A few weeks back we looked at Motor Coach Industries’ (MCI) Courier bus – MCI’s first mass-produced model and the forerunner for its later success in the market. Today we’ll review a companion Canadian coach that was produced by the other bus manufacturer with roots in Manitoba – the Western Flyer Canuck.
Similar to MCI, Western Flyer was a small volume manufacturer of mostly front-engined buses beginning in the mid-1930’s. Their T40 model, produced from 1949 to 1958, was typical – 40 passengers, 35 feet long, with an International Harvester Red Diamond gas engine next to the driver.
In 1955, jumping on the Scienicruiser bandwagon, they also made a “deck and a half” stepped bi-level model, the T36 2L, though only four were built.
With the GM PD 4104 being introduced in 1953, and closer to home, the MCI Courier 95 series in 1954, Western knew it had to “up it’s game” and get a more modern, rear-engined model into its lineup to remain competitive in the market.
In turn, in 1955 they introduced the P37 Canuck. The P37 (37 passenger) was 32 feet long and 96 inches wide. Similar to the MCI Courier, power was from an International Harvester Red Diamond 450 cu in gas six cylinder, with the option of a Cummins 401 cu in JT6B diesel. Transmission was a Fuller five speed.
In 1958, a longer 35 feet version seating 41 (P41) was made – and became the standard Canuck model. As this was after the US government won it’s antitrust case against GM, requiring it to share its proprietary drivetrain components, the GM 6-71 and newly introduced 6V-71 diesel engines were popular powerplants.
With the competition moving forward Western was again forced to play catch-up, and in 1964 the Canuck 500, with more modern styling, and the more powerful GM 8V-71 engine became available.
The last Canuck model produced was the 600 in 1967 – unique in that it was lengthened to 38 feet and could carry up to 45 passengers.
Early 1970’s Flyer D-700 Transit Coach
Though well-built, these Canucks never achieved the popularity of GM’s or MCI’s coaches – mostly because they lagged these market leaders in introducing new models by a good five years. As a result, in 1968, the company exited the intercity market to focus solely on transit buses.
Unfortunately, those were even less successful, and in 1971 the company was purchased by the Manitoba government and renamed Flyer Industries Inc. Low volume transit bus production continued until 1986, when Jan den Oudsten, a family member of Den Oudsten Bussen BV, a leading Dutch coach builder, purchased the company and named it New Flyer Industries. He ran the company separate from the Dutch business. Den Oudsten, though leaving the company in 2003, was a visionary and well-respected leader credited with driving New Flyer to its place today as the leading maker of transit and intercity buses in North America, and with a small touch of schadenfreude, the current owner of MCI (purchased in 2015).