Here’s a bus that’s probably familiar to our Canadian readers, but likely less so for those in the US and Europe – it’s an MCI Courier – the bus that put MCI “on the map”…
Yellow Coach Corp Model 743
The company that we now know as Motor Coach Industries (MCI) began as a small manufacturer of buses in the late 1930’s in the Canadian city of Winnipeg, in the province of Manitoba. In 1940, they built several buses for testing by Greyhound Canada who had been disappointed with the durability of their Yellow Coach 743 models that proved not quite up to the challenge of Canadian roads and winters.
National defense efforts during the war years put a hold on bus production, but in 1946 MCI provided Greyhound with a new model, the Courier. Impressed with the durability and reliability of these coaches, in 1948 Greyhound Canada purchased a 65% stake in MCI. As the company increased its production capacity, it became the primary provider of coaches to Greyhound Canada, a situation very similar to what would occur south of the border some 10 years later.
Two early versions of the Courier were built from 1946-49; the 100 was 30 feet long, carried 33 passengers, and was powered by a longitudinal rear-mounted International Red Diamond 450 cu in OHV inline six with a Spicer 4 speed manual transmission. The Courier 200 was a longer 35 foot (39 passenger) model with a larger and more powerful Continental 501 cu in gas inline six cylinder. The rounded front windshield and forward side windows are an interesting styling touch – and a easy way to identify these early Couriers.
Somewhat confusingly, MCI used two-digit numbers for its upgraded Courier, introduced in 1950 – the 50 and 85 series, which continued to come in 30 and 35 foot versions. A “Skyview” model with glass roof panels was available for tour operators and proved quite popular – and would remain an option for the entire Courier run.
Next came the 95 and 96 series in 1954 and 56 respectively – the most popular versions with over 1200 built. These carried more modern styling, somewhat similar to the GM PD 4104. In addition to the Continental gas engine, a 401 cu in Cummins JT6B turbocharged diesel was an option, and with an approximate 40% increase in fuel economy, became the primary powerplant.
In 1958, the US government won its antitrust case against GM, forcing the company to sell its proprietary 2 cycle diesels and Allison automatic transmissions. This later 30 foot Skyview likely had a Detroit Diesel 4-71 inline four cylinder.
The last Courier rolled down the line in 1960 – as the company was soon to introduce its new MCI MC 1 model. But due to their robust construction, they were a familiar sight on Canadian roads well into the mid-1970’s.
And as we’ve seen with other older motor coaches, a special “pat on the back” to those individuals and organizations that restore them to their former glory for future generations to experience and enjoy.
The early Couriers look like a Jules Verne creation. It must have been like driving through split tv screens. Impossible not to like.
Interesting post, as usual.
That’s a BIG center windshield post to look around…that would drive me bonkers. Cool to look at though!
The side windows on that red and silver Brewster look like they’re fixed. Bet that would get hot in a warmer climate with all of those roof windows.
That overtly round cornered styling was a not unusual styling feature of the 1940s, though it didn’t last long into the 1950s. The panoramic version is interesting too.
Canadian province of Winnipeg? That’s kind of like saying the American state of Kansas City.
Thanks – corrected. Jim.
Great research as always Jim. As Canada is so large geographically, some Canadian buses were/are more popular regionally. As I don’t recall seeing many of these in Eastern Canada in my youth in the 70s. Like Western Flyer, these were initially more popular in the western provinces. At least, until MCI grew. Just as Orion buses gained much favour with Ontario transits. And Nova bus in Quebec. Greyhound Canada was well established in Western Canada, but had virtually no presence in the highly populous Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal corridor until much later.
Thanks Daniel – I sort of knew that Canadian bus manufacturers were popular regionally, but didn’t know Greyhound Canada was mostly a Western Canada business.
Just like any state or provincial government, they will try to support local manufacturing and jobs. It’s no different here.
Greyhound Canada didn’t have much presence in Eastern Canada and the lucrative Southern Ontario/Quebec market until they bought major routes from Voyageur in the 1990s. Voyageur dominated Ontario and Quebec for decades.
Jim, thanks for this. It really fills in a hole that I had not ever looked into, the origins of MCI. It’s quite remarkable how such a small regional Canadian outfit ended up dominating the US market.
The stylistic continuity of MCI buses is also remarkable; one cans see a continuity and steady evolution from the first ones right to the MC7 and such. I suspect it was the same under the skin too.
Great article- I learned a few things!
Well-done piece, Jim!
The opening shot is Vancouver from, I’ll guess, the late 1970s or early eighties at False Creek. World famous Granville Island is across the water and to the right.
The Courier signed for Lake Louise sits on industrial land that became the site of the Expo 86 world’s fair and today is full of seven-figure condos.
Speaking of Manitoba, MCI was bought by city bus specialist New Flyer in 2015.
Thanks Rich – great additional information. Jim.
Nice piece on an interesting bus. Love those early front windows!
Winterpeg! Been to the MCI plant several times prior to the Flyer acquisition. Great people in a great place, as long as you like either mud or snow.
Thanks Jim for your feature.
The picture of the early Courier 200 with “Sunburst Lines” brought back memories of riding the bus with my mother or both parents to a rural area two hours east of Edmonton. This was in the mid to late fifties before my father bought his first car in 1962.
Sunburst had routes Greyhound wouldn’t bother servicing. Usually small towns and villages strung out along less travelled major highways. The caption in the picture mentions a sign card for St. Albert. St. Albert used to be a small town just outside Edmonton, now its a growing little city of 65,000 plus. This tells me Sunburst had a route from Edmonton, through St. Albert and to the north perhaps to Athabasca or maybe swinging northwest to Slave Lake.
The Sunburst bus is a Courier 85, not 200. Loved riding in them. Sunburst had a great model in its day. Depart Edmonton for the small town destinations and return early next morning. This allowed its riders to come to Edmonton for the day for appointments and return at night. At that time the Edmonton Journal was an evening paper so it got to the small town via Sunburst and in many routes the driver would throw the paper to someone’s rural mailbox.
1957 Courier alive and well on Vancouver Island
Hello Bryan. My name is Richard and my father in law passed away recently and he had a bus similar to yours , maybe a little newer, like 1960 or 1961. The batteries are out of it and was just wondering if you would be kind enough to take pictures of the batteries on your coach and the way the wiring is. I was hoping to install new batteries to see if we can get this unit running and sold. I would greatly appreciate it.
I just saw your reply re your coach for sale, I’m interested, I’m in British Columbia for a few weeks, give me a call, Rod at 559 824-9405 thanks
Found this old gem at mcdougall auctions in Regina Saskatchewan. Available until Nov.5. Unfortunately the current high bidder is the local scrap dealer by proxy bid. Believe its a 1948 courier 200. If a past RV converter hadnt stripped and tossed so much of the original bus, i may have tried to save her
Yup not sure what happened to it I live in Regina and seen it awhile ago complete . What as shame
I too had a look at the Regina bus , talked to the owner . But decided not to buy it. But did take a bunch of pictures of it and later wondered what might of happened to it ?
I do have 2 of these 1947 100a in Calgary .they are really cool coaches.