; Pontiac, Michigan.

The firm that would become the Yellow Truck & Coach Co. on July 8, 1925 was formally organized two years previous by Chicago's Taxi-cab king, John D. Hertz as the Yellow Coach Manufacturing Co. A subsidiary of Hertz' Yellow Cab Mfg. Co., Yellow Coach was a reorganization of the American Motor Bus Mfg. Co. a business acquired when it's parent firm, the Chicago Motor Bus Co., was purchased by Hertz in November of 1922.

American Motor Bus Mfg. was a direct descendant of the (Roland) Gas-Electric Motorbus Co. (N.Y.C.) and American Motor Bus Co. (Chicago), two related firms founded in 1913 by two brothers, Stanley L. (b.1850-d.1920s) and Roland R. Conklin (b.1858-d.1936). The history of the Conklins and their early bus manufacturing activities is covered in great detail elsewhere in the encyclopedia.

The Yellow Coach story begins with Hertz' takeover of the Chicago-based Lake Shore Motor Bus Co. in October, 1922. Included in the deal were a number of similarly-named firms engaged in surface transportation in and around Chicago, Illinois. Joining him in the enterprise were W. H. Wrigley, Jr., scion of the chewing gum Wrigleys, Charles A. McCulloch, president of the Parmalee Transfer Co., and John A. Ritchie, former president of the Fifth Avenue Coach Co.

The Lake Shore Motor Bus Company was a large holding company whose assets included the Chicago Motor Bus Co., an operator, and the American Motor Bus Mfg. Co., a manufacturer that specialized in building buses for surface transportation enterprises owned and operated by Lake Shore Motor Bus.

The October 11, 1922 New York Times carried the following news item, the first mention of Hertz' newest venture in the news:

“QUITS COACH COMPANY HERE; J.A. Ritchie to Become Head of Chicago Motor Bus Lines.

“The resignation of John A. Ritchie as President of the Fifth Avenue Coach Company was announced yesterday. Mr. Ritchie will go to Chicago to become head of the recently organized Chicago Motor Bus Company. Associated with him in the reorganized company will be John Hertz, President of the Yellow Taxi Company of Chicago; Charles McCullough, a Chicago banker, and William Wrigley Jr., the chewing gum manufacturer.

“Mr. Ritchie has been President of the Fifth Avenue Coach Company since April, 1918. Before that he was operating statistician for the Interborough subway, elevated and surface lines, having been brought by the late Theodore P. Shonts, when President of the Interborough, from the Illinois Central Railroad.”

Additional details of the new enterprise were announced in the October 1922 issue of Bus Transportation:

“Lake Shore Motor Bus Company Changes Hands; Influential Chicagoans Take Financial Control—Will Extend Activities to Cover North, South and West Sides of City

“FINANCIAL control of the Lake Shore Motor Bus Company, the holding company for the Chicago Motor Bus Company and the American Motor Bus Company, the operating and manufacturing company respectively, has been secured by John D. Hertz, president of the Yellow Cab Company; Charles A. McCulloch, president of the Parmalee Transfer Company and also vice-president of the Yellow Cab Manufacturing Company, and other influential and progressive Chicagoans. Among these are W. H. Wrigley, Jr., of chewing gum fame. John A. Ritchie, who has been president of the Fifth Avenue Coach Company of New York City since 1918, has been elected president, general manager and a director of the company. As Bus Transportation was being sent to press it was announced that Col. G. A. Green of the Fifth Avenue Company would also join the Chicago company. The present organization of the two underlying companies will be kept practically intact. Greatly increased service is to be given on the present routes and new lines are to be opened.

“With service over all of the routes contemplated 300 buses will be in operation. These, as a combination of the L type coach of the Fifth Avenue Company and the latest open-top double-deck model of the Chicago Motor Bus Company, are to be of an improved low-level design, worm driven, with chain-driven transmission. The engine will be a vastly improved Moline-Knight. The double-deck coaches are to seat sixty-eight. In addition to the double-deckers the company will also use between twenty-five and thirty one-man high-speed single-deck buses chiefly as feeders to the trunk lines.

“Present operating plans call for 70 miles of route on the south side, 40 miles on the west side and 30 on the north side. The main lines will run direct to the Loop district and the fare will be 10 cents. No transfers will be issued except from short line to long line buses.

"Hearings have already been started before the Public Service Commission on the application for permits to operate over the new routes mentioned above. The statement was made by officials that the newly organized company would spend $3,500,000 in perfecting its operations.”

