Bus Stop Classic: 1960 Saurer Sightseeing Bus – With RHD And Column Shift

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CC’er Robert Walter lives in Switzerland and posted pictures of this fine 1960 Saurer sightseeing bus at the Cohort. Saurer (and the badge-engineered Barna) was a major factor in trucks and buses in Central Europe from the teens until its demise in 1982. Their quality and durability was legendary, and there were Saurer affiliates in several other countries. The Austrian Saurer was particularly successful, and big Saurer buses and trucks were a formative part of my early years.

You might wonder why this bus has its driver compartment on the right side, given that Switzerland does not drive on the left side of the road.

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Here’s why. In the mountainous regions of Switzerland and Italy, with the roads being so narrow, drivers much preferred to be seated on the right side, so that they could better see the edge of the road when another vehicle came the other way, especially a bus or truck. Squeezing two buses by on these roads can be hair-raising, so the benefits of RHD was kept for a long time in these two countries.

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Here’s the view from the driver’s seat. And yes, that long lever sprouting from behind the steering wheel is the shifter, probably for a four speed transmission, possibly five.

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Here’s a better view. Why a column shift?

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At least in part so that the shifter doesn’t get in the way (or hit by) of the two passengers riding up there in the front seat across the aisle from the driver. Now that’s the seat to have on an alpine pass ride.

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Of course the view’s not to shabby from any seat, given all the pre-global-warming glass.

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Here’s the builder’s plate (how else did you think I knew it was a 1960?) The only reference I could find on the DCU engine lists it having 10.3 liters. That’s a pretty big engine, for a not all-that big bus. But then having a bit of extra muscle on an Alpine pass can be handy.

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This one is still at it, and I’d love to ride up there next to the driver, watching him handle that column shifter, never mind the scenery.