chrisjcieslak posted some shots at the Cohort of what he called a “weird, blue bus thing” passing him in Chicago. Let’s see if we can figure out what it was.
Aha! There’s a sign in the window: “Prefix Corporation”. That’s something to go on.
Before we go Googling, let’s check out what this is: obviously some sort of tourist bus with a decidedly retro theme. And it looks like there’s another one up ahead.
Prefix specializes in all sorts of one-offs, like concepts for the automobile industry, especially new EVs and such. But they also do low-volume building and contracting, and on this image from that section of their website, I can see what looks to be more of these buses under construction. The blue and white one in front looks to be the same thing, and I suspect the ones in front are in progress.
They also have a “store” with high performance parts and stuff, much of it Viper-related. The priciest item is this Viper gen V 9.0 L Xtreme engine, for…$26,650. And that’s with your trade in, as this is essentially a rebuild with lots of new parts, one assumes.
So we’ve solved the mystery, except for just where these blue buses will end up. Anyone know?
If I were to bet, these are heading to a national park out west.
These are fascinating. The front door in the lead pictures looks familiar – I’m wanting to say Freightliner but would not swear to it. The red pickup cab in the factory picture is obviously a Ford, so one could speculate this particular example is using a stretched Ford frame.
Perhaps they are using the 7.3 liter, similar to what Jim Klein had in his test vehicle earlier this week.
Here’s an article from the Calgary Herald about similar Prefix buses being put into service earlier this year in Banff National Park in Canada. This article doesn’t mention Prefix by name, but it does say that the buses were built in Michigan and it sure looks similar to the pictures above:
These buses have open tops, which makes sense for mountain sightseeing.
Thanks, my guesses would have been:
But the color was wrong!
Yeah it would be the 7.3 as that is the only engine offering in the F53/F59 which is what the stripped chassis between the completed bus and the red F450/F550 is. I’m betting they have the Gaseous Fuel Prep Package and are or will be converted to Propane or CNG though.
Thanks for posting these Paul!
Not pictured in these was a support vehicle following them from Prefix, which was a decidedly more pedestrian Ford Transit/Ram Promaster-kinda thing. I was kind of assuming they were going from MI to wherever their new home was going to be. This was on the Edens Expressway heading north out of Chicago.
I was thinking International with the doors but Jason may be right on Freightliner.
I will say, as much as I could look at them (I had my wife take the pictures as I was driving) that they were really flawless in terms of body and paint.
The doors are from an International right down to even the mirrors. I just parked one an hour ago.
Correct you are. I should have verified but those doors are indeed sourced from a medium duty International, such as the MV Series.
In my defense, I have spent vastly more time around the Workstar series, which is decidedly heavier duty with different shaped windows.
Interestingly, International now has a CV series which appears to use a Chevrolet cab.
Yes the CV is the joint venture that they got into after the Blue Diamond venture ended. So yeah it is a GM cab and the Duramax is the only power plant available.
It’s almost surprising there’s no LS on offer for those,both for natural-gas utilities and any others looking to do an NGV setup and small-town garages that do their own towing and have gasoline on site while diesel would mean driving out of their way to buy from a competitor.
Yes it is surprising that they haven’t done a gas version especially since IH continued to offer the GM gas engines in their Workhorse line from the time they purchased it until they sold it. Ford does seem to sell a few gas powered class 4-7 trucks, and they offer a gaseous fuel prep package for those that do want to convert to propane or CNG.
Jason speculates that the chassis and powertrain are Ford-based, which is logical, but I’d prefer to think that the platform is a RAM 3500, with the hopped-up V10 Viper motor. Perfect for those steep grades and high altitudes in the western National Parks, with no annoying diesel smoke or clatter.
Looking at the article Eric posted and the picture of the assembly line it appears the completed bus in the assembly line picture is one of the ones for the Banff operation as you can kind of make out the “Open Top” graphics on the back door. Interesting that these are all blue instead of blue and white though it appears to be the same color blue.
Looking at the mfgs interior page shows that they have removable sunroofs to give the open top experience but also to be able to close it up to the weather.
Yes these appear to be the modern iteration of the original US National Parks Bus. I first remember seeing one in Yellowstone back in the mid 90’s. A ranger told me they had all been restored and modernized with hydraulic brakes and such. That would put them around the end of a 30 year service life. I understand the need for safety changes but I would think all new park buses would be electric with quick charge pit stops. NPS website for Zion National Park shows them getting these electron powered busses.
Some of the early Yellowstone buses were put back in service in 2007, bodies restored and placed on 2007 Ford chassis.
I could see them going back under the knife again and getting electric motivation in the future.
Electric power offers the benefit of peak torque from 0 RPM, completely unaffected by altitude. It would just need an aggressive enough regen profile to gain back enough power on the downhills that the massive power consumption uphill would be counteracted to within shouting distance of the rated level-ground range.
Well it looks like I spoke too soon, apparently the buses from Glacier are going under the knife again, presumably with current chassis and what sounds like a system from XL Hybrids. https://www.hagerty.com/media/news/glacier-national-park-red-jammer-bus-fleet/
So partial electrification is on the way for some of those old National Parks White buses.
Prefix appears to be a modern-day version of Creative Industries. Probably a fun and fascinating place to work.