Another article in the very same issue (October 1922) of Bus Transportation, highlighted the successful career of John A. Ritchie, the man in charge of Hertz' new bus operation:

“J. A. Ritchie Leaves Fifth Avenue Coach Company.; President of New York Concern, Famous for His Civility Campaign, Will Head Chicago Motor Bus Company

“JOHN A. RITCHIE, president since April, 1918, of the Fifth Avenue Coach Company, New York, N. Y., and the man who first introduced 'Civility' into a public utility corporation and made it a popular byword, has resigned to become head of the recently reorganized Chicago Motor Bus Company. The departure of Mr. Ritchie for Chicago removes one of the outstanding figures in transportation developments of New York City.

“The Chicago company has been organized to conduct a bus transportation system on a scale larger than has ever been undertaken by a corporation in this country, and Mr. Ritchie, as president of the new company, will occupy an important position in the field of motor coach transportation.

“The Chicago Motor Bus Company will be the operating company. Its coaches will be manufactured by the American Motor Bus Company, a subsidiary, of which Mr. Ritchie also will be the head. The company possesses franchises to operate its coaches over more than 70 miles of Chicago streets at a 10-cent fare. Dispatches from Chicago state that the Chicago Motor Bus Company has been capitalized at $3,000,000 and that an equally large amount will be expended in manufacturing motor coaches of the general design of the Fifth Avenue company coach, but of an improved type and possessing greater seating capacity.

“Associated with Mr. Ritchie in the new company will be John Hertz, president of the Yellow Taxi Company of Chicago; Charles A. McCullough. Chicago banker; William Wrigley, Jr., the chewing gum man, and others.

“The present equipment of the Chicago Motor Bus Company will be utilized until the new coaches are ready to go into service. The building program calls for 300 coaches in a year.

“Civility, a new theme in business and social relations, was introduced into the Fifth Avenue Coach Company when Mr. Ritchie, a man in the early forties, became president of the company. Previous to that, Mr. Ritchie had been operating statistician of the subway, elevated railroad and surface car lines of New York City, under the presidency of the late Theodore P. Shonts. Mr. Shonts ‘found’ Mr. Ritchie back in 1908 when the latter was connected with the Illinois Central Railroad as investigator of accounts. Mr. Ritchie entered the transportation business in his youth.

“Mr. Ritchie assumed charge of the Fifth Avenue Coach Company at a time when every industrial enterprise in the country was beset by labor difficulties as a result of the European war. As president his first aim was to establish the most cordial relations with his employees, from the man on the coach up. The word ‘boss’ soon disappeared from the vocabulary of the Fifth Avenue Coach man. Mr. Ritchie adopted the policy of an open door to all, ever being ready to listen to the complaint or suggestion of the most humble.

"Mr. Ritchie's next move was to arouse in the public mind a wholesome respect for the courteous service of the men on the coaches and the degree of his success in this respect is best reflected by the reports for August, which show that there was but one complaint of incivility to every 996,310 passengers carried during the month. His most recent innovation in transportation was the substituting of name plates for numbers on the blouses of the coach men so the public might know with whom they were riding. This change evoked considerable favorable comment from the public.

“Corporations throughout the country and educational institutions of every variety joined with Mr. Ritchie in a universal appeal for a more general practice of every-day courtesy. The civility campaigns conducted under his personal supervision started a flood of public comment which resulted in the compilation and publication of a series of pamphlets on the subject which are considered as among the best ever issued by a public service corporation. Some of these pamphlets now are in the libraries of virtually every city in the country and the most recent of these, ‘A Harvest of Thoughts on Civility,’ created such demand that the edition was exhausted over night, and requests by mail became so numerous that filling them became a virtual impossibility.

“An extended biographical sketch of Mr. Ritchie was published in Bus Transportation for February, page 148. Further details of the reorganization of the Chicago Motor Bus Company will be found elsewhere in this issue. Just as Bus Transportation went to press it was announced that Col. G. A. Green, vice-president and general manager of the Fifth Avenue Company, would also join Mr. Ritchie in Chicago.”

The November 1922 issue of Bus Transportation revealed the results of a traffic study which led to Hertz' decision to enter the bus operating business:

“Chicago Company Stresses Direct Communication — Experts' Traffic Study Shows City's Greatest Increase on South Side”

“THE Chicago (Ill.) Motor Bus Company which was recently reorganized by financial interests with which are identified John Hertz, president of the Yellow Cab Company, and Charles A. McCulloch, president of the Parmelee Transfer Company, has presented its reason why it should be granted a certificate of convenience and necessity by the Illinois Commerce Commission in hearings which were held on Oct 10 and on Oct. 25, 26 and 27. The routes under consideration are those leading from the Loop district to the south side over the boulevard and passing through and adjacent to the parks in that district.

“The new company has already obtained a franchise to operate through the parks and boulevards under the jurisdiction of the South Park Board. The hearing will be concluded on Nov. 6 and it is expected that if the certificate is granted operation will begin from two to three weeks after that date.

