Bus Stop Classic Memories:  My First Ride in a Brand-New GM New Look Bus

Some memories are so powerful you can still recollect them over sixty years later.  Such are the memories of my first ride in a GM TDH 5302 “New Look” coach circa 1962.

I imagine a large portion of our CC readers are younger than Paul and myself, and your experiences, if any, with the GM New Look were when they were already well-worn and ragged.  That’s a shame – the buses were so well built and dependable that many operators kept them around past their prime while providing little in terms of upkeep or maintenance.

But brand new out-of-the-box, these buses were a revelation – especially compared to what I was used to riding.  My bus experience up to that point had been the Marmon-Herrington trolleybus and the GM Old Look, with an occasional Flxible Clipper used on suburban routes.  As I mentioned in the earlier M-H article, they were quiet and accelerated smoothly, but rode extremely harsh on their steel springs.  The Old Looks were well built, but I had three complaints.  One, they were very dark inside – the floor was black rubber, the seats a very dark green, and the sides up to the windows the same shade of green – with the windows being very small.  When riding in them I always had a sense of darkness.  Second, they were loud – the inline 6-71 diesel wasn’t well muffled and the unique Jimmy two-cycle scream was very evident.  Lastly, the Allison V-Drive two-speed automatic transmission meant your neck muscles got a workout, as the low first gear upshifted to the direct-drive second gear with a loud clunk and a distinct lurch.

The New Looks were exactly the opposite.  While the floor was still black, the seats were a much lighter shade of green, and the sides were white with a green shooting star pattern.  But the biggest difference was the large front windshield and bigger forward-canted side windows which allowed much more light to stream in.  The new 6V-71 engine and updated VH transmission were both quieter and smoother.  Then there was the sensation of solidity.  It felt like a block of granite.  

I’ve ridden in a lot of buses since then, some brand-new, but none had the sensation of quality of the New Look.  While they do their job competently and I don’t mean this in a derogatory sense, the one word I would associate with modern transit buses, at least those in North America, is “cheap.”