History of Motor Coach Industries
Motor Coach operators have made the MCI J4500 a bestseller for nine years running and now MCI is giving operators new reasons to add the 2013 J4500 to fleets — including some eye-catching style changes. Working with BMW Group Design works USA — the team that gave the market-leading J4500 its unprecedented curb appeal — MCI is refining and improving the look and feel of our luxury coaches inside and out in 2013 and beyond.
MCI is investing in the latest onboard amenities that turn riders into lifetime customers: Wi-Fi, power outlets and wide flat-screen monitors to keep riders engaged, entertained and working. To keep all customers rolling, state-of-the art wheelchair lifts make accessibility and alternate transportation options possible for all. MCI coaches feature Electronic Stability Control, SmartWave Tire Pressure monitoring system and a fire suppression system. Popular safety options include three-point passenger seatbelts and reverse sensing. MCI provides one of the best networks of aftermarket support in the industry with expert technical help, onsite training and the largest inventory of OEM parts for all makes of motor coach makes and transit buses.
MCI’s new coach models are powered by the next generation of clean-diesel engine technology that promises near-zero emissions and increased fuel savings. MCI is the only manufacturer to offer an intercity model, the MCI Commuter Coach, in diesel-electric hybrid and CNG configurations.
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Harry Zoltok turns his Winnipeg repair shop into the laboratory for the future of coach travel. He sketches his first vehicle design, an 11-passenger body on a Packard chassis, on the factory floor. His small manufacturing company, Fort Garry Motor Body and Paint Works, finds itself on the cusp of a new mass transit industry.
The Public Works administration provides the first large-scale federal government public transportation assistance in the United States, promoting public transport on both rail and road. This Depression-era move starts putting local transit operations in the hands of taxpayers.
The company designs and builds its first proprietary chassis and manufactures its first line of coaches for Grey Goose Bus Lines in Winnipeg. Today, Grey Goose is a subsidiary of Greyhound Canada Transportation Corp. operating in Manitoba.
Fort Garry designs and manufactures the Model 150, a new transit-type coach with the windshield over the radiator, the first use of exterior stainless steel panels and a pancake engine mounted midship under the floor.
On January 7, the company changes its name to Motor Coach Industries Limited, but coach production quickly gives way to the manufacturing needs of World War II. The company’s new Winnipeg facility at Erin Street and St. Matthews Avenue is converted to manufacture Jeep trailers, boat trailers for rescue craft, army truck bodies and pontoon bridge sections plus the reconditioning of aircraft pontoons.
MCI builds and designs the first electric trolley bus manufactured in Canada, known as Number 1532. It has its own route for 25 years, but never becomes a regular production item.
With the war’s end, MCI reverts to regular coach production and introduced its first rear engine coach, the Model 100. Production stepped up by introducing the Courier models produced mainly for Greyhound. Around this time production of the “Courier” series was introduced. Many different models were built beginning with the 100, 100A, 100B, 100C, 200, 200A and 200B models. Slight changes were made to create the Courier 50, 50A, 85, 85A, and 85X. Over the rest of the decade the company adds its National Products subsidiary, which manufactures and sells pole line hardware for the prairie provinces’ rural electrification program and, in Medicine Hat, Alberta, National Porcelain is formed to manufacture porcelain insulators for that market.
Greyhound Lines of Canada acquires a majority interest in MCI, with Harry Zoltok continuing as company president.
MCI’s Model 50, a 33-passenger coach, is introduced as a successor to the Model 100, the first coach synonymous with the Canadian Greyhound operation.
Like so many major users of steel at the time, MCI continues to diversify past its bedrock coach business. It uses its excess capacity to expand National Products Co. into ornamental street lighting poles, and creates the Alsco Windows and Doors Co. to serve the growing postwar housing market. MCI also expands to offer custom metal fabrication services for truck bodies.
During this decade, the coach division continues to innovate; the company adds the 85, 90, 95, 96 and launches the new MC series of coaches. The MC-1 proves to be a revolutionary new design incorporating a heating system linked to the engine cooling system and a translucent roof.
Greyhound Lines of Canada acquires the remaining shares in MCI with Zoltok keeping his role as president.
The MC-1 cements the company’s popularity; 26 coaches are produced during the year, with the company additionally developing its MCX2 prototype. At the same time, MCI sells National Porcelain. During the Greyhound years, MCI is the first manufacturer to build a 40-foot coach.
MCI heads south of the border and establishes its Pembina, North Dakota plant, 68 miles south of Winnipeg, which officially opens in 1963.