“In seeking its certificate, the company introduced evidence by which it sought to show that the proposed bus service will provide direct accommodation along the boulevards and will provide more rapid, convenient and comfortable service to and from the loop district for certain residential districts not now conveniently served. Another contention was that it would afford an opportunity for pleasure riding to that part of the population which does not own motor cars, and it will particularly make available the advantages of the parks and boulevard system. The extent of pleasure riding was shown by figures of the north side lines of the Chicago Motor Bus Company and also from records of the Fifth Avenue Coach Company. It was also demonstrated that operation of a route proposed would not be injurious to the traffic of the Chicago Surface Lines or the Chicago Elevated Railroad.

“To show the financial soundness of the new company, John D. Hertz, president of the Yellow Cab Company, pledged the bus line to an expenditure of $3,500,000 which is already available. He placed himself on record as a witness before the commission to this effect.

“As announced in Bus Transportation last month, John A. Ritchie and Col. George A. Green have resigned from the Fifth Avenue Coach Company to take active charge of the new Chicago Motor Bus Company, although it is understood that both Mr. Hertz and Mr. McCulloch will take a prominent part in the management of the concern. Mr. Ritchie, who has resigned as president of the Fifth Avenue Coach Company, has been made president and general manager of the new company, while Colonel Green has left his position as engineering chief of that corporation to become vice-president and manager.

“Mr. Ritchie has testified before the commission that the general method of conduct of the company will be along the lines of that of the Fifth Avenue Coach Company. In his testimony, Colonel Green, who has made a life study of bus transportation in this country and abroad, said that Chicago offers the greatest opportunity for a bus transportation system of any city that he knew. He said that he hoped to be able to give Chicago even better service than is operated in either New York or London. The plan, he explained, calls for two types of buses, one of the double-deck type carrying sixty-eight passengers and the other a single-decker carrying twenty-five passengers.

“Feasibility Of Bus Service Determined By Traffic Study

“To show the feasibility, convenience and necessity of bus operation on the proposed route, the Chicago Motor Bus Company engaged Ford, Bacon & Davis, Inc., consulting engineers, to make a detailed traffic and transportation study. The results of these studies were introduced as evidence of why the certificate should be granted. In this survey it was shown that in the decade 1910 to 1920 the population of the south side of Chicago increased at a greater rate than that of the city as a whole, the rate of increase being 27.3 per cent for the south side and 23.6 per cent for the city. Moreover, of the total population increase in that period, namely, about 560,000, more than 40 per cent was on the south side. The result of the traffic study was that although Michigan Avenue is congested at present, the introduction of bus service would possibly increase that congestion by 3 or 4 per cent while the boulevard would be made available to a very large number of people. The fact that bus service would be a prominent factor in the conversion of south Michigan Avenue into a high-class shopping district was brought up as a point to show why the certificate should be granted.”

Another article in the same issue (November 1922) of Bus Transportation, announced that Col. George Alan Green had resigned as vice-president and general manager of the Fifth Avenue Coach Co. in order to accept a similar position with Hertz' newly acquired Chicago Motor Bus and American Motor Bus Mfg. Companies in Chicago:

“G. A. Green in Chicago.; Noted Automotive Engineer Resigns from Fifth Avenue Company to Assume Position of Vice-President and Manager of Chicago Motor Bus Company and American Motor Bus Manufacturing Company

“IF EVER a man was a step ahead of the events in the engineering industry of which he is a part, George A. Green, the new vice-president and manager of the Chicago Motor Bus Company and the American Motor Bus Manufacturing Company, is that man. In these companies Mr. Green will again be associated with John A. Ritchie, both Mr. Ritchie and Mr. Green having resigned from the Fifth Avenue Coach Company, New York, to go to Chicago.

“Necessarily there is a community of interest existing between the two men so long associated in one enterprise, but that alone could not have held them together in New York or induced Mr. Green to cast his fortunes and his future with Mr. Ritchie in Chicago. It was more than that. It was opportunity. Opportunity held them together in New York and opportunity for both of them has induced them to go to Chicago—opportunity for Mr. Ritchie to apply to Chicago on an even bigger scale than he did in New York ideas of management and personnel which have put the New York company in the forefront of transportation organizations the world over, and for Mr. Green opportunity to apply and extend ideas which he has about bus construction and maintenance.

