Last week we took a quick look at CD Beck and Co., a low-volume maker of intercity coaches that was acquired by Mack in 1956. In 1957 and ’58, Mack marketed Beck’s Cruiser intercity coach and an updated model, the 97D – unfortunately, there were few buyers for either one. However, at this same time, Mack was also developing a larger coach, in hopes of “catching a much bigger fish”.
As we touched on last week, and also highlighted in Paul’s superb Scenicruiser article, the 1954 roll-out of the GM 4501 in Greyhound service was not a smooth one. The dual 4V71 engine power-pack using a fluid coupling was troublesome, as was the finicky electronically operated clutch – add to that frame cracking problems. Discouraged with GM, Greyhound let it be known that it was open to looking at other manufacturers as the primary providers for its coaches. This was likely one of the reasons Mack decided to acquire Beck – Mack had experience with urban transit coaches, but none with long-haul intercity models. The potential for being selected as the primary provider for Greyhound’s large fleet must have been a tempting one.
Using Beck’s expertise and talent, in particular Mr Donald Manning, an extremely capable engineer, Mack developed the MV-620-D; a large three axle, 40 ft demonstrator coach, for testing and evaluation by Greyhound. It was powered by a Mack END 864 diesel V8. Greyhound tested the Mack for two years on its San Francisco to Chicago route, but all was for naught – the company by that time had decided to purchase MCI, and with subsequent government approval, made a big dent in solving its coach provider problem.
But isn’t this a distinctive coach – it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but kudos to the designers for giving this bus some personality. Makes me wonder if Virgil Exner wasn’t doing some moonlighting from his day job at Chrysler…
In 1960, Greyhound returned the bus to Mack, who used it as an executive shuttle for the next 16 years. It was then purchased by a private collector who after several years, donated it to the America On Wheels Transportation Museum in Allentown PA, where it now resides.
Fun fact: After leaving Mack in 1960, Donald Manning was hired by GM and spent the remainder of his career as head engineer in their Truck and Coach Division, working on the GM “Buffalo”, the RTX demonstrator, and prototypes for the RTS II, before retiring in 1975.