MCI officially enters the U.S. coach market, developing the MC-2, MC-3, MC-4, MC-5 and the MC-5A over the rest of the decade. The MC5 is a 35’ rear engine coach powered by Detroit Diesel 6V71 and 8V71 engines with Spicer 8245 & 8844A mechanical 4 speed transmissions. MCI Inc was formed and opened the plant in Pembina ND entering the US coach market with sales to Greyhound US. Further developments to this model led to production of the MC-5A (MC5A), MC-5B (MC5B) & the MC-5C (MC5C) which had the more modern front end styling that it shared with the MCI-8 (MC8)
MCI delivers the first prototype of the landmark MC-6 “Super Cruiser” coach to Greyhound; designed and developed for Greyhound, it features a 102-inch wheelbase, an all-stainless-steel frame, and a V-12 engine. It was actually illegal to operate in most states due to its width. It used the same rear suspension and Detroit Diesel power train as the GMC PD4501 Scenicruiser. There were 2 prototypes and only 100 production MCI6 coaches built.
The 40-foot-long MC-7 is developed and put into production just before the MC-6, representing the first time MCI has multiple coach lines in parallel production. The company is now producing 500 coaches a year, compared to only 50 in the early 1960s.
An official after-market parts division is established at Motor Coach Industries’ plant at Pembina, North Dakota.
MCI builds a total of 100 coaches between 1969 and 1970; a fraction of its current production. MCI will reintroduce the all-stainless-steel frame in 1997 when it builds the 102EL3 Renaissance® coach (now the E4500).
MCI begins international distribution with its first sales to Mexico, Australia, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan.
Harry Zoltok retires, while the company opens a new parts distribution center in Northlake, Illinois. Greyhound moves its corporate headquarters from Chicago to Phoenix. The company builds its first MC-5B coach (production runs through 1977).
Hausman Bus Sales, founded in 1954 by Jerry Hausman, with sales and service centers in Chicago, New Jersey and California, joins forces with MCI and begins selling its new coaches exclusively.
The MC-8 hits the roads, replacing the MC-7.
MCI Service Parts division becomes Universal Coach Parts Inc., supplying motor coach, transit and school bus operators with parts.
MCI introduced what would become the most popular coach ever of all the models it built, the MCI-9 (MC9), also known as the “Crusader 2”. The MCI9 coach was very similar to the MC-8 except for the streamlined roof, increased headroom and rectangular side windows. Detroit Diesel 8V71, 6V92TA & 8V92TA engines were offered along with Allison HT740, HT754 and 4 or 5 speed manual transmissions. 1982 brought a few well needed changes by offering integral power steering which was a big improvement over the Ross power steering used in the earlier models. Other significant improvements were the use of Carrier 05G air conditioning compressors and Reliance Electric HVAC blower motors. In 1989 – 1990 the MC9 received some special options to the interior like overhead parcel rack doors and MC12 suspension upgrades with rolling lobe type suspension air bags were added and the result was the highly desired “MC9 Special”. More than 10,000 MC9’s were built!
MCI continues to expand its parts and manufacturing operations in Canada and the United States. The company expands its production lines in Fort Garry and Pembina to double the production capacity of the popular MC-9. The Canadian distribution center opens in Newcastle, Ontario, under the MCI Service Parts name.
UCP pioneers its “C.O.A.C.H.” program — Customer Order Assisted Computerized Handling — the first electronic parts ordering system and accessed by more than 300 customers.
A full six years before the Americans with Disabilities Act is passed, MCI is the first coach manufacturer to offer wheelchair lifts on its vehicles. The first model is contracted out as retrofit for Terra Transport and built for the Canadian Government in June 1984; it buys another in October. MCI produced a totally new coach, the “A” model. Initially built as the last 96” wide MCI coach named the 96A, it was built as a 2 axle coach the 96A2 (96/A2), and as a 3 axle coach the 96A3 (96/A3). This was also the first popular 102” wide coach other than the earlier attempt of the MC6 (MCI-6). The 102” wide models were the 102A2 (102/A2) 2 axle and the 102A3 (102/A3) 3 axle. Although they used many components from the earlier models, they had a much more modern & aerodynamic appearance. A big improvement was the use of rolling lobe type suspension air bellows in place of the double convoluted bellows used in all prior models. The earlier style double convoluted bellows used a pressurized air frame which increased the compressible volume of air in the suspension giving it a softer spring rate. The down side of this design was that they were prone to leaking as they aged. The front ends of the 102” wide coach & 96” wide coaches were exactly the same. The 102 coach body got 3” wider on each side just behind the entry door and driver’s window.