“Originality And Initiative Are Predominant Characteristics

“Long before anybody else in this country had begun to formulate ideas as to what a bus should be George A. Green had worked out for himself a series of axioms that has since come to be generally accepted as necessary to insure the best operating results for large-scale bus systems. It was he undoubtedly who arrived first at definite conclusions regarding the necessity for light-weight buses; regarding the question of the low center of gravity of the bus, the proper gear ratios, the best widths for frames and springs and wheel tracks; the turning radius and the need for ease in steering. He reduced to a science the matter of analyzing and recording breakages and equipment failures. He also was quick to realize that centralized unit repairs were essential for economy. His ideal of the true bus is to give Pullman car service under unified control at a 10 cent fare.

“Mr. Green thinks in large units. Having done so much to perfect the bus mechanically, Mr. Green has shown that greater mechanical perfection must be accompanied by operation which has behind it the idea of securing greater gasoline efficiency. He has said the latter, where the human element enters, is even more difficult to attain than mechanical perfection. The best thoughts of Mr. Green along these and kindred lines were packed by him into a paper which he read before the Society of Automotive Engineers more than two years ago. It is pronounced by men in the automotive industry to be a classic. In addition to all this is the work done by Mr. Green in collaboration with Ricardo, the noted English automotive engineer. The results of this work were embodied in a paper also presented before the Society of Automotive Engineers.

“Proved His Problems Before He Talked About Them

“Mr. Green has, however, looked beyond the mechanics of the matter. He is what might be termed the engineer plus. His work toward perfecting the bus mechanically has not so engrossed him that he has not seen the bus problem in its larger province as a transportation agency. Mr. Green has pronounced views about fares, personnel and other matters that the outsider might think were beyond his personal field. These he has likewise embodied in papers presented before engineering and transportation bodies, where they have been put to the acid test by transportation men sometimes none too friendly to the bus as a transportation agent. In other words, George A. Green's conclusions ring true because as a scientist he proves things before he talks about them.

“Mr. Green a Trained Engineer

“As a foundation of all the work that he has done Mr. Green has back of him a thorough training in engineering coupled with an apprenticeship in the shop and in the field that it is within the grasp of very few men to attain. Thus is an idea conveyed of the fund of information and knowledge which Mr. Green will be able to apply to the problems that come up in Chicago, first, in actual operation of the vehicles on the street and then in the manufacturing activities of the American Motor Bus Manufacturing Company. Other aspects of the remarkable career of the man were reviewed in Bus Transportation last February.”

The same magazine (November 1922 Bus Transportation) reported that Hertz' Chicago operations were purchasing new coaches from the Fifth Avenue Coach Co. while the Yellow Cab Mfg. plant was enlarged and outfitted to produce new motor coaches:

“Chicago (Ill.) Motor Bus Company has purchased nine ‘L’ type coaches and one ‘J’ type coach from the Fifth Avenue Coach Company, New York City. J. J. Gerlach, Pittsburgh, Pa., has purchased one ‘L’ type coach from the Fifth Avenue Coach Company. New York City. This is the second ‘L’ type purchased by him.”

One period account indicates the Chicago plant of the American Motor Bus Mfg. Co. utilized the rear-wheel-drive Ace truck chassis, which were supplied by Newark, Ohio's American Motor Truck Co. It's also known that American Motor Bus built their own front-wheel-drive chassis utilizing R&V Knight Sleeve-Valve Engines, so it appears that both front- and rear-wheel-drive motor coaches were constructed by the firm prior to its 1922 acquisition.

During 1922 American constructed 23 fully-closed double-deckers for the Chicago Motor Bus Company. A prototype open-top 67-seater followed of which 71 were built before coach construction was transferred to Yellow Cab's new bus plant midway through 1923.

The December 1922 issue of Bus Transportation gave details of the Yellow Cab Mfg. Co.'s plant expansion:

“Plant Capacity Being Increased

“Reports from Chicago state that the capacity of the cab factory of the Yellow Cab Manufacturing Company is being increased 50 per cent, while the general plant is being increased another 50 per cent- in preparation for the manufacture of buses by the American Motor Bus Manufacturing Company for the new Chicago Motor Bus Company.”

Production of the expensive and intricate American Motor Bus' front-wheel-drive coaches ended when Yellow Cab Mfg. Co. started producing their own rear-wheel-drive coaches for Hertz' Chicago-based bus lines utilizing engines produced by the Yellow Sleeve Valve Engine Works, another Hertz-controlled firm that was a late 1922 reorganization of the Root & VanDerVoort Engineering Company of East Moline, Illinois, manufacturers of the "Silent Knight" 4-cylinder sleeve-valve engine, which was built under license from Daimler of Coventry, England. A related firm manufactured the Moline, Moline-Knight and R&V Knight automobiles between 1904 and 1924.

The move was anticipated as the R&V Engineering Co. had long supplied the engines for the double-decker coaches of the Fifth Avenue Coach Co., whose management (John A. Ritchie and Col. Green) was now in charge of Hertz' Chicago bus building operations.

