Bus Stop Classic: 1956-1960 ZIS-127 Intercity Bus – The USSR’s PD-4101

The title to our GM Coach PD-4101 CC is “The Most Dominant and Influential Bus Ever”. That didn’t just apply to North America, as this ZIS-127 coach shot and posted by Eric Clem makes quite obvious. Actually, it’s not really a direct crib, like some of the other manufacturers did in the US, but many of the key features, both stylistically and technically, are there.

This was a very significant bus in the USSR, as it was their first modern intercity coach. Bus technology had really lagged there, but with its aluminum chassis, 180 hp two-stroke diesel out back, and the first comfortable upholstered seats ever in a Russian bus, the ZIS-127 was the great leap forward.

From the rear, it actually looks a bit more like an “Old Look” suburban bus. The Type JaAZ-M206D 6 cylinder two-stroke diesel was rated at 180 hp and teamed with a four speed transmission. I could not find an image or any technical details of this engine, but more than likely it was inspired by the Detroit Diesel two-stroke engines as had been used since the late ’30s. Those engines were also used in amphibians and other WW2 equipment, so undoubtedly the Russians had plenty of access to them.

The ZIS-127 had a top speed of 75 mph and a continuous cruising speed of 60 mph, both comparable to the 4101, depending on gearing. The overall length was 10.2 meters, or 33.5 feet, a bit shorter than the 35′ 4101.

Eric shot this detail from its front end. “Mockba” is Moscow, and the “3HC” was used on some other ZIS vehicles, but I’m not sure exactly what it stands for.

The big deal about the ZIS-127 was that it actually had comfortable upholstered reclining seats, a commodity not previously seen in the USSR. I found these interior shot on the web. This is the only ZIS-127 left in the world, restored by a bus enthusiast group in Tallinn, Estonia.

Love the bright red interior color.

The driver had protection form possibly unruly passengers.

Here’s a vintage shot of one, also on the Tallinn – Leningrad route.

The ZIS-127 had a very distinctive exhaust sound (as two stroke diesels invariably have) that earned it the nickname “Jet”. Makes a nice complement to the “Screaming Jimmy” moniker in the US.


Related reading:

GM Coach PD-4101: The Most Dominant and Influential Bus Ever   J. Brophy