MCI builds its very own first six MC-9 units with wheelchair lifts by the end of February 1986 for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
MCI acquires General Motor’s bus parts business, virtually doubling the size of the company overnight. That same year, a larger parts distribution facility is purchased in Des Plaines, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, becoming MCI’s new headquarters location.
The “A” body coach received many changes and the result was the “C3” model, the 102/C3 (102C3). This was the most luxurious of the MCI models up to that time, catering to the needs of the tour operators. It had 3” more head room than the “A” & “B” models and can be easily identified by the double drip gutters running length of the coach just above the windows. Although most were smooth sided with full paint, you could still order the optional stainless steel fluted lower panels. There were multiple engine and transmission combinations available. The options included Caterpillar, Cummins & Detroit diesel engines along with Allison auto, ZF auto and manual transmissions.
MCI built its first 45-foot prototype, the 102DL3 (102/DL3).
Production of the last of the “MC” series coach was built at the request of Greyhound Lines, the MC-12 (MCI-12). This coach was basically a MC-9 with the improved air suspension of the “102” series coaches along with some other minor improvements done at the request of Greyhound.
MCI launches COACH GUARD®, a private brand of aftermarket parts, which grows to include a full line of filters, remanufactured transmissions, bearings, seals, electrical items and hundreds of other parts, all engineered and manufactured to strict tolerances for long-lasting performance.
Production of the DL3 began. It was the first motor coach to have outboard mounted suspension bellows for better body roll control and a softer ride quality. It was also the first motor coach utilize “ride share” where the tag axle bellows are plumbed directly to the drive axle bellows so all 6 of the rear tires (drive & tag) have the same weight on them regardless of the load. The roof was flatter and has more headroom than any earlier model. There were multiple engine and transmission combinations available. The engine options included Detroit 8V92 ddec, Caterpillar, Cummins & the soon to be popular Detroit Diesel Series 60 engine. There were many transmission options available including Allison 700 series auto, Allison World B500 auto, ZF auto, Eaton auto-shift and other manual transmissions. This was the first MCI to have a steering tag axle. The tag axle tires would free caster behind the drive axle and had an air cylinder that would lock the wheels straight ahead at speeds above 25 mph. There was another larger air cylinder that would tip the top of the steerable tag axle to the front of the bus when the transmission was shifted into reverse. This would reverse the angle of the kingpins (caster) so the wheels would then caster correctly when backing as well. With the increased rear overhang a rear high ride feature was added to prevent the back from dragging when maneuvering thru dips in driveway approaches.
A 40 foot long x 102” wide body version of the DL3, called the 102D3, replaced the earlier 40 foot long x 96” wide coaches. It was basically equipped the similar to the 45 foot 102DL3 but without a tag axle steering. About this time, US MCII formed a merger with Dina in Mexico and MCI started marketing the Mexico built Dina Viaggio coach in the US.
The MC-9 becomes the nation’s all-time best-selling coach with 6,406 vehicles sold between 1978 and 1994.
MCI purchases the assets of Billingsley Parts & Equipment, a distributor of school bus parts and manufacturer of specialty parts.
MCI unveils its soon to be released Renaissance Coach, the MCI 102EL3, a completely new-look designed with a patented spiral entryway created with the assistance of BMW Designworks USA.
The company acquires the parts assets of the Flxible Corporation, one of the nation’s largest transit bus manufacturers.
Production of the 102/EL3 Renaissance began. Everything about this coach was new to MCI and the bus industry from its curved entry step to its use of electrical relay modules that could be swapped between different locations to aid in troubleshooting and road side repairs if needed. This coach used a hydraulically steered ZF RAS rear tag axle that gave the coach a tighter turning radius than any other 45’ long coach ever built. It had an electronically controlled Wabco “ECAS” air suspension system which offered “high ride”, “low ride”, “normal ride” and front suspension kneeling. This was done by the use of electronic height sensors in place of leveling valves feeding suspension height data to an ECU which controlled the air bag pressure. It also had a highly sophisticated HVAC system that had split evaporators / heater cores on each side of the coach, each with its own zone controlled by a central processor. The driver also had a zone of its own. The system had very detailed technician friendly built in diagnostic information available on the dash display. The Renaissance was the first motor coach built with all air disc brakes.
Motor Coach Industries announces plans to open a new facility in Louisville on a 31-acre site near a UPS hub and to consolidate the operations of its existing warehouse facilities. The company also announces plans for an Internet-based online ordering system, named The Parts Store, replacing its C.O.A.C.H. — Customer-Order-Assisted-Computerized-Handling system.
MCI moves into a new 40,000-square-foot Dallas sales and service center. The location also serves as the home of MCI Financial Services.