At about the same time noted British bus designer George John Rackham, an ex-Tank Corps officer who started his career with the London General Omnibus Co. after the war, was recruited by Col. Green to move to America to help design the first generation of Yellow Coaches. Rackham returned to England in 1926 to take a position with Leyland Motors as chief engineer where he would go on to design the drivetrains for the firm's legendary low-floor Titan and Tiger models. In 1928 Rackham left Leyland to assume a similar position with the Associated Equipment Company (AEC). In 1932 he introduced the AEC Type Q side-engined bus chassis, a design loosely based upon the Fageol Twin Coach bus chassis of the late Twenties.

On April 17, 1923, Hertz' holding company, the Lake Shore Motor Bus Company, sold its bus manufacturing assets - the American Motor Bus Mfg. Co. – to the Yellow Cab Mfg. Co. who reorganized it as a wholly-owned subsidiary, the Yellow Coach Manufactur­ing Company.

The firm's new bus factory went online during August and by that December (1923) Hertz had organized the Yellow Manufacturing Acceptance Corporation in order to finance sales of the Yellow Cab's buses and taxicabs.

During the summer of 1923 Col. George A. Green worked out a plan to modify the existing Chicago-style double-decker utilizing features that had proved popular with similar coaches operating in New York City. While at Fifth Ave., Green had designated his two previous designs as the Type A and Type L. He elected to name the new series of Yellow coaches with an X, Y or Z prefix.

Introduced in 1925, Yellow's Type X coaches were smaller 17-21 passenger buses designed for less-travelled inner-city routes, or as feeders to the main terminal. The Type Y of 1924 was a 25-passenger low-headroom parlor coach (no standees) fitted with luxuriously padded seats for express or suburban passengers. The Type Z of 1923 was a heavy-duty city-service coach offered in two versions, a 29-passenger high-headroom coach (44-passenger max., including standees) or a 63/66/67-passenger double deck version which offered seating for 25-27 on the first floor and 28-30 on the second. The double deck Type Z was available with a partially-enclosed second floor (Type Z-66) or a completely open one (Type Z-63/67).

Starting in 1925 two additional long-wheelbase Z-series coaches were constructed for the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Corp., the Type Z-200 and Type Z-230, the numeral designating the wheelbase in inches (when equipped with a single deck the designations were Z-29 and Z-33, respectively). Both coaches were available with either the standard Yellow-Knight sleeve-valve engine or a General-Electric-sourced hybrid gas-electric drive system, where a gasoline engine powered 2 large electric motors located at the rear of the coach.

Col. Green insisted that any substantial change in equipment or dimensions were to be distinguished by its own model number, so numerous variations/models were seen, however all were based on the same four basic types between 1923-1928.

Sensing a demand for a light truck equipped with the Yellow-Knight sleeve-valve engine, Yellow Coach introduced the Yellocab 1-ton truck in 1924, although sales of the vehicle ended soon after General Motors purchased a controlling interest in the firm in July of 1925.

From August 1923 through July 1925, Yellow Coach Manufacturing Co., built 590 buses for Hertz' various transportation companies; 420 buses for Chicago, 90 for People's Motorbus of St. Louis, and 80 for the Fifth Avenue Coach Co.  During 1924 and 1925 Yellow Coach also produced 1079 buses for two unrelated firms; 500 for the Public Service Corporation of New Jersey ($5 million contract) and 579 for the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Corp. ($6.5 million contract).

The increasing success of Hertz' numerous transportation enterprises piqued the interest of General Motors chairman Alfred P. Sloan which prompted a more thorough investigation of the emerging surface transportation business. Sloan wasted no time and in early 1925 entered into negotiations with Hertz, the results of which were hinted at in the June 28, 1925 issue of the New York Times:

“TAXI HEAD SILENT ON MERGER PLANS; Hertz of Yellow Company Conferred With General Motors Men at Detroit. ALSO AFTER BUS CONTROL Financial District Believes Concern That Controls Fifth Avenue Vehicles Is Involved.

“Reports of a contemplated merger of the General Motors Corporation and the Yellow Cab Manufacturing Company and the Yellow Coach Company of Chicago, were neither confirmed nor denied by John Hertz, head of the taxicab and coach companies, yesterday, according to a dispatch from Chicago.”

Ten days later, the New York Times announced the "merger" in their July 8, 1925 edition:

“YELLOW CAB CO. NOW IN GENERAL MOTORS; Directors and Bankers of Both Concerns Agree to the $16,000,000 Merger.; YELLOW TO BUILD TRUCKS.; Automobile Makers to Turn Over This Part of Its Business – Will Be Active In Bus Field.

