While there were many “deck and a half” buses prior to the introduction of the General Motors PD 4501 Scenicruiser in 1954, it remains somewhat of an icon of the design. But there was a bi-level coach just as modern and innovative, that beat GM to the market place by three years – it was a bus built by the Spanish manufacturer Pegaso – the Z-403 Monocasco.
Pegaso during this period was one of two brands belonging to the Spanish state-owned ENASA (Empresa Nacional de Autocamiones S.A.) conglomerate. Having bought the automotive assets of the Spanish arm of Hispano-Suiza, ENASA produced trucks, buses and military armored vehicles.
Monocasco means monocoque in English, and the Z-403 did indeed have a stressed skin, unitized body. Other innovative features included a independent torsion bar front suspension, and an underfloor mid-mounted engine.
That engine was a Pegaso “laydown” inline six cylinder diesel, putting out 125 hp. Another innovative feature, it was offset of the centerline, oriented more toward the driver’s side, giving more luggage space on the exit side of the coach.
The Z-403 was not as large as the PD 4501, which was 40 ft long – the Pegaso coming in just at 32 ft, with room for 35 passengers.
Approximately 50 were built during its six year run – many going to Iberia Airlines for use as a shuttle.
Like Alfa and Lancia, another manufacturer of motor coaches best known for its more sporting offerings…