MCI wins a historic order from New Jersey Transit — $500 million for 1,400 commuter “cruiser” coaches. At the time, it is the largest coach transaction ever recorded for a transit agency. The company commemorates its move to Louisville and announces its name change to MCI Service Parts Inc., in keeping with MCI’s corporate strategy of unifying its network of related services under the MCI name.
More intense cooperation between MCI & Dina produced the MCI F3500 and G models that were built in Mexico. The F3500 was the first 35’coach built by MCI since the MC5’s & was basically a Dina F12 based bus with more modern cosmetic styling for the US market and labeled as a MCI even though it was built by Dina. The first G model was the 102G3 later called the G4100 followed by the G4500. The 102G3 / G4100 was built as a long distance transport coach also called a line run coach designed by MCI and Greyhound. It was supposed to have the cosmetic appeal of the Renaissance but designed to be more durable to hold up to the hard use of a line haul coach. 25 102G3 / G4100 were built and put to work by Greyhound as test coaches.
Later in year 2000, the D models received some long overdue upgrades. They were now equipped with drive axle spring-brake chambers in place of the expensive DD3’s, all electric Bosch windshield wiper system and Rockwell Q-type drum brakes on all axles. All the wheel end parts were the same as used on the soon to be released J4500.
MCI changed its model number system.
102DL3 changed to D4500
102D3 changed to D4000
102EL3 changed to E4500
102G3 changed to G4100
102GL3 changed to G4500
At the Motor Coach Expo in Atlantic City the “Modern American Motor Coach” the J4500 was revealed, which will quickly go on to become the best-selling motor coach in the industry. It is based on the popular Renaissance chassis and body but without some of the costly sophisticated systems. The Renaissance RAS tag axle steering system was replaced with a basic non-steering axle and the ECAS electronically controlled suspension system was replaced by conventional leveling valves reducing the cost of the coach. Another big change was the addition of Rockwell “Q-Type” drum brakes on all axles in place of the earlier E Model disc brakes that had great braking performance, but were gaining the reputation to be very expensive to maintain. An easy way to distinguish between an E Model and a J Model is the destination sign glass was removed from above the windshields on the J Model. Its award-winning styling follows that of the E4500 (formerly called the Renaissance), and its mechanical systems are simplified for an easy ownership experience. By 2007, the J4500 surpasses 2,103 units sold.
Also revealed at the Expo was the longer 45 foot Greyhound G4500. Greyhound & MCI decided on the G4500 to go into production in place of the shorter G4100.
MCI opens its Orlando, Florida-area sales and service center.
MCI invests $40 million in the expansion of its Winnipeg ISO-certified plant and moves the production of the G4500 from its former Mexico plant to Winnipeg, integrating the model into the E4500/J4500 mixed-platform line.
There were a lot of changed in 2003. The relay module electrical system on the E&J Coaches was replaced at unit #62032 with the Vansco Multiplexed Electrical System, given the nickname “MUX”. The new Vansco MUX system proved itself to be a big improvement over the sometimes troublesome relay module system. The new Vansco system had built in input and output led lights to aid in troubleshooting. Other changes included going back to a single HVAC evaporator located in the center of the coach behind the rear luggage bay. This put the heat and evaporator coils more centrally located in the coach resulting in more even air flow throughout the passenger area than in the earlier models that suffered from poor air flow in the rear of the coach. The reliable Pro Heat X45 coolant heaters replaced the troublesome Espar and Webasto heaters and Detroit Diesel Series 60 engines were EGR equipped to meet emission requirements.
The MCI J4500 ranks as the #1 industry best seller in the trend report published by National Bus Trader magazine.
MCI offers Emergency Roadside Assistance 24 hours a day, every day, managed in-house by MCI professionals through its technical support call center at the Louisville parts distribution center. The level of service customers received from the MCI Technical Support Call Center was considered to the best in the industry and set MCI as a model for others to try and achieve.
MCI gives the D-Series coaches a long awaited major makeover, resulting in what will now be called the D4005 and D4505 with the curvier, more modern exterior styling that have made the J and E models so attractive to operators. This was a much welcomed change to the most durable and cost effective coach in the MCI line up.
MCI also changed the braking system on the J4500 model from the Rockwell “Q-Type” drum air brakes to the same early aid disc brake used on the Renaissance 102EL3 and E4500 coaches, but only for one year. This change was not welcomed by many and glad to see it go away again in 2006.