“Official details covering the negotiations whereby the General Motors Corporation has acquired a controlling interest in the Yellow Cab Manufacturing Company of Chicago were made public yesterday by representatives of both companies. Completion of the deal joins the largest automobile and taxicab manufacturing units in the country, and the working agreement between the two organizations has been consummated for the purpose of expanding in the motor truck and bus fields. Under the agreement the truck division of General Motors organization will be transferred to the Yellow Cab Corporation, and in exchange the General Motors Corporation receives 800,000 shares of the common stock, a controlling interest in the Chicago organization.

“The Boards of Directors of both companies have unanimously agreed within the past few days to link the two organizations, and the plan also has the support of the two banking concerns which represent the companies. The plan, however, has yet to be ratified by the stockholders of the Yellow Cab Manufacturing Company.

“Announcement of the details was issued for the General Motors Corporation by Alfred P. Sloan Jr., President of that organization. The statement of John Hertz, President of the Yellow Cab Company, and Lehman Brothers, the bankers for the latter company, was issued through the law firm of Chadbourne, Stanchfield & Levy.

“Change in Capital Structure

“According to the statement of Mr. Sloan, the plan calls for a readjustment of the capital structure of the Yellow Cab Manufacturing Company and the sale to it of all the stock of a new corporation, to which General Motors Corporation will transfer the plants and other assets of the General Motors truck division. The property so transferred, it is stated, will have an aggregate net book value of $16,000,000, including about $10,500,000 of net working capital, of which about $5,000,000 will be in the form of cash, this giving the new combination ample working capital. For this transfer the General Motors Corporation will receive $16,000,000. This $16,000,000 will be used for the acquisition of 800,000 shares of the common stock of the new Yellow Truck and Coach Manufacturing Company, which will be the name of the new company, which will be the name of the new company to be organized to take over the present taxicab business and the General Motors truck division.

“The capitalization of the new Yellow Truck and Coach Manufacturing Company, following completion of the plan, will consist of 150,000 shares of 7 per cent, non-voting cumulative preferred stock of $100 a share par value, 600,000 shares of Class B stock of $10 a share par value, and 800,000 shares of common stock of $10 a share par value.

“Regarding the position of the stockholders of the Yellow Cab Manufacturing Company, it is stated that the 6,000 shares of Class A stock, valued at $600,000 par, will be retired. Holders of the present Class B stock of the company will receive Class B stock in the new Yellow Truck and Coach Company on a share for share basis, and in addition they will receive an extra dividend equal to $25 a share, in the form of the 7 per cent, cumulative stock of the new company.

“Expects Great Economies

“Commenting upon the importance of the deal from General Motors standpoint, Mr. Sloan in his statement said: ‘The Yellow Cab Manufacturing Company, apart from its position in the taxicab business, occupies a strong position in the bus field. A merger of the General Motor truck business with the business of that company is calculated to result in material economies in the manufacturing and distribution end of these important lines of business.’

‘“General Motors Corporation has recognized the importance of the bus, and believes that the proposed merger with the Yellow Cab Manufacturing Company will immediately place it in a strong position in the bus business, with the opportunity of enjoying a really unique position in the future development in that field. It also believes that is position in the heavy duty truck business will be greatly strengthened as a consequence of the combined management and the benefits derived from more economical manufacture and distribution.’

“Mr. Hertz’s statement said that ‘for a long time the Yellow Cab Manufacturing Company has been preparing to engage vigorously in the manufacture of trucks and commercial bodies, in addition to its established lines of motor buses, taxicabs and its present products. The acquisition of the General Motors facilities will immediately enable it to become a leading factor in the truck business and will secure to it at once the excellent facilities and the vast resources connected with the General Motors Corporation, a result which otherwise could not possibly have been accomplished without many years of effort.’

“From the standpoint of the stockholders of the Yellow Cab Manufacturing Company, Mr. Hertz said this deal is ‘the greatest achievement in their history. This connection with General Motors organization will assure to the Yellow company the great advantages of economical purchase in large quantities, of quantity production, intensive sale management, large savings in manufacture and the benefit of the highest technical automotive experience in the world. In association with General Motor Corporation, the premier automobile manufacturers for the company will far exceed any that they have ever had in their history.”

Pending approval by its shareholders, the directors of the Yellow Cab Mfg. Co. agreed to give General Motors Corp. a controlling interest (60%) in a new holding company called Yellow Truck & Coach Co. in exchange for the assets of the former General Motors Truck Co. and the Northway Motor and Mfg. Co. which were to be combined with those of Yellow Cab Mfg. Co. and its wholly-owned subsidiary, the Yellow Coach Mfg. Co.

(Acquired by General Motors in 1909, Northway Motor and Mfg. was founded in 1903 by Ralph E. Northway, designer of the Northway Engine, to supply engines and parts for Ford. Later customers included Auburn, Buick, Cole, GM Truck, Jackson, Keeton, Oldsmobile and Scripps-Booth.)

A new firm, The General Motors Truck Corp. was organized to handle Yellow Truck & Coach's manufacturing operations, while the General Motors Truck Co. would handle all of Yellow Truck & Coach's sales.

(A similar arrangement was subsequently worked out with General Motors Canadian truck division which was reorganized as General Motors Truck & Coach Co. of Canada Ltd. later that year. For the first time Yellow cabs and coaches were made available throughout Canada. By 1927 the Canadian operations had been reorganized as Truck and Coach Division, General Motors Products of Canada Ltd.)

At the time of the merger Hertz was president of the Yellow Cab Company; chairman of the board of the Yellow Truck & Coach Manufacturing Company; chairman of the Omnibus Corporation of America; chairman of the Chicago Motor Coach Company; chairman of the Fifth Avenue Coach Company; chairman of the New York Transportation Company; chairman of the Yellow Coach Manufacturing Company; chairman of the Yellow Sleeve-Valve Engine Works, Inc.; chairman of the Benzoline Motor Fuel Company; and chairman of the Hertz Driveurself Company.

Within the week, details of the organizational structure of the new firm were published in the July 17, 1925 New York Times:

“HERTZ AND RITCHIE HEAD TRUCK MERGER; To Be Chairman and President of Yellow Cab-General Motors Combine.; SEE BIG CHANGE IN INDUSTRY.; Door-to-Door Long-Distance Transportation Probable, Head of Board Says.

“John D. Hertz, President of the Yellow Cab Manufacturing Company, has announced the personnel of the Yellow Truck and Coach Manufacturing Company, which has been organized for consolidating the truck division of the General Motors Corporation, the Yellow Cab Manufacturing Company and the Yellow Coach Manufacturing Company into one company. Mr. Hertz will be Chairman of the Board of Directors and John A. Ritchie, Chairman of the Board of the Fifth Avenue Coach Company, will be President.

“George A. Green, formerly Chief Engineer of the Fifth Avenue Coach Company, will be Vice President in charge of engineering; Paul H. Geyser will be Vice President In charge of production; Irving A. Babcock, Vice President in charge of finance and accounting; P.L. Emmerson, Vice President in charge of sales, and Otto E. Stoll, Vice President and manager in charge of the motor truck division.

“This combination of the cab, motor coach and truck manufacturing interests of the companies, according to Mr. Hertz, will result in great economy in the purchase of raw materials and the production of vehicles, and will give the new company one of the largest selling organizations in the world. It will thus be a benefit, he adds, not only to the security holders, but to the purchasers of vehicles and through them directly to the public.

“Mr. Hertz formal statement, which appears in the current issue of Motor Coach, says that the combination of the three companies ‘will enable us to carry out rather extensive plans we have had in mind for some time, to become the largest manufacturer of commercially operated, revenue-producing vehicles in the world. We have established a reputation through many years of manufacturing as the producers of the highest class and biggest revenue-producing taxicabs, coaches and light-delivery wagons in the world.’

“Pointing out that there will be no radical changes in the policies of the Yellow Cab Manufacturing Company, Mr. Hertz says ‘this is a most logical combination and under the new order of things will not only give us the manufacture of a line of commercial vehicles more comprehensive than any other manufacturer, but will enable us to incorporate in the design and construction of our trucks many of the operating and manufacturing refinements to be found in the construction and design of our motor coaches and taxicabs. Incidentally I might say that the General Motors Company truck division is a highly successful organization. It has an experience in the manufacture of heavy-duty vehicles extending over many years, and has in service today many of the heavy-duty trucks doing satisfactory duty all over the world.’

“Commenting on the development of the industry, Mr. Hertz adds that ‘we feel that our industry is on the brink of a tremendous evolution. Throughout the nation, all thinking transportation men appreciate that the motor coach and motor truck are destined to fill an increasingly important niche in the general scheme of things, For some time we all have been preparing for this eventuality.’

‘“I believe that the time is near at hand when a passenger will buy a railroad ticket calling for transportation of himself and baggage from his home to the place at which he intends to stop in some distant city. In other words, the purchase of his original ticket will include such transportation as taxicabs and coaches. This equally true of freight. In the near future I believe we will see the railroad shipper’s bill of lading include pick-up service and delivery, as well as transportation from one place to another. In other words, railroad companies must necessarily avail themselves of the use of such vehicles as ours in order to carry out a complete plan of transportation.’”