MCI upgraded wheel ends and brakes on all of its models. They now have Unitized Wheel Ends (UWE) which are sealed non serviceable bearing/hub assemblies on the steering and tag axles which were expended to have a longer service life that conventional wheel bearings and races used in the past. The drive axle also received an upgrade to “preset bearings”. The “preset bearings” are similar to the conventional wheel bearings and races, but come with a spacer between the bearing inner races that are made to the correct length as to provide the proper bearing adjustment when the assembly is simply torqued onto the spindle. At the same time, all coaches in the MCI lineup are now equipped with Bendix EX225 air disc brakes on all axles, with parts that are interchangeable on all axles. This was a much welcomed improvement over the earlier air disc brake used on the Renaissance / 102EL3 coaches.
MCI launches its Go Green. Go Coach. Go MCI.™ slogan and makes major strides toward industry leadership in providing “greener” transportation solutions to both the public and private sectors. Embracing new EPA requirements, MCI rolls out its model line with the industry’s largest selection of clean-diesel engines and transmission options. The company also accelerates its plans for a second generation of hybrid diesel coaches.
In summer, MCI made its standard engine for its E4500 & J4500 coaches the 2007+ EPA-compliant Caterpillar C13 engine. They put a coach on the road with this engine package on the road to raise awareness of Green coach transportation during the 54-day Udall Legacy Bus Tour. Caterpillar Financial teamed up with MCI by providing what seemed like great financing on coaches with their 2007+ EPA-compliant Caterpillar C13 Acert engines and for a while the Cat engine seemed like the way to go and there were many sold. The problems with the Caterpillar C13 engines and Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) regeneration began to show up right away leaving many coach operators with coaches that could not be relied upon. It was not long before Caterpillar and Caterpillar Financial pulled out of the motor coach marketplace completely and never did come up with a cure for the problem plagued Cat powered coaches. The owners of many of these coaches had no option but to let them go back to the finance company, of which most were financed by Caterpillar Financial, because there was no way to keep them running reliably. Many of these “07 Cat Regen” coaches were then repowered with Detroit or Cummins engines and resold. The 2008 Detroit and Cummins powered “Regen” coaches have proven themselves to be reliable after going thru a slight learning curve of the new technology emissions systems.
MCI establishes the first National Training Center at its Louisville location, dedicated to enhancing and advancing the skills of all motor coach technicians. At the same time, it introduces its Coach Driving Simulator, the industry’s first maker-specific high-tech simulator, offering a virtual-reality driving experience and a variety of safety scenarios to enhance drivers’ skills.
By 2007 the J4500 surpasses 2,103 units sold!
MCI celebrates the 75th anniversary of its first coach with a special edition of the best-selling J4500 coach.
By the end of the first decade of the new millennium, MCI’s J4500 model continued to be the industry’s best-selling coach, and its D4500 commuter coach and D4505 took the second and third top-selling spots in the industry’s annual trend survey. Now, the next generation of EPA-compliant 2010 clean-diesel engines has arrived, promising near-zero emissions and fuel savings. As technology improvements to the coach models continue, MCI is also implementing technology on the customer service side, taking full advantage of online parts ordering, customer training webinars and more.
MCI marks the 6,000th unit off its E/J assembly line and a first-ever order from the City of Los Angeles for 95 compressed natural gas (CNG) Commuter Coach models. MCI has a long history serving public transit and the data confirms how well the MCI Commuter Coach performs in both reliability and total cost of ownership. It offers 42 percent greater seating capacity than a comparable transit bus at a cost that’s 15 percent lower per seat. Additionally, in recent independent testing, the MCI Commuter Coach proved itself to be 10 times more reliable than the closest competitor.
Growing Strategically, Growing Smart: MCI announces the completion of its acquisition of Setra’s U.S. and Canadian operations and establishes a strategic partnership with Daimler Buses (Daimler). These important moves gave MCI responsibility for sales and service support of Setra S 417 and Setra S 407 motor coach models and its pre-owned coach inventory, the distribution of Setra and related genuine Daimler Buses parts and operation of Setra’s Orlando-based service center. Daimler also acquires a minority ownership position in MCI, forming an engineering, technology and manufacturing alliance as part of the transaction. Of the 55,000 coaches on the road today, the majority are made by MCI.
Reliability Driven™: Marking its 80th birthday, MCI has rededicated itself to building the most reliable coaches in North America. The MCI-Reliability Driven™ philosophy reflects the company’s promise to design, build and deliver expertly engineered coaches with top-quality components, the latest safety and security features and unsurpassed parts availability and service. Reliability Driven™ goes beyond the slogan in their factories and offices, too. There’s a new corporate culture at MCI where our multi-facility ISO 9001:2008 registration assures that all plants share best practices to consistently turn out world-class products and marketplace innovations. We are working every day to make this company better.