On August 12, 1925, General Motors Corp. incorporated the General Motors Truck Corp. under the laws of Delaware. Yellow Cab Mfg. Co. stockholders ratified the merger on August 17 and the Yellow Truck & Coach Mfg. Co. replaced the Yellow Cab Mfg. Co. on August 26. John D. Hertz became chairman and John A. Ritchie president. All elements of the complex merger were complete by the end of September.

The following February (Feb. 10, 1926) GM's board of directors approved the purchase of land for a new Yellow Truck & Coach assembly plant. In March of 1927 a suitable 160-acre tract south of Pontiac, Michigan was acquired from a farmer named Alfred Howland, the purchase announced on June 13, 1927.

By June of 1926 the former Yellow and General Motors sales staffs had been consolidated at the former Dickens Ave. Yellow Cab plant in Chicago. The following month most of the firm's engineers were relocated to the Rapid St. General Motors Truck plant in Pontiac, Michigan although the actual production of Yellow Cabs, Coaches and Yellow-Knight engines remained in Illinois for the time being.

At about the same time the Detroit-based Northway Motor and Mfg. division was shuttered, and much of its equipment transferred to the Yellow Sleeve-Valve Engine Works in East Moline, Illinois. The idle Holbrook Ave. facility was subsequently sold to the Chevrolet Gear and Axle division of the Chevrolet Motor Co.

By that time the lightweight Yellocab T-1 truck (1924-1927) had been joined by the Yellow-Knight T-2, a medium-sized 1-ton truck offered during 1926-1927. The T-1 was now equipped with a Buick engine, while the T-2 was powered by a 41hp Yellow-Knight engine.

The medium-priced Chicago-built trucks were offered with a full line of factory-supplied bodies, most of which were made in-house. However, sales were slim, and during the 1927 model year GMC replaced the unpopular vehicles with a line of cheaper GMC-branded T-10 and T-20 lightweight trucks.

At the time of the GM merger Hertz' Driveurself rental car business was a subsidiary of Yellow Cab Mfg. Co., and was included in the deal. It continued to operate as a subsidiary of Yellow Truck & Coach and a number of GM executives held positions with both firms. Irving R. Babcock, who served as vice-president of the Yellow Truck & Coach Mfg. Co. served as president of Hertz Driveurself while Hertz served as chairman of both firms.

Under General Motors ownership the Driveurself subsidiary prospered and by 1930 the rental car company claimed to have offices located adjacent to a majority of the nation's major rail stations. By that time the purpose-built Hertz rental car had been dropped in favor of a fleet of cars purchased from a number of General Motors' divisions.

In January 1927, John A. Ritchie was elevated to the position of vice chairman of the board of Yellow Truck & Coach Mfg. Co. and Paul W. Seiler was promoted to presi­dent and general manager. The three firm's (Yellow Truck & Coach, General Motors Truck Co. & General Motors Truck Corp.) business offices were subsequently relocated to General Motors corporate headquarters on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit.

A few months later the firm's purchase of the Howland farm in Pontiac was announced to the public. On June 13, 1927 the Detroit and Pontiac newspapers gave details of the firm's plans to construct a modern $8 million 1.25 million square-foot factory dedicated to the manufacture of trucks and coaches. Ground was broken for the new South Boulevard plant and offices on July 5, 1927, and contractors worked around the clock until the factory was completed the following January.

The very first truck rolled off the line on January 5, 1928 and within two months most of the firm's numerous engineering, purchasing, sales and management departments were installed in the new administration building. By that time 150 trucks were leaving the new Pontiac, Michigan plant daily. Bus and taxi production remained in Chicago until later that year when the all-new Model U and Model W buses were introduced. Production of the Model X, Y and Z coaches were all transferred to Pontiac prior to 1930 when the final alphabetically designated Yellow Coach, the Model V, debuted.

Prior to the move to Pontiac, a large portion of the firm's coachwork had been built in Cleveland, Ohio by the Bender Body, Brown Body and Kuhlman Car Companies, necessitating the transportation of the bare chassis from Chicago to Cleveland by rail.

However the market was changing and following the move to Pontiac, Yellow began producing more and more of their own coachwork, which was made available in a large number of standard styles and seating capacities.

By the late 1920s orders for the once-popular sleeve-valve engine produced by the Yellow Sleeve-Valve Engine Works were decreasing just as demand for the poppet-valve examples increased so Yellow Truck & Coach closed down the firm's East Moline operations at the end of 1929. Most of its equipment was transferred to the old General Motors Truck plant in Pontiac, while existing employees were given the chance to relocate. The firms shuttered Chicago and East Moline, Illinois factories were subsequently sold off.

The Yellow Coach Story is continued, CLICK HERE for Page 2

© 2004 Mark Theobald -





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